Winter wonderland on reefs
  |  First Published: July 2012

There are a number of winter species available around the Sunshine Coast reefs but none are more sought after as much as those big red snapper.

Targeting snapper has been the subject of many articles and videos over the decades, and like everyone else, I have read the majority to try to get that one secret thing that I am missing. It took me a while to figure out that it’s the good combination of a number of things that allows you to catch more snapper.

Snapper are not the only species that dominate our waters during the winter months, but they do attract the most attention from anglers.

The winter fishing is truly worth getting out of bed and braving the cool conditions. The season has kicked off with a bang producing plenty of reef species right across the Sunshine Coast area. The good news is that you don’t have to motor out very far because big fish are all around areas like the Outer Gneerings, Murphy’s and the 7 and 12 mile reefs around Caloundra.

Moses perch are on most of the reefs at the moment and July will see these great little fighters are in near plague proportions. Fishing with a paternoster or snelled rig is the best method to target them and they love pilchards or squid baits.

Bigger pearl perch and hussar also start to turn it on around this time of year. Both fish rate highly as a table fish and are sure worth targeting for a feed.

Some monster sweetlip and red throat emperor are found in the very same areas as snapper, so there is a good chance you can enjoy four or five different reef species drifting the one area.

If you’ve never targeted cobia before, this season is the time to put it on your ‘to do’ list. Cobia pull like a freight train and you’ll have no doubt that you are hooked up once they have decided to take the bait. I have known big fish over 20kg to pick like a bream or suck like a flathead and then suddenly you are in for the fight of your life.

Cobia can be found in a number of places including channel markers, reef areas or old wrecks and they just love live baits such as slimey mackerel or yakkas. If livies are not around then big pilchards or other frozen baits will work, but it may take some berley to keep them interested.

Big amberjack can be found waiting to ambush around the areas where you find the pearl perch. Out in deeper waters around the Barwon Banks we have enjoyed sessions on pearl perch until a powerful amberjack decimates them. If you think cobia can pull, wait until you hook up to one of these brutes. We have enjoyed fights that have lasted over 30 minutes with 25kg fish. Just when you think you have them boat side, away they go again.


If offshore is not your thing, then the news from the estuaries is just as good. Big bream are the target around the cooler months and they have not disappointed with a few fish approaching that magic 1kg mark. In other states that may not seem to be much but this is what we get to enjoy in our little piece of paradise. The bream hang around the many pontoons, jetties and encrusted rock walls right throughout our areas.

Mangrove jack are sometimes forgotten at this time of the year but can still be taken if you know where to fish.

The chopper tailor are the best sport on light gear and you can often see them busting up the surface as they fight for every last piece of bait left in the school. Early mornings are one of the best times to use poppers in the estuaries as tailor and whiting will fight hard to get it first.

Some of my favourite fishing sessions this season are at the beach fishing for the mighty mulloway and big tailor. Although it’s a little rare to get big tailor here, any fish around the 2-4kg mark will put a smile on your face. The beach strip from Dicky Beach around Caloundra through to Point Cartwright is always worth a look for holes and gutters.

Low tide has always produced more fish for me so get down there through the day with the family and work out your best spot to target these fish before the tide changes.

Mulloway can also be caught around the estuaries but it is on the beach where they come into their own. Deep into the cool hours and after long periods of zero action, there is nothing more rewarding than seeing that big silver flash zipping through the surf. My favourite bait for mulloway is either a stack of worms or a big green prawn, which I purchase from the local supermarket.

Whether it’s the offshore reefs, the estuaries or the beaches that you like to fish, there is decent fishing on offer. However, why not take a look around this season and try something new? That is what fishing is all about, enjoying another experience and finding another way to catch your favourite feed.

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