With many adults on annual holidays, children on school holidays and families spending time together over the festive season, December is probably one of the most heavily fished months of the year.
Luckily, there are plenty of great species to target that are suitable for anglers of all skill levels. Whether you fish the freshwater, estuaries, bay or bluewater there is opportunity for great success while spending time in the outdoors. Let’s see what is on offer for you throughout December.
One of the most desirable species for anglers fishing Moreton Bay throughout the coming months are spotted mackerel. Already we have experienced decent numbers of school mackerel being caught by those seriously targeting them. Although, the spotties may not arrive in serious numbers until the latter part of the month, a few should start filtering in any time now.
Both these mackerel species can be targeted with the same methods and most anglers consider either a welcome capture.
School mackerel can occasionally be caught by anglers from land-based locations however spotted mackerel tend to be found further offshore and are generally only targeted seriously by those with boats.
For land-based anglers, some places to try for a few school mackerel include the Scarborough Jetty, Woody Point Jetty, Sandgate Jetty, Victoria Point Jetty and the Amity Point Rock Wall.
Generally the most successful approach is to drift out a pilchard under a balloon, especially early morning. The pilchard should be rigged on ganged hooks and attached to a 40lb fluorocarbon leader. Using wire will definitely decrease, if not eliminate, your strike rate.
This same rig can also be fished in areas further out in the bay for both school and spotted mackerel. One popular area is the Measured Mile Beacons. Anchoring in the vicinity of either of these beacons and floating out a pilchard, while berleying with small slithers of cut pilchard, will generally reward anglers, especially those out an hour or so before dawn.
Most beacons, from the Four Beacons north to Caloundra, will produce mackerel for anglers drifting weighted pilchard baits in their general vicinity, especially around the changes of tide. Small live baits such as yakkas and slimey mackerel will also work well. The Caloundra Four Mile grounds out from Bribie Island are also worth investigation. All these beacons can also be jigged with chromed slugs and slices using fast, erratic retrieves.
Surface feeding schools of both mackerel species, as well as many tuna and bonito species, can be found in any part of Moreton Bay so it pays to keep an eye out for telltale signs such as surface disturbance and circling birds.
Birds can tell you a lot by their behaviour. When following schools of feeding pelagics, birds (mainly common and spotted terns) will hover above the water in a mirror image of the fish below. Basically the distance that the birds are above the water is approximately the same as the distance the pelagics are below the surface.
The bird’s activity gets more frantic and they descend closer to the water’s surface as the pelagics push the baitfish up close to the surface. Observing and responding to their activity can put you within casting distance as they break the surface, which greatly increases the chance of a positive result.
Good areas to search for mackerel activity can include the Naval Reserve Banks, Middle Bank, Sandhills, Pearl Channel, Rainbow Channel, Gilligans Island and the area between the Measured Mile, Mud Island and the Four Beacons. Surface feeding schools can be targeted with chromed slugs and slices, baitfish profiled flies, stickbaits and some plastics. The Z-Man Streakz are ideal plastics as they produce strikes and rarely get bitten through by mackerel due to the ElaZtech material they are made from.
Apart from mackerel, the increase in baitfish activity will also attract tuna species such as mac tuna, frigates and longtails plus Australian bonito and Watson’s leaping bonito. These species can be targeted with artificials such as slugs, chrome slices, poppers, stickbaits, plastics and flies. Surf candies, bay baits, polar-fibre minnows, silversides, eyes flies and many other baitfish profiles will work well when delivered on an intermediate fly line.
Retrieve techniques can vary between fast double-handed stripping to slow dredging of flies, depending on the mood of the pelagics at the time.
While not a desirable table fish, the humble mac tuna can provide a lot of fun especially on an otherwise quiet day. The larger specimens will give a dogged and spirited account of themselves when hooked on lighter line classes.
Bluewater pelagics should also be numerous throughout December. Billfish, tuna, mackerel, wahoo, mahi mahi and others will readily hit trolled lures, including skirts, vibration baits and bibbed minnows.
Historically productive grounds, including the Trench, Hutchinson Shoals, Flinders Reef, The Group (off Point Lookout) and Sullies, are worth investigation however pelagic activity can be found anywhere at times.
Trolling is a great way to cover ground in your search for action however once activity is found, especially when concentrated around baitfish schools, many anglers will switch over to live baiting. These baits can usually be extracted from the bait school with a sabiki-style bait jig and then deployed back into the fray on a circle hook live-bait rig.
Slowly trolling these same live baits will also attract plenty of hits and is a good way to cover smaller areas of water. If you are trolling and come across a bait school or sound some fish a little deeper then stop and allow the baits to sink to the desired depth. Action around such baits schools can result in captures of any pelagic species as well as the occasional snapper and other species.
Trolling around prominent structure, up wellings and current lines will often fast track your road to success as these spots regularly hold bait and pelagic species. Trolling large live baits around Hutchinson Shoals, Flinders Reef and The Group will often reward you with Spanish mackerel, wahoo and thumping GTs.
Some anglers even achieve results on GT while poppering and stickbaiting around these same areas with purpose specific outfits and techniques. The area around Cape Moreton, Flinders Reef, the Sevens, Shag Rock and Boat Rock are good areas to try your hand at popping up some large GTs.
For billfish, the action is often heightened around periods of tidal change but strikes can be forthcoming around any period of the day. Lets hope this season is better for billfish than the last, which was fairly inconsistent in our waters.
The usual suspects will be on the hit list in the Brisbane River during December. Prime targets will be estuary cod and threadfin salmon however a broad array of species including snapper, bream, flathead and sharks will be common captures.
Live baiting with large mullet or banana prawns is a good way to connect to a threadfin or whaler shark but will also attract the attention of catfish, pike eels, rays and the like.
Live-baiting is a good way to spend a night session and there are plenty of great land-based spots including Mowbray Park, Newstead Jetty, New Farm Park, Colmslie Jetty, beneath the Gateway Bridge and the Sewerage Outlet near the mouth of the river where this can be done. Anywhere you can access the water is worth a try.
The rock walls near the mouth of the Brisbane River and those surrounding Mud Island are well worth a look for estuary cod. This species will also take live (and dead) baits but covering the water with lures will often heighten your chances.
Lightly weighted plastics can be slowly rolled along the walls and minnow lures can be bounced across the submerged rocks with good effect. Once you receive the hit, you will need to strike and fight the fish hard as they have a tendency to dive down in amongst the rocks and bust you off.
For those anglers venturing out for a night session, casting plastics, blades, vibration baits and even minnow lures around the lighted areas of jetties, Citycat terminals, pontoons, riverside dwellings, bridges and the like will likely reward you with a threadfin or possibly even an out-of-season mulloway.
Bait and lure fishing around popular areas such as Claras Rocks, the Oil Pipeline, various jetties and the drop-off into the main riverbed (especially between the Gateway and the river mouth) will heighten your chances of success.
Using your sounder (especially a side imaging model) to find bait and larger fish will help you land fish faster. At least you know you are not fishing dead water. Even the best offerings cannot work unless they are put in front of predating fish.
Crab numbers have been reasonable so far during the warmer months but should improve throughout December. Sand crabs will become more prevalent throughout Moreton Bay and mud crabs in the creeks, rivers and estuaries.
Setting a few pots (witches hat style dillies are now banned) along the contours and ledges in the bay will give you a good chance at securing a few sand crabs. At times they can even be fairly reliable captures in the mouth of the Brisbane River and other major systems.
Mud crabs are a better option further up the river and creek systems with the harder to access waters often producing the best quality crabs.
Sometimes larger crabs are too shy to enter a pot but can be teased close to the boat with a large chunk of fish flesh and then scooped up with a landing net. The kids have a lot of fun doing this if they are patient enough.
Check out the sand and mud crab minimum size and bag limit regulations and also those referring to your crabbing apparatus before heading out as fisheries officers have a heightened presence on the water during the holiday period, especially when the weather is good.
Jack numbers have been awesome so far this summer with dedicated anglers managing to get amongst a few on a regular basis. Many anglers have been working their lures around mangrove snags, bridges and rock walls to achieve bragging rights to red fish captures.
Plastics, minnow lures, poppers, vibration baits and others have been working well. Z-Man SwimmerZ, Atomic Prongs, Castaic Jerky J Boot-tails and several other plastics have been getting the runs on the board when rolled slowly and fished on minimal weight jigheads with strong hooks.
Popular minnow lures include OSP Power Dunk, Smith Cherry Blood, Lucky Craft Bevy Shad, Jackall Squirrel and Maria Jerk baits all have plenty of runs on the board however there is a long list of successful lures that can work.
You don’t need the latest and greatest new imported lures to catch jacks as plenty of the old-school lures will still produce. There is no denying however that some of the imported products do have better quality finishes and finely tuned actions affording their price tag.
Most creek and river systems will hold a few mangrove jack, estuary cod, trevally and other snag dwellers but the systems with the most prominent structure tend to be a better option. However don’t discount fishing smaller creek systems, especially those that don’t receive a lot of boat traffic or fishing pressure.
The fishing around the bay islands is fairly good throughout the summer months. Although snapper numbers are down compared to the cooler months, there are still plenty around to make the effort worthwhile and I have caught some of my better quality snapper during summer.
Sweetlip, tuskfish, trevally, bream, flathead and others are also likely captures for those anglers casting plastics, vibration baits and even minnow lures. Trolling deeper diving minnow lures around the bay islands, usually in depths of between 5m and 12m, will also produce some respectable snapper and occasional other species.
If we have had a bout of bad weather or some serious rainfall and the water around the bay islands gets a little murky then the fishing is usually fairly good. High water quality (clear water) usually has the opposite effect as the fish move out into the deeper water to seek refuge.
Night sessions are also highly productive at times for those probing the bay island margins with artificial offerings.
Naturally, baits are also a hit with bay island piscatorial locals and will work at any time. Quality, fresh offerings are the best option but frozen baits, especially pilchards, squid and mullet fillets will still work a treat most of the time.
Keep sinker weight at a minimum for the conditions being fished and try areas away from the crowds. The better quality snapper will roam around and search for food. They are not magically attracted to one particular spot, no matter how many boats are anchored around it because they think it is the prime spot to be. Get away from the crowds and your chances are raised considerably.
While at anchor, or on the drift, try fishing a pilchard on a ganged hook rig, a metre or so below the surface. This is likely to produce a school mackerel or occasionally a snapper or sweetlip. Naturally, small whaler sharks are also likely candidates to take your bait. They can provide a bit of fun and are a great species for youngsters to learn the techniques in fighting fish as they are a fairly stubborn adversary.
December is a prime month to be out on the water. Due to the heat, you need to take slip, slop and slap precautions and keep up a good supply of non-alcoholic fluids to avoid the effects of the sun.
Getting the youngsters out on the water for a few hours is great way to occupy them over the school holidays and will ultimately give them a good appreciation of nature. They may even catch the dinner.
With increased boat traffic and many anglers trying their luck from the shore, everyone will require a little more patience and courtesy than usual during the festive season. There’s no point spoiling a good day out on the water by having a barney with someone.
The fishing is great throughout December with a broad array of species on offer throughout Moreton Bay, its filtering waterways and even in the freshwater reaches.
Hopefully Santa brought you some great new tackle to use when you get out and enjoy the great assets of being a Queenslander: our awesome waters, fishing and warm weather. Stay safe and enjoy the festive season.Reads: 588