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Harden up for winter
  |  First Published: June 2012



By this time of the year anglers need to don lots of warm clothing for an early morning start fishing Moreton Bay and the surrounding waters.

Staying at home and whingeing about the weather is not much fun for anyone. You need to harden up, because the cool weather has prompted heightened activity from a broad array of species.

Snapper, squid, bream, mulloway, tailor and luderick are just a few prominent offerings, however there is a broad array of other species on offer throughout June.

SQUID

Due to huge amounts of rainfall last year the inshore waters were discoloured during the cooler months and numbers of squid were not promising. This year we have much cleaner water inshore, which should promote some quality squid action, especially for those fishing from land-based positions.

I live not far from the Manly Boat harbour and as such this is the main area I target squid. Most egi anglers fish from locations such as Darling Point, the Public (William Gunn) Jetty, and from the front rock wall on the eastern side of the marina. All these spots readily produce squid for keen egi fishers during both daylight and darkened hours.

Tiger squid are the prominent species taken here however several other squid species and even the occasional cuttlefish and small octopus will fall for a well-presented egi (squid jig).

While having a purpose specific outfit can increase the enjoyment and results when targeting squid, it is not a necessity and results can be obtained using most rod and reel outfits. The techniques and jig selection are highly important however and the results that good egi anglers can obtain will speak for themselves at times.

Egi come in many colours, finishes, weights and profiles with the best quality products being Japanese made. Some are designed for straight retrieves and others for darting retrieves. Heavier ones are used in deeper or faster flowing water while lighter ones are ideal during periods of minimal current flow or when fishing the shallows.

Most land-based spots where you can access clean water and there is cover for the squid in the form of weed beds or reef, rock or rubble bottom will be worth the effort. The same can be said for those with the scope that a boat provides.

Casting around the shallows of most of the bay islands, the weed beds on the eastern side of Peel or those on the western side of Moreton Island should produce good results. The main channels, such as Browns Gutter, Blacks Gutter, The Blue Hole, Small Ships Channel, Rous Channel and areas of the Rainbow Channel are other locales worth investigation.

In addition to an egi, squid will also take a squid jag or skewer baited with a whole pilchard or other bait. These are often fished below a float. I sometimes trail this rig behind the boat whilst fishing plastics at Mud Island to catch a few squid or cuttlefish. For land-based anglers this rig will also work, especially around the lighted areas of the harbours and jetties at night.

When lightly seared on the barbecue and immediately dipped in a dressing consisting of olive oil, crushed garlic, a dash of soy sauce and some fresh lime juice, squid are a real delicacy.

SNAPPER

The margins of the bay islands will produce a wide array of species in the coming months, however it will be snapper that are the most prominent. The bay receives an influx of snapper during the cooler months from the offshore grounds as they filter into shallower zones to breed.

The structure surrounding the bay islands offers perfect habitat for these fish and anglers can take advantage of these increased numbers with both baits and lures. Early mornings and late afternoons often produce increased activity as the snapper move into waters of differing depths as the light intensity changes.

A stealthy approach along the contours and gutters surrounding the bay island shallows during these times will allow you to intercept the snapper. This may involve anchoring and bait fishing or moving around using an electric motor and casting soft plastics or other artificial offerings. Good presentation of both will definitely heighten your chances. Peel, Mud and Green offer good options for anglers with plenty of good grounds and snapper numbers.

Other popular and productive areas include the Harry Atkinson and Curtin artificial reefs, Scarborough Reef, Benowa Track Grounds, Cowan Ledge and the various wrecks scattered throughout the bay, just to name a few of the more high profile areas.

Obviously snapper can be found in many areas, especially those with rubble, reef, rock or other structure. These same areas have also held a lot of mulloway over the last few seasons, which are generally a welcome by-catch. Other species such as sweetlip, morwong, tuskfish, mackerel, kingfish and numerous others are also a possibility.

MULLOWAY

The last few years have produced increasing numbers of mulloway for anglers fishing the rivers and estuaries filtering into Moreton Bay. The average size has gradually been increasing and legal fish over the 75cm minimum were numerous last season for those who targeted them seriously.

At times, smaller mulloway almost became a nuisance and pounced on any lure or bait in the water. Although these specimens were not legal, careful handling and release was important to guarantee the populace of this species in the years to come.

Some areas that held better numbers of mulloway included the Brisbane River, Logan River, Caboolture River and areas of the Pumicestone Passage although specimens were caught in numerous other locations throughout the southeast. I predominately targeted my mulloway in the Brisbane River and concentrated my efforts around areas with prominent submerged structure including the drop-offs into the main riverbed, the fronts of the jetties and also around lighted bridges, wharves and pontoons at night.

I used vibration baits, sub-surface jointed stickbaits, flies and numerous soft plastics at a variety of locations along the river’s length to catch mulloway, flathead, cod, snapper, tailor and several other species. Reports were common in the lower reaches and some anglers even managed numerous metre plus specimens while land-based luring in the city and South Bank reaches.

Quality threadfin were also taken in this area, in fact right along the river’s length from below Mount Crosby to the tripod beacons out from the river’s mouth.

Live baits of mullet, large prawns, herring, pike and gar produced quality mulloway for anglers fishing areas such as Clara’s Rocks, out from the Sewerage Shute, adjacent the Oil Pipeline and numerous other locations.

Lures that produced were varied between different anglers which just goes to show that mulloway will eat most offerings put before them. Getting your offering into the strike zone and fishing it well is much more important than what the offering is. I used a lot of soft plastics including Z-Man Swimmerz, Castaic Jerky J Boot Tails (both sizes), Atomic Prongs, Squidgy Slick Rigs and Gulp Grubs.

These were generally fished on jigheads varying from 1/4oz to 1/2oz, depending on water depth and current. Many anglers opted for vibration baits, especially Jackall Trans Am, Thready Busters, Sebile Flat Shads, Eco Gear VT, Damiki Tokon Vib, Lucky Craft Varid and numerous others. I mainly concentrated my efforts at night, with results coming throughout all stages of the tide.

LUDERICK

The humble luderick is not as desirable a target these days as in years past. This is possibly due to the fact that they are hard to target on lures, although incidental captures do happen. Predominately a vegetarian species, luderick are tough fighters that require some finesse rigging and a good degree of technique to target.

They mainly eat string or cabbage, however purple or black weed also works a treat at times, often out fishing the latter two. Most weeds that are on the rocks you fish from will generally work however on certain days one will be favoured over another.

A slow taper rod, centrepin reel, floating main line, sneck hooks, fluorocarbon leader, split shot and pencil float will allow you to present the weed bait perfectly however at times luderick can be caught on some quite crude rigs.

Commonly however, they are timid biters and floats need to be weighted to just above negative buoyancy so they can easily be pulled down. Too much resistance and luderick will shy away or just lightly peck the weed off the hook without pulling the float under the surface, an act termed a ‘down’.

Good places to target luderick include the rock walls of the Boat Passage Bridge, Caloundra Boardwalk, the Channel between Eden Island and Short Island, Tiger Mullet Channel, Gold Coast Seaway, Wavebreak Island, Boyd’s Bay Bridge on the Tweed and the rock walls of many canal estates.

Weed can be hard to find at times in some areas and few bait shops have it these days. However, cabbage weed can be fairly easy to get as it grows on almost every channel marker, pontoon and bridge pylon during the cooler months. String weed can sometimes be found on the shallow flats or mud banks and black and purple weed can be found on rock walls and sometimes cement pylons.

Luderick fishing can be a lot of fun and a real challenge. They taste great if you fillet them quickly and remove the black gut lining as soon as possible after dispatching them. June, July and August are prime months for targeting luderick and if you want to have a crack at them then now is the time to start getting some tackle together and finding out a little more about their habits.

TAILOR

Many anglers associate winter with tailor fishing. While the smaller specimens are easy to catch if you find them, the larger ‘greenback’ tailor can be a little more difficult to locate and tempt.

Pilchards are the favoured bait for many anglers as they are easy to obtain and produce results. However, many anglers who target the larger specimens from beaches and headlands prefer to use salted bonito strips, pencil gar or large flesh baits.

Lures can also produce with metals such as Raiders, Flashas, Lazers and Twistys producing the goods. Poppers including as Lively Lures Fat Raps and Steely plus Cotton Cordell Pencil Poppers and several others will work well, especially around the extremities of the day. Stick baits including Nomad Dogtooth, Maria Loaded, Sebile Stick Shad and various others will often produce those trophy greenbacks.

The deeper gutters are the best places on the open beaches and possessing the skills to read a beach well will put you in good stead to find the better locations. Current lines running around the headlands often produce those larger specimens.

While the open beaches produce both quantity and quality, the estuaries are also worth a look. Try areas such as the Brisbane River (especially around lighted areas at night), Bribie Island Bridge, Jumpinpin Bar area (especially on an early morning rising tide) and around the bay islands. Some quite large schools of tailor congregated around the western side of Mud Island for several months last winter and also frequented the Koopa Channel at times.

The area around the South Passage Bar, Naval Reserve Banks, Hope Banks, Rous Channel, Scarborough Reef and the tripod beacons at the mouth of the Pumicestone Passage are also worth a look as they regularly hold tailor.

For the land-based anglers who do not want to take the barge over to Moreton or Stradbroke, try areas such as the Manly Rock Wall, Woody Point Jetty, Victoria Point Jetty, Scarborough Jetty, Wellington Point Jetty, in the Brisbane River underneath the Gateway Bridge (especially at night) and Sandgate Jetty.

When targeting tailor you are likely to encounter bream, flathead, dart, trevally, mulloway and many other species. Last year we also had large numbers of Australian salmon on the beaches and estuaries. While the general consensus was that these were not prime table fare, they did fight exceptionally well and were commonly caught up to 5kg or more.

BREAM

Although the best numbers of stud bream could be a month or two away yet, there will still be plenty around the estuaries and bay island shallows. Anglers used a broad array of offerings for bream as they are responsive to most lures and baits.

They are probably one of the easiest species to find as they will inhabit nearly every creek, river and canal as well as various other bay and estuarine locations. If you have bait in the water then there is a good chance that a bream will eat it sooner or later. Locating the larger specimens on a regular basis will require a good knowledge of their habits, however every angler will luck across a few large bream in their fishing career if they are fishing inshore waters.

Lure fishing for bream has become a popular pursuit in recent years with some anglers putting in a lot of time, effort and money to target the little buggers. Locations, tidal phase and several other aspects will dictate which lure many anglers choose.

Soft plastics, minnow lures, surface offerings and many others are used regularly. While Jackal Chubbies and OSP Bent minnows are in the kit of most hardcore bream anglers, there’s a myriad of great offerings available at your better tackle outlets.

For the bait fishers, popular baits can include strips of chicken fillet, whitebait, prawns, bonito pieces, squid, mullet gut, fowl gut, pilchard pieces and numerous other offerings. Fish these baits on a running ball sinker rig with a minimum of weight to keep the bait in the strike zone. Hook selection varies for different baits and to satisfy individual angler’s preferences however baitholders, long shanks and octopus patterns are very popular. A light fluorocarbon leader will definitely heighten your bite rate.

CONCLUSION

With the cold weather now upon us, it will take a little extra incentive for many anglers to get out on the water, especially for those early starts. A night session is often not too bad as the temperature out on the water is generally a few degrees higher than the land temperature, however the wind can soon put an end to that comfort.

The fishing during winter is generally fairly good. For me, last winter was one of the best in many years with a wide array of species on offer in good numbers throughout Moreton Bay and its surrounding waters.

This year is shaping up to be similar so now is the time to get out and get amongst some of our cold weather action. Get off the couch, fill up the thermos, pull on a beanie and coat and get amongst some of the great angling action on offer. Now is the time to harden up, princess, to get hooked up.

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