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Stride into March
  |  First Published: March 2015



As conditions cool slightly during March, anglers will be more tempted to get out onto the water to savour the piscatorial offerings. The species on offer will be reason enough, although pleasant days are also a drawcard.

The variety on offer can vary depending on the temperature and the amount of rain we have received, but options within Moreton Bay and its filtering waterways and estuaries will leave you with the difficult decision as to what the next target will be. A few of these may be on your hit list as we stride into March.

BAY PELAGICS

Moreton Bay offers some pretty awesome pelagic activity at times, and March is often one of the better months. The variety on offer can be exceptional, with species such as longtail tuna, school and spotted mackerel, cobia, mac tuna and even the occasional Spaniard being caught. Mackerel numbers have been fairly good at times over the last few months and although they haven’t been as consistent as we would like, those who were willing to do a bit of searching generally came up trumps.

The area between Wellington Point, Green Island and Harry Atkinson produced some decent numbers of spotties in the 70-90cm range, however, those who explored other areas such as the Measured Mile, Four Beacons, Middle Bank, Pearl Channel and along the major shipping channels were usually rewarded with either spotties or school mackerel. The same may be the case during March, but other areas worth checking out during the month are the historically proven grounds further south in the bay including the Naval Reserve Banks, Banana Banks, between the southern side of Peel and Dunwich, and throughout the Rainbow Channel.

Sometimes mackerel can be found surface feeding on conglomerations of baitfish, however, often they may be a little deeper. Those with knowledge of these areas and quality side imaging sounders will be able to locate these fish. From there it is a case of presenting a micro jig, blade or other offering to elicit a strike. Trolling spoons behind a paravane, which gets them down deep, is another successful ploy and is the chosen method of the commercial mackerel fishers.

Sometimes mackerel may be encountered by anglers soaking pilchards around the bay islands and artificial reefs, or even by those working plastics and other artificials. If you really want to increase your chances, try a small live bait such as a slimy mackerel, yakka or pike in these zones. In addition to a school or spotted mackerel, you are in with a great chance of encountering a longtail tuna, quality snapper, or perhaps a Spaniard. To increase your chances of tangling with the latter (which are increasing in prominence in the bay), use a larger live bait such as a big pike, just legal tailor, or a bonito. Fish this bait on a piano wire snelled-hook rig or a set of gangs and suspend it a few metres under a float. A dead offering such as a pilchard or other whole fish or slab bait may entice a Spanish strike, however, a large kicking live-bait is numero uno on their preference list.

The same can be said for longtail tuna, and while a few of these are caught around the Harry Atkinson, better options exist around the Curtin Artificial and the beacons lining the shipping channels further north. Yakkas, slimy mackerel and the like make ideal offerings when presented anywhere from the surface to around half way to the bottom. Having baits at different depths helps hedge your bets at also tempting a cobia, yellowtail kingfish or mackerel.

Schools of longtail tuna can enter the bay during March. Initially, they are often found in the Western Rocks area, along the front of Bribie Island (often extremely close to the beach) and in the North West and North East Channels. From here they will spread out during the coming month and can be located anywhere throughout the bay.

Surface feeding schools can be targeted with metal slugs and slices, pencil poppers and jerkshad plastics. Other offerings that have become popular longtail lollies in recent years have been stickbaits and sliders such as Yo-Zuri Adagio, Bassday Bungy Cast, Maria Loaded, Daiwa Saltiga Dorado Slider, Daiwa Over-There Skipping and numerous others.

A few quality cobia will be encountered during March by those who target them with large live baits around the northern bay beacons, Curtin Artificial, Cowan Ledge and popular areas such as Yellowpatch and Western Rocks. Baits such as legal size sweetlip, bonito, school mackerel, snapper, whiptails and others will generally get their attention. Either anchoring at a chosen spot and presenting a few baits fairly close to the bottom, or fishing on the drift around these areas generally works well and will quickly entice any predating cobia within a decent distance away.

BAY ISLANDS

Forever a popular choice of bay fishers are the grounds surrounding the major bay islands (Peel, Green, Mud, Coochiemudlo) as they offer both quality and variety. Both demersal and pelagic species can be encountered and setting a few pots will generally be rewarded with sand crabs or blue swimmers. Snapper are probably one of the most commonly targeted species, although anglers fishing with both baits and artificials can catch sweetlip, estuary cod, morwong, tuskfish, mulloway and numerous other fish.

Fresh baits are best, although frozen and salted offerings will also produce quality fish. Good choices can include squid, pilchards, mullet fillets, bonito strips, pike fillets, large green prawns and numerous others. Whilst fishing your baits close to the bottom to target demersals, try floating out a bait like a pilchard under a balloon or float. This may entice a better quality snapper feeding higher in the water column, but it may also tempt a school or spotted mackerel or bonito. On occasion I have also caught large squid and cuttlefish using this rig.

Trolling minnow lures along the edges of prominent contours around the bay islands is a good way to entice a snapper or school mackerel and also allows you to cover a good portion of water and get a better idea of the terrain. The shallows around the numerous bay islands can be a good place to chase bream (generally on blades, small minnow lures and topwater offerings) and even squid, especially on the higher stages of the tide. An occasional quality pelagic may also venture up on these flats.

Casting plastics and minnow lures along the rock walls on the eastern side of Mud Island is a great way to entice a few estuary cod and occasional mangrove jack and snapper.

ESTUARIES

As the water temperatures begin to drop, anglers will be desperate to fit in as many trips as they can to target the mighty mangrove jack. When temperatures fall low, the majority of these crimson assailants will again head offshore, although there will always be the occasional one caught throughout the creeks and rivers, even during winter months. The hotter months offer the best opportunity, with jacks getting especially aggressive when the barometer is rising or turbulent, such as when storms are building.

Many anglers use lures such as diving minnows, blades, poppers, stickbaits and an array of plastics (especially paddle tail shads and prawn profiles) while targeting jacks, casting around heavy structure such as rock walls, bridge pylons, jetties, pontoons and the like. Live prawns, herring, mullet and pike offer a more relaxed way of fishing for jacks around bridge pylons, jetties and other prominent structure. Estuary cod, flathead, trevally, tarpon and an array of undesirables will also attack such baits with vigour.

Flathead are always a favourite of anglers probing the estuaries, as their movements can be relatively easy to predict throughout the tidal phase. They are a great sportfishing target that will eat a variety of lures and numerous baits. As they will have a crack at just about anything that is put in front of them, flatties make an ideal target for those new to lure fishing. Trolling minnow lures along the edges of prominent flats and banks as the tide begins to recede is a relatively successful way to get connected. Working these same zones by hopping plastics, blades and vibration baits from up on the flats and down into the deeper water will often produce those better quality flathead, especially if you can locate the drains and gutters through which the majority of the water drains off the flats. These spots will often hold the better quality specimens, as they will generally take up the best ambush spots. Drifting baits in the channels at the lower stages of the tide will reward you with flatties, bream, whiting and numerous other species.

Mud crab numbers should be good during March, especially if we have had some substantial downpours to flush the better quality bucks out of the small drains and gutters deep within the mangrove forest. It is hard to get your pots to where these specimens reside, however, a good deluge will flush them into the open. Safety pots baited with fish frames, chicken carcasses or whole mullet will generally get the job done.

PRAWNS

March is a great month to target these tasty crustaceans, as large numbers of bananas will generally enter the estuaries around or on the full moon. They can also be found on the flats in the bay, with the front of Cleveland, out from Nudgee and several other locations holding larger concentrations. Whether prawning in Moreton Bay or in the deeper holes in the rivers and creeks, a quality cast net is a must. Nets between 9’ and 12’ drop are generally utilised. The larger ones cover a bigger area and stay open longer as they sink, which is especially handy for deeper water prawning. The more area the net covers when it finally settles, the better your chances are of securing a good haul of prawns.

Once the net is on the bottom, slowly jerk the rope to shuffle the net leads inwards and scare the prawns feeding in the bottom silt up into the net. Top pocket cast nets will hold the prawns in the top of the net and allow you to open the net from the top to get them out.

In the estuaries, try cast-netting in the deeper holes around the change of tide. Those with an intimate knowledge of their sounders will be able to locate the prawns as they move up and down the systems with the tide. There are a load of good land-based spots where you can secure a feed of banana prawns too. Some of the better-known ones include Deepwater Bend on the Pine River and the Colmslie Jetty, Colmslie Pontoon and Newstead Jetty in the Brisbane River, although anywhere you can get a cast into deeper water is worth a crack.

BRISBANE RIVER

With an increase in the numbers of prawns in the Brisbane River, the threadfin salmon presence will be more noticeable. Threadies move up and down the river with the tide as they shadow and hunt the schools of prawns. Anglers fishing live baits from the bank will definitely notice an increase in their catch rate. Banana prawns, mullet, herring, pike and the like are all good options. Some savvy anglers will hook them on lures from either a land-based position or boats. Good artificials can include small shallow diving minnow lures, soft plastic shad and prawn profiles, vibration baits and numerous others. As threadies stress when handled and removed from the water (which often seas them dying), it is best to remove the hooks boat-side when releasing them.

Areas such as Clara’s Rocks and around the jetties down near the mouth will still hold a few decent snapper during March. The snapper activity is also heightened by the increased presence of prawns, and naturally these make great bait. Many snapper are also taken on lures, with a wide array of plastics and vibration baits being accepted. Trolling the rock wall upriver from Clara’s and the retaining wall at the mouth with deep diving minnow lures will often reward you with snapper and estuary cod.

Anglers may still encounter the occasional mulloway at this time of the year, as they seem to be an almost year-round capture in the Brisbane River. Bream, flathead, sharks and a host of other species will be caught. You may even luck onto a barramundi as there has been several caught in the Brisbane River over the last few months.

CONCLUSION

March is a great month to be out on the water getting amongst them. There is a good array of species on offer and the slightly cooler conditions make it a little more enjoyable than the sweltering days of the previous months. Whether you want a haul of tasty crustaceans, a feed of fresh fillets, or your casting arm is yearning for the jolt that transmits when a jack, threadie or other sportfish strikes, March has all the attributes to satisfy your cravings.

MacD0315_1

School and spotted mackerel numbers have been patchy at times, but there has been some quality fish caught and they should continue to chew for a month or 2 yet.

MacD0315_2

March is a popular month for estuary cod in the rivers, canals and bay, where they can be caught on baits and lures. Fish of this size fight well and taste great. 

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