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Cold heats up angling options
  |  First Published: June 2013



In case you haven’t noticed yet, it’s damn cold! Water temperatures and air temperatures have dropped and getting out of bed most mornings is just a little harder. Luckily the angling options have been hot enough to inspire most to throw back the covers and bounce into action.

A good array of species are on offer throughout Moreton Bay and the adjacent waterways for anglers throughout June. Let’s look at a few of the possibilities for those venturing out into the winter chill.

SNAPPER

One of the most popular species for anglers fishing Moreton Bay and the offshore waters during the cooler months is snapper. These pinky piscators are one of the most sought-after table species and can offer a great sportfishing target, especially when targeted on lighter tackle.

They are found in quite a large array of situations from the shallow rubble grounds surrounding many of the bay islands to the deep offshore wrecks and reefs. Since the popularity of soft plastics fishing, anglers have managed to extract some pretty awesome specimens on relatively light tackle, especially when fishing the shallows adjacent the bay islands.

I have caught more and better quality snapper in the bay since using soft plastics than I ever did when using bait. Often it is relatively easy to get a bag limit of snapper within Moreton Bay once you refine your techniques and find a few decent spots to prospect.

Good locations to cut your teeth when trying plastics for the first time can include Mud Island, Peel Island and the Harry Atkinson Artificial Reef. Once you hone your technique then explore locations such as Curtin Artificial, Kaptajn Nelson, Houseboat Wreck and around the numerous shipping channel beacons. Even the Brisbane River can hold good numbers of quality snapper during the cooler months. Often, small patches of prominent ground can be located while you are cruising around the bay.

Keeping an eye on the sounder for any form of structure or positive showings of fish could be very rewarding. Often larger specimens can be found in fairly isolated spots and are usually fairly receptive to any quality presentation.

Plastics that will catch snapper can be wide and varied in colour, size and style. Most commonly used are the jerk shad style plastics with Gulp Jerk Shads and Z-Man Streakz being very popular. Other productive styles can include prawn profiles, crab patterns, curl-tail grubs, paddle-tail shads and T-tails, just to name a few. If you are reading between the lines then you will realise that most offerings will work when presented well. Sure, on some days one particular style or colour will reign supreme however most offerings will work reasonably well most of the time.

One hint I can offer is to fish your plastics slowly. Common retrieves can include hopping the plastic back slowly with the current or rolling it using an erratic stop and start wind with numerous pauses to allow the plastic to again sink.

The latter is a great one to use in windy conditions. Often when the wind and current are travelling in a similar direction, I will cast a plastic to the down current side of the boat while I am actively fishing the up current side. This dead drift rod is placed in the rod holder and the plastic is allowed to slowly lift and drop as the gentle action of the waves rocks the boat. Often this rod will produce the best fish of the day, which just goes to show that a subtle retrieve will produce the goods.

Around Mud and Peel islands I have witnessed snapper feeding on baitfish right on the surface. These fish are usually very active and will generally pounce on any plastic cast in their general direction. Generally, around the bay islands I will use 1/4oz jigheads yet around the artificial reefs and wrecks a 3/8oz or 1/2oz is required. A slow decent of your plastic will produce more strikes however when the current is raging or you are fishing deeper water then you often need to up the weight accordingly.

Quality baits will still produce snapper, however they generally work best around the change of the tide when they stop spinning in the current and sink down to rest naturally on the bottom. Nevertheless, this is not always the case as a well presented bait can still look relatively natural even during stages of faster tidal flow. Plastics can be fished in a natural manner during most stages of the tide, which is one reason they have become popular and productive offerings.

Quality baits can include pilchards, large prawns, squid, fillet strips, whitebait, hardiheads and others. Keeping sinker weights to a minimum and casting your offerings up current can maximise opportunities. Drifting with baits deployed to the bottom can be a highly successful way to fish especially in areas of more open ground.

MULLOWAY

A species that has risen to prominence over the last three years in Southern Queensland is the mulloway. Since the 2011 floods, numbers of mulloway have soared due to increased numbers of baitfish in the estuaries and on the inshore reefs.

The Brisbane River, Logan River, Gold Coast Seaway, Moreton Bay reefs and many smaller water courses have all held numbers of these great sport and table fish. With the minimum legal size limit being 75cm in Queensland, many mulloway being caught are quality fish, yet still not legal to keep.

At the time of writing I had done four trips in the Brisbane River that respectively produced 9, 11, 9 and 16 mulloway, yet there was not one keeper out of 45 captures with the largest 2cm short at just 73cm. I am sure I will break this duck before this goes to print as the water temperatures are already on the rise with more and better specimens showing up.

Regardless, juveniles are still a lot of fun to catch and will generally congregate, therefore if you find one you will generally catch several with relative ease from the same location. However, the larger specimens are a much more difficult prospect to locate, hook and land.

Specimens to around a metre or so generally respond well to most lures however much larger mulloway, especially those over 10kg, respond best to large live baits a lot of the time. However, at times they actively smash into schools of mullet close to the surface and this provides great opportunities for lure fishing with large minnow lures, plastic shads and poppers. Live mullet and tailor (adhere to relative size limits) make prime baits, as do yakkas, pike and slimey mackerel.

Around the change of the high tide is a popular time amongst those who specifically target larger mulloway, which can reach weights in excess of 30kg on occasion. In the estuaries, mulloway can be found anywhere there is prominent baitfish activity, especially in deeper channels, holes and ledges. Lights can attract baitfish at night and this will soon encourage mulloway to the area, their chops audible as they smash prey species passing through these zones with the current.

Anchoring in major channels and deploying a large live bait while fishing the night rising tide can put you in with a decent chance of hooking a larger mulloway. However, expect to put in several sessions before landing your first big mulloway.

TAILOR

The cold months are a productive time for those anglers who like to target tailor.

These can be found along the beaches as well as within the major creeks and estuaries. They commonly school and will round up and target baitfish schools including species such as whitebait, hardiheads, herring and pilchards. However tailor will opportunistically feed on prawns, gar and most small fish species. They are relatively aggressive most of the time, engulfing most lures, live baits and dead baits.

The last few winters have seen good numbers of tailor within the estuaries. The Brisbane River, Pumicestone Passage and Jumpinpin area are all good places to search. Fishing around the Jumpinpin Bar on a rising tide will generally result in a few captures.

The Bribie Island Bridge at night is another great location where tailor, trevally, snapper, tarpon, bream and other species are regularly caught.

In the Brisbane River tailor can be located throughout much of the lower system from the Gateway Bridge all the way out to the Measured Mile beacons. The lights around the various jetties, pontoons, wharves and riverside restaurants will attract good numbers of baitfish that will in turn attract tailor, mulloway and other species. Rolling lures such as shad style plastics, vibration baits, jointed swim baits and minnow lures through these zones will generally work a treat.

Sometimes you will find a slow retrieve works best and at other times a brisk wind will solicit the most strikes. Fishing along the retaining wall at the mouth, the sunken wall and also around the beacons leading out of the river will generally be rewarded.

The same aforementioned lures as well as baits such as pilchards, herring, gar and hardiheads are all worth using.

Usually tailor aren’t loners and you can catch several in a session. Land-based locations such as the Manly Harbour Rock Wall, Woody Point Jetty, Scarborough Jetty and Wellington Point Jetty are well worthwhile fishing during the cooler months, especially early morning, evening and night.

The eastern facing beaches can also fish well but are generally a better option towards the end of winter. The deeper gutters are the best to try, especially on an early morning or late afternoon rising tide. Pilchards, pencil gar and salted tuna and bonito strips are prime offerings for tailor fishing along the beaches.

SQUID

Numerous species of squid can be caught during winter and are a popular target for anglers fishing via Shanks Pony, as they can be caught from a host of easily reached land-based locations. Try locations such as the Manly Harbour and foreshore, the rocks along the Scarborough foreshore, Woody Point Jetty, Wellington Point Jetty, Victoria Point Jetty, Amity Point Rock Wall and a host of other locations.

Anglers commonly use egi, a prawn profiled lure with a slow sink rate that sports several rows of razor sharp barbs surrounding the tail to hook any squid that strike at it. Egi, which translates to ‘wooden lure’ in Japanese, are worked with a slow stop and start roll or a hop and pause retrieve. They come in several sizes and numerous cloth coatings or other finishes. Some glow in the dark, have ghost bases or Tactywarm coatings. Sink rates can also vary with faster sinking models for deep water or fast currents and slow sinkers for the shallows. If you are unsure which you need for your chosen location then ask at your tackle store for advice.

The best quality squid jigs are Japanese made and possess better actions, sharper barbs and better coatings than the cheaper models made in other Asian countries.

Sometimes squid can be simple to entice and at other times they can be pedantic and shy. However, they are always yummy so perseverance is worthwhile.

Many anglers use bright headlamps or LED torches to spot squid close to the surface at night before they cast to them. I use a 600 lumen rechargeable Ferei headlamp, which is awesome for this purpose.

Inshore squid can reach several kilograms in weight on rare occasions and offshore specimens have been taken locally to over 20kg, although this is a rarity. Tiger squid are probably the most common inshore species and can be found lurking around most rock walls, illuminated areas and shallow zones with clean water and prominent food sources.

Baitfish, prawns, small crabs and many other offerings can become prey for squid. Out into the bay try the shallow reef and rubble areas around the bay islands, weed beds and other spots where clean water flows over reef, rubble, rock or weed.

BAY PELAGICS

Winter pelagic action can be reasonably good at times. However it is usually the smaller tunas and bonito, which are most commonly found surface feeding.

Longtails can be located at times, especially by those live baiting around the shipping channel beacons, Pearl Channel, Curtin Artificial, Comboyuro Ledge, Caloundra Four Mile and Benowa Track Grounds.

Surface feeding fish are often dining on gar in the Northern Bay at this time of the year and apart from using chromed slices and slugs, they can also respond well to soft plastic jerk shads and pencil poppers.

An occasional school mackerel will be caught around the shipping channel beacons and the bay islands, especially by those drifting out pilchards.

Cobia can also be located throughout the shipping channels, Curtin Artificial and Western rocks area. A few yellowtail kingfish and trevally can also be caught from these areas on occasion.

CONCLUSION

With so many great species on offer, anglers are spoilt for choice throughout June. Apart from the aforementioned species, anglers can expect flathead, bream, sweetlip, tuskfish, cod, trevally, hairtail, whiting and numerous others to take their bait, lure or fly.

There may even be a few decent hauls of late season prawns to be taken in areas as well as the occasional mud crab and sand crab. Whatever species you decide to target, chances of success are pretty high as increased numbers of baitfish have promoted heightened activity from a broad array of species.

Fill up the thermos, pull on a beanie and warm coat and get out there amongst some prime cold weather angling targets. We are experiencing cold weather but there are plenty of hot angling options so get amongst them.

1

Despite huge numbers of juvenile mulloway throughout the estuaries and bay, there are decent numbers of legal specimens to be caught.

2

Snapper are a keenly sought species for Moreton Bay anglers and the cold weather provides plenty of opportunity for quality specimens such as this.

3

Egi are commonly used to catch squid around the foreshores, bay islands and weed beds of Moreton Bay during June.

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