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Mack in full swing
  |  First Published: March 2012



March is a great month to target pelagics off the Gold Coast.

The heavy rains of January have moved a lot of the bait out of the estuaries onto the inshore reefs and hopefully this should get the Spanish Mackerel in full swing. So far the mackerel season has been quite poor, but if last year was anything to go by, the mackerel (both spotted and Spanish) really came on strongly after the flood water started to clear.

Good spots to try are the 24 fathom reef east of Southport, the Gravel Patch off Burleigh and Palm Beach and Mermaid Reef. Trolling minnows, like 160 and 190 Halco Laser Pros, work well when there are good numbers of fish, but when there are only a few around it pays to put in a bit more effort. Try trolling live slimies, using down riggers and trolling baits like tailer, bonito, pike and small tuna and slow trolling them over reef. It often helps if you can get the bait down deep using either a downrigger or a lead line.

Another very effective method is to anchor and berley using chopped pilchards and fishing pilchards, live baits and metal lures in the berley trail. This will usually out-fish most other methods.

March is also a good month to target wahoo off the Tweed and on the 24 and 36 fathom lines off Surfers. High speed trolling using metal headed lures, such as Hex Heads, is effective. Trolled live small tuna are another very good method to try.

It is usually only worth chasing wahoo when the current is running hard from the north. They also like it when the weather is a bit choppy and bite well on early morning tide changes. So far, quite a few early season wahoo have turned up with a few monsters up to 30kg turning up out wide as a by-catch by anglers chasing blue marlin. Most of the fish on the Nine Mile Reef are between 12-16kg. Also expect Spaniards, yellowfin and mackerel tuna.

Out on the wide grounds it has been an excellent blue marlin season so far. While there is a lot of water between these big fish at times, most days we are getting a few bites, but it is fickle. Interestingly, most of the bites this season seem to have been in between depths of 120-160m, a fair way inside of the usual grounds.

If you are serious about tackling blue marlin from a trailer boat I’d suggest getting a few stand-up 37kg outfits. While this represents a fairly big investment, it certainly makes a big difference in terms of the percentages landed. When we trolled stand-up 24kg outfits we ran into a lot of trouble getting smashed up, spooled and hooked some fish that were totally uncontrollable. Now that we are fishing stand-up 37kg outfits, the tables have been turned.

The inshore black marlin season has been very disappointing so far, but there are often quite a few medium blacks between 50-100kg on the deeper grounds in March. Spot X, Deep Trag and the back of the 36 fathom line are all worth a look, particularly if there are plenty of bait schools of slimy mackerel around.

ESTUARIES AND RIVERS

All the rivers have had a major flush with the recent floods, and as things clear and the weather returns to normal patterns the estuary fishing should improve. Most of the action will be around the Seaway and Jumpinpin entrances.

There have been a lot of mulloway around since December and these should continue into March. Drifted live baits and soft plastics have accounted for most of the fish. A lot of undersized fish, from 55-65cm, have been caught but quite a few between 80-100cm have turned up with a recent report of a 128cm mulloway caught on a livie at Jumpinpin. There are still quite a few trophy fish around if you look.

Unfortunately sharks have been a big problem, particularly at Jumpinpin, and this is likely to continue to be a problem in March. They chomp mulloway in half quite a lot and it is very disappointing when you put in the effort, finally hook a big one only to have it chomped by a big bull shark. I’m not sure if there is a legal size for just the head and shoulders of a nice jewie!

As temperatures start to cool a little as we slip into autumn, there should be a bit more activity up on the flats with flathead, whiting and bream. There are usually quite a few small prawns jumping in March, so it is a good time to use small poppers targeting whiting. The key seems to be to wind quite quickly without pausing when a whiting is in chase. For a little fish with a small mouth, the strikes are surprisingly savage.

There will still be plenty of mangrove jack around the rock walls and canals and still hot nights are the time to fish. Trolling hardbodied lures is also a very effective method, particularly at night with a bit of moon. The water may take a few weeks to clear after the January floods but this will really clean up the estuary and there should be plenty of bait around to keep the jacks interested.

All this rain should produce a good banana prawn season and the crabs have been very abundant this season. After all the fresh, a lot of the muddies are in the deeper holes, but there are a lot of jenny crabs and undersized bucks about.

Overall, March is a great month on the Gold Coast to chase pelagic offshore, and with all the rain in January the fishing this month should be excellent.

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