Dust off the lure trolling gear
  |  First Published: January 2016

The warm water has arrived off the Gold Coast and the pelagic activity has greatly increased.


Excellent catches of mahimahi and spotted mackerel were made through early December and this month should see the East Australian Current push in close to the coast, bringing juvenile black marlin, wahoo, Spanish mackerel, mahimahi and yellowfin tuna. January is the best month of the year for light tackle lure trolling off the Gold Coast, and when the big schools of pilchards and slimy mackerel start to hold up on the bait grounds they attract plenty of predators.

By the reports coming from Hervey Bay in November, it looks like we should have a reasonable run of small black marlin off the Gold Coast this month. As a general rule these fish arrive in our waters in mid-December. I would anticipate that this season will not have the numbers of small black marlin of the previous year and will probably produce 1-4 marlin bites per day when conditions are good. I like to work the area around the Cotton Reef, Sullies and the Sea Dragon east and north of the Jumpinpin Bar when the wind is forecast to be from the north, and I like the Gravel Patch east of Burleigh Heads in a southerly.

Lure trolling is a very effective strategy this month. It allows you to cover plenty of water and as well as marlin is a great way to get a good feed of mahimahi and hopefully wahoo. I troll a spread of five lures when fishing light tackle. These are usually a mix of Black Snacks, Pakulas and Meridians. In general the lures are about 15-20cm long and I mix up the colours. Pink and purple, lumo green and white, silver and gold and pink are all effective colour combinations. I rig these on 100lb mono and use Gamakatsu SL12S 10/0 hooks. I fish these lures on about 1.5kg of strike drag.

Out on the wider grounds east of the continental shelf there should be plenty of big blue marlin this month. They seem to be at their best on the days where the current has dropped off a bit. Trolling lures on 37kg game tackle is the most effective strategy, and the average Gold Coast blue marlin is about 140kg. Good areas to troll include Jims Mountain, the Riv Grounds, Tweed Canyons and the Kink.

The current generally runs at around 2-3 knots this month, which makes bottom fishing very hard, and most of the winter species such as snapper seem to disappear from the offshore reefs on the 36 and 50 fathom line. A few rosy job fish, pigfish, samson and amberjacks can still be caught on the days the current slows. Deep water jigging with knife jigs also still produces a few fish and can be effective in moderate current.

On the inshore grounds there should be some excellent fishing for spotted mackerel on Palm Beach and Mermaid Reefs this month. A bit of berley helps. Floating pilchards and spinning metal lures are the most effective strategies. This will also produce cobia and a few Spanish mackerel. In general the bigger the bait, the bigger the mackerel you will catch. When targeting large Spanish mackerel large tailor, bonito and small tuna make excellent trolling baits.


Estuary fishing on the Gold Coast in January is greatly affected by the amount of rain we receive throughout December. It has been quite a dry year so far and clean salty water has pushed right up into the headwaters of the Nerang and Coomera Rivers, and the upstream sections have been fishing very well for mangrove jacks and decent whiting.

Surprisingly, there have still been plenty of 40-60cm flathead around in the central Broadwater and these may continue into January. In the deeper channels around the Jumpinpin Bar and Gold Coast Seaway there have been plenty of small and medium sized mulloway with most being under the minimal legal size of 75cm. The best way to target these fish this month is with soft plastics and small live baits such as herring or small mullet.

January is a good month to target whiting on poppers and small stickbaits. This is a very interesting way to catch a feed of tasty whiting, and I wish I had started doing this earlier. My favourite lure is the Bassday Sugapen. Casting over shallow sand flats and retrieving quickly seems to be the key to success. It always amazes me how aggressive whiting are in their pursuit of the lure. I find adding an extra split ring to the back hook helps me get a better hook up rate when chasing whiting on lures.

Mangrove jack fishing should be good this month with plenty of big ones in the 50-60cm bracket starting to turn up. Cast paddle-tail soft plastics worked around the leading edges of floating pontoons accounts for a lot of fish. Poppers fished in the early morning and at dusk is another effective strategy and the bites can be quite spectacular. As well as mangrove jacks these methods produce estuary cod and a few giant and big-eye trevally. Canals in the south arm of the Coomera have been quite productive at the time of writing.

January is a great month for crabbing in the Gold Coast estuaries. If there is a good flush of rain a lot of mud crabs move into the deeper holes and crabbing can be very productive. For sand crabs this month try the edges of the eel grass beds around Crab Island and the Aldershots, and for mud crabs I like the Pimpama River and Coombabah Creek. Fresh fish frames are the best bait for sand crabs but for muddies I like tougher baits such as mackerel heads and chicken frames.

Overall, January is a good time to visit the Gold Coast. Have a safe and happy holiday season.

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