By this time in winter I am really looking forward to summer. I have had enough of the cold nights, frosty mornings and being layered with clothes and yearn for the hot days and balmy nights of summer.
The fishing however has been excellent during the colder months and I hope this continues well into summer. But for now there are plenty of quality specimens to be caught including snapper, tailor, mulloway, bream and flathead.
The confusing part is trying to decide which one to target. Quality fish are incentive enough to pry me from my warm bed for an early morning start. A thermos of strong coffee doesn’t go astray either.
Decent numbers of quality bream are being taken on baits and lures throughout most of the estuaries and also the bay island shallows. Bream can be found in many different environments and are one of the easier fish to catch on baits or lures.
However, the larger specimens can be a little harder to locate and tempt at times. The flannelette shirt, beanie and thermos brigade will often stay out all night soaking baits such as mullet gut, chicken breast, worms, bonito pieces, fowl gut and prawns in their quest for a feed of tasty bream fillets.
Many also deploy a large bait for a mulloway, especially in areas such as Kalinga Bank at Jumpinpin and in the Bribie Channel. While nights often produce some heightened action, bream can readily be caught around the clock. They will show a liking to most baits and also to plenty of different types of lures including blades, topwater offerings, minnow lures and soft plastics.
The deeper channels at the mouths of major estuaries often hold good numbers of bream as they use these like highways to come in from the ocean to breed. From here they will disperse and will be found in creeks, rivers, canals and drains, making them easily accessible for all anglers, even if you do not have a boat.
Try areas such as the residential canals like Newport Waterways, Aquatic Paradise and Raby Bay; around the structure such as bridges and jetties; plus channels leading into creeks and rivers. Scarborough Reef readily produces good numbers of quality bream for boaties and the kayakers. Most inshore saltwater areas are likely to produce a few bream for you too.
This time of the year often sees excellent numbers of flathead being caught in the estuaries, creeks and rivers. The larger specimens will move inshore to prepare for breeding within the next few months.
Often you will catch several from the one spot as a larger female will generally have an entourage of five or more smaller males in her general vicinity. A large hooked flathead may be followed by these males, often all the way to the boat.
It is the law to release any dusky flathead over 75cm (or under 40cm) but I generally refrain from taking any over 60cm at this time of the year. Larger fish should be released quickly and carefully to ensure they definitely breed this year.
Roed up females will sometimes reabsorb their roe if they are stressed too much. Stressing is often evident when they get a white milky slime along their back. Unhook large fish quickly (preferably without taking them out of the water) and release as soon as possible. You will be doing yourself and other anglers a favour in the long term.
Trolling or casting lures along the edges of the major sand or mud banks towards the lower stages of the rising tide will put you in with a good chance of tangling with flatties.
If trolling, use small lures to around 10cm that will travel really close to the bottom. As flathead lie in the sand and hear through their lateral line, a lure than bangs and bumps the bottom is more likely to attract their attention. Brighter colours often reign supreme in the generally murky water of this environment. Pinks, orange and chartreuse are popular however most bright or metallic finishes will produce strikes.
For those casting their offering, soft plastics are usually favoured. Unlike minnow lures that have depth range limitations, jighead rigged plastics sink, allowing them to be fished in a broad array of depths. They can be cast into 20cm of water and worked down the decline into 8m+ of water.
As they are always close to the bottom, they are always in the strike zone. Hopping them down a bank will mean that they are readily hitting the bottom which is a catalyst for flathead strike.
Drifting baits is a better option than fishing at anchor because flathead hunt by ambush so you are more likely to succeed if the bait is covering plenty of ground.
It has been a fairly good start to the tailor season so far, however the best is yet to come, if the last few seasons are anything to go by. Late in winter the larger tailor are generally more prominent, especially on the eastern facing beaches.
Decent fish can also be found well up the estuary at times. In Moreton Bay, quality tailor can often be caught around the bay islands’ shallow reef fringes. Here they respond well to surface lures, small minnow lures and blades. I have even taken the occasional larger tailor around the beacons in the shipping channels.
More likely however, they will be found around rock walls such as Amity and Manly; from jetties, especially Woody Point, Victoria Point, Scarborough and Sandgate; mouths of estuaries; and in areas where high water flow brings forth baitfish and other morsels.
The mouth of Jumpinpin is often worth a look on an early morning rising tide. During the falling tide, try casting some unweighted pilchards along the mud ledge around the mouth of Swam Bay. Late afternoon or early morning sessions on the eastern facing beaches are definitely worth the effort. The deeper gutters often hold good numbers of quality tailor and these can be caught on baits such as pilchards, gar and bonito strips or lures such as Raiders, Flashas, Sebile Magic Swimmers and most poppers.
Anchoring at The Bedrooms or opposite Gold Bank and walking across the dunes to fish the eastern facing beach of South Stradbroke is generally worth the effort, especially late afternoon. Mid morning spin sessions are also productive on the rising tide.
The Bribie Island bridge lights attract good numbers of baitfish at night and these attract tailor plus tarpon, trevally, bream, snapper and other species. Drifting an unweighted pilchard, hardihead, whitebait or herring into the lighted area will generally produce the goods on all these species.
The winter whiting numbers increased early this year. Anglers have been catching good numbers of these succulent fish for some months now. In addition there are also a few summer whiting still around.
Within Moreton Bay, the Sand Hills area is a popular spot that continually produces the goods. The Rous Channel is another favourite, due to the consistent numbers taken here. The Small Ships Channel, Browns Gutter, Blacks Gutter, Fishermans Gutter, Blue Hole and most of the major sand banks are worth a try.
Some days are quiet if commercial netters have been working the area, however if you shift around a bit then you should be rewarded with some quality fish. Best baits include live worms, tenderised squid strips, yabbies and preserved worms.
The Gulp Sandworms are a great standby if quality fresh baits are not available. These soft plastic worm replicas are heavily scented and can just be fished like normal bait, yet with surprising results. Fish these (and any baits) with a minimum of weight and keep leaders light for best results.
Thin fluorocarbon leaders of 6-10lb are ideal and will produce a better bite rate than thicker monofilament leaders. Long shank hooks present the bait well and make unhooking the whiting much easier. In addition, the longer shank often provides some bite protection for any larger fish encountered. These can include flathead, grinners, shovelnose, bream and rays.
In the estuaries there has also been some quality whiting. Most sandy or muddy areas adjacent sand banks, mud banks, eelgrass beds plus the small gutters and melon holes on the flats will produce a few whiting. Using small poppers around these shallow flats areas will often produce some awesome fish.
Targeting squid has become a popular option for many anglers, especially those limited to land-based fishing. Good numbers of quality squid can readily be taken at Manly Harbour, Victoria Point Jetty, King Island, Woody Point Jetty, Scarborough Foreshore and Amity Rock Wall plus many other areas. Most shallow areas with good structure including rock, reef, rubble or weed beds will produce squid.
Water clarity is important, as most species of squid prefer crystal clear conditions. The residential canals provide plenty of structure and prey species for squid, so these are a natural place to look. Often squid can be seen before casting to them and it is pretty cool to see them come over and eat the jig.
There is a lot of specialised tackle for squid fishing and it is one of those fishing disciplines that can be as simple or as technical as you want to make it. There are plenty of specialised rods available now with every major manufacturer having several models in their line up.
I recently purchased a Samurai Reaction Squid L, which is an awesome rod for this application. It also doubles as a good stick for topwaters such as poppers and stickbaits. Many egi specific reels are also available and generally sport light, precision drag settings to minimise the risk of tearing the barbs out of a lunging squid.
Most of the egi (squid jigs) can fall into one of two categories. Cheap, generic ones usually cost well less than $10 each (often as little as $3). Quality egi (usually Japanese made) can cost between $15 and $25 each. These have better sink rates (many come in several different sink rates), ultra-fine chemically sharpened barbs, varied lateral movement during retrieve plus specialized and realistic coatings that feel more natural to a squid when they grab it.
In my opinion, these dearer egi are definitely worth the extra coin if you are serious about catching quality squid as they last longer and perform better.
The cooler months have been awesome for snapper, especially in Moreton Bay where good numbers of quality fish have been caught with regularity. I believe this is due to the water clarity being fairly low, offering plenty of refuge to bait species. I have fished Mud Island a fair bit, achieving decent results on every trip.
The numbers of 50cm plus fish have been excellent and anglers have caught snapper over this size on a fairly regular basis with plastics and baits. I have mainly fished with plastics and have found good results on a wide array of offerings, as snapper will eat most things that you put in front of them.
Some of the productive offerings that regularly get my jighead stuck through them include Gulp 5” Jerk Shads, Z-Man Streakz, Atomic Prongs, Z-Man Scented Shrimpz, Zoom Super Flukes, Castaic 3.5” Jerky-J Boot-tails, Gulp 4” Swimming Minnow, Bass Assassins and several different brands of curl tail grubs. These are usually fished on 1/4oz jigheads, however sometimes I will drop down to 1/6oz in shallower areas, such as the western side of Peel or at Scarborough Reef.
Deeper water and stronger currents around the artificial reefs (Harry Atkinson and Curtin) sometimes dictates that a 3/8oz jighead is used. While targeting snapper on plastics, you will also encounter sweetlip, tuskfish, morwong, mackerel, bonito, pike, flathead, sole, bream, tailor and other species with regularity. Peel has also been fishing well in recent months with a broad array of quality fish being caught here.
Quality fresh baits will produce good results on snapper and other species throughout Moreton Bay. Baits that present well, without spinning in the current, will produce more strikes and better quality fish.
Drifting with your baits is a good option especially around the rubble grounds, however snagging can be a serious problem in some areas.
Try offerings such as pilchards, fresh squid, mullet fillets, large green prawns, pike fillets and any small whole fish including yakkas, slimey mackerel, horse mackerel, frogmouths, hardiheads, whitebait and anchovies. Whole baby octopus, octopus legs, large squid heads and cuttlefish are other great baits but are a little harder to source.
Fishing baits mid water (often without any sinker or even under a float) is a good option at times as the larger snapper which often feed well up off the bottom, even right on the surface.
Whether fishing baits or plastics stealth is paramount for consistent results. When anchoring in shallow water, drop the pick well up from your chosen fishing spot and then let out anchor rope until you drift back onto the spot. Turn your sounder off, be as quiet as you can and avoid dropping anything in the boat or allowing your sinker to hit the side of the boat when retrieving and you have heightened your chances considerably.
When drift fishing, either with plastics or baits, skirt wide of your chosen drift area when approaching to start your drift. An electric motor is highly desirable if you need to alter your drift course. Stealth, especially in the shallower areas around the bay islands and Scarborough Reef will greatly increase your chance for success, especially for the larger fish.
Be courteous to others and skirt well wide of them when shifting spots. Get away from the crowds and find your own bit of ground to fish. The snapper constantly roam around the bay island margins and there are no magic spots that they congregate. Some spots fish slightly better than others during periods of low boat traffic, however they will not produce quality fish with any consistency when there are several boats anchored there.
One of the hardest things about fishing over the coming month will be deciding what your target species will be or where you are going to fish. There are so many great options for land-based anglers and boaties within the waters of the Moreton Bay area.
One thing is for certain, you will need to rug up to tolerate the dastardly cold, especially when fishing at night. Even though you are cold during the daylight hours, you can still get sunburnt and suffer from windburn, so don’t forget the sunscreen. Keep options open when venturing out and you should return home with a positive result. We are experiencing some of the best winter fishing that we have had in years. Enjoy it while you can.Reads: 305