Pelagics in the bay!
  |  First Published: February 2014

Right down the length of the Sunshine Coast in the summer months you can enjoy good action on pelagics, including mackerel and tuna, and many other species. Though this summer season hasn’t been spectacular (both the fishing and the weather), boats are still heading out in the windows of calmer conditions. Getting out in the early mornings has been the best bet, before the boat ramps become full. Early morning conditions tend to be calmer as well; you get to avoid the build-up to the afternoon summer thunderstorms.

Out in Laguna Bay off Noosa, quite a few anglers over the past month have been heading out over the bar to search for active schools. There have been reports of spotted and Spanish mackerel, and longtail and yellowfin tuna showing up here and there. Hopefully over the next few months, while the water is still warm and with a continued good amount of bait in the bay, the pelagic numbers will increase to provide some excellent fishing. When you’re chasing these fish, whether you’re casting or trolling, remember that it can sometimes take persistence to get results.

In Laguna Bay it can really just be the luck of the day. Sometimes it may seem the conditions are perfect when the bay is glassed out, with a lot of bait balls showing up on the sounder, but no pelagic action. Usually it’s the northerly winds that cause a lot of anglers to have a difficult time finding any fish. However, there are times when anglers will just go out over the bar, not knowing what the reports have been like, and catch fish!

There have been little fun-size tuna smashing bait at times. I recently went out with a mate to flick plastics over the shallow reefs, and in the distance a little further out in the bay we saw active flocks of birds. We raced over to check it out, and saw these tuna busting up on the bait schools below the birds. We rigged up slugs and cast countless times at the schools, even downsizing to the smallest slugs we had, without any hits. We then rigged up small profile Berkley Gulp 3” Minnows rigged on 1/6oz jigheads. First cast, double hook-up!

These fish fight extremely hard on very light gear. My mate lost his fish at the boat while I was still hooked onto mine. After an hour’s fight, I finally got my 4kg fish in the boat! Because the bait that they were feeding on was quite small, downsizing to a small plastic rigged on a light jighead was clearly the way to go. With these fish you really have to match the hatch.

Casting slugs and small plastics into surface feeding tuna and mackerel is great fun. When approaching these fish, don’t drive straight through them. This will spook the fish and they will disappear for a while, appearing on the surface again somewhere else. The best approach is to position your boat just within casting distance of the fish.

You want a rod that will cast a slug or a lightweight plastic a fair way, and a good choice is a 7’0” threadline outfit capable of fishing 6kg mono. You should use the gear that you feel most comfortable with though. If you prefer using lighter gear, rods of 2-4kg or 5-10kg, and reels of 2500-3500 size are great fun to use while chasing these fish. Using 12-16lb braid and 16-20lb leaders will do the job.

The best lures are smaller sized 15g slugs and plastics rigged on light jigheads. The aim is to cast into the feeding fish as close as possible, and wind back to the boat as fast as possible. These fish sometimes cut through the water, smash your lure and then turn around and peel line off your reel!

If this technique isn’t working, try casting in, let the lure sink for a little while, then start winding with speed. Sometimes some larger fish will sit under the balls of bait, and once your lure is in their strike zone they will smash it!

If you’re using very light gear and you’re worried that the fish will spool you, have someone else on the boat start the motor and chase it. This will allow you to gain all the line back on the fish.

If you know there are larger mackerel or tuna about, it’s best to increase your gear size to prevent a lot of lost lures. With mackerel being very toothy fish, upgrading your leader size is important to stay connected to them.

If you’re trolling for these fish using heaver overhead setups, there are many deep diving lures on the market that work great. Lures such as Rio’s Lethal Action and Halco Laser Pros work effectively on these pelagic fish. Trolling at a relatively slow speed will keep the lures swimming down in the water column correctly.

While the weather is still warm, have a shot at chasing these pelagic fish in the bay – just remember to make sure your gear is up to scratch and your knots are tied well. You also want to fish in the right conditions when the weather is calm.

If you’re fishing in the Noosa area, drop into Hooked On Angling and Outdoors in Tewantin and the team will provide you with great advice on how to target these pelagics out in the bay!

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