A Tour of Sunshine Coast Reefs
  |  First Published: December 2011

The Sunshine Coast has a solid reputation for the diversity of fishing available to all types of anglers across the many wonderful beaches, fresh water dams, offshore reefs and estuarine systems.

Whatever your pleasure there is an opportunity to catch any number of quality reef fish such as snapper, pearl perch, sweetlip, emperor, tuskfish and Maori cod. Then the change of seasons brings a long mackerel run with kingfish, mahi mahi, wahoo, cobia, amberjack and all types game fishing well within striking distance from Mooloolaba.

The Sunshine Coast is my backyard and this is an opportunity to show you a little more of the offshore reef areas that you can target to enhance your fishing. The marks are within the general area and they are primarily there to give you a starting point and allow you the chance to look around and discover good country for fishing.

All of the distances are calculated from Point Cartwright, an area just outside of Mooloolaba Harbour that offers plenty of boat launching and fish cleaning facilities.

Inner Gneerings
Location: S26º38’610” E151º10’250”
Depth: 6-15m
Distance: 3-5km

The Inner Gneerings is a shallow reef system commencing only 3km out from Mooloolaba. It is rough country with pinnacles and drop-offs that hold fish like sweetlip, cobia, pearl perch, tuskfish, small snapper and pelagics such as spotty and Spanish mackerel. The reef is best fished on an early morning tide change or evening high tide on dusk during full or new moon phases. It’s also a top area for squid fishing.

Outer Gneerings
Location: S26º39’035” E153º11’872”
Depth: 15-20m
Distance: 5-7km

The Outer Gneerings is within 5km of Mooloolaba and situated on the northern eastern side of the blinker. This is great country and will often hold plenty of bait schools enticing many large pelagics like amberjack, mackerel and kingfish around. All sorts of reef species dwell around this system and by sounding around and finding the areas that are holding bait you will enhance your chances greatly. Great spot to fish in winter particularly at dawn or dusk.

Old Womans or Mudjimba Island
Location: S26º37’008” E153º07’102”
Depth: 5-18m
Distance: 7.4km

Old Womens Island can be the only place you can fish during bad weather because there is always a sheltered side. The eastern ledge is known for the many rat kings that come on in October and remain around through the summer months.

Tuna schools smash bait schools around the entire area so look for the working birds. Reef species like tuskfish, Moses perch and snapper are caught during the winter months. Great area to catch squid. Can get very busy during holidays and on the weekends.

Murphys Reef
Location: S26º40’050” E153º14’310”
Depth: 20-40m
Distances: 7-11km

Murphys is a complex reef system that extends from inside the Mooloolaba 9km blinker to well outside its boundaries. Parts of the system are sheltered during the strong southwesterly winds we experience through winter. There are many spots on the inner side that hold a lot of smaller species but fishing into the night any sort of monster can brick you around here.

Plenty of snapper, mowong, Moses perch, parrot, pearlies, cod, sweetlip and emperor can be taken here and in the summer months trolling or float lining for mackerel. Pinnacles and hard bottom country is spread across this reef area so take your time and explore it carefully.

Currimundi Reef
Location: S26º44’000” E153º10’300”
Depth: Breaks in bad weather on low tide 5-20m
Distance: 9.5km

Currimundi is another reef that is sheltered from southerly and westerly winds making it an ideal location to fish for pelagics like spotty and Spanish mackerel through summer. Baits schools hang around here bringing the tuna packs in during late October through to February. Night fishing is the best for all reef species. A lot of anglers use this reef to stock up on livies before heading out to the Caloundra Reefs.

Caloundra 12 Mile
Location: S26º49’520” E153º16’710”
Depth: 35-55m
Distance: 23km

Hook up on everything from snapper, sweetlip, pearl perch, teraglin, pearl perch, parrot, cod, red throat emperor along with plenty of live yakkas. There is a fair share of pelagics like cobia, mackerel and kingfish that frequent the area during the summer periods. The 12 mile has a reputation for running hot but can be patchy the next day so pick the best times and tides to fish.

Wide Caloundra
Location: S26º48’500” E153º18’550”
Depth: 35-50m
Distance: 26km

This area holds mahi mahi, wahoo, mackerel, cobia and amberjack as well as quality pearl perch, spangled emperor, teraglin and snapper. The diversity of this system enables anglers to target specific species and then troll for tuna or other pelagics once the tide is running.

Fishing the structure around the area is the means to success. Amberjack are plentiful during August and September but can be taken right through the summer months. This area runs right through to the southern end of the Barwon Banks.

Barwon Banks
Location: S26º32’616” E153º31’964”
Depth: 35-120m
Distance: 43km

The ‘Banks’ is a large reef system that covers around 23km running north south. Any number of reef species and larger pelagics can be caught here, kingfish, amberjack, cobia, cod, snapper, pearl perch, tuskfish, iodine bream, hussar, emperor, jobfish and trout, just a few to mention. With all the available species there also comes plenty of sharks so take care.

Anchoring in shallow areas around 40m with berley is advisable on the changing of the tide. Deeper areas around 85m can be drifted outside of the big full and new moon tidal changes. Paternosta rigs are successful for catching parrot and other bottom dwellers. Certain areas produce different species so it is a matter of exploring.

The Hards
Location: S26º17’200” E153º38’015”
Depth: 50-80m
Distance: 62km (50km from Noosa Bar)

The Hards begins at the tip of the Barwon Banks and goes a further 20km north offering changing reef and bottom conditions along the way. This mark is close to the middle of the Hards so you can work around a fair bit. It’s typical rough country with plenty of kingfish, amberjack, tuna varieties, sailfish and wahoo during the warmer months. Top fishing for reef species throughout the winter period but be aware that it is a big trip and you can have days where not much happens. This is a terrific area to get some real quality marks for future fishing trips.

Sunshine Reef
Location: S26º25’100” E153º09’150”
Depth: 20-35m
Distance: 29km (10km from Noosa Bar)

Well known for its pelagic fishing in the summer, in particular kingfish, mackerel and tuna varieties and can serve up some outstanding snapper, pearl perch, parrot, cobia, spangled emperor, grass sweetlip, trout and many other species. Sunshine Reef is a very good system (scattered boulders as per the National Park Hedland) mixed with coral reef and patches of sand. Grassies are very common there, possibly the most common catch on some trips. Maori cod and red emperor are often caught there too, although the vast majority of the reds are under size.

Halls Reef
Location: S26º20’250” E153º05’110”
Depth: 15-20m
Distance: 38km (2km from Noosa Bar)

Halls and Little Halls reefs are worthwhile spots to start the adventure on the way to more distant reefs. These areas can fish outstandingly well after prolonged rain as they are the closest structures to the river mouth and a big fresh pushes prawns, herring, mullet and other bait out into Laguna Bay. Halls is also a great place to deploy a bait jig and collect a few livies.

Misery Reef
Location: S26º22’626” E153º09’260”
Depth: 25-32m
Distance: 33km (7km from Noosa Bar)

Another spot to chase longtail tuna and other tuna varieties from October onwards. Spotty mackerel are often caught around Misery along with their bigger cousin the Spaniards. Baitfish can also be taken along with snapper and other reef species during the cooler months. Sometimes worth moving to if all the other reefs in the local area are tough fishing.

Jew Shoal
Location: S26º21’640” E153º06’890”
Depth: 10m
Distance: 35km (3.7km from Noosa Bar)

Jew Shoal is a very good area for fat longtails and passing schools of spotted mackerel in summer. Also worth trolling small rigged bonito or hardbodies for Spanish mackerel. Trollers regularly pick up quality snapper over JS in winter. Look for bait around this area and really only target it if you are heading out from Noosa bar. In the winter you can pick up snapper, cod and sweetlip and normally some mackerel hang around when they are on elsewhere.

Chardons Reef
Location: S26º23’920” E153º15’480”
Depth: 30-55m
Distance: 31km (9km from Noosa Bar)

Chardons is a very good option when Sunshine is quiet. Big Spaniards run up and down the coast out at Chardons late in the season and many marlin are hooked there too by trollers chasing the mackerel, and from time to time on floating baits while bottom bashing. (A mate of mine hooked a 2m blue at Chardons last Saturday on a floating squid bait on 6/0 gangs). Not many marlin are landed though.

North Reef
Location: S26º16’550” E153º11’350”
Depth: 40-55m
Distance: 45km (15km from Noosa Bar)

Top spot to fish for mahi mahi, kingfish, mackerel in particular spotty, and Spanish. Also has a great range of reef species like spangled emperor, snapper and quality pearl perch. Again this is a worthwhile trip when there is a blow on around Mooloolaba and Caloundra areas. There is a fairly protected run up along the coastline.

Last Words

Remember it is always best to plan a trip with a mate, so that if something happens when you are out a fair distance at least someone can assist you. Please ensure that you have the correct safety equipment and radios in place before proceeding on any fishing trip and you need to be aware of the catch and take limits on all species.

Reef 1 Inner Gneering:S26º38’610” E151º10’250”
Water Depth:6m
Distance:3km From Mooloolaba
Fish Species:Cobia, grass sweetlip, snapper, Spanish mackerel, spotty mackerel
Reef 2 Murphys Reef:S26º40’050” E153º14’310”
Water Depth:30m
Distance:20km from Caloundra Bar, 11km from Mooloolaba
Fish Species:cobia, grass sweetlip, longtail tuna, Moari cod, snapper, spangled emperor, Spanish mackerel, spotty mackerel
Reef 3 Currimundi Reef:S26º44’000” E153º10’300”
Water Depth:20m
Distance:10km from Caloundra Bar, 9.5km from Mooloolaba
Fish Species:Cobia, grass sweetlip, Maori cod, snapper, spangled emperor, Spanish mackerel, spotty mackerel
Reef 4 Caloundra 12 Mile:S26º49’520” E153º16’710”
Water Depth:40m
Distance:17.5km from Caloundra Bar, 25km from Mooloolaba
Fish Species: cobia, mahi mahi, grass sweetlip, lontail tuna, Maori cod, parrotfish, snapper, spangled emperor, Spanish mackerel, spotty mackerel
Reef 5 Wide Caloundra:S26º48’500” E153º18’550”
Water Depth:45m
Distance:18km from Caloundra Bar, 26km from Mooloolaba
Fish Species:amberjack, cobia, mahi mahi, longtail tuna, parrotfish, pearl perch, snapper, spangled emperor
Reef 6 Barwon Banks:S26º32’616” E153º31’964”
Water Depth:35m
Distance:50km from Caloundra Bar, 42km from Mooloolaba, 49km from Noosa River Bar
Fish Species:Amberjack, mahi mahi, Maori cod, Moses perch, pearl perch, rosy jobfish, snapper, spangled emperor, Spanish mackerel
Reef 7 Halls Reef:S26º20’250” E153º05’110”
Water Depth:19m
Distance:5km from Noosa River Bar
Fish Species:grass sweetlip, lontail tuna, spangled emperor, spotty mackerel, snapper
Reef 8 North Reef:S26º16’550” E153º11’350”
Water Depth:55m
Distance:18.5km from Noosa River Bar
Fish Species:Coral trout, mahi mahi, Maori cod, parrotfish, pearl perch, red emperor, snapper, spangled emperor, Spanish mackerel, spotty mackerel
Reef 9 Sunshine Reef:S26º25’100” E153º09’150”
Water Depth:35m
Distance:29km from Mooloolaba, 12.5km from Noosa River Bar
Fish Species:Cobia, coral trout, mahi mahi, grass sweetlip, longtail tuna, parrotfish, pearl perch, snapper, spangled emperor, Spanish mackerel
Reef 10 Leach Shoal:S26º39’300” E153º10’420”
Water Depth:15m
Distance:20km from Caloundra Bar, 8km from Mooloolaba
Fish Species:Cobia, mahi mahi, grass sweetlip, parrot, snapper, spangled emperor, Spanish mackerel, spotty mackerel
Reef 11 Coolum Reef:S26º34’2500” E153º15’300”
Water Depth:30m
Distance:13km from Mooloolab. 29km from Noosa River Bar
Fish Species:grass sweetlip, longtail tuna, Maori cod, snapper, spangled emperor, Spanish mackerel, spotty mackerel
Reef 12 Chardons Reef:S26º23’920” E153º15’480”
Water Depth:50m
Distance:33.5km from Mooloolaba 19km from Noosa River Bar
Fish Species:Coral trout, grass sweetlip, longtail tuna, parrotfish, snapper, spangled emperor



This grass sweetlip was taken at Sunshine Reef.


Cobia are suckers for a big bouncing plastic. This one changed a slow day into a good one out at Sunshine Reef.


Summer is pelagic time. This quality Spanish mackerel nailed a floating slab of tailor out at Sunshine Reef.


Noosa National Park headland at dawn is spectacular.


It can be a pleasure catching mackerel and other pelagic on glassed out days off Noosa.


Sharks can be a pest at times when chasing quality reef fish on Noosa’s nearby reefs.


Big snapper can turn up anywhere and anytime off Noosa. This brute, along with a few of his mates was caught in the middle of a sultry November day.


9-year-old Chris Buchanan took this mackerel on Caloundra 12 Mile on a live yakka.


Brad with a thumper cobia taken at Wide Caloundra.


Damo takes another Wide Caloundra pearly.


Sam with a red throat emperor from Murphys Reef.

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