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Spring into September species
  |  First Published: September 2015



With the average overall temperatures beginning to rise throughout September, anglers will begin to notice a changing of the guard in relation to the prominent species on offer. As the cool weather species taper off, warmer water species will become more prominent throughout the Southern Queensland waters during spring. As such we should experience a good blend of piscatorial possibilities over the next few weeks. Let’s look at a few of your angling options.

SCHOOLS OUT

Apart from an increase in boat traffic during September, as young and old anglers get out onto the water to try their luck during the school holidays, there should also be an increase in the availability of school mackerel. These ravenous predators should be noticeable throughout various areas of Moreton Bay where they can be targeted using a variety of methods. Although not commonly found in ravenous schools harassing baitfish on the surface during September, school mackerel can be found a little deeper in the various channels throughout the area and also sometimes patrolling up on top the banks on the higher stages of the tide.

One of the key areas which can fire at this time of the year is the Rous Channel. Here anglers (including the commercial sector) troll spoons and other lures behind paravanes. The paravanes drag the lures down deeper in the water column than they would normally track. This is often between 4m and 8m where the mackerel are commonly found at this time of the year in this channel.

There are numerous paravanes and trolling boards which can get the job done, however the Yamashita trolling board (usually No. 6 or No. 7) appears to be the choice of the pros. I have used numerous ones over the years and found that most will do the job admirably. The lure of choice is commonly a Halco Barra Drone No.3, however Luhr Jensen Ripple Spoons, Macka Spoons, Flashas, Toby Spoons, shallow diving minnow lures and a host of other offerings can be used. Troll speeds can vary depending on the lure being used and whether you are going with or against the current, although generally you will troll at 4-6 knots with paravanes. I sometimes use my downrigger to get lures down deep or troll deep diving minnow lures for targeting Rous Channel schoolies.

Drifting through the Rous Channel with pilchards rigged on a set of ganged hooks is another great way to catch a few mackerel. I prefer this method as it allows me to fish with much lighter line than I could when using a paravane (due to the drag the paravane creates). Generally you won’t need any sinker when drifting, but may require some weight if fishing from anchor. You need to present the pilchard mid-water or deeper most of the time with it drifting naturally, not spinning in the current. Therefore it is best to rig the pilchard with the hooks placed centrally along the back with the points exiting into the gut cavity. The front (leading) hook should be centrally through the top of the head, roughly half way between the eye socket and the nose. Generally the best action will occur an hour or so each side of the tide change but this can vary depending on the moon phase. Pilchards can also be fished in this manner at other areas including prominent beacons and ledges where mackerel often lurk.

Another way you can score a few mackerel at this time of the year is by trolling deep diving minnow lures up on top of the prominent flats such as Middle Bank and the Tangalooma Banks. I generally opt for lures less than 12cm in length that will dive between 3m and 5m. The Yozuri Hardcore 90SP is one of my more often used lures, however Rapala X-Rap XRMAG15, Rapala Max-Rap Minnow and numerous others also work well. These lures are generally trolled as fast as you can. If they start to blow out of the water, slow down a fraction until they are tracking right. I often flat-line them by using rubber bands on a short length of line at the transom to get the angle of the main line lower to the water. This will allow you a faster troll speed with minnow lures and gives a momentary amount of slack on the strike which permits the mackerel to turn easily, increasing the hook-up rate.

I usually work the banks areas from around half tide to almost the full. School mackerel have a minimum size limit of 50cm and a bag limit of 20 fish in possession (includes fish already in the freezer at home). Learn to identify both spotted and school mackerel accurately as each have different bag and size limits. You may encounter the odd spotty during September.

COBIA

Although there hasn’t been a good run of cobia since 2010, this year may see a change in the numbers caught throughout Moreton Bay. Already there have been a few quality specimens taken and we can only hope that these bluewater beasts again grace our waters in number.

Whilst cobia will accept a broad array of lures in certain situations, live baits are a more reliable way to get connected. Cobia will eat most offerings and I generally favour any bait caught on site. This can include (legal sized if applicable) school mackerel, snapper, sweetlip, bonito, tailor, sand crabs, squid and a host of others. Large baits produce large cobia, and with specimens to over 40kg caught every year (and plenty more lost) the rewards are there for those anglers with persistence and right approach.

Cobia are a dogged and often dirty fighter which will head for the nearest structure. When fishing around the bay beacons, it often pays to motor straight towards the beacon after you hook up and work the fish hard, as the cobia will generally pull against you and go away from the beacon. This can greatly increase your chance of landing larger fish.

I generally fish baits close to the bottom with twin snelled circle hooks on a 100lb mono leader and 30lb plus main line. Good areas to try can include the beacons in the northern bay, the Curtain Artificial, the Bulwer Ledge, Western Rocks (Kianga Channel) area and the Cowan Ledge, just to name a few. Various reefy areas in the Pearl Channel, the Caloundra Four Mile and the beacons in the NW group are additional locations to try.

SNAPPER

It has been one of the better seasons for snapper that I can remember, with plenty of anglers managing creditable captures on a regular basis during winter. The number of 45-55cm fish was great to see and is hopefully the result of increased size limits and decreased bag limits, which include only one fish over 70cm to be taken.

Anglers fishing the usual haunts of Moreton Bay including the bay island margins, the artificial reefs, numerous wrecks and prominent ledges are all likely to be rewarded with some quality captures. An array of soft plastics, blades, hard and soft vibration baits and other offerings are all likely to produce the goods.

Stealth is the key to securing the better quality fish in these shallow environs, and the anglers who take the time to circle wide of their fishing area as they reposition for another drift, use electric motors in the shallows and fish isolated pieces of ground away from the hordes of anglers are most likely to reap the rewards of the bay’s blue-spotted beasts.

Quality fresh baits are also an advantage, and live offerings of banana prawns, pike, yakkas and slimy mackerel will additionally heighten your chances. Although snapper are available in numbers right throughout the year within the bay, the cooler months generally offer a greater number of quality species, so now’s the time to get amongst them before the waters warm.

MANGROVE JACK

As the water temperatures begin to heat up, mangrove jacks will increase their aggressiveness within the creeks, rivers and estuaries. Although the best is yet to come in relation to jack numbers, anglers fishing throughout September often experience some of the better quality specimens. Often these larger jacks have just ventured in from the offshore reefs and are hungry and aggressive.

The periods around dawn and dusk offer some of the best opportunities to target jacks, however these fish can be caught at almost any time with many anglers fishing throughout the night when boat traffic is at a minimum. Lure fishing is one of the most exciting and rewarding ways to get a few jacks, however they also respond well to live baits. These are generally fished close to structure such as fallen mangrove trees, bridge pylons, rock bars, jetties, pontoons, rock walls and the like. I will talk a little more about some of the better lures and baits for mangrove jacks next month.

SQUID

Although waters are starting to warm, September is still a great month to get amongst a few squid. The shallows around the bay islands offer great opportunities for anglers casting egi (squid jigs). These are extremely easy to cast and retrieve on most light tackle.

Generally squid aren’t too fussy so they are a great target for junior anglers, often giving kids the added excitement of seeing the squid take the jig in these clear shallows. Even those anglers probing around the bay foreshore and the canals will be able to score a few. Squid numbers will taper off a bit during September so get out and secure some succulent cephalopods while you can.

FLATHEAD

As mentioned last month, flathead numbers are at a premium during this time of the year. The larger females move inshore to breed, closely followed by hordes of smaller males, all intent on getting the business done. Knowledgeable anglers fishing the estuaries can often get more than 20 quality flathead per session at this time of the year. Most of these anglers use lures of some kind as they allow you to cover and probe a good area of water. This is important as flathead hunt by ambush, only repositioning at certain times of the tide to take up a new ambush position.

Most lures which travel close to the bottom will work well on flathead. These can include jighead-rigged soft plastics, diving minnow lures, vibration baits and several others.

The top of the tide is the best time to be up on the flats casting to any weed beds, gutters and tidal indentations. As the tide begins to fall, flathead move to the edges of the flats and banks to take up ambush positions and await the baitfish, prawns, crabs and other morsels which are forced from the flats with the falling tide. The best specimens tend to take up the best ambush positions, which will generally be at the lowest point or the mouth of a recess or gutter where the most water exits the flat.

Trolling deeper diving minnow lures along the edges of the bank systems as the tide falls is an easy way to locate a few flatties. Once you find one, there is a good chance that there are several more in the immediate vicinity as a large female flathead will often be surrounded by numerous slightly smaller males at this time of the year.

Additionally, the mouths of small gutters and creeks leading out of the expanse of the mangrove system will also offer great opportunities. There are numerous creek and river systems that filter into Moreton Bay and all these will hold decent numbers of flathead year round. The Jumpinpin and Pumicestone Passage systems offer a multitude of opportunities for flattie flickers with numerous creeks, channels, flats areas, weed beds and other areas which are flathead magnets.

BRISBANE RIVER

During the cooler months there have been a lot of quality captures in the Brisbane River with mulloway, threadfin and snapper being the prime targets. Additionally there have been estuary cod, bream, flathead and several other species taken. Areas such as Claras Rocks, the Oil Pipeline, the Sunken Wall, the retaining wall at the mouth and the zones adjacent the jetties are prime places to try.

Many anglers use lures such as vibration baits, plastics and even micro jigs to probe these areas. Live baits also work a treat and can provide some awesome yet relaxed fishing that can be experienced by the whole family. Locating live bait can be fairly easy, and those with the skill of using a cast net can score at the sewerage chute, Boggy Creek, the shallows of Boat Passage and numerous other locations. Anchoring at any of the aforementioned locations or anywhere along the river where the bank plummets into the main riverbed is a worthy ploy. I generally prefer the last few hours of the rising tide but have scored good results at numerous other times.

CONCLUSION

I’m glad to see the last of winter and I’m looking forward to a long, hot spring and summer. September offers anglers great opportunity to get out on the water while it’s still pleasant, and the sun doesn’t have too much bite. Getting the family fishing during the school holidays is awesome and provides an experience they will remember long after their favourite video game is no longer in production. Additionally, lifelong angling careers all started from just one trip so get the juniors out into the great outdoors with a rod in hand.

September has a lot on offer for anglers of all skill levels, and it’s a great time to be out in Moreton Bay or fossicking along the creeks and rivers which filter into it. Spring into some September species over the next few weeks – the whole family will love the experience.

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