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Fish don’t take holidays
  |  First Published: December 2012



With 2013 upon us, and many on annual leave, anglers will be keen to get out and explore some of the options available in their local waters.

The warm weather has prompted plenty of piscatorial action with a broad array of pelagic and demersal species being on offer for anglers fishing Moreton Bay and the surrounding waters. If the humid conditions give you a piscatorial itch, grab your tackle, slop on some sunscreen and get out onto the water for some relief. Let’s see what you can expect throughout January.

MACKEREL MAYHEM

One of the most heavily targeted species throughout Moreton Bay during January is mackerel. Spotted mackerel in particular are often around in larger numbers than the school mackerel. Their surface feeding antics make them easy pickings for most anglers.

Generally all that is required to produce a hookup and screaming run is a small chrome slug or slice, a healthy cast and a flat-stick retrieve. You can’t wind too fast for these speedsters! If you are getting follows and no hook ups then you are simply not winding fast enough. Reels should retrieve in excess of 1m of line per turn of the handle to put you in with a decent chance of success.

These surface feeding schools are often visible from a distance due to the birds wheeling overhead or surface commotion; but these are not the only tell-tale signs pinpointing their location. Smaller and less active conglomerations of mackerel are often only visible from the small V-shaped wakes and the occasional splash as they cruise just under the surface looking for bait fish.

Casting your offering wide of these fish is more likely to be rewarded than casting close to them. The mackerel will be alerted by the splash as your offering hits the water and will generally chase it with gusto, each trying to out manoeuvre the other. Cast too close to these small surface searching pods and you are very likely to spook them.

When targeting active surface feeding schools, casting to the edges of the mayhem is a better ploy than casting into the middle of the school. In this situation, the mackerel will need to peel away from the school to chase your offering, which is much less likely to get you bitten off when the slug initially lands.

Another technique I often employ is to begin winding before the slug even lands on the water surface. This will almost totally eliminate the chance of getting bitten off, because mackerel generally only nip at the tail of a fast moving offering to immobilise it, not try and engulf the entire offering at the first strike. Some anglers believe they need to use a little wire in front of the lure as bite protection however this will greatly reduce the number of strike you initially receive.

Jigging the major shipping channel beacons with chromed slugs and slices is also a good way to entice a few mackerel, although school mackerel are much more common than spotted mackerel in this precinct. These same beacons can be probed with pilchard baits as you drift away with the current. You are also likely to encounter, snapper, sweetlip, yellowtail kingfish and occasionally cobia.

Trolling the edges of major sandbanks on the falling tide, especially the first half of the making tide, is a technique that produces. Deep diving minnow lures no more than 15cm in length are ideal for this application. Using light braided line and a fluorocarbon leader can produce some fairly exciting fishing. Additional species will include bonito, frigate tuna, longtom and of course the grinner.

BAY ISLANDS

The bay islands can fish well at any time of the year. Snapper, sweetlip, mackerel, estuary cod, bream, tuskfish and several other species are regularly caught.

Plastics fishing around the deeper margins can be very rewarding and this year has seen some awesome snapper captures with specimens over 90cm recorded. Plenty of quality table fish in the 45-60cm range have been landed with most serious anglers managing to get amongst a few decent fish on every outing.

In a little closer, anglers have concentrated their efforts on bream and estuary cod. The shallow reef and rubble margins provide good habitat for bream and anglers have targeted these fish with a broad array of plastics, minnow lures, blades and topwater offerings. Obviously stealth is highly important for this style of fishing and having an electric motor and the ability to fire out long casts will heighten your chances considerably.

Around the shallow reef and rock walls, estuary cod will commonly lurk. They are easy to target with diving minnow lures and plastics which are worked close to the structure, preferably banging into it occasionally. Cod can also be successfully targeted with this technique in the estuaries and along the retaining walls in the canals and at the mouth of the Brisbane River.

Bait fishing around the bay islands produces a mixed bag, although most anglers are usually targeting snapper when employing this technique. Quality fresh baits such as mullet fillets, squid, pike fillets, whitebait, gar fillets and the humble pilchard, as well as many other offerings, are all worth using. Keep your sinker weight to a minimal and cast your offerings well up current and allow the bait to drift down for the best presentation and heightened results.

BLUEWATER BEASTS

For a couple of months now the fishing has been exceptionally good on the offshore grounds with black marlin, wahoo, mahi mahi, yellowfin tuna and several other species being caught. Black marlin numbers have been excellent with plenty of 12-25kg specimens caught, as well as several much larger fish.

These fish have mainly been taken on trolled lures, especially micro skirts. Some of the more successful offerings have included the Bahama 20 size range, Meridian No.5 lures, smaller Blacks Snack lures, Pakula Uzi and Fluzi and the Bonze 6.5” lures. Popular colours have been numerous, however when setting a spread you are best to mix it up and have a blue, purple, lumo and pink if possible, at least until you see what’s producing on the day.

Good numbers of juvenile black marlin have been caught right along the east coast of Queensland with exceptional numbers in the Fraser Island to Gold Coast precinct. This is the best bite of black marlin I can remember in the last 15 years, although the size is not spectacular. This action should hopefully continue until well into February, hopefully later, so if you have ever wanted to catch a black marlin then there is no better, or easier, time than now.

Wahoo have also been hitting the same resin-head skirts that anglers are trolling for marlin however if you are seriously after these guys then you are better to fish with high speed offerings such as metal-head skirted lures and lipless crankbaits or diving minnow lures. These lures will also entice a broad array of other pelagic species including Spanish mackerel, tuna and mahi mahi.

The grounds of Point Lookout have produced some quality Spanish mackerel and wahoo, especially for anglers trolling large minnow lures (try Halco Laser Pro, Sebile Koolie Minnow, Yo-Zuri Hydro Magnum, Classic Bluewater and Rapala Magnums) and rigged swimming baits. The baits are usually the best producers, however many couldn’t be bothered rigging tailor, bonito, mac tuna, mullet, wolf herring, longtom and large gar. As they say, the anglers who put in the effort generally reap the rewards.

BRISBANE RIVER

The fishing in the Brisbane River has been fairly consistent with species such as threadfin salmon, snapper, bream, flathead, mulloway, estuary cod and several others being caught.

Threadfin are highly prized and can be taken on both lures and baits. They will lurk wherever baitfish species are common and anglers manage to pry them from submerged structure, such as the edge of the main channel, adjacent wharves and jetties, submerged ledges, along the retaining wall at the mouth and from around the numerous channel markers leading out of the river. These awesome sportfish are caught right along the length of the Brisbane River from Mount Crosby right down to the outer channel markers at the mouth.

The lighted areas further upriver offer good opportunity for anglers casting lures into these zones at night. Here the threadies predate on baitfish attracted by the light and they can be targeted with soft plastics, blades, minnow lures, vibration baits and a host of other offerings.

There will still be a few decent snapper in the river during January with popular spots including Claras Rocks, the front of the main wharves and near the dredge. Snapper are commonly targeted in the river with plastics to 4” but will also take several other offerings including blades and vibration baits.

Flathead can show up throughout most areas downriver of the Gateway Bridge but are best targeted around the mouth of Boggy Creek, the Boat Passage shallows, along the retaining wall at the mouth and adjacent the Sunken Wall. However they are incidental captures that can be caught almost anywhere in the river on almost any bait or lure.

There are plenty of bull and spinner sharks in the Brisbane River and they are a lot of fun to target, especially for the land-based angler. While they can be caught on any bit, live offerings definitely provide the best opportunity. Large mullet and pike are prime, however they can often be hard to come by, especially if you don’t own a cast net.

A great bait for these sharks is actually one of their major, yet overlooked, food sources – the catfish. These can be caught on any bait and then pinned on a twin hook rig snelled onto plastic coated wire and then returned to the water. Make sure you have a hook down near the tail as the bull sharks will commonly bite the rear off the catfish, just behind the three poisonous spikes.

The upper section of the river, above the city reaches, will generally hold the better concentrations of whaler species although they are dispersed along its length. Baits can be fished close to the bottom during the day and a few metres under a float at night, especially around lighted areas.

ESTUARIES

The estuaries are heavily fished over the holiday period yet they continue to produce a broad array of quality species for astute anglers. Mangrove jack are high on the desirable species list however estuary cod, flathead, bream, trevally, tarpon, whiting, giant herring and many other species can be caught.

Jacks are commonly caught around structure by anglers using both lures and live baits. Accurate casting and decent lure fishing skills will be required for consistent results. The closer you work your lure to the structure the better your chance of enticing a strike from a mangrove jack. Anglers can expect to find jacks in most of the major creek and river systems and the residential canal developments.

Popular lures for jacks include bibbed minnows and soft plastics, especially shads and prawn profiles. The plastics can be rigged on conventional jigheads or in one of many different weedless scenarios. The TT Snakeheads are an easy way to rig your plastics that enables them to be fished in very heavy cover with a minimal chance of fouling. This will give you greater confidence to cast your soft plastics into tight and heavily structured areas that will heighten your chance of a jack attack. However, once hooked up, it is up to your lightning fast reflexes and angling skills, plus a good degree of luck, if you are to land the crimson assailant. Tarpon, trevally and estuary cod are regular bycatch when lure casting for jacks in many estuaries.

Flathead are regulars in the catch of most estuarine anglers. They are common throughout most parts of the estuary and simply drifting around with baits on the bottom (especially pilchards, whitebait, hardiheads and flesh baits) will give you a great chance of connecting with a few. However, working the right areas at certain times of the tide will heighten your chances. Around low tide, try within the major channels; on a rapidly making and falling tide try the edges of major sand and mud banks; and on the top of the tide try the shallow submerged flats.

Lures can also be worked in these zones with good effect. Jighead rigged soft plastics are probably the easiest to fish for those new to this pursuit. Keep them close to the bottom, preferably banging along it, and you are in with a great chance of success. Trevally, bream, pike, tarpon, whiting and many other species are commonly caught also.

CONCLUSION

Many anglers and their families are on holidays around this time of the year, which can increase boat traffic on the water and at the boat ramps. Often a little extra patience will be required as many of these anglers are only occasional fishers and are not that switched on to the processes and etiquette involved in this sport.

Most of all, enjoy your time on the water and stay safe. You may be on holidays at present but the fish definitely aren’t so get your bum off the couch, load the family up and get amongst a few of the quality species on offer.

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