Pelagic playground
  |  First Published: February 2013

The pelagic season is well under way with plenty of small black marlin, mahi mahi, wahoo and a few mackerel starting to show on the inshore grounds.

So far it has been a very good season for small black marlin with plenty of fish caught all along the coast. Most of the best fishing has been in water depths of 20-45m, and the fish have been responding well to trolled lures, live baits and trolled gar. The bites have been ferocious some days and very tentative on others.

This month should see the marlin continue in good numbers with increasing presence of wahoo. Good spots to troll include the Gravel Patch off Burleigh, the waters just wide of Jumpinpin and the artificial reefs just north of the Seaway.

When the fish are on there have been stacks of boats out after them and crowds have been a problem. There used to be a bit of boat etiquette when it came to marlin fishing. In the past when a boat hooked up the rule was to stay at least a few 100m clear so the anglers could clear their gear, as the fish often runs a long distance on the first run. Unfortunately this isn’t the case anymore and it is common to have boats try to troll between the boat and the hooked fish and act in a very poor and inconsiderate fashion. Stay well clear and everyone will be happy; run over the line connecting marlin to an angler and you will certainly learn the consequences. Also keep the radio banter to a minimum. Most of us don’t give a rats about inane conversation about hangovers or what you had for breakfast and it interrupts the cricket coverage on FM/VHF sets!

This month should see the mackerel increase in number and there have already been a few spotted mackerel at Palm Beach. This month is a good one to chase Spanish mackerel on trolled dead baits, minnows and live baits. In spots like the Gravel Patch off Burleigh I’ve caught marlin, wahoo and Spaniards in February in good numbers. The spotted mackerel love a bit of berley. Chopped pilchards work well. Spinning metal lures in the berley also works well.

Out wider there have been good numbers of blue marlin and these will increase in numbers this month. The water out wide has been over 26ºC most days and many boats are averaging 2-3 marlin strikes per day, as well as some big mahi mahi. Some of the blue marlin caught have been over 200kg with the average fish in the 120-150kg bracket.

Bottom fishing is tough this month, as the current makes things very hard on the 36 and 50 fathom line and fish activity down deep is at a minimum. There are still a few kingies, amberjack and pearl perch around on days where the current drops, but in general it is a much better month to target pelagic game fish.


As the water madness of the school holidays fades a bit the estuary returns to a much quieter body of water and the fishing improves. The best fishing in February is at dawn, dusk and into the night. Target species include mangrove jack, trevally, whiting and crabs. The water is very warm and bream and flathead are generally a bit shut down.

The summer of 2012/13 has been very good for those chasing mangrove jack. The gun method this season, as shown by jack guru Michael Horne, is slow rolled Z-Man 4” Swimmers around pontoons, rock bars and bridges. Any jack over 50cm is a beauty, and this season there have been quite a few over 60cm, which are fantastic fish.

The Nerang and South Arm of the Coomera River should continue to fish well for mangrove jack right through February particularly at the end of hot humid days. There are plenty of different methods to target jacks with. Trolling seems to be a forgotten art but is a deadly way to catch quality jack, working surface lures around canal mouths, oyster leases and rock bars works well and live baiting and strip baits can be deadly, particularly at night.

Sand and mud crabs will be active this month, particularly if there is a bit of fresh. It has been a dry summer so far. For sand crabs work your pots in 3-5m of water just adjacent to weed beds in the central broadwater. Try to find spots with a medium run of current and use fish frames with a bit of oil in them for best results. For muddies chicken frames work very well and are cheap, freeze well and don’t get eaten out by small fish.

Whiting will be in full swing this month and the Nerang at night should be the most productive spot for bait fishing. For those who chase whiting on poppers my son has found that two small assist hooks fished on braid leaders are a lot more effective than trebles. Tiny in line singles on 10kg braid loops may simulate the feelers of a prawn and seem to be grabbed by whiting as the lure is skittered across the top. Work the shallows on the run-in tide and wind fast.

There should be quite a few big-eye trevally around this month in the Seaway and a few school mulloway as well. Most of the mulloway will be under the legal size of 75cm. Soft plastics like Gulp Jerk Shads or small live baits get the best results. The odd big jack may also turn up.

Overall, February is a cracker of a month to chase pelagic off the Gold coast and there will still be plenty of small black marlin around quite close to shore. Make the most of this exceptional run of great fish while they are still around as they generally thin out in March.

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