Magic May in the Bay
  |  First Published: May 2011

By May, the weather has usually cooled considerably and the daylight hours have shortened. Anglers venturing out will soon realise that there are plenty of worthwhile species to target, which are becoming more prolific each day. Bream, luderick, snapper, tailor, mulloway, longtail tuna and squid are a few of the more prominent adversaries and should be the focus of your angling attention.

With new species on offer there is also new challenges to be taken up. If you get tired of catching a particular species in the usual manner then try something a little different. Pilchards aren’t the only way to catch tailor, they also respond well to poppers, which provide even greater challenges and increased excitement.

The options are endless throughout May with plenty of opportunity for quality catches.


Although the numbers of luderick have been all but dismal in previous years, I believe we will have a better season this year. This is mainly due to the increased nutrients in the system due to the rains earlier in the year, which will increase aquatic vegetation growth.

Cabbage, string and other weeds should be more abundant around the foreshores and estuaries. Luderick favour these, so naturally they are the first option for bait. However, luderick are sometimes taken on dough, peeled prawns or yabbies and occasionally they will hit a lure.

For targeting them with weed baits, the basic rig consists of a pencil float, fluorocarbon leader, sneck patterned hook and sufficient split shot on the leader to minimise the buoyancy of the float so that it is just above neutral buoyancy. This allows the luderick to barely feel the resistance of the float as they mouth the bait.

A float stopper is used to hold the float in place, keeping the bait at the desired depth. The main line is usually heavier than the leader so snagging only results in loss of the hooks and leader and not the entire float and rig.

There are plenty of land-based spots where anglers can target luderick. Previously productive areas include the rock walls at locations such as Boat Passage at Fishermans Island, the various canals, Gold Coast Seaway, Wavebreak Island, Caloundra Boardwalk and the Sunken Wall in the Brisbane River. In the past I have also taken my boat to Tiger Mullet Channel and Short Island at Jumpinpin to target luderick.

Luderick fight extremely hard and can reach weights in excess of 2.5kg. Fishing for them is a bit of an art but extremely good fun if you want to try something a bit different.


These are one of the prime targets for many anglers in the winter months. Whether you paddle a kayak or push the throttles down on a diesel powered offshore palace, snapper are a great target and one of the more tasty species.

Snapper can be found in depths of between a few metres to well over a 100m and can be caught in all areas of the water column. They will take a broad array of baits and lures and can reach sizes in excess of 10kg at times. In Moreton Bay snapper between 1-3kg are commonly caught, with offshore averages slightly higher.

The bay islands produce surprising numbers of snapper at times. Anglers use many methods to target them, including various baits and numerous lures.

In Moreton Bay, many anglers use soft plastics for targeting snapper. These give a realistic presentation throughout all stages of the tide whereas many baits will spin in the current, appearing obscure and unnatural. You only need to listen to angler’s tales of success in a tackle store, as I do daily, to realise that there is a broad array of plastics that are dynamite on snapper. It seems that every third angler has a different favourite and these vary dramatically in style, brand and colour.

I favour the Gulp 5” Jerkshads, particularly the peppered prawn, catalpa, pink shine and sardine colours but also use a broad array of different plastics with success. These are usually fished on a TT Tournament 1/4oz jighead with the appropriately sized hook for the relevant plastic. My offerings are generally cast up current and worked over likely looking areas with a series of subtle hops and pauses.

Many anglers have their own successful offerings, techniques and jigheads, but it pays to experiment and fish water with minimal boat traffic, especially around the bay island margins.

In deeper water, the most popular plastic style is a stickbait, usually in a 6” to 7” size. Popular ones include brands such as Gulp, Zoom, Atomic, Bozo, Z-Man and Assassin. These are usually fished on jigheads between 1/2oz and 3oz, depending on the current. Although larger jigheads are available, you are better to fish plastics of this size on a paternoster or elevator rig if you require more weight to get the offering into the strike zone.

Other artificial baits will also work well on snapper. Try offerings such as knife jigs, Lucanus and other octo jigs, Sebile flat shads, swing jigs and even bucktail jigs. I generally find that you get better quality fish on artificials, although bait will often produce larger numbers of smaller snapper.

With a bag limit of five snapper per person now in place, it makes sense to aim for better quality fish. But it’s also advisable to limit your catch and leave the large snapper to breed. The snapper in the 2-5kg bracket are generally the better specimens for the table anyway.


May often sees good quality longtail tuna in Moreton Bay. Often you will need to put in a few miles to find the action, yet at other times they may be found feeding just out the front of the Brisbane River or Scarborough. The area along the front of Bribie Island is definitely worth a look.

Don’t venture too far from the beach however as often the action is almost in the shore dump as the longtails chase the same baitfish schools that the tailor and dart are dining on.

While these fish can be caught on chromed slugs, poppers, stick-baits and other lures many anglers achieve good success with a #8 to #12 weight fly rod and small baitfish profiled flies.

Whether you are a seasoned swoffer or an amateur you might be interested in the Bribie Island Sportfish Club’s Longtail Tuna Flyfishing Challenge, which will be held on the last weekend in May (28-29). This annual weekend is more of a competition between the fly fishers and the tuna instead of each other, although there are some awesome trophies and prizes on offer.

The Longtail Tuna Challenge was originally started to help less experienced anglers catch their first longtail tuna. It is a low key and fun tournament and most inexperienced anglers will gain a wealth of information over the weekend. Call Peter Griffiths on 07 3265 2926 or Ray Wessels on 07 3888 5064 for more details. I hope to see you there.


The eastern facing beaches and the mouths of most estuaries will be the places to target tailor over the next few months.

Although they can often be located well up the estuaries, around the bay islands and at the Sand Hills of Moreton Island, tailor schools are generally more abundant along the beaches of Moreton, Stradbroke, Bribie and Fraser Island. Action can also be found around the mouth of the Pumicestone Passage, Seaway and Jumpinpin, especially on a rising tide.

These are a great sportfish and they are very palatable when eaten fresh. Pilchards rigged on ganged hooks are historically the best way to target tailor on the beaches however anglers are getting more adventurous with their methods of attack.

Tailor respond well to many lures including chromed slices, poppers, stickbaits and plastics. Last year, we managed to catch quite a few decent fish while surface walking stickbaits such as Lucky Craft Sammy 65 and Sebile Stick Shads.

Surface feeding schools respond exceptionally well to chrome slices and spoons. Medium to high speed retrieves with spinning reels and offerings such as Raiders, Lazers, Maria Mucho Luhrs, Halco Twisty and others will work well. If spinning with an Alvey reel then try the Australian made Flashas, which work exceptionally well at lower retrieve speeds.

Surface popping with Fat Raps, Cotton Cordell Pencil Poppers, Sebile Splashers, Halco Roosters and many others will produce exciting strikes and will often take the better quality fish. Better specimens can also often be tempted with baits of garfish and salted tuna or bonito strips, although the humble pilchard still reigns as the most popular offering. These baits will also produce the occasional mulloway in the surf.


In May last year there was exceptionally good numbers of mulloway around however most failed to make the new minimum legal length of 75cm. I caught and released 38 in the Gold Coast Seaway on jigged plastics and not one made the grade to grace the dinner table. The situation was the same in the Logan River, Brisbane River and the Pumicestone Passage.

Anglers who specifically targeted the larger mulloway still managed a reasonable number of quality fish. Most were caught on larger live baits, especially pike and mullet although a few succumbed to lures. Many of these juveniles will be legal this year and with huge numbers of mulloway in the estuaries over the last few months we should see some good results on fish of all sizes.

There are many techniques that will catch mulloway however often it is a case of being in the right place at the right time. In the Brisbane River, action for mulloway has improved greatly in recent years. Casting your offerings around the ledges and drop-offs into the main riverbed will put you in good stead.

If baitfish and prawn schools are present then chances are increased. Try hopping soft plastics, blades and lipless reaction baits down these inclines. I regularly use Castaic Jerky-J boot tails, Z-Man Swimmerz, Sebile Flat Shads and Jackall Trans Am and Mask but there is a myriad of lures that will work successfully when fished well.

Live baits such as mullet, gar, pike, large prawns, herring, slimey mackerel and yakkas are prime offerings. Most bites will come around the change of the tide. Deeper holes, ledges, prominent channels and areas where bait congregate, (such as lighted bridges at night) are all worthwhile areas to try.


The better numbers of quality bream are probably a month or so away yet however there is still enough around to make specific targeting worthwhile. Many of the better specimens will be taken from the more open waters of the bay island shallows and Scarborough Reef.

Lures such as surface-walking stickbaits, small blades, soft plastics and shallow diving minnow lures are the best bet in this situation. Often, the strikes are very visible and bream to well over 1kg can be caught in this situation. Other takers can include tailor, trevally, sweetlip, squid and pike around the shallow reef and rubble areas of Moreton Bay.

Bait fishing the deeper channels, the residential canals and around jetties and pontoons will generally work a treat. Bream are primarily scavengers and will eat a wide array of baits, however as is the case with most fish, fresh offerings will often produce the better catches

Good numbers can be taken at times and with bream such tasty table fare it is little wonder they are one of the most heavily targeted and commonly caught species. Bream can be found in a wide variety of waters and any bait in the water is likely to tempt them.

The action for bream can be good in May but will be much better in the coming months. A serious run of breeding fish often happens around the full moon in June or July.


Throughout May squid numbers will be good with good numbers of tiger squid being the prime target for both land-based anglers and boaties alike. Casting an egi (prawn profiled squid jig) around the shallow reef areas, harbours, canals and weed beds will likely reward you with a few ika (squid).

The method of working the squid jig is referred to as syakuri in Japan where the sport has been refined to a fine art from humble beginnings. Egi (which means wooden lure) come in many different sizes and colours. The Japanese designed and made egi are definitely superior to the cheaper Chinese models with much finer and sharper barbs and better actions.

Most will dart in a left then right fashion when hopped through the water. Egi come in many different sink rates depending on the depth of water and current that you want to fish. There are many specific rods for eging (the art of squid fishing) that are designed to cast and work the egi more effectively, yet absorb the lunges of a hooked squid and thereby reduce the chance of losing it.

For land-based anglers try areas such as Manly Harbour Rock Walls, Amity Rock Wall, all canal rock walls, Victoria Point Jetty and anywhere else you find shallow clean water around structure such as reef, rubble and weed beds. Boaties have many more options with the shallows around all Moreton Bay Islands, the Rous Channel and the weed beds along Moreton Island being prime areas to try.


For all anglers there are plenty of opportunities and challenges on offer for those fishing Moreton Bay and its filtering waterways throughout May. This year you may wish to step it up a notch and try some of the different ways to tempt the species on offer.

It can be exceptionally rewarding to target a particular species in a certain way and get the result you were after. It will also greatly increase your skill level, which can be applied to other species as well. Moreton Bay and surrounding waters have plenty on offer throughout May. Get out and experience the magic of our awesome waters.

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