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Get lucky with plenty
  |  First Published: March 2014



The 2014 summer has been a little different to last year with much less rain and no major flooding, however with several low pressure systems currently sitting off the east coast of Australia, this may change before the March edition of QFM goes to print.

Anglers have experienced some pretty awesome fishing over the last few months and there is plenty to get excited about during the coming months. A broad array of pelagic species will be on offer throughout Moreton Bay and the offshore waters. Additionally there will be some quality demersal species available throughout the bay and plenty of other options in the estuaries, creeks and rivers.

Apart from lucking out and getting a day off with good weather, the hardest part will be deciding what to target.

CRUSTACEANS

The crabbing has been fairly good for sand and mud crabs. March tends to be one of the better months for sandies with good numbers to be taken throughout Moreton Bay and in the mouths of major river systems.

Setting pots in the major channels and gutters throughout Moreton Bay, especially around the bay islands, will put you in with a great chance. The mouths of the larger river and estuarine systems can produce a mix of mud and sand crabs most of the time.

Safety pots are the main apparatus in use now that witches hat style dillies were outlawed, although I have still observed unaware anglers using these within the last six months. Fines are hefty for breaches involving crabbing apparatus and crab size limits so check the latest regulations before setting out, or that crabmeat sandwich might cost you quite a bit more than you expected.

Pots are best baited with whole mullet, tuna heads, any fish frames or chicken carcasses, however even a few pillies in a mesh envelope will produce sand and mud crabs.

A bit of a flush throughout the creeks, rivers and estuaries will increase the likelihood of getting a few muddies. They get washed out of the small gutters and upper reaches of the tidal creeks and into the main system by the deluge of fresh water. This makes them a lot more accessible to the average crabber, however those in the know will go to the effort to set their pots in the least accessible spots at all other times.

Prawn numbers have been decent but you often need to search around a bit to find them. Some decent hauls have been taken from the flats out from Nudgee, the mouth of the Logan River, near Cleveland and to a lesser extent, in the Brisbane River and Pine River, just to name a few worth trying. And most of the creeks and rivers filtering into Moreton Bay are also worth a look.

Those with quality sounders and a good knowledge of their operation, especially side-imaging models, will be able to locate the prawn schools as they head upriver on the rising tide, night and day. Even if you do not have a sounder, or a boat for that matter, you can still get into the prawns although you will need to exert a little more effort to fill your 10L bucket.

Cast-netting from any structure hanging over the water, such as the Colmslie Jetty, Newstead Jetty, Deepwater Bend pontoon or any bridges (check legal accessibility), will put you in with a good chance, especially on a rising tide at night, early morning and late afternoon. Around slack tide prominent holes and mud ledges are worth netting as the prawns often feed in the bottom silt in these areas.

March to May often sees good numbers of banana prawns throughout the waterways of SEQ. Now is a great time to get a 10-12’ cast net, preferably a top-pocket model, and start chasing these tasty crustaceans.

BAY PELAGICS

Moreton Bay will produce a mixed bag of pelagics throughout March with various species of mackerel, tuna and bonito to be found, as well as yellowtail kingfish and cobia. Additionally there is the occasional incidental capture of golden trevally, barracuda and even juvenile marlin to surprise anglers.

The spotted mackerel run has been sporadic this year with anglers either obtaining a full bag or nothing at all, depending on the day they are out and stage of the tide. The spotties have been there but are rarely feeding on the surface, which makes them harder to locate for most.

Those going to the effort to rig and slowly troll baits such as pilchards and small gar have been doing okay most of the time. These baits are easiest to rig on chinguard style rigs but many anglers also make their own similar systems with ganged hooks and net leads.

Drifting pilchards is another great way to get amongst a few if you know they are in the area. Adding a little berley in the form of finely chopped pilchard pieces will heighten chances. This can be employed in areas such as the Measured Mile, Rous Channel and around the beacons (mainly from the Four Beacons north).

School mackerel have been mixed with the spotties at times but are more commonly caught around the beacons of late. Anglers fishing areas such as the Harry Atkinson and Curtin artificial reefs have also encountered mackerel on baits as well as cast and retrieve offerings, such as soft plastics and blades, generally while targeting snapper and other species. They can bust up at any time however so having a high-speed spin rod rigged and ready with a chrome slice or jerk shad style plastic will put you in with a great chance of returning home with some tasty white fillets for the table.

Tuna and bonito are also sporadic captures throughout March, however anglers who specifically target them and put in the miles will generally find success.

The area along the front of Bribie Island, from Skirmish Point to Caloundra is generally a good place to search. Zigzagging through this area from close to the beach out to the shipping channel will generally allow you to locate longtails, mac tuna, frigate tuna and occasionally Watsons or Australian bonito. The Pearl Channel, major shipping channels, Middle Bank area and the Paddock are all good places to search for pelagics.

BLUEWATER PELAGICS

Further offshore, around areas such as Point Lookout, Cape Moreton, The Trench, Flinders Reef and Hutchinson Shoals, pelagics have been caught with regularity over the last few months. This action should continue throughout March so get out there whenever the weather allows.

This year has seen the best Spanish mackerel run I can remember with some boats bagging up to 30 for a session, mainly on trolled minnow lures or rigged trolling baits (bonito, tailor, longtom, large gar etc.). Most have been between 7-12kg, a great size for the table, but specimens exceeding 20kg have also been caught. Even a couple of these tasty specimens will make the effort offshore well worthwhile for most anglers.

Hutchinson Shoals and the Point Lookout grounds have probably been the most consistent. Hutchies has produced a mixed bag with Spanish, wahoo, giant trevally (over 25kg), yellowfin tuna, mahi mahi, black marlin, sailfish, yellowtail kingfish, rainbow runners and other species being caught here by anglers trolling lures and baits.

Three to five shots from marlin for a day has been fairly common, with the average fish landed rate being around 50% of strikes. These have ranged from 15kg to 60kg with most anglers opting for 8kg to 15kg line class for trolling resin-head skirted lures.

The Sevens Reef area off Point Lookout has been popular with those anglers popping and stickbaiting for giant trevally, wahoo and yelowfin tuna. This exciting form of fishing has become popular of late as anglers look for more challenging and visual ways of targeting large pelagics. The surface strikes will often leave you weak in the knees and creates an adrenalin rush in any angler.

ESTUARINE TARGETS

The fishing options for the inshore angler have been mind-boggling of late. Anglers have been getting amongst some prime sportfish such as king threadfin salmon, mangrove jack, estuary cod, trevally and others. The common species such as bream, flathead and whiting have been fairly abundant as well. A variety of techniques have been employed by anglers targeting these species with most returning home with favourable reports.

Many of the creek and river systems have been plagued by whaler sharks with anglers commonly having their hooked fish eaten before they can get it to the boat. This has even been the case well up in systems such as the Brisbane River, Hussey Creek, Glasshouse Mountain Creek and the Pine River. I even get a little nervous when I seen small children swimming at boat ramps and other areas in these slightly murky systems.

Whaler sharks, especially bulls (Carcharinus leucas) can be particually aggressive and as they don’t have hands they need to bite something to determine if it is a possible food source. While the majority in these systems are generally less than 1m in length, specimens to over 2m can be encountered. Obviously a shark of this size would have little hesitation in mouthing a small dog or child, so be careful where you let your children swim during the warmer months. Avoid dirty or murky water and overcast or low light conditions for a start.

These sharks can be a lot of fun to catch and many enjoy the eating quality. You are not permitted to take a shark (or ray) over 1.5m in length and there is a bag limit of one in possession. This will just increase the shark problem in the coming years, although the environmental boffins insist their numbers are at a critical low. These guys obviously spend too much time staring at computer screens and not enough time on the water where the real truth is obvious.

The Brisbane River in particular has been fishing well with good numbers of king threadfin salmon being reported as well as snapper, mulloway, estuary cod, flathead, bream and numerous others on offer. The threadfin in particular have been fairly regular captures for experienced anglers in the lower reaches. These have been caught on live baits as well as lures such as blades, vibration baits, soft plastics (especially prawn and shad profiles) and even micro-jigs.

The increased clarity and fish finding abilities of the side imaging sounders has made the Brisbane River (and other waters) a lot easier to fish. Many anglers never even have a cast until they have a fish in their sights via their electronics. No longer are they throwing prospective casts into water that is currently not holding any fish. It is almost becoming too easy for some anglers, luckily most of these sport fishers are releasing the majority of their catch. Nevertheless, threadfin need to be handled careful and are best to be de-hooked boat-side and released without lifting them from the water to increase their chance of survival.

Snapper seem to be a year round option in the Brisbane River with anglers achieving good results on baits and lures. Most caught are less than 60cm in length (a good table size) but specimens to over 80cm are occasionally caught. I have even caught snapper in extremely dirty water, well up the river on a run-out tide, which was a bit of a surprise at the time. However, I have now come to realise that they will venture anywhere there is a good food source. The lower reaches are the best option with areas such as the Oil pipeline, Claras Rocks, Caltex Reach, retaining walls at the mouth and the various jetties all being good places to try.

The walls down near the mouth have also produced some decent estuary cod for anglers casting lures close to the rocks. Both deep-diving minnow lures and soft plastics have produced the goods. Bait fishing this area can produce a mixed bag including bream, flathead, snapper, cod and several other species.

CONCLUSION

As you can see there will be plenty on offer for anglers over the coming weeks. Make the best of the warmer summer weather before it is gone and get out and enjoy our marvellous waterways. The bay has plenty of pelagic opportunities as well as the usual array of demersals including snapper, sweetlip, cod and others.

The creek, river and other estuarine areas hold a broad array of quality targets to satisfy all. Add in mud, crabs, sand crabs and prawns and things are looking even better for anglers to return home with some tasty seafood. They’ll be exciting reports of quality captures, providing heavy downpours don’t dirty our waterways too much.

Summer may be almost gone but the hot fishing is still there for all to enjoy so get out and get amongst them.

1

Aaron Winch had a tough time landing and releasing this solid whaler shark on light tackle.

2

March is a good time to chase some mud crabs but don't wait too long as they seem a little more elusive as the waters start to cool down.

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