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Aquatic winter wonders
  |  First Published: July 2015



With winter well and truly upon us, the cold weather species are now near the peak of their prominence. Bream, snapper, mulloway, tailor, squid and several others will be noticed in numbers throughout the coming month.

Additionally we should see better concentrations of flathead, threadfin, sweetlip, longtail tuna and several others. The variety and quality on offer during July should be enough to get you out of that cosy, warm bed on a frosty morning. Plenty of warm clothing and a flask of hot coffee will increase the enjoyment of the early morning bite as you watch the sun crack over the horizon.

BREAM

Increasing in prominence during the coming months will be the wily bream. These can be caught in almost any brackish or saltwater environs including canals, creeks, gutters, sand flats, mud banks, rivers, bay shallows and even land-locked lakes. They will respond positively to a broad array of lures and baits and can be caught by anglers of all skill levels from young children to tournament pros. They can be one of the easiest species to tempt at times but can also be exceptionally wary, especially in areas that receive a lot of fishing pressure.

Additionally they are good table fare, although it seems that many keen bream anglers generally release the majority of their catch. Soaking a bait from the bank can be the undoing of many bream, a species which will transit and feed throughout most areas of the saltwater environment. However, those who understand the bream’s habits and get to know the waters well, will definitely reap the rewards in the quality and consistency stakes. The larger bream will generally occupy the better ambush spots where they are most likely to encounter prey such as baitfish, prawns, small crabs, yabbies and the like. Obviously, these are a good choice for bait, with the addition of squid, fillet baits, worms, fowl gut, mullet gut, pilchard pieces and many others.

Some anglers even make up their own dough bait by combining flour, water, tuna oil, cheese and occasional other ingredients. As bream are scavengers, they can opportunistically eat almost anything they come across. However quality, fresh baits are most likely to tempt the better quality specimens. In its simplest fishing form, bream can be tempted with a baited hook and a ball sinker free running on the line, right down to the hook. Whilst this will catch bream, and other species, adding a light fluorocarbon leader with a swivel to keep the sinker up the line 30- 40cm away from the bait can increase your chances. With this rig the bait can waft more in the current and the leader will barely be visible, which can help to entice those wily and smarter, larger specimens.

In the lure department, there are a lot of lures that will work on bream, when they are presented with the appropriate technique. Blades, minnow lures (floating, suspending, deep diving and shallow divers), small soft plastics, vibration baits, micro jigs and a broad array of topwater offerings (poppers, stick baits, wakebaits) can all work a treat. Anglers who specifically target bream can get exceptionally skilled at using these offerings to tempt bream. Good lure choice for a chosen location and tidal phase will generally only come with experience on the water. Fishing with more experienced anglers and doing a bit of research can short track your learning curve to good lure choice, presentation and retrieve techniques.

SNAPPER

The snapper fishing has been exceptional over the last few months within Moreton Bay. Plenty of quality fish have been caught with specimens to over 90cm taken on baits and lures. Popular spots have included the Peel Artificial, Harry Atkinson, Curtin Artificial, the margins surrounding the bay islands, the numerous wrecks and ledges within the bay and other structured areas. Whilst snapper like to inhabit structured areas (reef, rubble, wrecks, ledges etc.) they can often be found well wide of this structure, often several hundreds of metres. You do not need to anchor directly over a piece of structure to catch fish. Just being in the general vicinity is usually enough as the better specimens will search for food for some distance away. The quickest way to shut a spot down is to motor over it and be noisy. Quietness and stealth will definitely pay dividends in your search for quality fish.

Many anglers are just wasting their time sounding over the grounds they want to fish as they search for bait, snapper and other soundings. All they are doing is scaring the quality fish away. A better approach is to cut the motor upcurrent and drift across the area whilst you cast lures or get in position to quietly anchor. I know I waffle on a bit about this but it constantly annoys me when several anglers are doing the right thing (being quiet and circling well wide of the fishing area to re-commence a drift) and all catching before some muppet decides to drive all over the area then rattles the anchor chain over the side three times as they reposition to get in their imaginable hot-spot, which shuts down the area, ruining it for all.

I have had some awesome sessions in recent months, many of them in the middle of the day, when I have been able to fish an area solo or with other anglers who are doing the right thing. At the time of writing, my best snapper is 76cm this season, however it is the number of 55-65cm snapper which have surprised, with double figures of fish in this bracket being taken on lures some sessions. I have heard of numerous 80cm plus specimens being taken on both baits and lures and a few over 90cm, awesome specimens for the bay.

Personally I have caught most of my snapper on 100mm Samaki Thumper Tails, which are my latest lure of choice for quality snaps. These are hopped or worked with a slow, yet sometimes erratic retrieve, generally in the lower half of the water column. The rear hook has a special keeper to hold it in position against the lure tail, which seems to increase the hook-up potential, especially on large snapper, which just seem to inhale them. However, a broad array of plastics, vibration baits, micro jigs and other lures will tempt snapper, mulloway, sweetlip, tuskfish and other desirables within the bay.

The lower section of the Brisbane River, from the Gateway Bridge to the mouth, has been producing some creditable snapper. Whilst some anglers are specifically targeting these, many have been caught by anglers targeting mulloway, threadfin and bream on baits and lures. The majority are around the 40-50cm range, but a few 70cm plus models have been caught. Small, live mullet have been the go for these larger specimens however most freshly caught baits including prawns, herring and pike have worked a treat.

MULLOWAY

Plenty of legal mulloway have been taken in recent months, both in the Brisbane River and around the artificial reefs in the bay. The Peel artificial has been especially productive with some switched on anglers achieving great results by sounding up fish and dropping micro jigs (40gm to 60gm) in front of them. Some have achieved double figures of legal fish per angler in a session. In this shallow water the mulloway release well however when taken out of deeper water they will often bloat and not swim away.

In this area, anglers often sound out the fish on the side imaging sounders before casting to them and working their jigs, vibration baits or plastics. Often it can seem almost too easy, however many struggle to catch fish consistently. Micro jigging has become especially popular over the last year or so. The techniques are often hard to grasp and even though I have been dabbling with it and catching some nice fish, my skill level is still well behind that of some other local anglers who have mastered the retrieve techniques and purchased specific micro-jigging outfits. Google the ‘Palms Slow Jigging Tips and Techniques’ and watch the YouTube video (25 min) to understand more about the numerous techniques involved with this style of fishing.

The Brisbane River has been producing good numbers of mulloway with specimens taken up past the city reaches at times. These have predominately been taken on plastics and vibration baits in the upper reaches however both live baits and lures have been very effective further down river. The holes around the Gateway Bridge pylons, Clara’s Rocks, the ledges and holes in front of the numerous jetties, the dredge holes along the retaining wall and any other submerged structure is worth a try. Threadfin and snapper will also be taken by anglers targeting mulloway in these zones. Often fish can be located with your sounder before even making a cast and as they are a schooling fish, several mulloway can be caught in a short time. Remember the minimum size limit is 75cm with a bag limit of 2 per person in possession so carefully release any fish not kept for processing.

SQUID

The quality of squid on offer has been exceptional. I have had several great sessions chasing these cephalopods on egi (squid jigs) over the last month or so. They can make a great seafood meal by themselves or a tasty entrée to your fish meal. Many target these from a land-based perspective, mainly at night. Some choose to locate squid close to the surface using a high-powered LED torch or headlamp before casting to them. Others blind cast, working their egi in likely areas such as rock walls, shallow rubble and rocky zones and illuminated areas where baitfish and prawns are likely to be attracted to.

The two main species are arrow and tiger squid and both will respond to egi or baits fished on skewers. At times they are very particular in their choice of egi, especially in hard worked areas around the foreshores of Manly, Wellington Point, Scarborough and Victoria Point. Sometimes several jig changes are required before you can solicit a take. However in many areas squid are all too easy to catch and will pounce on the first jig you cast to their proximity. The shallows around the bay islands, the weed beds along the western side of Moreton, the Blue Hole and most shallow, reef, rubble or weed bed areas will hold squid, providing water quality is good. Check out the feature in this edition for the some basic info to get you started, if you have never targeted squid before.

TAILOR

One of the favoured species for anglers fishing throughout the cooler months, especially the latter part of winter, is the tailor. These ravenous predators can be located along the eastern facing beaches, the mouths of estuaries and major river systems and around the shallow reef systems of Moreton Bay. They are most commonly found to lengths of around 45cm but specimens eclipsing 80cm are occasionally encountered. The largest officially weighed tailor I have seen in recent years was a 9.9kg beast caught in northern NSW a few years ago. They are generally found in schools or feeding conglomerations therefore if you catch one, you will generally go on to score several more. Whilst not a great fish to freeze and eat later, except if you want to make fish cakes out of the mushy flesh, they are exceptionally good when grilled and eaten fresh after capture.

Tailor will respond to a wide array of baits, lures and flies. Whilst their razor sharp dentures can quickly sever light leaders, the addition of wire to your rigging can greatly decrease the strike rate. In the bait department, good offerings include pilchards, gar, frogmouths, whitebait, bonito and tuna strips (fresh or salted), slimey mackerel and yakkas, however they have been known to pounce on all sorts of baits. Due to their generally aggressive and erratic nature, tailor will pounce on almost any lure, however offerings that are worked fast will generally solicit more strikes. Metal slices, soft plastics, blades, vibration baits and numerous topwater presentations can all be put into the fray. Most baitfish profiled flies will also excite them into striking. For land-based anglers fishing close to Brisbane, you can try locations such as the Woody Point Jetty, Manly Rock Wall, Red Beach at Bribie, the Scarborough Jetty and the eastern facing beaches of Bribie, Stradbroke and Moreton. I have caught several quality tailor whilst casting lures around the Gateway Bridge at night and many other locations in the river where overhead lights attract baitfish. Additionally they can often be noticed harassing baitfish in the canals and harbours. A quick cast with a lure and few cranks of the reel handle is often all you need to get connected.

Baits like those aforementioned can be fished lightly weighted or suspended beneath a float. In the surf environment, baits are commonly rigged on ganged hooks with a light sinker in a running sinker rig configuration. It is better if your bait can move around a bit instead of being anchored to the bottom. Anglers targeting the larger tailor, often referred to as greenbacks, will commonly use baits of garfish and tuna or bonito strips and fish well into the night. The higher stages of the tide are favoured for the beach fishing especially around dawn and dusk.

CONCLUSION

In addition to the prime winter targets highlighted, anglers should encounter decent numbers of sweetlip, longtail tuna, bonito, flathead, threadfin and many others species whilst fishing Moreton Bay and the surrounding waters. Just getting out in the sunshine is reward enough on the cold days however the thrill of catching a quality fish for sport or to turn into a tasty feast that night is the icing on the cake. Regardless, it is refreshing just getting out into the great outdoors with your mates or the family. Often catching a few quality fish is a bonus to a great day. Get out amongst some of the aquatic winter wonders on offer throughout July.

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