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Recreational remedies for winter chills
  |  First Published: July 2012



We are finally approaching the middle of winter and, while conditions have been too damn cold for my liking, the fishing action has been hot. This makes the effort to brave the winter chill well worthwhile.

So far the cold has brought forth a good array of species including mulloway, tailor, snapper, squid and bream. They will continue in prominence and we will also see increasing numbers of flathead and other species.

Let’s look at a few options for getting amongst hot action this winter to provide a remedy for those winter chills.

BRISBANE RIVER

This prominent fishery just seems to be getting better every year. As water clarity increases around the bay island shallows, baitfish congregate in the more discoloured waters of the Brisbane River and estuaries filtering into Moreton Bay.

Naturally, predatory species are not too far behind, congregating throughout the lower reaches of the Brisbane River and even well upstream. Mulloway are hotly targeted because they are available in numbers throughout the cooler months. For many, the real challenge lies in locating legal specimens over 75cm in length.

All mulloway provide great sport, especially on lighter line classes. Additionally, the larger specimens are decent table fare making them sought-after by anglers using live baits and lures. They are commonly caught along the river’s length, especially during the cooler months.

Although mulloway are often being located well up past the city reaches, most anglers target them in the lower reaches below the Gateway Bridge where numbers are better. Good places to probe include prominent underwater structures such as ledges, rock walls, dredging holes and jetty pylons. These areas can be targeted during all periods of the day and night however the darkened hours can offer additional opportunities and easier fishing. Lighted areas attract baitfish which then attract mulloway and other predators to the lit areas around bridges, waterside restaurants, jetties and pontoons.

My favourite way of working these areas is with soft plastics and various hardbody lures. These are cast up current and worked slowly back with the current or sometimes across the current. Predating fish are commonly close to the surface, often on the edge of the lighted areas however it pays to probe the various depths and work the angles. Threadfin, tailor, bream, cod, flathead and various other species are commonly encountered. A lightly weighted prawn or live mullet can also pay dividends in this situation.

Live baits are commonly fished around ledges, dredging holes and other likely areas during both daylight and darkened hours. Try mullet, large prawns, pike, gar and herring. Pay attention to rigging, ensuring your bait looks natural and does not spin in the current.

Dead baits such as fresh mullet fillets, squid and pilchards can also work well at times however live offerings will generally get better results.

Expect to encounter less desirable species such as catfish, pike eels, sharks and rays alongside the mulloway, snapper, threadfin, cod, tailor, bream, flathead and others.

The rock retaining walls at the mouth of the river often hold good numbers of fish, especially snapper, cod, bream and tailor. These zones can be worked with cast and retrieve soft plastics and other lures, or by trolling diving minnow lures.

Tailor respond especially well to these offerings and can be caught day and night in this zone. Claras Rocks is a good area to anchor to try a spot of bait fishing, as it will produce a broad array of species. I regularly work over this area with soft plastics such as Atomic Prongs, Z-Man Minnowz, Z-Man Shrimps and numerous small jerk shad style plastics.

BAY SNAPPER

Moreton Bay anglers are well aware of its quality snapper fishing. This tasty table fare can be found right throughout the bay at various areas including the bay island margins, artificial reefs (Curtin and Harry Atkinson), various bay wrecks (including the Houseboat, Kaptajn Nielson and Bulldozer), various ledges and other prominent reef and rubble grounds.

While decent numbers of snapper can be caught year round, the cooler months see heightened activity with larger breeding fish entering the bay from offshore grounds. This period also sees large numbers of juvenile snapper and anglers often have to wade through numerous small fish before hooking that trophy specimen. These smaller fish must be treated respectfully and released carefully as they are likely to grow into that trophy knobby in years to come.

A broad array of baits will entice snapper but they are also commonly taken on soft plastics, vibration baits, blades and small jigs in deep and shallow waters. Around the bay islands snapper commonly roam, especially the larger specimens, so there are no secret spots where they exclusively live.

While some areas can be more productive at times than others, a stealthy approach is far more likely to produce quality fish than crowding around some particular area with several other boats just because it is supposed to be a good snapper spot. When the water clarity is high, fish deep water (8m or more) wide of the bay islands, the artificial reefs or one of the many other wrecks or ledges throughout Moreton Bay.

ESTUARIES

Cool water temperatures also promote heightened activity from flathead with larger fish coming into the estuaries to breed. Although July can still be a little early for the best action, now is the time to start checking out some likely spots. The mouths of major estuarine systems and rivers will generally start to show results first. These areas can often be accessed on foot and provide great opportunity for those without watercraft.

The mouth of the Pine River offers great opportunity with the main action being encountered between Dohles Rocks and the Hornibrook Bridge. Towards the lower stages of the tide anglers can wade these areas and cast small minnow lures, blades and plastics. Lightly weighted baits such as yabbies, whitebait, prawns and frogmouth pilchards can also work well but there is no denying that lure fishing allows you to cover a lot more water and increases the chance of putting your offering in front of a flathead.

Other places worth investigating for a land-based flattie session are the mouth of Tinglapa and Lota Creeks, Kedron Brook Floodway, Scarborough and Wynnum foreshores, canal mouths and most creek and river mouths. Casting along the edges of major banks and channels or the mouths of small feeder creeks, especially on a falling tide, can short track your road to success. Boaties have a broad array of areas where they can target flathead.

Lures can be cast and retrieved or trolled, allowing you to cover large areas of water in your search. Experienced anglers will be able to pinpoint the most likely looking areas quickly, however for those new to this angling discipline then trolling offers a relaxed and effective way to find a few fish.

Flathead lie on the bottom in ambush mode during much of the tidal phase. Their lateral line acts like an ear and allows them to detect any food source (or lure) in the area. The main aspect to consider when using lures is that they must be fished close to the bottom, preferably banging it occasionally to stir up puffs of mud and sand like a feeding baitfish or crustacean would.

BREAM

The estuaries will also produce good numbers of bream throughout June with a healthy run of larger specimens often entering the estuaries on the full moon. Bream can be targeted with all manner of small lures and baits. Anglers are constantly refining lure fishing techniques for bream while targeting them in various locations. Additionally, baits will also produce good results on this bread-and-butter species.

Bream will eat almost anything they happen across from a live prawn to a clump of mullet gut. Keep baits lightly weighted and well presented and you are much more likely to produce those better quality fish. Lures including blades, soft plastics, minnow lures, topwater offerings and sub-surface walkers can all produce results.

There’s myriad locations within the estuaries where bream can be located including mangrove snags, rocky walls and ledges, shallow flats, weed beds and around man-made structure such as pylons, bridges, jetties and pontoons.

The shallows of the bay islands also produce good results and anglers often employ surface lures across the shallow reef and rubble flats, especially during the warmer months.

TAILOR

By now tailor numbers should be at a premium with good numbers located throughout the estuaries, along the eastern facing beaches and within certain areas of Moreton Bay. The lit areas within the Brisbane River and other major systems often hold numbers of tailor at night.

The deeper surf gutters are key places to look for those working the beaches with pilchard baits or cast and retrieve offerings such as metal slices and poppers. Within Moreton Bay I regularly find tailor around the bay island shallows, Rous Channel, Koopa Channel and Scarborough Reef area. Numerous areas around Jumpinpin hold tailor but an early morning rising tide is a good time to be around the bar area. The same can be said for the Pumicestone Passage with results forthcoming from around the Bribie Island Bridge (especially at night), the tripod beacons out from the mouth and numerous areas along its length.

Tailor are fairly aggressive and will take a broad array of lures. Top water offerings such as stick baits, poppers, fizzers and OSP bent minnows can attract fish from some distance away and often produce some awesome strikes. Blades, chrome slices, soft plastics (especially jerk shads and paddle-tails) and minnow lures will all produce strikes from hungry tailor in a vast array of situations.

I enjoy catching them on fly and use small baitfish profiles including surf candies, bay bait, silversides and polar fibre minnows as well as Clousers.

SQUID

So far these tasty cephalods have been around in good numbers throughout the cooler months. Anglers have been easily getting a few for a feed from a broad array of land-based and open water locations. I have been mainly fishing at Manly and Wellington Point and have scored some quality squid on nearly every outing. I have been mainly fishing at night but have also produced good results during daytime sojourns.

Cleveland Point, Victoria Point and the Scarborough foreshore are all producing numbers of quality squid for those fishing via Shanks Pony. Boaties have a huge array of locations at their beck and call. Try areas such as Rous Channel, bay island shallows (Mud, Peel, Green, Goat, Bird, Coochiemudlo, Macleay and King etc), weed beds along the western side of Moreton Island and any other shallow reef, rock, rubble and weed areas with clean water flowing over them.

Westerly winds produce clear water in the shallows, a prerequisite for good squidding. Anglers commonly cast egi (which in Japanese means wooden lure), a prawn-profiled jig that sinks slowly. These are worked with flicks of the rod tip and pauses to again allow the jig to sink. This produces an action similar to that of a real prawn, a favoured prey species for most species of squid.

You may encounter arrow squid and bottle squid but it is the larger tiger squid that anglers generally target. At night it is sometimes possible to pinpoint squid in the water with a good spotlight before casting to them. Blind casting is also very beneficial, especially for squid lurking a little wider or in deeper water.

Squid can be targeted using any light rod and reel outfit however a specialty egi rod will cast jigs better and reduce the risk of tearing the jig out of a lunging squid. Reels with very light, finesse drag settings will also help in this regard.

Squid taste great when lightly cooked in a variety of ways from the crumbed calamari ring to wok seared garlic and lime juice stir-fry.

CONCLUSION

Well you don’t need to be Albert Einstein to work out that there are plenty of great fishing options for those who get out and about during the next month or so. Hopefully sunny days and light winds will allow anglers to get out onto the water to do what they like best.

The cold weather can make you a little unmotivated at times however great angling options provide a great remedy for the winter doldrums. Get among a few of the great cold weather species on offer and strike while the action is hot.

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