Cracking cooler fishing
  |  First Published: May 2012

With lower air and water temperatures throughout May, cool weather species will soon be increasing in prominence throughout the southeast.

Mulloway, tailor, snapper and many others will begin showing within Moreton Bay and its filtering waterways. The estuaries fished exceptionally well last winter due to discoloured waters, which held healthy concentrations of baitfish species.

This year should be similar therefore anglers will again be able to access some awesome fishing action no matter whether they are fishing land-based or from a kayak, tinnie, pleasure craft or floating palace.


The last 12 months has seen the most consistent numbers of mulloway that I can ever remember within Southern Queensland. Jewies were popping up everywhere including the wrecks and islands of Moreton Bay to well up the tidal reaches of many creeks and rivers.

While many of those caught were under the minimum length of 75cm there was still plenty of legal fish for those who specifically targeted them. I caught plenty of decent fish to just under the metre mark in the Brisbane River although other locations such as the Jumpinpin Bar area, Logan River, Caboolture River, Pumicestone Passage, Scarborough Reef and Peel Island also produced decent fish to over 15kg for various anglers.

I caught the majority of my legal fish during the darkened hours in the Brisbane River at a variety of locations. Most were caught on Z-Man Swimmerz 4” plastics rigged on 3/8oz to 1/2oz jigheads or Snake-Heads, although I caught some on Sebile Magic Swimmer 110FS including several land-based specimens to 87cm which were lured from around lighted areas at night.

General approaches in the Brisbane River were to cast my offerings around areas that held bait, especially man-made structures such as bridges, rock walls and jetties. I also targeted natural structure such as the drop-offs into the main riverbed and submerged rock walls and holes. The plastics were generally cast up current or across current and then retrieved back with a series of small hops or a slow, constant, rolling retrieve. The same retrieve techniques could be employed for vibration baits and Magic Swimmers.

Numbers of legal specimens should be higher this year due to the increased amount of inshore baitfish and 12 months of growth. As such, mulloway will be a serious target for many anglers during the cooler months and not estuarine ghosts only showing up sporadically, as in years past.


These are one of the more heavily targeted species in Moreton Bay due to their exceptional eating qualities. Additionally they provide a lot of fun for anglers fishing lighter line classes and are fairly common throughout a host of locations.

While in reasonable concentrations all year, the cool weather sees increased numbers of larger fish entering Moreton Bay for breeding purposes. The bay islands are heavily fished yet continue to produce healthy numbers of snapper and other species for anglers using both baits and lures.

These bay islands are accessible to anglers in craft as small as 3.8m on days with exceptional weather conditions, however I find the better action when there is some wind around to roughen and aerate the water, especially in the shallows.

Great weather conditions also promote an increase in boat traffic and this definitely spooks the fish somewhat. Stealth is definitely the key to quality catches in these shallower zones.

I predominately fish soft plastics for snapper, sweetlip, tuskfish and other species around the bay islands however bait is also highly effective when presented well. Flourocarbon leaders and subtle rigging can make all the difference.

For plastics anglers, jerk shad style offerings are popular and productive however I also regularly use curl tails and paddle tails with similar success. Plastics are best cast up current then retrieved back with the current for the best presentation. Usually a 1/6oz to 1/4oz jighead will suffice in water depths up to 8m.

Plastic preferences and retrieve styles of successful anglers will vary, proving the snapper are not too fussy most of the time. Put your offering in front of them and there’s a high chance that you will get bit. I employ several different retrieves depending on water depth, current flow and types of plastic used.

Some of my favourite plastics for working the fringes of the bay islands are Gulp 5” Jerk Shads, Z-Man StreakZ, Atomic Prongs and various curl tails.

Often when the current and wind increases your drift rate, I will cast a ‘floater’ plastic down current and put the rod in the holder. The roll of the boat produces a slow lift and drop of the plastic, a presentation that often produces the best fish of the day.

Successful plastic fishing around the bay islands requires stealth to avoid spooking the fish in the shallows. While an electric motor is a bonus, it is not essential. Skirting wide of your chosen fishing spot and positioning the boat so that it drifts over or close to the main target zone will prove successful most days. Snapper roam constantly and do not hold fast to any structure for too long. I find the more open areas around Mud and Green islands are easier to fish without an electric than Peel Island reef edge.

Anchoring and fishing with baits is also highly successful and good boat positioning will definitely pay dividends. If you are going to anchor then do so well up from your chosen spot and then let out rope until you are within reach of the desired zone with your baits.

Try and find areas away from the main concentrations of anchored boats and boat traffic where possible. Cast baits up current and allow them to drift back to the zone with a minimal weight sinker. The simple running ball sinker rig is generally the best for the shallower areas.

Larger baits are best presented on a snelled-hook rig to avoid them bunching up and spinning in the current. Squid; mullet; cuttlefish strips; fillet baits of mullet, gar, pike, tailor, tuna; pilchards; chicken fillets; and several others will all work a treat.

Add a little berley of cut pilchard pieces; ; mashed up pilchards; or fish and crustacean discards and you will heighten your chances considerably. A pilchard fished under a float a little further back can be successful for larger snapper, mackeral, tailor and sharks.


Last year we experienced the best concentrations of tailor that I can remember within the rivers and estuaries. While the open beaches were a little sporadic (some say due to the numbers of Australian salmon which took prominence in these zones) the tailor numbers in the estuaries were excellent.

Even in water dirty enough to plough, tailor were common, hitting almost any bait or lure they saw. Before Easter there were already decent numbers appearing in the Brisbane River, though recent rains have made the water very discoloured.

The run-off has brought forth nutrients into the system, boosting all forms of life in the inshore aquatic environment. Numerous baitfish species seek nourishment and refuge in these waters and predating species are never too far away.

Tailor were in plague proportions last winter in the Brisbane River with average specimens around 43cm and the best quality ‘choppers’ reaching lengths of more than 60cm at times. These tailor were caught in most areas of the lower Brisbane River, right up to the city reaches at times, yet were more prevalent from the Gateway Bridge down.

In fact, the lights around the Gateway Bridge made this an extremely reliable spot to target tailor at night with almost every cast producing a hit at times, mainly on a falling tide.

We predominately used Z-Man plastics due to their productiveness and durability yet several hardbody presentations such as the Sebile Magic Swimmer 110 FS were also smashed relentlessly. Most decent hardbody lures and plastics would be accepted by these packs of ravenous tailor; they were not too fussy most of the time.

The darkened hours concentrated many of the tailor around lighted areas that attracted baitfish concentrations, however during daylight hours they were more dispersed. Encounters and captures were reported from almost anywhere.

Surface feeding schools were sometimes encountered in the lower reaches and right out to the Koopa Channel and around Mud Island, especially the southwest corner and shallows on the northern end. The area around the Jumpinpin Bar, Bribie Island Bridge, Clevelend Point shallows, western side of Peel Island, Green Island shallows and numerous other areas were consistent producers also.

At times it seemed as if they had taken over the place and no matter what species you were targeting, a tailor or two would get in on the action.


Although pelagic action is generally best during the warmer months, there will still be a few around throughout May within the waters of Moreton Bay. Longtail tuna numbers can be fairly good with captures coming from any area at times.

Try areas such as the western side of Peel, between the northern side of Mud Island to the Measured Mile, shipping channels, Pearl Channel, Naval Reserve Banks and waters between the Harry Atkinson and the mouth of the Rous Channel. Just outside the bay proper you can check along the front of Bribie Island (all the way up to Currimundi), out as far as the Caloundra Four Mile and in the Western Rocks area. Casting small metal slugs and slices, soft plastics and flies will generally give you a look in.

If you like to target longtail tuna on fly, or want to learn more about it, then contact Jeff Sorrel on 07 3284 2632 to find out about the Longtail Tuna Fly Fishing Challenge to be held on the weekend of May 19-20. It is a fun, social weekend and you are sure to learn a good degree from some of the experienced fly fishers there.

Smaller pelagics such as Watsons and Australian bonito, frigate tuna, mac tuna and even the occasional school mackerel will be encountered. These smaller tuna species are not very palatable but make great baits for a host of reef and estuarine species. Cut the fillets into strips and salt down to produce awesome bait for large greenback tailor.


During May there is often still good numbers of prawns about throughout the rivers and estuaries. The powerlines area at the mouth of the Logan River often fires during May with anglers easily accounting for a 10L limit of prawns during a cast-netting session. The Brisbane River, North Pine River, South Pine and Caboolture River are other areas worth trying.

Bass fishing in the upper reaches of most major river systems should be productive due to early year rains and good water quality. Try systems such as Glasshouse Mountain Creek, North Pine, South Pine, Logan and Brisbane Rivers. Many of the better spots will require a kayak, canoe or some fancy footwork to access but the effort will be well worthwhile. Slow rolling spinnerbaits or working bibbed minnow lures will generally produce the goods. Surface lures such as stickbaits, poppers, paddlers and wake-baits will produce some of those knee trembling strikes that make bass fishing in these environments so memorable.

Flathead numbers are usually very good during May with most estuarine systems being worth the effort. There are plenty of land-based locations where anglers can target flatties with the mouths of creeks and river systems being consistent producers, especially during a falling tide.

Walking the edges of the banks and casting soft plastics, small minnow lures, flies and the like will generally produce several fish per session. Obviously you will need to work your offering close to the bottom and target the edges of the banks where they drop into the main channel.

Locating the mouths of the main gutters and drains leading off these sand and mud flats will make your search for fish much easier as these spots provide ideal ambush spots for flathead, especially the better quality specimens. Some good land-based flathead fishing can be found around the mouth of the Pine River (especially the Hornibrook Bridge to Dohles Rocks area), Kedron Brook Floodway, Lota Flats, coastal foreshores (Wynnum, Sandgate and Redcliffe) plus the mouths of most canal systems and creeks, just to name a few.

Bream numbers will be fairly good however I expect the best numbers are yet to appear over the coming months. The bay island shallows can hold some of the better quality specimens at this time of the year however the canal systems and most major estuarine areas are also going to produce quality fish.

Plenty of decent specimens are taken along the length of the Brisbane River with the Gateway Bridge area being worth the effort for bream and many other species. Baits can include mullet fillets, chicken fillet, whitebait, pilchard pieces, prawns and worms. Most small lures can be put to good use on bream with plastics, surface offerings, minnow lures and blades working well.

My favourite filleting blade for big winter bream is the Marttiini Condor Golden Trout 6”, as the fillets taste great when cooked on the barbeque with the skin on.

Threadfin numbers will remain healthy however I find the better action occurs further up from the mouth during the cooler months with good catches from around the city and South Bank Reaches and even further upriver well past the Indooroopilly stretch.

Larger numbers of mulloway and tailor in the lower reaches may be the catalyst for this upriver habitation. Many anglers achieve good results live baiting from land-based locations with mullet, prawns, herring and pike working well.

I prefer to lure fish and opt for lures such as Jackall Trans Am, Atomic Prongs, Thready Busters, Z-Man ShrimpZ, Castaic Jerky-J Boot-tails, Sebile Flat Shads and many other vibration baits. Casting these offerings around lighted areas at night or other locations where baitfish and prawns are present will put you in with a great chance.


Well as you can tell there is still piscatorial plenty for anglers fishing the Brisbane River, Moreton Bay plus its filtering waterways and adjacent estuaries. Although the weather is cooling down, the fishing action is heating up for a great winter of fishing action. As westerly winds increase water clarity around the bay islands, a lot of bait species will enter the major rivers and estuaries where it is a bit dirtier.

Larger predatory species will not be too far away which provides great opportunity for anglers in smaller craft and from land-based locations. Last winter was a cracker for fishing these zones and this year is shaping up the same so dust of your fishing tackle, crack out the flanno, fill up the thermos and pull on your beanie as you need to get out and get amongst the action despite the cool weather.

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