January is a big month in Noosa. Hordes of travellers from all over the world visit this beautiful area, and many go fishing!
By this time of year there are generally plenty of pelagics to chase in Laguna Bay and beyond. Spotted mackerel are generally the first on the scene, and we saw a few of these in late November. By now they should be in full swing.
Casting slugs to schools of spotties on the surface is great fun and it can be very productive with double hook-ups common. They seem to keep feeding up on the surface when disturbed for longer than most tuna species which of course makes them an easier target.
Trollers also catch plenty, with small hardbodies the best bet. Colour seems to be largely irrelevant; however shiny chrome jobs seem to deliver the best results. When they are thick, slow trolling ganged pilchards is an easy way to collect a feed. When they are extra thick, simply drifting with ganged pillies will work a treat, and again double hook-ups are commonplace. A fishing mate pointed out to me recently that the last time we saw extra thick schools of spotties along the coast was 2009. The climate was very similar that year, hot and dry so hopefully we are headed for another bumper pelagic season.
Knocking off a few smoked fillets with a scrape of butter and a generous sprinkling of black pepper is a glorious way to celebrate a successful day’s fishing, washed down with a cold sav blanc of course!
Hopefully by January we should be getting in to some quality Spanish mackerel. Being the next size up from the spotted and school mackerel, beefier gear is required. Again trolling is a great way to go, with larger bibbed minnows or the fabulous Davo’s Spaniard Special rigged with a gar or small bonito is a sure bet. Some anglers slow troll these unusual lures downrigged and below the smaller fish to great effect.
Plenty of Spaniards are caught each summer by simply floating a bait away from the boat while at anchor. Pilchards, gar or even a slab of fresh tailor will do the job nicely. Bycatch can include almost anything, but the most common are cobia, sharks and northern bluefin tuna.
Big tuna can really test tackle and anglers to the very limit. Good teamwork on the boat can be required too, as it can get a bit chaotic when 20kg of barrel-chested tuna comes to the surface. A strong sharp gaff is mandatory, and sometimes you only get one chance so the gaffer needs to be purposeful and not muck around when he gets the opportunity.
On the bottom, there will be all the usual suspects. Grassy sweetlip, tuskfish, trout and a few snapper will all be on the chew. Pearl perch are a fantastic eating fish and if you are prepared to move around and keep an eye on your sounder it is possible to luck upon a big school of pearlies, all starving of course. Fresh flesh, half pilchards or small squid will all tempt pearlies.
The Noosa River will be ridiculously busy during peak holiday season. Good days will see the ramp car parks full pretty early, so dawn runs are the go or you might need to park a long way away. Ramp rage will be a regular event – it is every year. Some boaties muck around forever on the ramp, and when there is a queue tempers flare rapidly. Please prepare elsewhere and drop your boat into the water quickly! When exiting please do so promptly. I have seen fishos pull their boat onto their trailer and start cleaning the catch while still on the ramp. A tirade of abuse generally moves them on.
The focus in the river will be mangrove jack, with barramundi close behind. So far the jacks have been very responsive, particularly around structure during the day and sometimes in surprisingly shallow water at night. Drop in to Davo’s Compleat Angler if you need a few tips.
Trolling the rock bars well upstream will bring a few jacks undone. Dawn and dusk are the peak periods. Bouncing plastics around these rock bars on the drift is well worth the effort, as is dropping a live bait overboard into the structure.
At night in the lower reaches, live baits of mullet or herring will attract jacks and big flathead. Casting lures around in the shallows is great fun and a very good way to catch almost anything that swims. Sinking bibless minnows are a very good tool for this type of angling.
Last summer was the best ever in this region for those that like to chase barramundi. Dozens were caught and the vast majority released. Far more were hooked and lost by anglers fishing too light for these powerful fish. Live baits fished in deeper water in the wee hours is a good way to locate barra, and don’t be surprised if you connect to jacks, big flathead, monster eels and the odd threadfin salmon as well. A few forward thinking anglers used large poppers around structure in deeper sections of the river and met with success. The quietest part of the day will be the most productive, so set your alarm for 2am!
In the fresh, Macdonald and Borumba lakes are close enough for day trips from Noosa. There is camping available at both locations if you prefer to put in a few days. Saratoga are more active in the warmer months, and there have been plenty of spectacular specimens caught in both lakes recently. Spinnerbaits, small hardbodies and surface offerings are all worth a try. Try casting your lure into the shade of overhanging foliage, and work it back to the boat slowly. Hooks need to be ultra sharp for toga, as they have a hard bony mouth.
Australian bass, golden perch, Mary River cod and a few silvers are all very well stocked in both impoundments. The trifecta is a toga, a bass and a golden perch in the one session. Good luck!
After 15 years or so of bashing out this column every month I have decided to step aside due to work commitments. I have enjoyed working with the Fishing Monthly Group team, and I have fond memories of fishing with legends like Morgan, Boothy, Ainsy, Penfold and co. Hopefully I will pen the occasional feature, when I get the chance to wet a line myself, which unfortunately is becoming less often.
Have a fabulous New Year, stay safe on the water and thank you all very much for your support, advice, photographs and reports of angling success.Reads: 1023