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Winter wind down
  |  First Published: August 2012



As we approach the latter part of winter, the days become warmer and longer and we will begin to start looking ahead to the summer months. For now however there is still plenty of quality fishing to be experienced.

Common targets during the forthcoming months include snapper, cobia, school mackerel, flathead, squid, threadfin salmon, tailor and bream although there will be plenty of variety on offer for those who make the effort.

COBIA

These beasts of the bay would have to be one of my favourite species to target at this time of the year. They are available in decent numbers and can be caught to some pretty impressive sizes; specimens over 30kg have been encountered. Additionally, cobia are also a highly desirable table species and, oddly enough, the larger they are, the better they taste.

The smaller specimens to around 15kg are quite common captures for those who target them throughout Moreton Bay and the offshore reefs and wrecks. With a sensible bag limit of two per person now in place, we should find them increasing in prominence for the average weekend angler. Most areas that hold conglomerations of bait or house smaller reef species, whiptails, crabs and other fare are worth investigation if a cobia is on your wish list. That next hook up could be an 8kg rat or a 40kg beast.

Line classes as light as 6kg can be used to target cobia if you are sporting, but 15kg would be a better option, especially for larger specimens. I know anglers who commonly fish 37kg line and they still get smoked on occasion.

The offshore wrecks and reefs, especially the newer artificials, that were put in place a couple of years ago are definitely worth checking out. These areas hold plenty of food sources for cobia. Shallow reef areas including Brennans and Roberts Shoals, Western Rocks, Yellow Patch and the Caloundra Four Mile are other areas worth targeting. Inside Moreton Bay the various beacons offer plenty of opportunity, as do the reefs such as the Curtin Artificial, Comboyuro Ledge, Benowa Track Grounds, patches along the Pearl Channel and wrecks including the Kaptajn Nielsen.

While cobia can be caught on soft plastics, vibration baits and trolled minnow lures, live baits offer a better proposition in most circumstances, especially as far as larger fish are concerned. Whiptails, yakkas, slimey mackerel, sand crabs, cowanyoung, bonito and most reef species (adhere to any size limits) can make great baits for cobia. A circle hook rig, 80lb plus leader and enough weight to get the bait near the bottom will complete your rig.

Baits can be fished at anchor or drifted throughout the chosen area. For beacons, drive to the down current side of the beacon, drop the bait to the bottom and then drift away. Do this several times at each beacon before moving on to the next beacon to try your luck. Often, several cobia can be caught from one beacon although larger specimens are often loners. A quality cobia is enough to feed many so limit your take.

SCHOOL MACKEREL

Throughout August anglers will notice a few school mackerel starting to show through Moreton Bay, especially the Rainbow Channel and Rous Channel. This area seems to hold reasonable numbers of school mackerel and anglers can regularly find good numbers, especially on a rising tide.

Commercial line fishers regularly troll spoons in this area and can account for large numbers of fish at times. Recreational anglers can also get into the action by trolling spoons (Halco No.3 Barra Drones are common) behind paravanes to get them down into the strike zone. Troll speed can vary depending on the current but 3.5-5 knots will generally get you into the action. Due to the heavy line required for this form of fishing, I prefer to troll spoons and small minnow lures behind my downrigger so that I can fish with lighter line and be connected directly to my fish after the initial strike.

Drifting with pilchards is another good way to tempt a few schoolies. These are rigged on ganged hooks or two hooks snelled onto light wire. Tru-turn produce a great rig with three hooks linked with swivels. This allows the bait to be put on more easily and also provides increased hook up rates and fewer lost fish as each hook can move independently. I rig my pilchards with the hooks down through the back, which leaves the hook points in the soft gut cavity. The front hook should be placed centrally in the head approximately half way between the eye and nose of the bait. Make sure your pilchard is pliable and straight and this bait will waft enticingly in the current with a minimum of twisting. If required, add a little weight in the form of a small ball sinker just ahead of the bait for deeper water or strong current areas.

Around the bay islands you may also locate a few school mackerel. These can be caught on drifted pilchards or trolled lures, especially small deep diving minnow lures. I also regularly catch a few when trolling minnow lures along the edges of major sand bank systems on the first few hours of the rising tide and on top of the banks on the higher stages of the tide. Some of my favourite lures for this pursuit are Duel Hardcore 90SP, Smith Cherryblood, Rapala X-Rap 10 and 15 and Bomber 24A, mostly in natural finishes.

FLATHEAD

August is probably one of the better months to target flathead with plenty of larger fish entering the estuaries and inshore waters. At times it seems as if flathead can be found everywhere and anglers catch them on baits, lures and flies at will. The larger duskies commonly enter the estuaries and take up ambush positions to take advantage of any passing baitfish and prawns.

For those new to targeting flatties, your best chance comes on the falling tide as the flathead move to the edge of the major sand and mud banks to take advantage of the morsels forced off the flats by the receding tide. Trolling these edges with brightly coloured minnow lures that dive deep enough to hug the bottom will allow you to cover large areas in your search.

Another approach is to cast and retrieve soft plastics, blades and other offerings that can be hopped down the decline where the flatties lurk. The lowest point of the flat often holds the larger specimens. This species commonly group and several may be caught in one small area so a second pass is always worthwhile.

The edge of prominent rock walls, where the rock meets sand or mud, is another prime locale to try. Towards the upper stages of the tide flathead will be found on tops of the flats and will commonly hold in any small gutters, channels and recesses.

Drifting these areas and casting artificials or drifting baits such as hardiheads, whitebait and small pilchards will rouse up a few. This provides good fishing when taking the juniors as it is easy and there is plenty to look at in the form of darting fish, crabs and baitfish, to keep them interested as you drift over the flats.

SNAPPER

Numbers of snapper have been great during winter and should continue for several months yet. There have been some pretty impressive specimens taken within Moreton Bay waters with numerous 8kg+ knobbies reported, many of them taken on artificials including blades, plastics and vibration baits.

The Harry Atkinson area has produced a surprising number of quality fish and it seems as if this area is somewhat rejuvenated after several years of fairly tough fishing. It has not only been snapper that have been caught in this area as Spanish mackerel, yellowtail kingfish, sweetlip, cod, longtail tuna and many other species have been taken with regularity.

Around the bay islands the fishing is always fairly consistent although anglers need to fish a little wider and in deeper zones during periods when the water clarity is high. I predominately fish jighead rigged plastics around the bay island margins although many anglers also achieve great results on various other artificial offerings. Quality fresh baits are additionally productive, especially when lightly fished with a minimum of lead so that it can move around a bit in the current. Casting these baits up current and allowing them to slowly drift down will increase your strike rate, especially for those larger specimens. A little berley dispensed to the bottom will also heighten activity. A pilchard fished under a float may also product the odd quality snapper but will also tempt school mackerel, tailor or other species to add to your bag.

The Brisbane River has been producing some respectable numbers of snapper in recent months. Good captures have been reported on soft plastics, blades, various other lures, fillet baits, pilchard pieces, live mullet, herring and prawns from a diverse array of locations. Try in the vicinity of the dredge working near the mouth, Clara’s Rocks, Caltex Reach, retaining walls at the southern extremity and the deep holes around the Oil Pipeline shipping facility, just to name a few. Average Brisbane River snapper have been between 38cm and 50cm but there has been plenty of larger ones caught, some in excess of 6kg.

Most of the major wrecks in the bay have been producing consistent snapper numbers with some of the better quality specimens reported from these full time FADS. The Kaptajn Nielson, Bulldozer, Peel Houseboat and several others have been worth a look. Anglers fishing baits around the bases of beacons including those leading into the Brisbane River and those from the Four Beacons north have also been getting a few decent specimens. There’s a huge array of good snapper ground within Moreton Bay and any reef, rubble or wreck that attracts and hold various bait species is worth a look. Often some of the larger specimens come from the smaller, isolated patches of structure. Stealth is the key to consistent, quality captures and anchoring well up current from your chosen spot is definitely worth the effort.

SQUID

These extremely tasty critters are well worth targeting throughout August as numbers are usually fairly healthy within the Moreton Bay shallows, providing water clarity is good. Strong westerly winds throughout much of August will usually guarantee this clarity, however rain can also alter this for waters close to shore.

Most anglers cast egi (prawn profiled squid jigs) and work them over likely looking areas, such as include reef, rubble, rock and weed bed areas. For boaties, look around the shallows of the bay islands (Mud, Peel, Green, Bird, Goat, King, Coochiemudlo, Lamb, Macleay, etc.), the weed beds inside Moreton Island and also at Scarborough Reef. Land-based egi aficionados can try any of the foreshore areas at places like Manly, Wellington Point, Victoria Point, Scarborough and the various residential canals.

Work your egi with small hops and sizeable pauses to again allow it to sink. Slow sinking egi are best used in shallow water, and faster sinking models are good for deep water or areas of fast current flow.

Squid can be caught during both daylight and darkened hours. Often they can be spotlighted at night with a quality torch or headlamp before you actually cast to them. It is often surprising how shallow the water is in which you can find squid. They will hunt prawns and small baitfish in the shallows, especially around lighted areas at night where these food species are likely to gather.

THREADFIN SALMON

Thready numbers can be plentiful during the cooler months and the best action appears to be in the upper reaches of the Brisbane River during this time.

These fish are commonly found feeding around areas where structure alters the current flow and along the edges of deeper drop-offs, especially around the falling tide. On the upper stages of the tide when water flow is at a premium, the current lines and eddies created around rock outcrops, jetty pylons, pontoons and CityCat terminals will often hold numbers of quality threadfin. Those with prominent lighting are the best ones to target at night. Soft plastics, especially paddle-tail shads and prawn profiles will generally work well in this situation.

Often threadfin (and mulloway) will be feeding right near the top of the water column and you can visually pinpoint them as their tails break the surface. Generally this will be just on the edge of the light during the darkened hours. During daylight hours threadfin will still feed in these zones but are usually a degree deeper.

Down towards the mouth, threadfin can be encountered around the various jetties, feeding along the edge of the drop-off into the main riverbed and at times around the leads beacons. Occasionally surface-feeding schools can also be found.

Soft plastics, blades and vibration baits are commonly hopped down the declines on the edges of the river, especially during the first of the falling tide. Releasing fish boat side without removing them from the water will definitely heighten their chance of survival.

TAILOR

A winter staple, tailor have been plentiful so far this year, especially in the estuaries. The beaches have fished well at times however the huge amounts of baitfish within the estuaries have tempted the tailor into these zones where they are easily targeted with a variety of methods. While traditional baits, such as pilchards, have caught their fair share, artificials such as chromed slugs and slices, soft plastics, vibration baits, topwater offerings, flies and others have been put to use with increasing regularity as anglers realise their potential.

Surface feeding antics, splashing and birds will often signal the presence of tailor in a particular area however working zones holding concentrations of baitfish and those with prominent current flow and eddies will heighten your chances. Lighted areas attract baitfish at night therefore tailor and other species are generally lurking nearby.

The Brisbane River has held decent numbers of tailor to over 50cm in length with captures reported from along the retaining walls at the mouth, around the lighted jetties, pontoons and bridges (at night), Clara’s Rocks and several other locales. The Jumpinpin Bar area, Peel Island, Mud Island, Bribie Island Bridge and many other areas are also worth investigation.

The beaches were a little quiet last year for tailor, many believe due to the influx of Australian salmon, and as yet they haven’t really fired this year but time will tell on this factor. Tailor do not freeze very well are best eaten fresh. They are very tasty when smoked, although this is not to everyone’s taste.

CONCLUSION

Well as you can tell there are plenty of options for those venturing into Moreton Bay and its filtering waterways during August. The fishing has been awesome over the last few months with a good variety of species available in numbers.

Whether you fish Moreton Bay, the offshore waters, estuaries or rivers, there is plenty in store for you throughout August and the coming months. The warmer days should be incentive enough to get out into the great outdoors and get into the action, let alone the quality fishing on offer.

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