As the cold weather begins to taper away, anglers will we wanting to maximise their opportunities to target some of the awesome species we have been experiencing over the last few months. In addition to the cold weather targets, we will notice an increasing numbers of species such as school mackerel, cobia, flathead and numerous others. Take the opportunity over the next few weeks to chase a few of the cool weather species within Moreton Bay and its filtering waters before their numbers decrease.
August is generally an excellent month for targeting this prime bread and butter species. The larger females head inshore to breed and are closely followed by a horde of smaller males, all keen pursue their breeding urge.
Flathead, predominately duskies, will firstly show up around the mouths of major estuaries before making their way further into the system and even well up into the creeks and canals.
Targeting flathead can be relatively easy at times, although there is no denying that anglers who know and understand their habits and movements will get the better numbers and definitely the larger specimens.
Flathead are very influenced by the tide as to where they can be found throughout the system. Around the high tide they will commonly frequent the tops of the flats and other shallows where baitfish, prawns, crabs and other food sources frequent. As the tide turns to begin running out, they will make their way to the edges of the flats where they wait in ambush for these bait sources to be flushed from the shallows with the receding tide.
The larger specimens will take up the prime ambush spots where the most water and the last of the water recede off the flat. This is going to be the lower side of the flat or at the mouth of the deepest recess or gutter exiting the flat.
On the lower stages of the tide, flathead sit in the deeper channels and holes awaiting the rising tide to again begin flooding the shallows. This very basic framework of their movements will allow you to begin targeting flathead more successfully, however you will still need to get to know your chosen water fairly intimately. Visiting areas at low tide, when the flats and shallows are high and dry, will allow you to locate likely looking areas to fish during higher stages of the tide. You can even walk up onto the flats and mark areas such as shallow gutters with a hand held GPS if you are keen. The more you fish a particular area of water, the better you will get to know it and the more successful you will be on each trip.
During this time of the year you will generally catch several fish in the one spot, so don’t move on after catching just one. Put successive casts into the same area to reap repetitive rewards.
I prefer to fish the falling tide for flathead, as this is when I find them easiest to locate. Working the edges of major banks or the mouths of gutters and creeks with lures is my chosen method. Casting jighead rigged soft plastics and hopping them down the declines or trolling the area with small brightly coloured minnow lures will generally produce the desired result. However, baits will also work well in these zones. Generally these are cast up onto the banks and allowed to wash back over the edge into deeper water with the tidal flow. Often, a bite may not be detected and the bait will just stop. Count to three before striking to set the hook. Small diver whiting or hardiheads pinned through the head with a single hook and then retrieved with slow sweeps of the rod and pauses between is deadly for the larger specimens. This also works exceptionally well when fishing the beaches for flathead.
Remember there is a size slot between 40cm and 75cm for dusky flathead, with a maximum bag limit of five per person. Larger females should be handled carefully and released quickly, preferably without lifting them from the water. Stressed fish will often re-absorb their eggs, which means they won’t breed this season, so a quick release is a must to ensure good numbers of flathead in years to come.
The snapper fishing during the cooler months has been exceptional, especially throughout Moreton Bay where anglers have been scoring some creditable fish, often bagging out with a maximum of four fish with only one over 70cm.
There has been good numbers of 50cm to 60cm snapper about, which are a great size for the table. Good numbers have been located at a broad array of spots throughout Moreton Bay, including the bay islands, the artificial reefs, various wrecks and underwater contours such as the Cowan and Bulwer ledges.
Anglers have been using plastics, baits, trolled minnow lures and a host of other offerings to target these fish. To be honest, it appears as if the majority of the better fish are being taken on soft plastics by savvy anglers specifically targeting this species. Some anglers have even taken the pursuit and challenge a little further by targeting them in the shallows on surface lures during the early morning and evening. However you wish to target them, snapper are a great sportfish and an excellent table fish.
Bait fishers will notice rewards in using well presented quality fresh offerings such as fillet baits (mullet, tuna, bonito, slimey mackerel, yakkas, pike etc), squid, banana prawns and diver whiting (whole or just the head and frame). However, frozen offerings such as pilchards, squid and fillet baits will also catch a degree of fish.
Around the bay islands, snapper will roam constantly, so there are no magic spots where they are all residing. Your best option is to set yourself up on a good drift line (keeping wind and current in mind) or to anchor up current from your chosen spot and then let your baits float back into the zone. Keeping away from other anglers, especially when anchoring, is a good option. It is very annoying however when you do the right thing and finally catch a quality fish (because you have been quiet and presented your offering well) and then some yobbo comes over, rattles the anchor over the side and drops his lines adjacent or almost on top of yours. You can expect to wait at least a good thirty minutes before getting another bite, however by this time old mate has probably got bored, roared his two-stroke into action and dragged the anchor chain back aboard with the anchor giving a final resounding whack on the side before being hauled aboard.
For anglers fishing plastics and other artificials, being stealthy is also highly important in the shallower water. Drifting is the best approach to cover water and if you have an electric motor, you will be able to reposition yourself without starting the main motor. If you do need to use your donk, then skirt wide of your chosen fishing zone and other anglers, to avoid shutting down the fish.
Jerk shad style plastics are most popular with Berkley Gulp, Zman StreakZ, Powerbait Minnows and several others working well. Additionally, plastics such as curly-tail grubs, prawn profiles and even crab patterns will produce the goods. Generally around the bay islands, I will use a 1/6oz to 1/4oz jighead and in the deeper water around the artificial reefs and ledges, though a 3/8oz is usually sufficient.
Trolling is gaining in popularity and anglers have been making some creditable captures using this method. Deep diving minnow lures to around 12cm in length work the best from my experience. I readily use Yozuri Hardcore 90SP, Zerek Ripper Divers 90mm 5m and several others. A broad array of colours has worked over the years, however I have gained a preference for partially transparent finishes.
The beaches often produce some of the better quality tailor during August. The eastern facing beaches of Straddie, Moreton and Bribie Island will all produce some quality fish. Bribie is the easiest to access as it is attached to the mainland via a bridge, however barge and ferry services can get you to Moreton and Stradbroke islands for a day or weekend sojourn.
A 4WD will be required to access the better beaches, however, Shank’s pony will get you to some good water also. Common bait for targeting tailor is the humble pilchard, however anglers who target the larger greenbacks generally swear by offerings such as pencil gar or salted fillets of tuna and bonito or even fresh tailor and mullet fillets.
Often these larger trophy tailor are caught after dark, so those anglers who put in the effort and tolerate the cold are most likely to reap the rewards.
The estuaries and rivers can also hold good numbers of tailor also during August. Fishing around the lights along the Brisbane River can produce good results. Casting your soft plastics into the lighted areas and slowly rolling them back with the current can be highly productive and I have caught and released more than twenty tailor in a session using this approach. However, you often have to move around quite a bit to find the fish on any given night. The shallows around the bay islands can also be exceptionally good and often you can sight-cast individual larger fish hunting in these zones.
Surprisingly, there can often be some good fishing for mackerel during the latter half of August. These fish are not widely spread and are generally located in the deeper channels between the prominent banks. The upper reaches of the Rous Channel are one of the better producers.
The prominence of mackerel is evident when you see small commercial vessels trolling with spoon lures and paravanes. These guys have refined this technique and can catch in excess of fifty mackerel a session when they are on. As far as fishing goes, I personally find this approach rather boring as you need to use heavy line with paravanes which is rather unsporting and more like harvesting than fishing to me.
I prefer to drift the area with unweighted pilchards fished on light braid or monofilament line to around 6kg. Small minnow lures trolled on 10lb to 15lb braid also offer a lot of fun and a productive approach in his zone. Minnow lures to around 120mm in length that run between 3m and 5m deep are best. Transparent and metallic finishes seem to work well. These same lures can be trolled along the edges of the prominent banks on the falling tide or on top of the larger flats towards the top of the tide. Flat-line the rods and troll as fast as you can without the lures blowing out of the water.
Bonito are also common captures when using this method. Next month I will explain further how to set up a spoon and paravane trolling line and also some rigging for drifting pilchards. Although August will produce some good school mackerel captures, September is usually a better month.
Cobia numbers will also begin to increase throughout August. These fish can be found throughout the northern bay and also around the shallow offshore reefs and FADS.
Large live baits are definitely the key for tempting the larger specimens, however they can also be caught on large soft plastics, jigs and trolled lures on occasion. Within Moreton Bay, try dropping live baits around the beacons in the northern bay, the Curtin Artificial, Western Rocks area and along the Cowan and Bulwer ledges. Large baits including whiptails, bonito, slimy mackerel and juvenile reef species (adhere to size and bag limits) will all produce the goods.
Snelled circle hook rigs offer a good hook-up rate.
These awesome sport and table fish should appear towards the latter part of August and will be prominent until around December, however they can be caught at any time of the year on occasion. Next month I will give you a few more tips on targeting these ‘kings of the bay’.
Westerly winds will create clear conditions around the foreshore waters and this is ideal for targeting squid. Manly, Wellington Point, Victoria Point and Scarborough shallows, the numerous canals and many other areas are worth prospecting with your egi (prawn-profiled squid lure).
These can be blindly cast and retrieved with a slow wind or erratic hops over the shallows, especially areas where clean water flows over reef, rubble, rock and weed beds.
At night you can spotlight the squid with a quality head torch before casting to them. Taking the ferry over to Coochiemudlo Island is another great approach for those squidding via Shank’s Pony.
For those with watercraft, try the shallows around Peel, Mud, Green, Bird and Goat islands as well as the weed bed areas adjacent Moreton and Stradbroke Island as all these areas are constant producers with double figures of tasty tiger squid and a few arrows being encountered here on a regular basis.
The higher stages of the tide are generally the best times to concentrate your effort.
Fishing has been good along the Brisbane River over the last few months with decent numbers of mulloway, tailor, snapper and threadfin salmon being caught along its length.
Many anglers are making night trips casting lures around lighted areas and along the underwater ledges and other structure. The rock wall at the river mouth and Clara’s Rocks have both produced some respectable snapper to 70cm, although the average fish is in the 38cm to 45cm range.
Tailor have been abundant at times, but you often need to move around a bit to find them. Areas where baitfish congregates, such as the lighted areas at night, are a good option with specimens in excess of 50cm being caught.
Mulloway have been good with reasonable numbers of legal specimens eclipsing the minimum 75cm length being reported. Many of these are being tempted with artificials, however baits, especially live mullet, prawns and herring are also producing good results.
Well, as you can see, there is plenty to consider targeting throughout August. Westerly winds can often make an offshore trip out of the question, however the more sheltered inshore waters have plenty on offer to keep your reel busy and a smile on your dial. Get out and enjoy the numerous piscatorial targets on offer before the warm weather brings forth a different array of species.Reads: 1028