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Winter lead up rewards
  |  First Published: July 2013



We are smack bang in the middle of winter and if the remainder of the cold months are as good as the lead up then we are in for some pretty exciting fishing.

A plethora of species are on offer with some of the more prominent being bream, snapper, squid, mulloway, flathead and tailor. Cold conditions can promote some pretty awesome angling action and for those venturing out for a fish there is plenty to get excited about and lots of opportunity to motivate you to brave the chilly conditions.

BREAM

We should see increased numbers of bream throughout the coming month, especially for those fishing the estuaries and shallows throughout Moreton Bay.

Bream respond well to a broad array of offerings, both artificial and natural. Baits and lures can be used to good effect with some offerings working better in certain situations than others.

At times bream can be easy to catch and will pounce on any lure or bait within their vicinity. Conversely, at other times they can be shy and cagey and only the best quality baits and the most finesse approach with lures will get their attention.

Quality bream are the target of many anglers from weekend warriors to seasoned tournament pros. The better quality fish, especially those over 30cm in length, are the desire of most who target them.

For bait fishers, try lightly weighted baits fished along the edges of the major sand and mud flats on the falling tide. Cast these up onto the bank and allow the current to wash them back into the deeper water. The shallows of the bay islands (Mud, Green, Peel, Macleay, Coochiemudlo, Russel and King) as well as Scarborough Reef are renowned for holding good numbers of quality specimens.

During the cooler months bream will breed in the estuaries, therefore you will find greater concentrations in these zones during July. Try in the major creeks, estuaries, rivers and canals during these periods.

How you target bream is up to you, and you will find that trying different methods may increase your catch rate at certain times or stages of the tide. Just casting a bait into any estuarine area can often be enough to catch you a few bream as they roam a broad array of ground in their search for food. For consistent results however you will need to put in the time to get to know your adversary intimately.

SQUID

These tasty cephalopods are generally available in good numbers during the latter part of winter. You do not need a boat to access them as you can catch them from the shore at a host of locations.

Squid love clean water, especially when it flows over rubble, reef, rock or weed, which provides good cover from ambushing predators. Additionally, these areas hold numbers of juvenile baitfish, prawns and other crustaceans, on which squid readily dine.

Westerly winds create good clear conditions throughout shoreline waters that offers land-based anglers good opportunity to catch a few. The darkened hours produce better numbers in the shallows therefore many anglers concentrate their efforts during these times.

Spotlighting has become a popular way to find them. A good quality LED headlamp will allow you to locate squid before you even cast. Obviously, this only allows access to those squid close to shore. Casting to deeper water and allowing squid jig to sink before working it back with a series of hops or a slow wind will allow you to access squid lurking further out.

Anglers commonly cast egi (a prawn profiled slow sinking lure) to catch squid in these inshore areas and also around the bay island shallows, the weed beds and other locales throughout Moreton Bay.

However egi are not the only way to catch squid. Other approaches can include drifting out baits pinned on a squid skewer. Skewers are a thin steel rod with several rows of upwards facing barbs on one end. The rod is pushed through a bait such as a pilchard, slimey mackerel or other whole fish bait and then suspended a metre or so beneath a float. When the squid grabs the bait (evident when the float bobs under or is towed to one side), you just need to apply a constant gentle pressure to keep the barbs in as you retrieve to secure your prize.

MULLOWAY

Numbers of mulloway have been excellent in recent years and this season is no exception. Once a fairly rare capture in Southern Queensland, mulloway are now extremely common captures within the estuaries and even throughout Moreton Bay.

Around 60cm seems to be an average fish, however Queensland’s minimum legal size is respectable at 75cm. Even though most anglers will catch around 10 mulloway for every legal specimen, they are a lot of fun to tempt on baits and lures even when they do not make the grade.

Mulloway respond well to a broad array of techniques with lures and baits. If you can put your offering in their precinct then there is a good chance you will get bit.

Good spots to target mulloway include most rivers and creeks, especially the deeper systems. Mulloway, or jew as they are colloquially referred to, will most commonly be found around areas with good bait concentrations. Even the reef systems, natural and artificial, throughout Moreton Bay will produce at times.

They are generally caught by anglers targeting snapper as they respond to the same techniques and baits. The Brisbane River has been a happy hunting ground for many anglers with mulloway widely spread throughout this system from the mouth to well up past the city reaches.

In this waterway I commonly use my sounder to find bait concentrations or individual fish before casting lures such as jighead rigged plastics (paddle-tail shads and prawn profiles are a favourite), vibration baits, blades and other offerings.

At times mulloway can be found high in the water column as they target bait attracted to lighted areas around bridges, jetties and wharves at night. Here they can also be targeted with minnow lures, jointed stickbaits and topwater offerings.

The canal estates also offer good opportunity to target mulloway and other species feeding around lighted areas at night. Deeper holes can be drifted over and worked with plastics and vibration baits or you can anchor up current and drift back baits such as whole squid, fillet baits, large prawns and pilchards.

You will greatly increase your chances if you go to the effort to secure some live offerings such a mullet, pike, herring and large prawns.

The Harry Atkinson has been producing some good captures of quality mulloway lately although anglers have often found their captures have been shortened considerably by sharks before they can get them to the boat. However quite a few fish over the metre mark have been caught, mainly by anglers targeting snapper and other species.

SNAPPER

Winter produces increased numbers of snapper in inshore and offshore waters. These are a highly prized capture due to their eating qualities. Currently there is a bag limit in place of four fish per person with only one of these allowed to be over 70cm in length.

The shallow offshore reefs provide good opportunity with Brennans Shoals, Roberts Shoals, the Cotton Reefs, The Sevens and numerous others being worth a try. An increasing number of anglers are fishing these areas with soft plastics, especially jighead rigged jerk shads between 5” and 8”. Most soft plastic manufacturers make these with some of the more popular offerings being produced under brand names such as Gulp, Z-Man, Zoom, Atomic and Bass Assassin. These are generally fished on jigheads between 1/2oz and 2oz in weight and 15-30lb braided line. Fluorocarbon leaders can turn the tide on wary fish, especially those larger models.

In addition to snapper you will also encounter yellowtail kingfish, cod, trevally, sweetlip and other species in these zones. Naturally, baits will also work well and anglers who take the time to present their offerings naturally will definitely get the best of the catch.

Inside the bay the scenario is pretty much the same; good presentation and quality baits go a long way to maximising your final result.

On the shallower grounds around the bay islands anglers require a stealthy approach for targeting snapper successfully. When drifting and fishing soft plastics it is best to take a wide berth of your chosen fishing ground when positioning yourself for a drift. Many anglers use electric motors for altering their course during their drift to keep them on their chosen path.

If anchoring to bait fish, drop the pick well up from your chosen area and then drift back until you’re within reach of it. This will decrease the noise created by your anchor chain and will greatly increase the productiveness of your session. Shifting around every 30 minutes or so will not do you any favours as it takes quite a while for everything to settle down a bit after you anchor and cut the motor. Find a decent bit of ground, preferably away from other boats and major transit areas and stay with it. A little berley can promote a better bite around the change of the tide but beware of berleying when the tide is running hard as you can actually take fish away from your zone.

When fishing plastics in shallower water (less than 20m) try and do long casts upcurrent and allow your offering to sink before working it back with a series of hops or short, sharp winds.

Generally around the bay islands you will require 1/6oz to 1/4 jigheads while the artificial reefs (Curtin and Harry Atkinson) and the various wrecks throughout the bay will require 3/8-1/2oz jigheads.

At times I like to cover larger areas of water by trolling deep diving minnow lures to catch snapper, sweetlip, school mackerel and others. This also allows you some prospecting time to find new ground using your sounder.

In the Brisbane River the snapper fishing can also be fairly good at times with areas such as Claras Rocks, the retaining wall at the mouth, the Sunken Wall and the edges of the numerous wharves and jetties being good places to probe. Soft plastics work well and I find increased success when using paddle-tail shads and prawn profiles over the jerk shad styles I use throughout Moreton Bay. Other offerings that produce include vibration baits (both sonic and silent) and blades.

TAILOR

Increased numbers of tailor are due to show up on the beaches throughout the coming month. Previously there hasn’t been a lot of tailor caught along the beaches, however the quality of those taken has been excellent with specimens to over 4kg reported.

Many anglers targeting these larger fish have been using baits such as gar and salted bonito or tuna strips however the humble pilchard will still produce quality fish. Lure casting with metal slices, surface and sub-surface stickbaits, poppers and large jerkshads is rapidly gaining in popularity due to the clean nature of the fishing and also the productiveness.

Dawn and dusk sees some of the more productive times for tailor from the beach or headlands however driving the beach during the day will often allow you to visually locate fish in the surf before you cast to them.

Good numbers of tailor have been found in the rivers and estuaries for several months now. I have caught numerous specimens over 50cm in the Brisbane River while casting around the lights at night or working artificials for mulloway and snapper. To be honest, at times tailor have been rather annoying as they will pounce on any lure you cast out before the target species can have a chance.

The Jumpinpin area, Pumicestone Passage and most other major rivers are worth a try. Land-based anglers have gained success from the Manly Rock Wall, Wellington Point Jetty, Woody Point Jetty, Scarborough Jetty, Hornibrook Bridge, Dunwich Jetty, Amity Rock Wall and Victoria Point Jetty, just to name a few productive locations. Tides peaking early morning and late afternoon will offer increased opportunity.

Many anglers fish these locations with lightly weighted baits such as pilchards, whitebait, hardiheads, frogmouth pilchards and pencil gar. In some locations it is best to present your bait a few metres under a float if the current allows.

FLATHEAD

Increased numbers of flathead will begin appearing over the coming weeks. Large females will come inshore to breed and congregate with numbers of males. This sees some fairly good opportunity for anglers and generally one capture will soon be followed by numerous others within the same precinct.

These larger females are best handled carefully and released immediately to guarantee they will breed this season. Those that become stressed often re-absorb their eggs and will therefore not add to the flathead population.

Try trolling minnow lures along the edges of prominent banks on the falling tide. Brightly coloured lures that travel close to the bottom, preferably banging into it occasionally, will receive the most strikes.

Anglers can also work these zones with jighead rigged soft plastics, blades, vibration baits and numerous other offerings. Hopping these down the declines of the more prominent banks and into the deeper water is generally a good approach. Drifting baits across the top of the flats on the higher tidal stages or in the channels on the lower stages is also likely to produce some good results. Try small whole fish baits such as frogmouths, herring, whitebait, pilchards and hardiheads that are presented on a small snelled hook rig with just enough lead to get it to the bottom.

CONCLUSION

The cooler months see an increase in the prevalence of many species. Fishing during the middle of the day is much more pleasant however early morning and night sojourns will require you to rug up to avoid the chill.

Apart from the species highlighted throughout this article you are also much more likely to encounter species such as luderick, Australian salmon, hairtail and various others. With such a broad array of exciting sport and table fish on offer, venturing out into the cold will be well worthwhile no matter what your target species is. Of course a nice warm thermos of coffee or soup can be a welcome addition to any outing. The winter species will not be around forever so seize the opportunity to get amongst a few in the coming weeks.

1

Cool weather produces increased numbers of bream which can be fairly aggressive at times.

2

Soft plastics fished over the inshore reefs can result in some very respectable snapper as Paul found out recently.

3

Martin caught this solid yellowtail kingfish during a recent offshore trip.

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