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May the fish be with you
  |  First Published: May 2014



By now anglers will be noticing the chill in the air and the change in prevalent species throughout Moreton Bay and the estuaries. Warm water species are waning in prevalence and the more classic cooler weather species, such as bream, tailor, longtails, mulloway, squid, snapper and the like are gradually becoming more common captures.

I must admit that I hate cold weather but the special fishing that comes about during this period is something to look forward to.

TAILOR

As the waters cool, tailor numbers will increase dramatically in both the estuaries and along the surf gutters. Over the last few seasons the numbers of quality tailor have been good, especially for anglers fishing the larger rivers and estuarine systems.

The Brisbane River for example has produced several 60cm+ tailor in recent seasons and the number of 45cm+ fish has been staggering at times with over 30 landed in a session while casting lures or soaking baits in prominent areas, especially at night. I have regularly caught them while targeting mulloway, king threadfin salmon and the like around the lighted areas at night. They will readily engulf, minnow lures, plastics (predominately paddle-tail shads and prawn profiles), vibration baits, stickbaits, poppers, flies and just about anything else that vaguely resembles a food source.

If there is a bait source in the vicinity then chances are that there will be a few tailor knocking around also. The quality of those caught has been very respectable and anglers have occasionally encountered a few trophy tailor better than 4kg. Recently there was a 9.9kg tailor caught down at Hastings Point by an angler trolling for mackerel just offshore, which goes to show that fish of this calibre do exist, although extremely rare. And yes I have seen the photo of this fish and it looked every bit of that weight (not another of these 3kg fish that are held forward at arm’s length to make them look three times their actual size).

Surf fishers suffered a little bit in the tailor stakes after the 2011 deluge but every season since the numbers and quality of specimens encountered along the surf beaches have been improving at a rate. The 2014 season is looking very good for the surf fishers with good amounts of bait and quality water along many of the beaches.

Apart from the beaches of Bribie, South Stradbroke, Moreton and North Stradbroke, anglers are also encountering a few tailor throughout the bay with schools commonly found on the western side of Mud Island, around the Sand Hills, Rainbow Channel, Rous Channel, inside the South Passage Bar and around the fringes of the bay islands.

Casting surface walkers, stickbaits and shallow diving minnow lures around the shallows of Peel, Mud, Green and numerous others will often reward you with some quality catches. Bream fishers working these zones are often surprised to hook a quality tailor however those fishing lighter leaders will often get bitten off.

MULLOWAY

Although these have shown up on occasion right throughout the summer months, especially in Moreton Bay, mulloway numbers should improve during the next few months. If the quality and quantity of fish that were around early summer is anything to go by, we are in for a great winter of fishing.

Plenty of mulloway eclipsing the minimum legal size of 75cm were encountered with some boats accounting for over 20 in a session while fishing plastics, vibes or micro jigs around the artificial reefs and grounds surrounding these. There was numerous metre-plus specimens amongst these, which are a quality capture anywhere.

The Harry Atkinson and Peel Artificial were two of the better spots for anglers targeting mulloway however areas around Macleay, Russell and Mud islands also produced some quality specimens.

The Brisbane River, Logan River and many other systems were also reliable producers of mulloway and anglers got amongst them on a selection of lures as well as live baits of prawns, herring, mullet, pike and squid. As winter approaches, numbers of mulloway will improve however there should be enough around during May to make the effort worthwhile.

SQUID

Increased numbers of these tasty cephalopods will be on offer throughout May although the best of these is yet to come as the waters cool and clear due to the westerly winds. Walking the banks at areas such as Scarborough, Manly, Wellington Point, Scarborough, the canal estates and many other areas will allow you to locate and catch a few squid.

Many anglers use high-powered LED head-lights and torches to locate squid feeding close to the surface along the rock wall and around the jetties and other areas where baitfish and prawns are found. The bait sources that can be found in these areas will attract several species of squid.

On occasion they can be dead easy to tempt and at other times they will refuse multiple egi and retrieve styles. Still nights and big high tides often produce some of the best conditions however I have also had some great sessions around the turn of the tide.

The weed beds, shallow reefs and rock banks around the bay islands also offer awesome location where numbers of big squid can be found. While these larger specimens are more fun to catch and look a lot more impressive in photos, it is the smaller ones, which are sweeter and more tender to eat.

If you want to know a little more about catching a few squid then check out my techniques article in this issue for a few hints. Squid fishing can be as simple or as technical as you want to make it however the rewards of a tasty feed of salt and pepper calamari are all I need to get me out on a cold night.

LONGTAILS

April, May and June are all great months for longtails although this year there has been decent numbers available within Moreton Bay since early March. These fish have been numerous and of a good size with plenty of specimens in the 10-15kg category as well as several larger specimens.

The historically proven technique of casting chromed slugs and slices will still work however anglers are also obtaining positive results on stickbaits, poppers (especially pencil popper styles), plastics, flies, blades and numerous other offerings. Often if your first offering is refused you are best to keep trying different lure styles until you get their interest. At times this can be difficult because they are hard to approach and don’t stay up for long when they do sound.

If there are a few of you fishing then it often pays to use different lure types as this can short track your learning curve on the day. I will start using a chromed offering, generally a Maria Mucho Lucir, and if this doesn’t produce I will try a stick bait plastic, generally a Z-Man StreakZ in the bubblegum colour, then a Maria Loaded 140mm sinking stickbait and then possibly a Cotton Cordell pencil popper. Maria Bullchops and Yozuri Adagios are other awesome offerings that have been tempting a lot of longtails recently.

If I haven’t ripped the last few strands of my hair out by then I will progressively try different offerings and techniques until I either get a result or drive the boat over the school in sheer frustration and go looking for a more cooperative school. Fly fishing is usually a winner but you will need to get a little closer to your quarry and are a little limited in windy situations. Bay baits, surf candies, epoxy minnows, polar fibre minnows, cotton candies and a host of others can either be stripped back at break-neck speed or just allowed to sink slowly until they are slurped up.

If you love to target longtail tuna on fly or just want to learn a bit more about it from knowledgeable and experienced anglers then get along to the Bribie Island Sport Fishing Club’s Longtail Tuna Fly Fishing Challenge on the weekend of May 24-25. Call Peter Griffiths on 07 3265 2926 or Rob Dean on 0405 250 539 for more information.

I have fished this many times and thoroughly recommend it for fly fishers novice and advanced as it is always a fun weekend fishing amongst like-minded anglers.

At the time of writing anglers targeting longtails have been plagued by sharks, which have been eating most hooked fish and resulting in several lure losses. Let’s hope the cooler water conditions will decrease their numbers and aggressiveness.

BREAM

Cooler conditions and water temperatures will increase the numbers of bream throughout the creeks and estuaries. The shallows around the bay islands are often productive for anglers employing good technique with small poppers, stickbaits, wakebaits, plastics and blades. These shallow reef and rubble margins can hold some pretty respectable specimens and the generally visible strikes increase the experience.

In the estuaries, creeks and rivers the action can also be good however, the best is yet to come over the coming months.

Many keen bream anglers will fish around the full moons, which is often when the larger specimens head into these systems on their spawning run. Quality fresh baits such as prawns, worms, yabbies, gar strips, raw chicken fillet, squid and the like are prime offerings however don’t overlook the old school baits such as pillie cubes, mullet gut, fowl gut and dough bait as these can also be highly successful on these larger than average, silver-sided specimens.

Bream are a great species for the junior or novice anglers as they are generally not that fussy, will attack the bait repeatedly and give a short and spirited account of themselves. Oh, and they are pretty tasty too.

SNAPPER

As I have said in previous issues, Moreton Bay has consistently been producing quality snapper over the last few months, even though they have a reputation of being a winter species.

The deeper waters such as the artificial reefs and wrecks seem to be providing the better specimens however the bay islands have also been producing a few stonkers with thumping snapper over 90cm being caught by knowledgeable, or just plain lucky, anglers. These fish have been taken on both baits and lures with many of the better ones taken at night, dawn, dusk or during periods when boat traffic is at a minimum.

Large baits such as whole pilchards, gar, pike, mullet or fillet baits are ideal for targeting those larger specimens but you may need to wait out the hours between bites and tangle with the odd shark or large cod between knobby bites. Fish your baits lightly weighted with a paternoster rig or preferably a running ball sinker rig.

Cast up current and allow your bait to drift back down with the current until it settles. A bait that sits naturally in the water and doesn’t spin in the current will always receive the most bites. The same can be said when fishing smaller baits targeting the average 35-60cm specimens and other species such as sweetlip and tuskfish, like natural looking baits will always get more action.

Many anglers have switched to lures these days as they enjoy fishing in this manner and often get better quality snapper than they ever did when fishing baits. This is a more active, thinking form of fishing and will still account for those trophy class fish.

Plastics, especially jerk shad styles, are the most popular however more anglers are thinking outside the box and are fishing with vibration baits, blades, minnow lures, flies and even surface lures. Using your sounder to pinpoint bait conglomerations and sound out larger fish species can definitely short track your route to success. Although it is a more thinking form of fishing, it is also more rewarding, especially when that jolt transmits up the line and you are locked and loaded onto a big snapper.

You will also have a great chance of encountering mulloway, sweetlip, kingfish and a host of other species, depending on where you are fishing in the bay. During May you will find snapper in all the usual places such as the bay island shallows, the artificial reefs, wrecks and submerged ledges. It is a great time to do a few night trips as the dreaded cold weather is not yet upon us so you can probably leave the beanie, thermos and several layers of clothing at home for the time being.

CONCLUSION

Well this is my hot tips for the cold weather fishing during May. There are some tasty treats and awesome sportfishing targets to concentrate your efforts on. There is nothing like being out on the water as the sun sneaks over the horizon, even better if you have to put down your coffee to attend to a screaming drag.

This is a great month for some varied action in very pleasant temperatures so get out and get amongst the action. May the fish be with you.

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