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Bills abound off the Gold Coast
  |  First Published: February 2016



So far this season the pelagic activity off the Gold Coast has been quite erratic. The weather has been quite difficult for offshore anglers, with long periods of strong south easterlies and rough seas.

Offshore grounds

In the times when anglers have been able to get out, there have been reasonable numbers of mahimahi, wahoo, a few black marlin, and striped and blue marlin wide of the 36-fathom line. Hopefully in February the weather will improve and the fishing will pick up.

There have been a few black marlin on the close grounds, but I haven’t heard of any boat getting more than two in a day. The smaller fish from 10-25kg seem to be along the 50m line and around the local reefs and bait grounds, but they are very scattered. Lure trolling lets you cover the water in this situation.

Areas to try include the Cotton Reef east of Jumpinpin, Sullies, Point Lookout, the Gravel Patch east of Burleigh Heads and the Tweed 9-Mile reef. Out a bit further there have been some bigger 40-60kg fish on Deep Trag, the 42-fathom line and Spot X. There have also been a decent number of sailfish caught in this area in recent times on live baits.

Striped marlin have been a bit more common than usual on the 36 and 50-fathom line. We recently caught a nice one on the 36s straight east of the Seaway. After calling it for a small black marlin on strike, I was quite surprised to see a very nice stripy around 70kg come to the trace after an hour-long fight on 10kg tackle. This fish bit a Black Snack’s Hot Lips trolled from the shotgun position. These lures have been great performers for us over the past few seasons.

Out past the shelf the current has been running at around 2 knots to the south. This has made blue marlin fishing hard to predict. Some days have produced 3-4 strikes where a lot of the time in heavy current it is hard to turn a reel. There have been some big mahimahi on the wider grounds. In February the blue marlin fishing often picks up and some of my best days on the wide grounds have been in February.

Bottom fishing has been quite slow due to current, but there are still a few snapper on the 36-fathom line. Local charter boat Watchtower has produced quite a few good catches of snapper lately despite the warm water and the current.

In closer to shore, there have been erratic catches of spotted and small Spanish mackerel around Palm Beach Reef and The Gravel Patch and this should improve this month. Most fish have been caught on metal lures, floating pilchards or small trolled skirted lures. There should be a few nice wahoo this month mixed with the mackerel. It is worth trying a bit of high speed trolling when the warm water moves inshore over the 9-Mile reef.

RIVERS AND ESTUARIES

The January rains have given the estuaries a bit of a flush and the fishing should pick up this month. It is a good time of year to chase mud crabs, mangrove jacks and whiting. There should also be a few mulloway and giant trevally around the Seaway and Jumpinpin entrances. There are a lot of small bait schools around the entrances at the moment and these are attracting quite good numbers of reasonable sized tailor up to 60cm.

If you target mud crabs, try the Pimpama River, the south arm of the Coomera or Coombabah Creek. I like to crab on the bigger tides. My general strategy is to work my pots on the run-in tide when the crabs are on the move. The recent fresh should improve the crabbing. Chicken frames, mackerel heads and mullet all work well. Remember to keep your bait in a bait holder and face the entrances of the pot into the current.

When the crabs are moving we check your pots every half an hour. When the flow slows, the crabs stop. I find a three hour session on a big run-in tide generally produces around 5-10 legal male mud crabs when the conditions are right. Remember to measure all crabs and make sure they are over 15cm across the carapace.

Mangrove jacks are very active this month. The most effective strategy is to work hardbodies and soft plastics and pontoons and rock walls. In February, poppers are also quite effective early in the morning and at night as the jacks move away from cover. There have been quite a number of big jacks caught between 55-60cm in recent weeks.

Whiting fishing is generally pretty good this month, particularly in the Nerang River at night. Yabbies, small soldier crabs, bloodworms and small live shrimp are all very effective baits. Fish a long trace with the boat at anchor. Whiting always feed facing into the current and often pick up a bait as they move forwards. This can make the bite quite hard to detect. If the line appears to go slack it is usually worth picking up the rod and striking.

Poppers and small stickbaits worked over the flats also produce good whiting. February is a good month for this as there are usually plenty of small shrimp around at this time and the skittering popper is a good imitation of a flickering prawn.

In the Seaway and around Jumpinpin there should be a few mulloway this month. In summer a lot of the fish are below the minimal size limit of 75cm, but in recent years the catches of mulloway have improved. There will be a few nice giant trevally as well. Soft plastics, soft vibes and live baits are all effective.

Overall, February is a good month, and if we get a bit of good weather there should be some good marlin fishing this month. Stay safe on the water this month and have fun on the water.

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