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Positive outlook for Northern Bay fishers
  |  First Published: December 2007



Is South East Queensland really in as dire situation as most of us are led to believe? Not from recent fishing reports around the Northern Bay! Fish sizes and catch rates certainly seem to be on the rise as far as I have experienced.

I occasionally receive negative feedback about the amount of fish that I catch and how I shouldn’t be taking so many fish from the bay. In reality, I only ever take home a couple of fish at a time and my freezer rarely contains more than a few fillets at any given time.

Most fish that have been photographed for this magazine have also been returned to the water. As a conservatively minded fisherman I have not used bait fishing in the bay for at least the last two or more years. The fish I catch (along with those who I fish with) are caught using artificials.

Most of these fish are lip hooked and show no signs of permanent injury, as opposed to bait fishing that is often swallowed into the fishes gut or gills (I do support bait fishers, but it’s just not for me). However, I feel comforted by the fact that anglers ask the question about catch and keep rates; it shows a real concern for our marine environment. The personal conservation standards that we set as a fishing society are now far higher than they were around the start of this decade. Anglers have come to the realisation that good conservation is important for the future of our recreation and industry.

Nevertheless, there are some exceptions who continue to do the wrong thing – they always will, regardless of the restrictions. On a whole, fishers with a conscience equate to about 90% of the angling fraternity, this has been revealed by the great results that Moreton Bay and surroundings is now fishing better than it did this time a decade ago.

THE FISHING

Recent weather patterns have restricted fishing on exposed waters with varying winds and directions creating hard-to-predict ‘nice’ days.

Protected waterways like the Brisbane, Pine Rivers and lesser creeks have provided sheltered relief for fishers whose fingers are unbearably itchy. Good catches of ever-faithful bream, whiting and flathead are coming from areas where the deeper cooler water rises rapidly to shallow sand flats. This gives them a nice easy retreat when the shallow water warms up during the day.

Fishing around the bottom of the tide gives shore-based anglers the opportunity to wade out to ledges that are often out of casting range. Schools of whiting and bream will congregate around small creek mouths as the tide begins to rise from dead low. These fish are waiting for enough water to move up into the shallows to forage and escape any predators that may be lurking.

Casting small paddle tailed style plastics and live baits around these same areas can produce some exciting action from flathead, jacks, cod, jew, salmon and sharks. One good bit of advice is to down size your line class and leader, this will help to entice normally wary predatory fish into striking.

XOS salmon

The limelight in SEQ rivers has been stolen by XOS salmon. Some monster threadies have been caught with even bigger ones winning their freedom. The sheer size of these fish far exceeds any I have encountered in remote far north Queensland.

There is a good chance that salmon are entering local waterways for spawning, as most of the fish have swollen abdomens. Good congregations of these fish are being encountered with many fish being caught during morning and afternoon sessions.

Although these salmon are considered, by most, to be a new addition to SEQ fishing, the truth is that these fish have been here for a long time. They are also around in healthy enough numbers to actually become a regular summer target species.

The problem most fishers endure is where to begin looking for these salmon. Like their northern brothers and sisters, threadies chase the prawn migrations that are the number one bait when salmon are concerned. The best times to target them is when conditions allow for prawns to be flushed out of the mangroves, such as after a good rain or during spring tides.

The best places to try are flats just after low tide or up against mangrove lined banks just before high tide. Jackall TN70, 5” paddle tail and shallow diving bibbed lures all work well, rattle less vibrating artificials working the best in the muddy water.

River stretches from the mouth right through to the brackish water can harbour threadfin salmon and it is this reason they are hard to locate and survive well against fishing pressure.

Grunter

A few grunter are also about the flats areas and can be a welcome by-catch when luring for salmon and flatties. Grunter hit a lure like a freight train and are often mistaken for jew when they are hooked and brought boat side. With big silver flanks they are a much more robust and deeper bodied fish and they give an excellent account for themselves on the line as well as the table.

Around the rubble grounds at Mud, St. Helena Island and the Redcliffe peninsular grunter can often be sight cast with small wriggler type plastics or flies. Puffs of sand and mud in clear water are a giveaway as they move up into the shallows to forage for worms and crabs. They are wary fish so stalk them with minimal water disturbance.

Overcast humid mornings are a prime time to target grunter over the flats.

Snapper

Snapper are still being caught at Scarborough Reef early in the morning and during the dark hours. Consider what the predominant food source is available at present and you will have better results when targeting them, like sea snails and small squid. Crustaceans, like prawns and crabs, are all abundant at the moment and are making up 90% of their diet.

During the warmer months it is better to fish closer to the bottom as this is where snapper spend most of the time foraging. If possible, don’t use any weight and let the bait waft along the bottom with the current. For plastics fishermen try using jig heads and keep the artificial bumping close to the bottom. And remember to slow down the retrieve for best results.

The murky water that summer brings can be beneficial to snapper anglers as the fish are often less likely to scrutinize any offering. They become more inclined to seize any opportunity and not pass up awaiting baits.

Pelagic action

The Pearl Channel has been producing some excellent pelagic activity over the last month and should continue for the next couple. School mackerel have been extremely abundant but are not busting on the surface as much as the various tuna schools.

Mackerel are opting to hold closer to the bottom until the ebb of the tide when they will separate the bait schools and work them towards the surface. Most of these fish have been caught by working plastics or baits close to the bottom and then winding the offering fast towards the boat for a few turns before letting it sink back down and starting over again.

With the boat traffic that is around at the minute, getting away from rattling boat chains and noise will be the best bet. It is better to find a nice quiet piece of water and use a well spread berley trail and bring the fish to you.

It is also a good time to try fishing for jumbo parrot in the deeper parts of the channel. Half sand crabs or small whole crabs are the favoured bait. Heavy lines about 50lb and mono leaders around 80lb are necessary to stop one of these brutes. You’re also in with a good chance of catching cobia and cod in the same deep areas of the channel.

The patchy weather continues to put a halt on most anglers venturing offshore. An occasional drop in between weather systems has allowed some keen anglers to fish the deeper reefs behind Moreton Island. Unfortunately for most those calm days have fallen midweek.

Nice snapper are still coming from the Caloundra Wide area, average school fish have been around 4kg. An occasional school of dolphin fish has also turned up around the reef drop-off along the northeastern area of the reef.

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