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Pelagics and jacks thrive in warming water
  |  First Published: October 2012



At last we are experiencing some warmer weather, which helps to make a day outdoors so much more enjoyable.

As the water temperatures rise, so do schools of pelagic fish, with scattered surface activity being witnessed throughout Moreton Bay due to an increase in baitfish activity. The warmer water will also promote activity throughout the rivers and estuaries with a broad array of desirable species such as mangrove jack and threadfin salmon being encountered. Check out these options.

JACKS ATTACK

October is one of the better months to be chasing jacks, especially those trophy specimens over 50cm. These fish come inshore during the warmer months and take up refuge amongst the various natural and man-made structures throughout our southern Queensland waterways. The various creeks, rivers, canal estates and estuarine waters will often hold these crimson warriors.

They are an aggressive species that will generally respond well to live baits and well-presented lures. These are generally best to be fished close to structure, however this definitely puts the ball in their court, and the lightning fast strike will often see them back in their snag before you can respond. This is especially common when live-baiting in rough terrain.

Lure fishing (especially with braided line) can give you a better chance of turning their head, as there is minimal slack in the line most of the time. Good offerings can include bibbed minnow lures, soft plastics, vibration baits, topwater offerings and a host of others.

Many of the Japanese lures have exquisite actions affording their price tags yet there are also plenty of great Aussie lures that will catch just as productively. Most minnow lures targeted towards jacks are between 80mm and 120mm in length and although numerous colours will catch, many anglers have a preference for gold, brown, dark red or natural colour tones. These lures can be worked with an erratic, twitching retrieve or a slow, constant wind.

Soft plastics, especially prawn and shad profiles, seem to be the most commonly used due to their productiveness. I commonly use Z-Man MinnowZ, Castaic Jerky-J Boot-tails, Berkley Split-Bellies, Atomic Prongs and DOA Shrimps.

A new plastic that looks great and is sure to rack up a few jack captures this season are the Lucky Craft Opti-Shads. These have a nice soft tail and will work well with a slow rolling retrieve. These offerings are commonly fished on jigheads but last year I started using the TT Snakehead rigs which allow more movement and have an extremely low snagging rate, making them ideal for fishing in heavy jack holding territory.

Live baits can include mullet, herring, pike, prawns and gar. These are generally fished on an octopus pattern hook with minimal lead to keep it within the strike zone. Make sure your rod holders are strong if you are not handling your rod as the sudden strike of a jack, combined with heavy drag pressure can snap inferior rod holders, probably costing you a rod and reel if your reaction is slow. In areas with minimal current flow, try letting your live bait slowly sink into the zone without using any sinker.

Jacks are an awesome sport fish and a highly prized capture by many anglers. It’s okay to take one over 35cm for a feed, but it makes good sense to release the rest to guarantee future fish stocks.

FLATHEAD

Last month I gave a decent account of flathead to help get you in on the action. The same techniques and approach can be applied throughout October to land some large lizards or a few smaller specimens, which make a tasty feed when beer battered.

Most estuarine and inshore environments will hold good numbers of flathead throughout October for both lure fishers and bait anglers. Getting amongst them can be quite easy once you familiarise yourself with your environment and the lay of the land. This can be done during low tide with likely holding spots pinpointed for a trip at a later date. Some anglers even venture up onto the exposed flats during the lowest stage of the tide to mark likely spots onto a hand held GPS so they can accurately return during a better tidal stage.

Land-based anglers have many locales where they can easily access good flathead waters. The mouths of most creeks, canals and rivers, shallow tidal flats and many other locations can be reached by foot. Wading these areas with one rod plus a chest pack, bum bag or backpack to hold a section of lures, sunscreen, water, leader material, snips, pliers and a few other items is a great way to spend a few hours.

Ensure to wear good footwear such as neoprene wading boots or sandshoes as hazards such as stonefish, rays, broken glass or other partially buried objects could be encountered. The mouth of the Pine River from the Hornibrook Bridge to Dohles Rocks is one of my favourite locales for a session of wading and rarely will you miss out on getting a few flathead plus bream, whiting and occasional other species.

BAY PELAGICS

As the water temperature increases, baitfish species will become more abundant within Moreton Bay. These in turn will attract various pelagic species including tunas, bonito and mackerel. The action is often pinpointed by the presence of wheeling and diving birds, however this is not always the case so it pays to scan the horizon when transiting the bay. Having a spin rod rigged and ready with a chrome slice or stickbait plastic can definitely pay dividends when the action erupts in front of you.

Mackerel are keenly sought after throughout October and while the best action is yet to come, there are a few about for those who look. The upper end of the Rous Channel, Rainbow Channel and main shipping channels can all hold numbers of school mackerel throughout the warmer months. An occasional spotted mackerel will also be seen. The Measured Mile Beacons are fished heavily and produce good numbers of both school and spotted mackerel at times.

Jigging the shipping channel beacons with chrome slugs and slices will start to pay dividends towards the latter part of the month. Pilchards can also be deployed to the bottom with good results. Drifting out pilchards under a float or unweighted will generally get you amongst the action. Adding a little berley to the equation will definitely increase your chance of tempting a mackerel but will also entice sharks, cod and others to the vicinity of your bait.

Schools of small tuna and mackerel will often be located along the edges of major banks and channels. These can generally be tempted with smaller chrome slices and flies and make great sport on light line. They are also awesome whole bait for larger offshore pelagics when rigged to swim or the fillets can make great bait for surf fishing and reef fishing when salted in strips or cubed.

Larger mac tuna and longtail tuna are great fighters and can be located throughout many areas of the bay. They are often only found in smaller, more scattered numbers although this will depend on the amount of baitfish present in the area.

Longtails are hotly targeted and are very palatable when smoked or eaten fresh, either sashimi style or lightly seared. They can be pedantic eaters at times yet can respond to offerings such as chrome slugs and slices, stickbait plastics, pencil poppers, walk-the-dog stickbaits, blades, flies and many other offerings. Live baiting around the main beacons in the Northern Bay, Curtin Artificial, Western Rocks area and many other locations can also work a treat. Yakkas or slimey mackerel make great baits but you can also use pike, squid and herring.

Cobia will also be prevalent throughout the bay during October and can vary in size from just a few kilograms to well over 40kg. These can be located around major beacons, Curtin Artificial, Cowan Ledge, Western Rocks, Caloundra Four Mile and many other areas. Anywhere you find juvenile reef species is worth a look in the Northern Bay for cobia.

CRABS

Numbers of sand and mud crabs will increase as the water warms with big full bucks being the target for crabbers working Moreton Bay and its filtering waters. Mud crabs are most commonly caught in the creeks, rivers and estuaries, making them accessible to all. The harder to reach spots often hold the better quality muddies, however accessing these areas will often require a small craft or a muddy hike through the mangroves to set your pots.

Areas close to civilisation can also reap rewards with most creeks around Brisbane and the Brisbane River producing some excellent captures. Safety pots baited with a fish frame, chicken carcass or even a can of cat food with some holes punched it will produce the goods.

The same crabbing apparatus is used for sand crabs however the better numbers of these are usually found within the bay proper. Setting these pots around the ledges surrounding the bay islands, the edges of prominent channels and such locales will generally reward. The bag and size limits for sand and mud crabs vary and there are rules in relation to the apparatus used and the labelling of it, so it pays to check this out before setting out to catch a few crabs.

ESTUARY COD

Although mangrove jack are a prime target for many during October, estuary cod are also prominent and are often specifically targeted by anglers, especially those after a tasty feed of fillets. These brawlers are commonly found around prominent structure, especially rock walls, as they love to hole up amongst the rocks and have a penchant for crabs, which are common in these areas.

Using lures that track close to this structure, preferably banging and rattling across it to get the cod’s attention, will put you in with the best chance of success. The rock walls at the mouth of the Brisbane River and those surrounding the Bay Islands, especially on the eastern and southern sides of Mud are great areas to look. The canals also provide good habitat, as do other systems with prominent mangrove systems or heavy structure including rock walls, jetties, pontoons, bridges and the like. Estuary cod, especially the larger specimens over 50cm, are tough fighters and can easily bury you amongst their structure if you don’t have fast reflexes, a strong drag and a degree of luck.

BLUEWATER

Just as the pelagic action within Moreton bay will heat up during October, so will the action out wider. Species such as wahoo, marlin, mahi mahi, Spanish mackerel, sailfish and tunas will be taken by those working the offshore grounds including The Trench, Hutchinson Shoals, Flinders Reef and The Group (off Point Lookout).

Many anglers will troll lures and rigged baits, however if prominent baitfish concentrations are found then live baiting is especially productive. For marlin and sailfish, resin-headed skirts are commonly trolled although some anglers will additionally troll a bibbed minnow or bibless offering as an option for wahoo and other species that venture into the spread. Although most pelagics will eat skirted lures, these offerings are put into the fray in an attempt to avoid skirted lures being destroyed by the teeth of pelagics other than billfish.

If you are specifically targeting sailfish then swimming or skipping baits like gar are the best option. These will generally out fish lures ten to one as far as sailfish are considered. If you are aware marlin and sailfish numbers are prevalent in a particular area, then slow trolling bridle rigged live baits is the best option.

Wahoo have a need for speed and will generally respond best to high-speed offerings, especially weighted-head skirts and bibless offerings trolled at speeds between 8-15 knots. Other pelagics, especially tunas will also respond well to this approach. There should be plenty of action out on the briny blue during October so now is a great time to explore these waters.

CONCLUSION

October produces plenty of options for those getting out and about within the estuaries, creeks, rivers and offshore waters. A good mix of pelagic and demersal species thrive within these waters, providing anglers with good fishing opportunity.

Baitfish activity will be increasing along with the water temperature throughout October producing some frantic feeding activity, especially from the pelagic sector. Slap on some sunscreen, grab your tackle and get out for a fish during October; you should have a blast.

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