Sizzling September Secrets
  |  First Published: September 2011

Temperatures have only increased slightly, yet the local fishing scene is sizzling with plenty of species on offer and hot angling action to be had.

Prominent species on offer throughout September include flathead, cobia, school mackerel, threadfin salmon, tuna, Spanish mackerel, mangrove jack and hopefully some billfish. In addition, anglers will discover snapper, bream, trevally, mulloway, cod, squid, crabs and several other species are prolific and therefore well worth targeting.

As the weather warms the Great South East, the fishing action gets hotter. School holidays provide good opportunity to get the whole family out on the water to enjoy the outdoors.


These hard fighting and great tasting brutes are one of my favourite targets during September. Cobia can be caught in limited numbers all year around but the larger specimens often enter the bay en masse around this time of the year. They average around 12kg but reach weights well in excess of 30kg and occasionally over 40kg. Just one fish will provide a huge amount of tasty fillets so limiting your catch makes practical sense.

Trolled and cast lures, and even sometimes flies can tempt a cobia, but live baiting is one of the best options. Live baits up to 2kg are ideal for the larger specimens. Baits can include whiptails, grinners, pike, slimey mackerel, yakkas, bonito, school mackerel, snapper, sweetlip, crabs and many others. But you still need to adhere to minimum size limits as regulated by Queensland Fisheries Management when using any of these species for baits.

Circle hooks snelled onto monofilament leader (minimum 80lb) with just enough lead to keep your bait down will work well.

Cobia can be located throughout all levels of the water column but I get the best results with baits set close to the bottom.

Try areas such as Western Rocks, Curtin Artificial (especially at night), Pearl Channel, Caloundra Four Mile Grounds, Bulwer Ledge, Benowa Track Grounds and around any of the beacons in the northern bay. This said, cobia show up in many different areas throughout Moreton Bay and also on the offshore reefs throughout September and the coming months.


The Brisbane River has been fishing well right throughout the winter months for a host of species including snapper, tailor, mulloway, threadfin, bream, flathead and several other species. During the cooler months most of the threadfin reports came from further upstream than the Gateway Bridge, although the occasional fish was taken in the lower reaches.

Casting and retrieving Thready Busters, Trans Ams, various minnow lures, Sebile Magic Swimmers, Atomic Prongs, Z-Man Swimmerz and Shrimpz and many other plastics will likely reward you with a rampaging threadfin. They can be caught in all depths of water at times.

The secret is to find the bait (especially schools of prawns) and the threadies are usually not too far away. Bait species regularly congregate around lighted areas at night (including jetties, pontoons, bridges and waterside restaurants) or along the edges of the main riverbed or adjacent the wharves. Naturally these are prime areas to look for the threadfin.

Anglers with side-imaging sounders possess great benefit when looking for bait along the drop-offs into the main riverbed and also for locating the threadfin that prey upon them. Many anglers fail to explore the upper reaches of the Brisbane River and only fish the lower reaches. As far as threadfin are concerned, these waters hold the best concentrations of fish and many of the better quality specimens.

Threadfin are also becoming regular captures in the Logan River, Caboolture River, Coomera River and occasionally in Pumicestone Passage.


September would have to be one of the better months to target flathead as the large females move well up into the estuaries to breed during this period. They are closely followed by larger numbers of slightly smaller males and are usually fairly aggressive. The larger females over 75cm must be returned to the water quickly to guarantee their survival and health of the species population as a whole.

Flathead are generally spread right throughout the estuaries and systems filtering into Moreton Bay but are also found around the bay islands in reasonable numbers. Flathead hunt by ambush most of the time therefore working out the areas where it is easiest for them to get a feed will fast track your success with this species.

The smaller gutters and contours running across the various sand and mud flats will provide them with prime ambush spots on the higher stages of the tide. Flathead will also frequent the main channels during this period.

On the falling tide they will set up position around the mouths of gutters, along the edges of major banks and anywhere else that baitfish are likely to pass as they are flushed out by the receding tide. I find the falling tide the most productive and generally concentrate my efforts around this period.

Trolling small minnow lures or working blades, plastics and other offerings along the edges of prominent banks will generally reward you with a few quality fish. Any small gutter, creek mouth or channel leading into the main channel is worth a few casts during a falling tide. Keeping your offering close to the bottom, preferably banging along it periodically, will heighten your chances of a flathead finding your offering.


Offshore anglers often concentrate their efforts on Spanish mackerel throughout September, as they are a serious target during this period. This species has become more prolific in Southern Queensland in recent years resulting in specific targeting generally producing a few fish.

Areas to try for Spanish locally include The Group (off Point Lookout), the Cotton Reefs (out from Jumpinpin), Brennans Shoals, Roberts Shoals, Flinders Reef, the Spitfire Banks, the Coffee Rock along the front of Moreton Island and occasionally Hutchinson Shoals.

Trolled offerings allow you to cover increased area and many anglers opt to use bibbed lures such as Halco Laser Pro, Classic Bluewaters, Sebile Koolie Minnows, Rapala X-Rap Magnums and Yozuri Hydro Minnows. They can also be taken on bibless offerings and skirted lures at times however rigged trolling baits will greatly increase your chances. Try species such as bonito, tailor, longtom, wolf herring, tarpon, pike, mullet, slimey mackerel and small tunas. Many anglers have their own rigging techniques or use one of the many pre-fabricated rigs available at good tackle stores. Whichever you use, baits should swim enticingly and contain plenty of hook exposure as Spanish are snatch and grab exponents, often missing the hook. Many anglers add an extra treble to the tail with a piece of single strand wire as Spanish readily sever the tail of their prey on the first pass to maim it. They will then return to eat the disabled baitfish. Free-spooling a bait that has been hit without hooking up is often a good ploy. Livebaits, and sometimes quality fresh baits, will also produce strikes for those anglers fishing at anchor or on the drift.


Although the action will only be warming up, billfish are often a serious target during September for the bluewater addicts. Sailfish in particular are generally the first to make their presence felt but juvenile blacks are also a serious possibility. Try areas such as Hutchinson Shoals, The Trench, Flinders Reef, Yellowpatch, The Group and around the Waverider Buoy off Point Lookout.

Trolling with swimming or skipping gar will produce the best opportunity for sailfish, although skirted lures also draw strikes at times. When bait is scarce the best ploy is to cover plenty of water. Trolling skirted lures is a good option as they allow higher troll speeds than baits and therefore cover more water.

Weighted resin-head lures such as those produced by Bahama, Black Bart and Hollowpoint will allow you to troll even slightly faster than conventional resin heads. These slightly heavier offerings are a good option when it is a little rough because they hold into the water better than the lighter skirts. Try trolling along the edges of current lines, zones of temperature change or where prominent underwater structure (such as depth changes) creates upwellings. These areas often hold baitfish and naturally are the first places to try your luck. However, billfish are sometimes found in open water away from any prominent bait attracting features so strikes can be forthcoming at any time when trolling.

If bait schools can be located, use a bait jig to extract a few livies and then send one of them back down into the school on a live-bait hook rig. Fish your overhead reels in freespool with the ratchet on to avoid an overrun. After a bite, allow the fish to peel off several metres of line to mouth and swallow the bait, then push the lever up to set the hook.

If the bait school appears to break up, stay in the general area for a while because it is highly possible that some predating species has caused this scattering. Slow trolling (1 to 3 knots) your live bait will bring it higher in the water column and allow you to cover the general area more productively. Other pelagics including tuna, wahoo and mahi mahi are highly likely captures while fishing in this manner.


Hopefully as mentioned in last month’s issue, school mackerel should be working in the upper reaches of the Rous Channel, Browns Gutter, Rainbow Channel and a few other areas by now. Here they can be targeted with spoons trolled behind a downrigger, or a planing board, or with smallish, deep diving minnow lures.

Drifting pilchards throughout the general area will also see good numbers taken at times. This action should continue throughout September and for quite some time after that. Numbers of school mackerel will also have entered other areas of the bay by now and anglers will notice a few being caught around the bay islands, at the artificial reefs and other locales.

Around this time of the year I will often troll the edges of prominent sand banks at the start of the making tide before moving up on top of the banks once there is a few metres of water over them. Here I troll with minnow lures, usually deeper divers to around 120mm in metallic or natural colours. These are trolled with 10lb to 15lb braid with 20lb flourocarbon leaders at the fastest possible speed. Small bibless minnows can also work well at times.

Try lures such as Smith Cherry Blood and DD Panish, Stiffy Barra Diver 11cm, Sebile Bonga Jerk 95, Halco Laser Pro 90, Sebile Koolie Minnow 90LL, Rapala X-Rap XRD08 and XRD10 and many others. These are just a few of the lures I have tried and used successfully. Most minnow lures that can be trolled in excess of 6 knots would be worth trying.

Apart from mackerel you will regularly catch bonito, longtom and a few other species. I have even had my lures hit by Spanish mackerel and longtail tuna while trolling the Moreton Bay flats in this manner. At the start of the making tide you can also drift pilchards along the edges of these major banks for mackerel. Try areas such as the Naval Reserve Banks, Tangalooma Banks, Middle Bank and Western Banks.

While fishing around the bay islands, either at anchor or on the drift, float out a pilchard rigged on gang hooks and suspended under a float. This will tempt any mackerel in the area as well as snapper, sweetlip and other reef dwellers. The occasional larger squid or cuttlefish will also have a go at it.


September is a good month for tuna, both inshore and offshore. Reasonable numbers of longtails and mac tuna can be located in the bay with a bit of exploration and a keen eye.

Tuna can be witnessed smashing bait on the surface at times, however the anglers who live bait with slimey mackerel and yakkas are more likely to encounter the longtails. Baits are usually fished fairly close to the surface but I also like to have a bait down deep.

Try areas such as Shark Spit, the main shipping channel beacons, Western Rocks, Curtin Artificial, Naval Reserve Banks, Pearl Channel, Western Channel and just inside the South Passage Bar.

Trolling will produce a few smaller yellowfin around the usual spots such as Hutchinson Shoals, The Group, Flinders Reef, northern end of The Trench and Caloundra Wide. XOS models are often located wide of Moreton and Stradbroke Island in depths between 200m and 600m.

Use sea surface temperature maps to locate the areas where the temperature changes are prominent on these wider grounds. This will help to shorten your exploration time when looking for the most likely places for these larger yellowfin and other pelagic species including marlin, XOS mahi mahi and wahoo.


Although the best is yet to come, anglers will start to see a serious increase in mangrove jack numbers throughout September. Already there has been some respectable mangrove jack caught. Good baitfish activity in the estuaries should really get these crimson critters fired up.

Casting minnow lures, small shad style plastics and vibration baits around prominent structures in the creeks and rivers will put you in with a great chance. Surface offerings, such as poppers and stickbaits, will also work a treat especially during those hotter days when the barometer is rising. Live baiting with prawns, mullet, herring and the like will work a treat and is a relaxing way to fish.

I will talk a little more about mangrove jacks next month as they will really start to fire when the air temperature and the water starts to warm. Those hot humid afternoons and evenings really get the jacks on the chew. Start checking out prominent structure in the creeks, rivers and canals and you are well on your way to getting connected with one of these aggressive individuals.


With temperatures warming considerably, the fishing action should sizzle in September. There may still be numbers of many cold weather species around, yet their prominence will soon be over shadowed by warm weather species, which will increase steadily throughout the month.

Throughout the cooler months we experienced some pretty special fishing action with one of the best seasons for many years, especially in the estuarine environment. The promise of similar, if not better, results during the warmer months really gets my casting arm impatient, I can’t wait to get out amongst all the action. Hope to see you out there enjoying the great outdoors.

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