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Frothing for February fishing
  |  First Published: February 2015



February can be a really mixed month and the quality of fishing will depend on how much rain we have experienced in recent weeks. In years past, many of the creeks and rivers have been in flood during this time, making fishing extremely tough.

Even in the bay the action was slow after these deluges. However, a decent amount of rain during January and February — without major flooding — will improve the action considerably. These rains bring nutrients into the estuaries, which will heighten the presence of baitfish and also encourage many species to breed. Crabbing will improve dramatically, and positive effects are also felt further out into the bay. Additionally, there are plenty of other awesome fishing options to be experienced during February.

CRUSTACEAN CENTRAL

Prawn populations within the rivers and estuaries often receive a boost during February, when large numbers run in from out at sea on the full moon. I believe the better numbers will migrate upriver on the full moon in March or April this year, but you never really know for sure until it happens. Regardless, it’s definitely be worth getting the cast net wet during February and doing some prawn prospecting.

The deeper holes and ledges in the major river systems such as the Brisbane, Logan, Pine and Caboolture will be worth checking out, especially around the tidal changes when the prawns often settle in such areas. A maximum legal size cast net of 12’ is best, but many find these tiring to throw for extended periods.

A larger net will stay open longer than a smaller net as it sinks; therefore it covers a larger area when it settles on the bottom. Small tugs and shakes on the cast net rope will get the net shuffling closed across the bottom, which stirs up the prawns feeding in the silt. They will flick upwards and are caught towards the top of the net and also in the bottom pockets. Top pocket cast nets have an extra pocket at the top, which traps and holds the prawns as the net is retrieved.

Additionally, these nets can be opened from the top, which makes removal of the prawns a lot easier. However, conventional cast nets with only a bottom pocket will still catch you a good haul of prawns if you are in the right area at the right time.

Sometimes the prawns are holding out on the flats during February, waiting to run up into the estuaries on the moon. Once located, they are generally easy to catch. Try out from Nudgee Beach, the mouth of the Logan River, and out from Cleveland Point. If you observe large numbers of boats huddled in these areas, you know that the prawns are in residence. The activity may still be a little slow during February, but know that the best action is yet to occur over the coming months, so take the time to check that cast net for tears and be ready for action.

BAY PELAGICS

At the time of writing, the mackerel season is yet to really shine. Reasonable numbers of school mackerel and the odd spotted have been caught around the beacons and even in more open water areas, yet the large concentration of surface feeding spotties are yet to be found with any regularity. Last year the run was a little late and continued well into April, so there is hope yet. Keeping a look out whilst transiting through the bay is wise as surface-feeding combinations of mackerels and tunas can be located almost any where at any time. The main channels (including the shipping channels) and edges of adjacent banks are the key areas to search if you are in hot pursuit of pelagics though.

Mac tuna, spotted mackerel, longtail tuna, school mackerel, frigate mackerel and bonito can all be caught in these areas on small chromed slugs and slices, Jerkshad plastics, baitfish profile flies and numerous other offerings. Around the shipping channel beacons, mackerel and the occasional tuna can be tempted with pilchards and lures. Chromed slugs and slices are generally cast to the sides or the down-current edge of the beacon and then retrieved at high speed. Offerings that sink rapidly and don’t flutter as they fall are best, as they are less likely to be engulfed on the drop, which usually results in a bite off.

Some anglers are also using micro jigs for this pursuit, however, you will probably need to add a wire assist hook for a reasonable chance of staying connected. Longtails can be tempted with a broad array of offerings at times, yet they can also be very pedantic, refusing most lures presented to them. Poppers, stickbaits, Jerkshad plastics, stickbaits, sliders, baitfish profile flies, slugs, slices and many other lures may be called upon.

Kingfish, both yellowtail and black (cobia) are definite bay targets. The area around Dunwick, the Curtain Artificial Reef and many beacons will hold kings, and they will respond to live baits and plastics, poppers and stickbaits. Cobia can be taken on artificials, but are especially responsive to larger live baits fished around structure like beacons and ledges. Additional pelagics, which are rare yet can show up within the bay during February can include Spanish mackerel, marlin, golden trevally, barracuda and others.

OFFSHORE PELAGICS

February offers great opportunities for anglers to catch a marlin, wahoo, mahimahi, Spanish mackerel, or even a yellowfin tuna on the offshore grounds around The Group (off Point Lookout), Hutchinson Shoals, Flinders Reef, The Trench and numerous other areas. Trolling skirted lures, bibbed and bibless minnows will generally put you in the action. Live baiting around larger bait schools can be rewarding when deploying slimy mackerel and yakkas back into the melee.

BRISBANE RIVER

The warmer months in the Brisbane River can be excellent for anglers targeting a host of species, especially threadfin salmon. Late December and early January provided some amazing fishing for threadies at a few locations in the lower reaches. One pair of anglers I know managed 31 in a session on an array of vibration baits, with all fish released boatside to maximise survival rates. They followed this up in subsequent days with several other sessions producing double figures of threadfin, mostly better than 80cm in length.

Apart from lures such as plastics, vibration baits, blades and micro jigs, some take a more relaxed approach and use live baits to tempt these great fish. Live mullet, herring, pike and banana prawns all work well when presented close to the bottom. These are generally fished along the edges of dropoffs into the main riverbed, and submerged ledges. The dredge holes along the southern bank down near the mouth will also hold them at times.

Additionally, these areas can produce snapper, mulloway, flathead, bream, estuary cod and numerous other species. Others occasionally encountered in the Brisbane River can include barramundi, grunter, morwong and trevally. Anglers with quality side imaging sounders and a good knowledge of their operation definitely have an advantage when fishing the Brisbane River, as they can slowly work along the edges of the dropoff into the main riverbed and scan for fish. Once located, they can be cast to without having to re-position the boat, which produces a very effective fishing scenario.

When the prawns run up the Brisbane River, the fishing can be very good for threadfin and numerous other species, and anglers do well from both boats and shore-based positions. Popular land-based structures to fish from can include Newstead Jetty, Colmslie Pontoon and Jetty, the base of the Gateway Bridge, the walkways near the Kangaroo Point Cliffs and at New Farm Park, just to name a few. Most anglers will live bait from these positions, however, some put in the casts with lures to achieve their results.

CRABS

Crabbing can be exceptionally good during February, with both sand (including blue-swimmer) and mud crabs on the menu. In the creeks and estuaries, it is the muddie that reigns supreme, although a few sandies are also caught. The least accessible areas, such as the small gutters and channels leading into the mangroves, will often hold the better quality specimens. After heavy rain, the crabs are often flushed out into the main river systems, which make them a little easier to catch for the average crabber. Setting your pots overnight will increase the chances of success with mud crabs. Collapsed mangrove banks, deeper holes, and the mouths of prominent gutters, creeks and channels are key places to set.

Out in Moreton Bay, sand and blue swimmer crabs can be caught in the same safety pots that are used for the muddies, although they are more commonly found along the edges of channels, the outer margins of the bay islands, submerged ledges, and prominent holes. Baits that are both popular and productive for sand, mud and blue swimmer crabs include whole mullet, fish frames, chicken carcasses or even a few pillies in a mesh bag. Remember that there are strict rules in relation to size and bag limits for different crab species, the type of crabbing apparatus, and the labelling of it. Check these out online before deciding to head out and do a little crabbing, as fisheries are doing patrols in the bay, rivers and at boat ramps, even after hours.

ESTUARIES

Fishing within the rivers, creeks, canals and greater estuaries can be fairly good during February, with an exciting array of fish on offer. Mangrove jack, flathead, trevally, estuary cod, bream, whiting, threadfin and a lot of other species can be taken. Jacks are a highly desirable target for a lot of anglers, and can be caught on both live baits and lures. They are commonly taken around structure such as rock walls, pontoons, bridge pylons and jetties where they can hunt in ambush mode. Estuary cod will also frequent these same areas, but often have a preference for rock walls where crabs are common.

Flathead are spread throughout the estuary, but are most easily targeted by anglers trolling or casting lures along the edges of prominent banks on the falling tide. Drifting baits or trolling lures along the major channels on the bottom of the tide can produce awesome results.

Bream reside in all corners of the estuary and respond to a wide array of lures and baits. They are probably one of the easiest species for anglers to catch, no matter what the skill level. However, anglers adept at fishing lures and knowledgeable in the habits of bream can often produce some better quality specimens, which can exceed 40cm in length.

During the summer months, the shallows around the bay islands are also popular for anglers targeting bream on lures. Small topwater offerings, shallow diving minnows, plus lightly weighted plastics and blades can all be put to good use in this zone.

Apart from the population in the Brisbane River, threadfin numbers are also on the increase in the Logan and Caboolture rivers and other waterways. They are commonly caught on live baits by anglers targeting bull sharks and mangrove jack, but lures are especially productive in the hands of good anglers.

Canals offer some good fishing opportunities, especially during the summer months when jacks and estuary cod are more active. In addition, bream, flathead, bull sharks, trevally, tarpon, Moses perch and several other species can be encountered. During windy conditions, the confines of the canals offer a more protected area to fish, but be sure to respect the residents, as this is quite literally their back yard.

Kayak anglers are also afforded good access to fish-rich waters. Casting smaller plastics, blades, minnow lures and other offerings along the rock walls and amongst the rows of pontoons and jetties lining the canals is a good approach. Bait fishing with quality dead baits, or preferably live, is a relaxing and generally productive way to fish. Look for deeper holes and areas where the current eddies over or around structure and you are in with a good chance. Late afternoons, evenings and night sessions offer the best possibilities. The rock walls at the mouth of canals fish well around the start of the runout tide, as predators take up ambush positions to harass bait and crustaceans being flushed out with the dropping water.

CONCLUSION

With so many piscatorial possibilities during February, anglers will be keen to get into the action, no matter whether it’s in the estuaries, the bay or offshore. There are many hard-core sportfishing targets on offer, yet anglers taking a more relaxed approach and soaking a few baits at their favourite spots will also be rewarded.

Warm conditions dictate that measures need to be taken to avoid sunburn and dehydration, yet getting out into the great outdoors definitely makes the effort worthwhile. With the kids now back at school, keen anglers are frothing for fishing action during February. I am sure the family will be appreciative of your efforts when you return home with some tasty local seafood.

MacD0215_1

Threadfin numbers have been excellent over the last few months, and February offers awesome opportunities due to an increase in activity with an influx of prawns.

MacD0215_2

Estuary cod are aggressive predators who are tough to coerce from their environment, although the aptly named Aaron Winch managed this beauty recently.

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