Still a chance for big pelagics
  |  First Published: March 2016

We’ve just entered the first of the transition months on the Gold Coast, and although summer may not have been everything we thought it’d be, March is set to be a cracker.

Offshore Grounds

The fishing on the offshore grounds this summer has been quite disappointing. While there have been a few black marlin on the inshore grounds, the catch rate compared to the last few seasons has been less than half of what is usually expected. Blue marlin fishing out wide of the continental shelf has been hampered by strong northerly current and the fish have often been holding deep down. There have been quite a few mahimahi and some nice wahoo, but in general it has been a slow billfish season, quite below our earlier expectations. Hopefully this month, things should pick up as the current slows down. In general, March is a good month to chase blue marlin, wahoo and mackerel.

Out on the wide grounds the best blue marlin fishing in March generally takes place in depths between 200-350m. I like to fish the more northern grounds in March if there is a northerly wind forecast, and the more southern grounds like the Kink and the Tweed Canyons in a southerly wind period. Standard 37kg tackle is the best way to target these magnificent fish. There are generally big schools of striped tuna around in March and the blue marlin are usually close in attendance.

On the inshore grounds, a cold green current shut down the mackerel fishing in early February and the water temperature dropped to 19°C. By March the southeasterly airstream should have pushed warm water well inshore and both Spanish and spotted mackerel should be biting aggressively on spots like Mermaid and Palm Beach reefs and the Gravel Patch east of Burleigh Heads. Trolling hardbodied lures like the Halco Laser Pro 160 and 190 can be effective at times. When the fish are deep, trolling live baits from a downrigger is generally the most effective strategy to get a bite. Live slimy mackerel are deadly when trolled at a deep level. Spinning with metal lures is another very effective method. Most of the time the mackerel can be seen on the sounder where they usually school up in vertical stacks over the top of pinnacles.

Wahoo are another good target species to chase in March. There have been a few caught in the early part of the season as by-catch when marlin fishing, and it is quite likely that they will increase in numbers this month. Most years the best months for wahoo are March, April and May. High speed trolling with metal-headed lures such as the locally made Hex Heads is a good ‘finding’ method. These lures track straight and stay in the water at speeds up to 18 knots and the wahoo love them. I generally troll at around 12 knots and the best area to use this method is around the Tweed Nine Mile Reef where the wahoo often hold in big numbers. Other good methods include slow trolling live tuna, trolling hardbodied lures or using a mixed spread of both skirted lures and hardbodied minnows trolled at around 7 knots. I use 49-strand cable wire on all my wahoo lures. This month there should be a few good sized wahoo over 20kg turning up on grounds such as the 24 and 36 fathom line off Southport, the Tweed Nine Mile and the Mud Hole east of the Tweed bar.

If the current on the offshore grounds drops a little the bottom fishing should improve this month. Despite the warm water, some of the local charter boats have had quite good catches of snapper throughout the summer months on the 36 and 42 fathom lines, as well as catching a few parrot fish and pearl perch. This month should see and improvement in catches for the bottom fishing angler.


The water temperature in the estuaries generally starts to drop a little in late March and there is a lot of activity in the rivers, particularly if there is substantial rain. This year, despite it being warm, flathead fishing has been surprisingly good with lots of big fish up to 90cm turning up. A lot of these have been caught on the shallow edges on the last of the run-in tide.

Target species for March in the estuaries include mangrove jack, whiting, mulloway and flathead. In March a lot of the mangrove jack start to move towards the river entrances and quite a few are caught around the rocks near the end of the north wall of the Seaway. These fish are usually caught on small live baits fished close to the bottom. Further upstream popper fishing early in the morning can be very productive at times and can produce trevally and tailor. Casting soft plastics around the edges of pontoons is also a quite effective strategy, particularly in daylight hours.

Whiting fishing in March is generally very good. Small soldier crabs, blood worms, shrimp and yabbies all work well. The Nerang River, Coombabah Creek and the Pimpama River are all productive spots. Working poppers and small clear stick baits over the flats is another effective strategy when the fish are feeding on prawns. A lot of nice sized whiting over 35cm are caught in March. When popper fishing a bit of wind definitely seems to help and cloudy water often gets the fish actively chasing the lures.

Mulloway fishing can be very good in March around the Jumpinpin Bar. Live pike are probably the best bait available and can be caught around the weed beds back near Tipplers Island and in the Jumpinpin lagoons. Soft plastics fished deep on the tide changes can also be effective, there are generally a lot of smaller fish smaller than 75cm caught in March.

Overall, March is a good month to fish the Gold Coast. While the offshore game fishing has been quite slow this summer, it may improve this month and there are plenty of good opportunities in the estuaries and on the inshore grounds.

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