Pelagics Prosper in Hot Conditions
  |  First Published: December 2011

This December on the Gold Coast will see the pelagic action really heat up with marlin, dolphin fish, mackerel and tuna set to torment our local anglers.

Reports from more northern ports show the small black marlin this season have been erratic, and it’s hard to predict what billfish will turn up in Gold Coast waters this summer. After last year’s floods we enjoyed a great mackerel season but marlin were almost absent on the inshore grounds. This year has to be better. Last month the water out on the blue marlin grounds was over 24c and there were quite a few dolphin fish and blue marlin caught very early in the season which is a great sign. There have also been some very big yellowfin encountered by a few boats, some up to 75kg.

I would begin trolling in earnest this month using a mix of dead baits such as gar or skirted lures specifically aimed at marlin. Good early season spots include Point Lookout, Sullies, the Cotton reefs east of Jumpinpin and the Gravel patch east of Burleigh Heads. All of these grounds usually hold big schools of slimies and pilchards that attract a range of pelagics.

If you find a big bait school and mark marlin around it on your sounder - they look like a long thin line and are quite easy to pick - it is generally more productive to wind in the troll lines and fish live baits slow trolled around the bait schools.

It’s early in the season and not many marlin have turned up as yet, so it’s hard to tell what the average size will be this year. They may be 20kg or up to 70kg, so I like to use 10-15kg tackle early in the year before I bring out the lighter stuff if the fish are all smaller.

There have been plenty of encouraging reports of Spanish mackerel turning up around Double Island Point, so hopefully by December the mackerel should start to show on the inshore grounds off the Gold Coast. It’s probably worth an inshore minnow troll across the 12, 18 and 24 fathom reefs on sun up for an hour before you put the marlin lures out. Palm Beach reef should start to produce good numbers of spotted mackerel and Spaniards this month with a few small to medium cobia as well.

On the wider grounds the water warmed up early this year and by December the blue marlin fishing should be excellent. Quite a few of these blues have been encountered in only 120m of water, which is only a few kilometers from the back of the 50 fathom reef. The early warm currents should get even hotter this month with water temps up to 27c likely.

Current makes bottom fishing tough this month, although there will still be a few kingies, amberjacks and pearlies lurking around if you can get to the bottom. On the inshore reefs early morning sessions will produce the odd snapper, and tailor. That being said, it’s a much better month to target pelagic game fish.


This month sees the warm summer water push up into the estuaries and sudden afternoon storms provide a bit of fresh in the Nerang and Coomera Rivers. A lot of herring schools move up the rivers and it’s a great month to chase trevally, mangrove jacks, whiting and school jew. Flathead start to drop off in numbers and size although the odd big fish will still be encountered in the deep water around the river entrances and Jumpinpin.

Mangrove jacks can be targeted on live baits, poppers, deep trolled minnows or strips of mullet. The best jack fishing is often at night, and already this season quite a few nice fish to 55cm have turned up in the usual spots. The Coomera has been fishing better than the Nerang according to local reports, although there have been some very large big eye trevally in the Nerang at night on poppers.

The Seaway and Jumpinpin can fish well with drifted live baits resulting in a few school mulloway, GT and flathead turning up on the run in tides. It’s often easier to head offshore to the close bait reefs, jig up some yakkas and slimies and return to drift them through the Seaway along the rock walls on the run in tide. The big eddy at the end of the north wall and the area around the pipeline generally produce the most bites.

There should be plenty of nice sized whiting in the Nerang and Pimpama Rivers and Coombabah Creek this month. Fish the run in tide with blood worms or shrimp. Yabbies can also work well at times, particularly after heavy rain. The whiting fishing has been sustained through every month this year which is probably due to the big wet season early in the year.

There should still be a few flathead around Tippler’s Passage this month and this area can fish well quite late in the season. It is also worth taking the crab pots with some nice sandies and muddies about. Some of the sand crabs have been over 20cm across the shells. The flathead in this area respond well to trolling and casting soft plastics. We were trolling just off Tippler’s Passage last weekend using Micro Mullets. On our final troll, my mate Kel Williams hooked a beast on a pink and silver micro mullet. It measured 99.5cm, just a fraction short of the magic metre. That’s the biggest live flathead I’ve ever seen. It was caught in less than a metre of water on 3lb braid and probably weighed around 8kg.

Good luck and tight lines over the Christmas break. The waterways will be crowded so take care at all times.

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