May in the bay
  |  First Published: May 2015

With the cold weather well and truly upon us, anglers will be slipping on a jumper and slopping on the beanie for those early morning starts.

If you can launch the boat without getting your toes wet then you are lucky. Although there are many negatives to getting out of a warm bed and braving the chill, especially if you hate the cold weather like I do, there are also plenty of piscatorial positives. May offers some exciting targets for those who want to probe the waters of Moreton Bay and surrounds. Species such as snapper, mulloway, squid, tailor, bream and numerous others will come to the fore but there are also a lot of other options for thinking anglers.


Since the 2011 floods ravaged Brisbane, the numbers of mulloway in the rivers and bay have been astounding, compared to the decade previous. Whilst there are numerous large specimens taken, anglers can predominately expect good numbers of fish up to a little over a metre. These provide awesome sport and additionally great table fare with a good yield of flesh per fish. Anglers sometimes specifically target the larger ‘jewies’ but it is these average sub metre specimens that make up the majority of the catch. Most are subdued on lures such as soft plastics, vibration baits, micro jigs and a variety of dead and live offerings.

The rivers generally provide the better numbers, although the various wrecks and artificial reefs in the bay also provide good opportunity. Ledges, jetties, rock walls and other structure in the Brisbane River will commonly hold decent numbers of mulloway. Anglers with quality sounders and a decent knowledge of their operation, generally have little trouble finding them. The bait brigade commonly soak their offerings, both dead and live, in the deeper areas out from the jetties and within the dredge holes along the retaining wall at the mouth. Anywhere you can locate baitfish is worth a try because mulloway are likely to be prospecting nearby.

Lighted areas commonly attract baitfish at night, so these areas can be well worthwhile trying for mulloway as well as others such as tailor and threadfin. The Harry Atkinson Artificial commonly produces mulloway at this time of the year with quality specimens to over a metre being taken on lures and baits, often by anglers targeting snapper. Peel Island, Coochiemudlo, Russel Island, and many other locations throughout the Jumpinpin area are also worth trying.

The Bribie Island Bridge is another promising location and regularly produces quality fish, including mulloway, however due to the boat traffic, night and early morning sessions are generally the best. Land-based anglers can try their luck with live and dead baits at numerous locations including beneath the Gateway Bridge, the Colmslie and Newstead Jetties in the Brisbane River, the Woody Point Jetty, Deepwater Bend on the Pine River and numerous other locations where you can access reasonably deep water from a shore-based perspective. Some of these areas lend themselves to some decent fishing with lures with best results coming during the darkened hours when lights attract baitfish to the vicinity.


Although the best of the tailor fishing will probably be a month or two away yet, there will be a few found on the shallow inshore reefs and the mouths of the estuaries. These respond well to whole fish baits, such as pilchards, whitebait, small gar and frogmouths as well as an array of lures. These voracious predators will attack a broad array of offerings including minnow lures, blades, vibration baits, soft plastics and a host of topwater offerings.

The shallows around the bay islands can often provide some exciting fishing when applying walk-the-dog techniques with small stick baits such as Lucky Craft Sammy 65, Sebile Stick Shads, River2Sea Rover, Zipbait Fakie Dog and numerous others. Mud, Peel, Green and Goat Islands all have some good shallow water areas to try this technique, and apart from tailor, you are also likely to encounter bream, sweetlip, squid, trevally, estuary cod and numerous other species. Towards the end of the month a few schools of tailor may be located along the front of Bribie Island from Red Beach to Caloundra. These are generally targeted with the conventional pilchard on a ganged hook rig by anglers casting from the beach. Early morning and late afternoon high tides offer the best opportunity. An occasional longtail tuna is also hooked from the Bribie Beach as they will come extremely close to shore as they harass the baitfish schools that are generally prominent at this time of the year.


A favourite target species for many who fish Moreton Bay is the snapper. These are a great sportfish and even better table fair and can be found well up the rivers and estuaries at times. Within the bay they are commonly targeted around the fringes of the bay islands, adjacent submerged wrecks, the artificial reefs (Harry Atkinson, Curtin and Peel) and along prominent contours and ledges. Here they can be tempted with quality baits and a variety of artificials, the most popular being plastics.

When worked well, paddle-tail shads, jerk shads, crustacean profiles, curl-tail grubs and several others can produce awesome results. The biggest mistake most anglers make when fishing plastics is that they work them too fast. Slow, gentle hops and retrieves are enough to solicit strikes. Even a plastic left out into the current and dead-sticked (just put the rod in the holder and let the rocking of the boat do the work) will produce some quality fish. I have a preference for paddle-tail shads at present but have used a broad array of styles and brands to land quality snapper. I believe it is more important how you work the plastic than which style or brand it is.

Other successful offerings, especially for the deeper waters are vibration lures such as Jackall Trans Am and Mask, Samaki Vibelicious and Thumper, Fish Candy and Threadie Busters. Trolling with deep diving minnow lures has become popular in recent years with a broad array of offerings working. I like the Yo-Zuri Hardcore 90SP, Rapala Max-Rap and Halco Poltergeist, but there are a lot that will produce. These are trolled slowly over likely grounds like the outer fringes of the bay islands, edges of channels and ledges or anywhere that prominent baitfish activity is located.

There is no denying that early mornings, evening and night sojourns are more likely to produce good numbers of snapper, however I find that quietness is the key to those trophy specimens, regardless of time of day. In fact, I have caught some of my best quality snapper in the middle of the day close to the surface, due to the snapper’s tendency to roam and prey on garfish, hardiheads and other baitfish species. Often, it is more important to find a quiet spot than a good spot because if you are quiet enough the snapper will eventually find you.

In the Brisbane River, snapper are often taken from adjacent the numerous jetties near the mouth and from along the rock walls and submerged ledges. Scouting the declines and fronts of wharves with you side imaging sounder will allow you to locate both baitfish and the snapper. However, if you do not have this latest technology, then you can still present your offerings to likely spots with a good chance of prying a legal snapper away from the structure. Blades, vibration baits and an array of plastics can all be put to good use on Brissie River snaps.


As the waters cool in the coming weeks, larger bream will begin to enter the estuaries in preparation to breed. These clean, silver-white specimens (sometimes called snowies by the older brigade) are ravenous and aggressive and will respond to a broad array of lures and quality baits. In the channels adjacent the sand and mud banks, bream can be taken on baits including pilchard pieces, raw chicken fillet, squid strips, gar fillet, green prawns, mullet fillets, fowl gut and mullet gut, just to name a few. Whilst they can be very aggressive and will attack a well-presented lure, bream are also scavengers and will eat almost anything they come across. This is one of the reasons they have become such a popular target for sport fishers and the casual angler alike. Whilst any baited line in the water can catch a quality bream, there is no denying that the anglers who hone their skills and knowledge of the bream habits and habitat will achieve more consistent results.

Lure fishing has become a fine art for many chasing bream with many lures designed specifically for targeting them in certain situations. Blades, small soft plastics and minnow lures to around 60mm in length are commonly used to pry bream from structure such as mangroves, bridge pylons, pontoons, jetties, moored boat, rock walls, rock bars and other structure. The bay island shallows and Scarborough Reef are definitely worth a look for quality bream during May. In the coming months bream numbers will increase dramatically with the periods around the full moons generally providing good opportunity for larger specimens coming in from offshore. Remember however that these are the breeders so limit your catch if you decide to keep a few for a feed.


As the water cools, anglers will notice an increase in the number of squid entering the bay. These are commonly located around the shallow reefs and rubble grounds of the bay islands and the foreshore areas of Wynnum, Scarborough, Redcliffe, Victoria Point and Wellington Point. Water quality is paramount in finding squid. Clean water is a must, as is structure to provide ambush potential. This structure can be in the form of weed beds, shallow reef and rubble grounds or even areas with a discoloured bottom.

Squid possess chameleon like ability and will change their colour to blend in with this environment to aid in ambushing prawns and small baitfish. The general method of catching them is to cast and retrieve an egi (a prawn profiled squid jig) over likely looking areas. This can be slowly wound or hopped and paused to imitate a real prawn. Another method is to offer a whole fish such as a pilchard on a squid skewer, which is a metal rod with rows of barbs that is impaled through the baitfish. When the squid grabs the bait the tentacles will slide down onto the barbs and the squid becomes hooked.

A slow constant wind of your reel handle will keep the pressure on, and maximise your chances of landing him. Pump and wind in the conventional method that you would for a fish and it is likely that he will expel the hooks and depart in a cloud of ink. These skewers are often suspended beneath a float by anglers fishing from jetties, in the channels (such as the Rous) and around the bay islands. Around foreshore areas squid can be caught at night with many anglers using powerful head torches to locate the squid before they even cast towards them. Squid are a succulent treat and are easier to clean and process than you would think. Check out my techniques column in this issue to see how easy it is.


Mentioned are just a few of the prime species on offer. There will be plenty of the usual targets on offer during May, including flathead, estuary cod, threadfin, longtail tuna, mackerel, sweetlip and whiting. The cool weather may deter you a little until you consider the angling possibilities, and you’ll soon find yourself bounding out of bed, donning the jumper, trackie-daks and beanie and making a flask of hot coffee to warm you up. I hope you enjoy May in the bay and the surrounding waters as there are plenty of great angling opportunities for the keen angler.

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