The warmth of summer has brought forth plentiful baitfish schools and some awesome pelagic and demersal action.
Moreton Bay in particular has been producing decent numbers of mackerel, tuna, bonito and others. Further offshore, the pelagic action has been a little sporadic at times but there has still been enough quality species to make the effort worthwhile for most.
Estuaries have been productive with mangrove jack, estuary cod, trevally and many other species on offer. Local impoundments and the freshwater reaches of most rivers have been worthy of a trip. In short, the summer heat has promoted hot fishing action. Lets see what is on the cards for you throughout January.
Numbers of these tasty speedsters have been relatively good throughout Moreton Bay lately with both schoolies and spotties being caught by those using specific targeting. At times surface-feeding schools can be located and cast to with varied artificial offerings. These can include metal slices, chromed slugs, blades, plastics, stick baits and flies.
Most opt for the easy-to-use metal offerings such as slugs and slices. These cast far, retrieve quickly offerings have probably accounted for more mackerel that any other approach and are simple for any angler, no matter what level your experience.
Using a reel with a high retrieve rate (preferably in excess of 100cm of line per turn of the handle) will make the task that much easier. Quality graphite spin rods between 2m and 2.5m and 4kg to 8kg line will complete your rig.
Mackerel, especially schoolies, can regularly be located around the various beacons throughout Moreton Bay. The baitfish species that congregate around these beacons attract the mackerel to the general vicinity. While baitfish can be caught on a baitjig then deployed back into the fray, most anglers opt for the simplicity of jigging chromed slugs or drifting the area with pilchards.
The TT Assassin slugs are rear-weighted and ideal for this pursuit. They spear straight down, getting them into the strike zone quicker and decreasing the chance of getting bitten off on the drop. Once in the strike zone, these offerings are usually retrieved with a fast and erratic action.
Mackerel can be located anywhere around the beacon or in its general vicinity so don’t think you must be right next to it. I generally cast a little past the beacon and retrieve the slug back with the current, after it has descended all the way to the bottom.
These same beacons can be probed with pilchards on a ganged hook rig. I usually use two 4/0 Tru-Turn 711 and one 4/0 VMC 9255, joined with #5 Shogun rolling swivels. The VMC is the front hook in the rig to which I generally attach a 30lb fluorocarbon leader. The hooks are pinned down through the back of the pilchard with the VMC point being placed centrally in the head around half way between the eye and the nose.
This allows the pilchard to waft in the current instead of spinning and produces a high hook-up ratio as the hook points are mainly in the soft gut cavity of the pilchard. This rig is also ideal for tailor fishing.
Adding wire to any rigging for Moreton Bay mackerel will definitely decrease your initial strike rate, therefore most opt to suffer the occasional bite-off loss in preference for an increase in initial hook-ups.
All beacons, from the Four Beacons north to Caloundra, are worth investigation when targeting mackerel. The Measured Mile beacons are popular for anglers targeting both school and spotted mackerel around this time of the year.
Many anglers anchor adjacent the beacons and then drift out unweighted pilchards. Adding a little berley to the equation in the form of chopped pilchard pieces will heighten your chances. The mackerel tend to roam this general area so the bites will come sporadically. It may be quiet for quite a while and then virtually every bait in the water gets eaten within a short period.
Early mornings are favoured times for anglers fishing these beacons, which are the outermost two of the Brisbane River leads. Land-based anglers can try drifting unweighted pilchard baits under a float at locations such as the Woody Point Jetty, Scarborough Jetty, Amity Rock Wall, Wellington Point Jetty and Victoria Point Jetty, especially on an early morning rising tide.
Estuary fishing is generally fairly good throughout January with a healthy array of species on offer. Around this time last year, many estuaries were awash with fresh water from the rain and floods. This could well be on the cards again this year and although this makes the fishing a degree tougher, it doesn’t totally rule out any action.
For those venturing into the estuaries, you can expect species such as bream, flathead, trevally, mangrove jack, whiting, estuary cod and tarpon. Some of the less common species that can be caught will include giant herring, hairtail, morwong and barramundi. These species tend to pop up from time to time and their rarity generally makes them welcome by-catch.
Barramundi have been caught in nearly every major creek and river system in Southern Queensland since the floods last year. There were several taken in the latter part of last summer and already there has been several captures from systems such as Coochin Creek, Noosa River, Coomera River, Brisbane River, Caboolture River and the Gold Coast Canals.
Perhaps barramundi may establish a breeding population if anglers continue to release any they catch, which will benefit all anglers in years to come. Threadfin have definitely taken a hold in many local systems, especially the Brisbane River and it is quite possible that barramundi can too if we leave the populace alone for a few years to increase.
Mangrove jack have been a hotly targeted species for many anglers fishing the Southern Queensland creek and river systems this summer. Numbers of fish have been good and there are some thumpers amongst them, including a few 60cm plus fish.
Many anglers use live bait for this species but if you are after a challenge then try your hand at lures. These can be trolled with success in some systems however cast and retrieve is probably the best way to put your offering close to the structure where jacks like to lurk. Fast reflexes, a heavy, yet smooth drag, some good rod work and a proportionate degree of luck will be required to land most fish.
Casting your offerings around bridges, rock walls, mangrove snags, rock bars and other structure where jacks hunt in ambush mode will heighten your chances of getting a hit. Braided line (usually 12-20lb) and 20-30lb fluorocarbon leaders will aid your cause.
Plastics, hardbody minnows, poppers and stick baits all have their uses when targeting jacks and experience will allow you to decide which is the best offering in certain situations, considering the time of day and tidal phase.
The Z-Man Swimmerz have become a popular plastic for jacks due to their action at low retrieve speeds and durability. I regularly use these, as well as Castaic Jerky-J boot tails, which will both work well when rolled slowly along a rock wall or hopped down a decline.
Plastics are also great for working around bridges where high tidal flow makes it harder to use many other offerings. A selection of jigheads should include 1/6oz, 1/4oz, 3/8oz and 1/2oz to allow you to put these plastics into the strike zone no matter what the water depth or tidal phase.
I predominately use the TT Headhunter 3/0 jigheads in these sizes as they match these two plastics well, are very strong and have good hook clearance for increased hook-up potential. I also use these regularly in the Brisbane River for mulloway, threadfin and every other resident that attacks them.
Another great plastic that I wouldn’t leave home without is the Atomic Prong in both the 3” and 4” sizes. These are extremely realistic, swim well and definitely produce strikes. These can be slowly rolled or hopped and will work in most estuarine and bay situations for all species, as everything eats prawns.
Estuary cod can be found in similar locations to where you target jacks and respond to the same methods. They have a preference for rock walls and are especially fond of crabs so where you find these you will find estuary cod. The rock walls at the mouth of the Brisbane River and those on the eastern side of Mud Island are regular producers of quality estuary cod. I am especially keen to try some of the Z-Man Crabz for cod at a few locations this summer.
Flathead are a reliable capture for anglers fishing estuaries year round. They can be taken in a broad array of situations on baits or lures, however trolling or casting lures along the edges of prominent banks during the falling tide is one of the most reliable ways to target these. For land-based anglers they are easily accessible at the mouths of canals and the flats, channels and mud banks around the mouths of most creek and river systems.
Bream numbers are excellent throughout the estuaries and into the bay shallows. The man-made canals have held good numbers as well as most creek and river systems. The shallows of the Moreton Bay islands are generally worth a look during the warmer months.
Lightly weighted plastics plus small blades and minnow lures will all work well. One of the better ways to entice them in these reef and rubble shallows is with surface lures such as stick baits and small poppers. These zones will also produce many other species whilst you are targeting bream.
Crabbing is usually fairly good during January and you can expect mud crabs to be caught in most creek and river systems. The Brisbane River produces some surprising numbers of quality muddies with results forthcoming from well upriver at times. I know of more than one person who regularly crabs around the South Bank stretch with good results. With rainfall, crabs are often flushed down the systems and well out into Moreton Bay.
Sand crabbing throughout the Moreton Bay and around the mouths of major systems will often produce healthy numbers of these succulent creatures. Setting your pots along the contours surround the bay islands and in the deeper channels and gutters will heighten your chances. Fish frames, whole mullet and chicken carcasses make great baits for both mud and sand crabs.
How good the fishing is around the bay island shallows will depend on water clarity. If we have had a decent flush from the Brisbane River and the water around the bay islands is a little murky then the fishing should be quite good in the shallows for snapper, sweetlip and many other species.
High water clarity will mean that the better quality fish will be found a lot wider in deeper water and the fishing is generally fairly tough during daylight hours. The artificial reefs also fish well when the water clarity is high. I am predicting that we will again get plenty of rain in the early part of this year so it should only be a matter of time before the fishing is good in these margins.
Peel, Green and Mud are all worth a look for those with bait or lures. The shallows around King Island offer some great land-based luring opportunities. Drifting a pilchard behind the boat whilst working plastics and other offerings will likely reward you with a school mackerel around Mud, Green and Peel.
Grass sweetlip will be a good target for those fishing the eastern side of Green on an early morning rising tide with fresh fillet baits or large green prawns.
Towards the end of 2011, there was sporadic billfish activity on the grounds around The Trench, Hutchinson Shoals, The Group and Flinders Reef. However, this can change any day depending on currents and baitfish proliferation.
Getting out to these grounds and trolling skirted lures will put you in with the best chance of encountering a billed beast. Additionally you are likely to encounter wahoo, mahi mahi, tuna, mackerel and other species. The Group and other areas often produce decent numbers of Spanish mackerel around this time of the year.
Trolling bibbed minnows, weighted skirts and rigged troll baits is your best chance of tangling with one of these tasty critters. Those who like some hardcore fun can try and pry one of the large giant trevally away from their home. Poppering or stickbaiting around Boat Rock, Shag Rock, Flinders Reef and close the Cape Moreton will put you in with a good chance.
Quality reels such as Daiwa Saltigas or Shimano Stellas spooled with around 80lb braid and fished on appropriate 7’6” to 8’6” GT rods will heighten your chances. Yellowtail kingfish, Spanish mackerel and occasionally cobia and large cod are also taken with this approach.
Bass fishing in the upper reaches of most major systems is usually fairly good during January, especially if we have had a bit of rain. The Pine River, Glasshouse Mountain Creek and the upper reaches of the many rivers (Nerang, Coomera, Brisbane, Logan) will all produce bass as well as the occasional golden perch, Mary River cod and other species.
The local impoundments are noted producers of all these species also. January generally produces some excellent catches of redclaw crayfish in most impoundments. Wivenhoe, Somerset and North Pine are good choices for setting a few opera house style pots baited with rockmelon, honeydew melon, partially boiled potatoes, bacon fat or other oily substance. Redclaw are exceptionally tasty and my kids just love catching them.
At this point it’s uncertain whether or not we are going to experience substantial rainfall during January but my money is on a deluge. Regardless of whether we do or not, there will still be plenty of targets for anglers fishing both the inshore and offshore grounds. If the estuaries are flooded then the bay and further offshore will probably be firing.
Fishing to the conditions you are presented will definitely increase your results but there is no need to take risks just to get a feed.
The youngsters will be back to school towards the end of January so now is a great time to get them away from the video games and into the great outdoors to do a little fishing. Results have been good for most species since the floods last year and there is no better time to get out and enjoy our favourite activity than now.Reads: 489