Slow strikes success
  |  First Published: May 2012

May will see the water temperature drop a couple of degrees and the current on the offshore grounds will start to slow. There should still be plenty of pelagic fish available, and it’s a great month to target big Spanish mackerel and wahoo.

So far the season has been erratic, and not too much clear hot blue water has made it in onto the close reefs. There have been reasonable numbers of spotted mackerel just north of the Seaway when the bait is in close, and some decent Spanish and wahoo on the 24 fathom line east of Surfers Paradise.

In May, the 24 Fathom Reef is a great area to target. Trolling a mix of minnows and skirts is generally pretty effective when there is a bit of surface action and the water is clear. I like to use Halco Laser Pro 160 and 190 and generally troll these at around 6 knots. I run a pink or white small jet head and back a long way off the shotgun at the same time.

If you specifically want to target wahoo, troll a bit faster using lures like the locally made Hex Heads. These heavy-headed skirts can be trolled up to 15 knots and are deadly on big wahoo.

If you want to travel a bit further, and sea conditions are good, run down to the Nine Mile Reef east of Tweed Heads. If there is a bit of current it is definitely worth the trip as this area holds more wahoo than any other reef in the region, and multiple strikes are common. Slow trolled live tuna is deadly on wahoo.

There should still be quite a few blue marlin wide of the 50 fathom line, and in May there are often a few striped marlin mixed in with them. I have spent a lot of time wide of the shelf this year and it has been a good season for blue marlin on the whole, although black marlin have been very rare. There have been encouraging reports from the Sunshine Coast so hopefully the blacks up there will migrate south and it may be a late season. Spot X may be worth a look this month, but this normal black marlin Mecca has been virtually fishless this season.

As the current slows the bottom fishing will start to improve and snapper will start to show on the 36 fathom line, with pilchards, soft plastics and Octa jigs being the most popular methods. Out on the 50 fathom line there should be a few snapper, pearl perch, amberjack, Samson and kingies. It always pays to get some live bait on the close reefs before venturing out wide at this time of year. Big pearl perch love small yellowtail and livies produce better quality fish than dead baits on most trips.

In close to shore there are some good options close to the Seaway especially at night. The 18 and 20 fathom lines can produce decent mulloway, Spaniards, snapper and spotties if you anchor berley and live bait. Set one bait deep close to the bottom and another on the surface and berley using chopped pilchards or tuna. Small tuna have been in plague proportions on the inshore grounds this year and it is a good time to stack up on your snapper bait for the winter ahead.


As the water cools off a bit there is a lot of fish movement in the Seaway. As the first cool westerlies start to blow towards the end of the month mullet will start to school up around the Seaway and Jumpinpin. This attracts mulloway, sharks and tailor and the winter fishing pattern begins. Drifting live mullet through the deep channels of both entrances can be very effective on the run-in tide.

Flathead become increasingly active on the flats as the water cools a bit. We generally start targeting flathead in May, and while the average fish is small, it often produces good numbers and is a very pleasant way to fish a cool morning.

I like to use blades, small Gulp soft plastics and a lipless rattling crankbait on alternate rods. The fishing is often at its best up on the flats at high tide if there is a bit of bait around. There are often good schools of frog mouth pilchards in May and these attract a lot of flathead and tailor.

Quite a few really big mangrove jacks turn up in May at the north wall of the Seaway. I’m not sure why this happens but it seems likely that these mature fish are moving out of the estuaries to the inshore reefs. Up north this is the general pattern of mangrove jack behaviour, but on the Gold Coast we lack a lot of close in hard rocky reefs so the big mature jacks seem to live around the Seaway walls as an alternative. Small livies fished close to the rocks can be very effective, but don’t give the fish any line when they take the bait or it will be all over very quickly. Most of the Seaway jacks are around 50cm long with quite a few bigger specimens lurking around.

Bream numbers increase this month around the river mouths, and whiting are present in good numbers. It can be a great time to fish small surface baits, especially when there are a lot of prawns about. I like the Lucky Craft Sammys for whiting and bream. Wind fact for whiting and slow and twitchy walk-the-dog style for bream.

Overall, May is a good month to fish the Gold Coast. There are plenty of good options and the weather is usually kind. However, this year so far has been one of the most unusual I’ve ever fished and things are hard to predict with unusual weather patterns dominating. Hopefully a predictable fishing pattern will re emerge.

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