Many winter targets
  |  First Published: June 2012

Winter is the time to enjoy the many different species that are on offer across the Sunshine Coast reef systems. The favourite target for the majority of anglers is snapper but there are many more quality fish to catch.

The good thing about winter is that you don’t need to spend as much time on the water and can target fish with much more success.

Our inner reef systems offer quality country to explore during the right tidal flows and moon phases. Now is the time to work these areas around dusk just on the change of the tide or very early in the mornings. Species include hussar, cod varieties, pearl perch and sweetlip.

This time of the year normally brings on quality Moses perch that are strong fighters and fantastic on the table. These fish can be caught everywhere from the Gneerings through to Murphys and all the Caloundra areas.

Red throat emperor are another species worth targeting around the shallow reef areas such as the Inner Gneerings. They can be taken on any single hook rig with a light sinker through to a paternoster set up. Pilchards, fish flesh, prawns and squid are all equally good bait to entice them to bite.

Along with the many reef species available there are also the bigger predators lurking in the deep waiting for the chance to devour your baits. The best winter time targets are amberjack, kingfish or cobia. These species hang around all the reef systems but cobia can be taken around the channel markers and buoys around the Sunshine Coast as well.

Known wrecks hold good numbers of them all and normally the reason they stay around the area is a healthy supply of food. Of course there is still the odd big Spanish mackerel swimming around out there so winter can bring a variety of fish into the playing field.

On the wider reefs trevally can be around in plague proportions. Generally if you get onto a spot and start to haul up trevally then pack up and try another mark. Normally though if you are not fishing for snapper most fishers will be chasing pearl perch. Known as the ‘chicken of the sea’, pearlies can be found in water from 30m deep through to 120m or more. They hang around areas which contain wire weed for protection and breeding.

Wire weed if you have never seen it, is a coral-based substance that is curled like a spring or piece of wire and can grow well over a metre in length. If you are unfortunate enough to snag on to a bunch then you will probably lose your gear as it is very tough.

The estuaries have all the winter species running at the moment and the pick of them are the big bream. They frequent around known structure like the Boardwalk in Caloundra and pontoons as well as jetties and bridge structures.

The canals around Pelican Waters and Mooloolaba hold thousands of big bream all year round and are worth a cast or two. Soft plastics are a great way to target them and other winter species along with blades and smaller hardbodied lures.

If it is bait you are using then the number one bait for big bream has always been live prawns but if they are not available then check with your local tackle store to see what is hot at the moment. Bait fish, such as hardiheads and smaller herring, also catch big bream and they can normally be caught in a cast net around the same areas that the bream patrol.

Winter whiting are not as big as their summer cousins but provide a tasty meal and some great fights on super light gear. Check the drop-offs around the sand banks and areas that have plenty of weed about for best areas to target them.

Yabbies, worms and prawns are all top baits to fish for whiting. Whiting are also an aggressive species so hardbodied lures like poppers skimmed across the surface in the early mornings produce some good fish. This is a real art and certain poppers do catch more than others so again your local tackle store will be the best source of information for your success.

Flathead are still around in the winter period but in general they are smaller ones that will take the baits. Generally they will be between 40-70cm in length and not as aggressive as they are during the summer months. It is a matter of working the area you are fishing, covering every piece with your bait or lure in order to annoy them enough into taking your invitation to strike. Try fishing the deeper channels around the Blue Hole and Cod Hole during the late evening tides for best results.

The beaches also come alive during the winter months with the arrival of the tailor. Fishing from Dicky Beach around Caloundra right through to the Noosa North Shore will be on the cards for a lot of land-based anglers this winter. We are overdue for a good run of tailor and hopefully this season will see some good numbers right across the board. Dart, bream and whiting can also be taken on the beaches so there is always a species that can be targeted.

The biggest predator on the beach and the estuaries during winter will be mulloway. We don’t get a huge run of the bigger fish here but we get to tangle with quality fish just the same. Long nights of fishing in the cold conditions with worms for bait will result in some monster fish being caught this year.

So winter gives us all the opportunities to catch plenty of reef, estuary and beach species right across the Sunshine Coast. The cooler conditions have always brought the focus onto the snapper but this year take a look at the other species that are available and try to catch something you have not caught either for some time or ever before. Learning new things about fishing can only be a good thing.

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