This season has been a cracker for black marlin off the Gold Coast. Some local charter boats have caught over 100 marlin since the start of December, and these fish should still be on the bait schools on the 70-80m line this month.
There have been big schools of bait holding in areas such as Deep Trag and the back of the 36 fathom line, which have attracted the marlin. The number of blacks generally decreases in March as the fish move south, but there are often quite a few bigger fish from 80-100kg late in the season. Live baiting using slimy mackerel and switch baiting are generally the most productive methods. It is a good idea to fish at least 15kg tackle this month due to the size of the fish.
Lure trolling can be a good alternative when the bait is scattered. The weather early in the season has been quite stable, but March often has bigger swells and a few more low pressure systems off the coast that can make it hard to get out to the wider grounds.
In March I generally change from light or medium tackle and head wider using 37kg gear to chase blue marlin on the continental shelf. Blues are a great challenge from a small boat and the slope where the depth drops from 150-300m is a good place to start chasing them. I like to use a mix of lures, but find my hookup rate to be slightly better when using medium sized ones about 20-30cm long. Blue marlin are extremely aggressive on the strike and it is not uncommon to lose over 300m of line on the first run, and since we changed from 24 to 37kg tackle our results have improved markedly.
There’s a lot of water out there and in March we average roughly 2-3 strikes per day, but when conditions are good and fish are active, there can be a lot more bites. Bycatch out wide at this time of year includes black marlin, a few striped marlin, mahimahi and wahoo. The good grounds start about 50km wide of the Seaway, so it requires good weather conditions.
In closer to shore, the Spanish mackerel should start in numbers on the 18 and 24 fathom lines this month. Quite a few good sized Spaniards showed on the close reefs in February, and these should increase in numbers this month. Spaniards can be caught trolling minnows or baits, or by spinning with metal lures. Berleying with chopped pilchards at anchor and fishing pilchards, live baits and metal lures in the berley trail can be very effective. In March, Palm Beach and Mermaid reefs generally produce plenty of Spanish and spotted mackerel.
Wahoo are another good target species this month, and trolling high speed metal head lures such as Hex Heads can be very productive in areas such as the Tweed Nine Mile Reef, the Mud Hole and the Gravel Patch east of Burleigh Heads. At a speed of 12-15kts the strikes are spectacular. Live slow trolled small tuna are another great method and often catch the bigger fish.
For the bottom fisherman, activity is dictated by current. The 36, 42 and 50 fathom line can produce good catches of trag, snapper and kingies at times, and pigfish and rosy job fish are also common, but most activity this month is focused on game fish.
The recent good rains have given all the local rivers a decent flush and this should see good conditions for fishing both in the Seaway and Jumpinpin entrances over the next few weeks. There have been great catches of mulloway, with a lot of fish in the 80-100cm bracket. There have also been a lot of bull sharks in the same areas and plenty of anglers have complained about getting their prized fish chopped in half. Live baits, soft plastics and vibes have produced most of the mulloway and this should continue throughout March. I find the run-in tide in the Seaway and the change of tide at Jumpinpin to be the most productive periods. This area is also producing some big flathead, and a few small cobia have also been caught on live baits.
Mangrove jacks have been very active this year and plenty of great fish over 50cm long have been caught. The majority have fallen to soft plastic shad tails such as Z-Mans retrieved along the edges of floating pontoons. There is often a good surface bite on jacks early in the morning on poppers and fizzers during March. The Lucky Craft G Splash is one of the best jack poppers in local waters. The bottom half of the tide cycle usually produces the best fishing, but floating pontoons can see bites at any part of the day or tide cycle.
Whiting are another major target this month, and after the recent good rain they should be feeding hard. Worms, baby soldier crabs and small shrimp are good baits. Small shrimp are quite an easy bait to catch and can also be obtained on any part of the tide. You need a large fine mesh net and look around sunken mangroves and rock walls. They can be hard to spot, but are often in big schools and a dip net run along the edges usually produces enough bait for a session in less than 15 minutes. These tiny shrimp are best used alive, with 4 on a number 6 Aberdeen hook working well. Whiting love them. Since I started using shrimp, I rarely use any other bait for whiting. Fishing small poppers is another good method.
Overall, March has plenty of exciting fishing for Gold Coast anglers and there are a lot of great options this month.
Neil Stoddart with a small black marlin, typical of the run this year.
Mahimahi bycatch has been welcome amongst marlin bites.
David Green with a soft plastic slammin’ mulloway.Reads: 1007