This season looks like being a beauty. There are already reasonable numbers of small black marlin close in on the Gold Coast grounds, and these fish should be really thick this month. I’ve chased little black marlin off the Gold Coast for 25 years, and every time we catch fish in November there are heaps of them in January.
Most of the small black marlin are quite close inshore, in water depths from 15-40m. We caught seven in November, which is unusual, and I think catches of 5-10 per trip may well be the norm for experienced crews this month, weather permitting.
Good areas to chase the little marlin will depend on the wind. Northerlies turn the water green and make the fishing a lot tougher, although you can generally get better water north of the Jumpinpin Bar. Light southeasterlies usually coincide with warm blue water and all the grounds can produce fish when the water is clean.
The four artificial reefs just north of the Gold Coast seaway in 25m of water hold a lot of bait and have already produced quite a few small black marlin on lures, skipping gar and live bait. This month try areas such as Sullies and the Cottons off Jumpinpin, the Paddock, east of the water tower on South Stradbroke Island and the Gravel Patch off Burleigh Heads. The reefs in 30-35m just off the seaway are also producing fish.
Small skirted lures, drifted live baits or trolled slimy mackerel are all effective. Most of the marlin have been between 15-30kg and are an ideal sportfish on 10kg tackle. I troll two teasers: a Pakula Witchdoctor, and a bird teaser with trailing skirts and squids. The majority of the bites I get are on the lures positioned next to the teasers. I rig my lures with a pair of Gamakatsu 10/0 SL12 hooks as I find these fine sharp hooks have an excellent hook up rate on smaller marlin.
There have also been quite a few small wahoo about and, while they make mince meat out of expensive skirted lures, they are excellent eating. Most of the wahoo have been between 6-9kg.
January usually sees plenty of mackerel, wahoo and mahi mahi get involved with your lures intended for marlin, so most trips expect to go home with a feed and one or two bite offs by toothy critters.
Spanish and spotted mackerel should be good target species in January. Palm Beach Reef usually fires up and the crowds are a good indicator of whether the fish are biting or not. Mermaid Reef to the north is slightly less crowded and has plenty of fish as well. Anchoring and berleying with chopped pilchards is a good method. By fishing a floating pilchard on one rod and spinning metal lures on another, it is usually pretty easy to catch a few spotted mackerel and the odd Spaniard at this time of year. Small marlin also turn up on the mackerel reefs and can put up quite a spectacular display amongst all the anchored boats.
Out wide there should be a few blue marlin about for those who want to tangle with bigger fish, and there should be a few big mahi mahi as well.
Overall, this year is looking like the best season for pelagic game fish off the Gold Coast for many years and January will see hundreds of marlin caught.
January can be a mad month for boat traffic and the best fishing is generally early in the morning or at dusk and into the night when all the lunatic fringe are safely asleep in bed. Target species include mangrove jack, trevally, estuary cod and whiting. While there will still be a few flathead about the numbers drop off markedly as the water warms up. January is an excellent month for crabbing.
There have already been a lot of mangrove jack caught this season around the canals and rock walls in the Nerang and Coomera rivers, and a lot of anglers have been out after them. Casting soft plastics, trolling hardbodies and live baiting have produced most of the fish, with a few bigger specimens caught on poppers at night.
The best time to fish is the run-out tide at dusk when a hot sticky day is just starting to cool down. At night the jacks tend to roam about more and will move away from cover.
Catching jacks takes dedication and practice. Years ago I’d spend four evenings a week chasing them when conditions are good and we caught a lot of fish. Each trip gives you information to use on the next trip, and it is the type of fishing that rewards practice and persistence.
Whiting should be active this month, with most of the best catches in the Nerang River coming at night. It has been a very dry season so far and, with the lack of fresh, a lot of the whiting are quite far upstream. Squirt worms, small soldier crabs and shrimp are all very effective baits. Quite a few big whiting over 40cm have been caught already this season, and the activity should improve this month.
Sand crabs will be throughout the Broadwater in January. Try to keep your pots in between 2-4m of water adjacent to weed beds and use whiting frames, mullet or flathead frames for sand crabs. Mud crabs will be up in the mangroves and creeks and uncooked chicken frames make excellent crab bait and resist small fish picking them out.
Overall, things are looking good for some excellent fishing on the Gold Coast. With plenty of small marlin migrating south this may be your best chance ever to catch your first billfish if you haven’t already. Safe boating and tight lines.Reads: 2019