In late 2008 there was large numbers of small black marlin turning up in Hervey Bay and the Sunshine Coast. These fish will be in full swing on the Gold Coast by January.
Juvenile black marlin generally start turning up close to shore this month as well. In years gone by we’ve caught plenty within a few hundred metres off the beach. If you find the bait, you’ll find the fish.
A good spot to start trolling is the 50m contour northeast of the Seaway. This area seems to hold plenty of pilchard schools, and from time to time the slimy mackerel also stack up over the numerous gravel patches in this area. Most of the marlin encountered this month will be between 15kg and 40kg so 8-10kg trolling tackle should be all that is required.
If you are searching for bait schools try lure trolling with small skirts 15-25cm long. When you find the bait catch it on a bait jig and then slowly troll live baits around the bait schools. A good alternative is to troll and switch. This method allows you to cover plenty of water and present a bait to get a better hook-up. Use hookless lures with a tuna belly strip sewn inside the skirt. This gives the lure flavour and keeps the fish interested. Troll two of these lures as teasers. When trolling watch the teasers at all times. When a fish is raised the crew retrieves the lure to the boat, where a live bait is presented to the following fish. This method gives a much more secure hook-up than lures normally do.
As well as small black marlin, the wider grounds have produced an excellent run of blue marlin very early in the season, with a few medium blacks and striped marlin also turning up at times. Most of the blues have been excellent fish up to 250kg. On the inshore grounds also expect a few sailfish to show this month.
The by catch when marlin fishing is always prized. Expect striped tuna, dolphin fish and wahoo to dominate by catches. You should also expect to donate a few lures to the razor gang. Wahoo numbers have been very erratic in recent seasons, with quite a lot of small fish turning up in summer two years ago and virtually none last year. These fish make excellent eating and should be cleaned and iced immediately after being landed.
Bait fishing on the inshore grounds this month will produce a few tailer and teraglin but things are quiet and the wider grounds are often unfishable in January due to the strong East Australian Current. Mackerel fishing is another option – spotted and Spanish mackerel should turn up off Palm Beach and Couran Cove.
With a stack of rain in November the estuaries have had a good flush and there has been plenty of activity around the Seaway and Jumpinpin. The entrances have produced plenty of tailor on early morning run-in tides, and they aren’t just small choppers, with a few good ones to 3kg turning up.
Target species in the estuaries this month include whiting, trevally, mangrove jack, estuary cod and the odd flathead. The muddies and sand crabs should be in full swing after the recent freshes, and quite often a few more tropical species such as giant herrings, queenfish and barracuda turn up in the Broadwater and Nerang River.
The jacks this season have been a bit erratic but the weather patterns haven’t been too favourable, with either cool southerlies or warm northerlies associated with storms too severe to fish in. The rain has also decreased water clarity that can make lure fishing hard. This month concentrate your efforts around the rock bars, bridges and canal entrances in the Nerang and Coomera rivers. The best times to fish will be dawn and dusk or into the night.
Big whiting should dominate catches in the Nerang, Pimpama and Coombabah Creek this month. Soldier crabs and wriggler worms work best, but after a recent fresh both yabbies and beach worms are often equally effective. A lot of the bigger fish will be around 40cm this month, and they are particularly active in most areas in the first two hours of a run in tide. Small poppers and stick baits such as the Smith’s Towadi are also worth trying this month on the flats early in the morning. This is also a good method for flathead and bream.
A few small to medium sized flathead will show up in the Broadwater through to Tippler’s Channel, but the numbers drop off as the temperature increases. In the summer months trolling is often a better option than casting.
Remember this is the last few months that anglers will be able to fish the mackerel grounds east of Couran Cove due to the new Marine Park precinct, which begins in March. Why a sand bottom area where anglers only chase pelagic migrating fish should be made a marine park makes no sense to me at all, but clearly the whole Moreton Bay Marine Park legislation is based on populist politics rather than science.
The reason they closed the offshore grounds (which are clearly not in the actual geographical area of Moreton Bay) is that it allowed the politicians to reach their- percentage target of 15% of the designated gazetted area with a minimal impact on the closure of Gold Coast Estuaries, which would have created a much greater backlash against the Government and lost them seats at the next election.
Overall, January is a great month on all of Gold Coast’s waterways. Stay safe, and try avoiding all the crowds by getting up early and fishing the 4am dawn. That’s the only time this month that most popular spots aren’t too crowded!Reads: 1197