After an awesome summer of fishing, crabbing and prawning, it’s sad to see the warmer months behind us. Although the warm, balmy days have declined, April still has plenty on offer for keen anglers.
In the coming weeks we will begin to see a change in the prominence of the various species we are lucky enough to have on our angling agendas. Many new species will increase in prominence and become more active within our waters. April still gives anglers a great opportunity to score a feed of crabs and prawns, plus there’s plenty of piscatorial possibilities in the estuaries, rivers and bay. Let’s check out a few of the options to hopefully encourage you to get active and get amongst them.
The prawning season kicked off early this year and was in top gear by the full moon in February. My first trip was to the Caboolture River where a mate and I scored a full limit of 20L between us for a few hours of casting. I haven’t done a huge amount of prawning in Southern Queensland and I learnt quite a bit that day on the way the prawns school at various times of the tide, mainly around the changes, and the best ways to locate them using your sounder.
We only worked a small area, along with eight or so other boats, but most anglers managed to get their limit of tasty banana prawns in a few hours. Those using the hand-made nets with galvanised chain bottoms seemed to do the best. I was using a 12ft store-bought net and still managed to get plenty of prawns but noticed how much easier and less effort these locally-made nets were to throw. They were a lot lighter than mine and sunk evenly and fairly flat. Most only possessed a top pocket as they were specifically designed for prawns. Although these locally-made (by several different guys) nets are exceptionally good they are generally between $350 and $400, so are only purchased by serious prawners with a good knowledge of the areas they are working.
Around the changes of the tide seems to be the best times to locate prawns, however they can be caught at any stage of the tide in some areas. During the periods with smaller tides (around the neaps) it seems to be easier to locate and catch prawns in most areas. Good spots to check out during March will include the Pine, Brisbane and Logan rivers as well as the flats out the front of Nudgee, Cleveland and Redland Bay. However, even the smaller systems such as Tingalpa Creek and the various creeks filtering into the Pumicestone Passage and Jumpinpin are worth checking out.
Although it is somewhat easier, you do not need a boat to score a good feed of prawns. There are numerous land-based spots along the Brisbane River (such as the Colmslie and Newstead jetties) where you can get a decent haul for your efforts. The numbers of prawns will begin to taper off over the coming weeks so get in now if a feed of these succulent crustaceans is on your mind.
Although snapper have been caught in reasonable numbers (and some pretty impressive sizes) right throughout the warmer months, we generally see an increase in their numbers as the water temperature starts to drop. Last April was kind to me with decent numbers of quality snapper being caught within the bay on almost every occasion I chased them. Mostly, soft plastics and vibration baits were used, mainly ZMan DieZel MinnowZ, Atomic Prongs and Samaki Thumpertails. These were worked around prominent areas such as The Harry Atkinson, Mud Island and Peel Island although there’s a huge array of areas that are well worth trying. Green Island, numerous deeper areas around Coochiemudlo and Macleay Islands, the Peel Artificial Reef, Comboyuro Ledge, the Benowa Track grounds plus the numerous wrecks and rubble grounds scattered throughout the bay can all produce some spectacular results.
There’s a huge array of lures that work. I believe it is more important to put your offering in the zone and fish it well than it is to have a particular style, colour or brand of lure on the end of your line. Snapper are fairly opportunistic feeders and will pounce on most food items they come across.
Obviously this also rings true in relation to baits, with most quality offerings producing results. Although the popular frozen pilchard and squid can produce quality snapper, you’ll have a better chance of bigger fish when using fresh or live offerings. A small live yakka, slimy mackerel, squid or pike will afford you the best chance, but you can also get good results using fresh strip or fillet baits from pike, mullet, tuna, tailor and the like. Fresh squid, octopus, garfish, prawns and numerous other baits are prime fare.
Fish your baits as lightly as possible and rig them straight so that they don’t spin in the current. Many anglers will present a whole banana prawn on a jighead and drift it through likely areas, just off the bottom. At this time of year we generally see a sizeable increase in the amount of juvenile snapper (squire) at various areas of the bay. While these can be annoying, treat these fish with respect and release them quickly as they are the likely to be the big knobbies we will be targeting in years to come.
While targeting snapper you may pick up a few sweetlip, but you’ll improve your catch rates if you specifically target them. Sweetlip like the broken areas of reef and rubble with patches of sand dispersed between them. Also the outer margins of the reef and rubble grounds which have sand and sea grasses fringing them will offer great areas to target sweetlip, mainly grassies. There are many areas that possess this type of ground with the outer margins of Mud, Peel and Green being some of the more popular.
Sweetlip will take numerous lures but the larger specimens are much more common on baits. Again, fresh is best, especially as far as fillet baits are concerned. Fish these very lightly weighted with a running ball sinker rig to maximise your chances. Bites can sometimes be timid, especially during the day so be prepared to give these fish a little line as they initially mouth the bait. However, sweetlip are exceptionally strong fighters so be ready to go hard once you strike to set the hook.
Being on your chosen spot and anchored at least an hour before dawn is advisable. Often there will be a flurry of activity right around dawn, and then things will quieten down somewhat with just the occasional looker. A rising tide is generally best for sweetlip in these areas from my experience.
Although the mackerel will probably have slowed down a bit by now, there will still be a few about. The surface feeding schools will most likely be broken up by now with the only occasional bust-up sighted. Most mackerel (both school and spotted) will probably be caught on baits and lures meant for other species during April, however specific targeting is still worthwhile. This can include jigging the beacons with chromed slugs and micro jigs, drifting out a pilchard while fishing locations such as the bay islands, the Harry Atkinson and Peel Artificial or trolling deep diving minnow lures along the edges of major flats and channels. Areas where currents converge are also worth targeting. If there are a couple of anglers on board and you hook a mackerel on a floating pilchard, try casting around the same area with chromed slugs and slices while the first fish is being fought, as additional mackerel are often nearby.
There should be plenty of mack tuna to be caught during April. Even in early March good numbers were schooling up at locations in the northern bay. However at that time they were very profile-orientated and would eat only tiny offerings, similar to the juvenile frogmouths and whitebait on which they were feeding. By now the bait should be a little larger and the tuna should be more likely to eat a 20-35g chromed slug or even a jerkbait plastic.
Mack tuna make great bait, especially when salted in strips for reef fishing or inshore bream fishing. The smaller mack tuna, frigates and bonito are ideal to rig for offshore troll baits. Sometimes they are just a lot of fun to catch and release on lighter line.
Longtail tuna have been abundant so far this year (one of the best seasons for nearly a decade I reckon) but so have the sharks during the warmer months. Although I have managed a few nice longtails to almost 18kg, the sharks have engulfed numerous fish after 20 minutes or so. This is quite annoying, especially when you lose the lure as well. Mostly the sharks have been big bull sharks between 2m and a bit over 3m in length, but the occasional tiger shark has also had a free feed at an angler’s expense.
Longtails have been found in all corners of the bay, however areas such as the zone between Mud Island, the Measured Mile and Four Beacons, as well as the northern side of ‘The Paddock’ green zone and Lucinda Bay has been where I have encountered most of mine. The area to the north of Harry Atkinson, Naval Reserve Banks, Hope Banks, Banana Banks and fringes of Peel Island are other spots worth looking. Often there will be only a couple of longtails feeding together, so some thoughtful boat driving and observation of any birds following overhead is often needed to ensure you are on the spot when the money cast needs to be made.
Although chromed slugs and slices will tempt longtails (my favourites are the Maria Mucho Lucir 25g and 35g) more anglers are finding success on the larger fish while using stickbaits, jerkshad plastics, poppers and sliders. Hopefully by now the cooling waters have decreased the abundance and aggressiveness of the shark population to some degree, so we may be able to get a few more of these sashimi torpedoes to the boat.
On lighter tackle (6-10kg) longtails are an extremely tough adversary. Many anglers fish 15kg or heavier to give themselves the best chance of landing larger fish. Generally these tuna are in good enough condition for release, which they often aren’t after prolonged (generally more than an hour) fights on lighter tackle. Live baiting around the beacons and areas where currents converge (like Shark Spit) will often reward with a trophy longtail better than 15kg. Slimy mackerel, yakkas, pike and numerous other live baits will produce the goods when fished mid water or closer to the surface suspended beneath a float. Circle hooks on 50-80lb fluorocarbon leaders are recommended. Mack tuna, mackerel, cobia and several others are likely to smash live baits in many areas.
Already some quality snapper have been taken in the Brisbane River. These have engulfed small live baits (poddy mullet, herring and prawns) and smashed numerous lures including plastics, vibration baits, blades and occasionally trolled minnow lures. Good places to try include Claras Rocks, the Sunken Wall, rock retaining wall at the river mouth, the Caltex reach, the front of most prominent jetties and along the edges of the declines into the main river basin, especially around the Oil Pipeline. A few have even been taken by land-based anglers, mainly on small soft plastics and numerous baits fished along the rock walls and jetties.
With the increase in prawn numbers within the river over the last few months, threadfin have been fairly active, often moving up and down the river with the tidal movement, following the prawn schools. Anglers fishing from the shore have been regularly scoring on these amazing sportfish, especially those fishing live baits. These have been caught right along the river’s length, however because a large proportion of anglers are fishing locations such as the Colmslie Jetty, Newstead jetty and beneath the Gateway Bridge, most of the land-based reports have come from these locations. If you own a cast net, bait is generally fairly easy to obtain on-site at these locations.
Boating anglers have had a greater array of locations to soak baits and work lures. Most have fished the lower reaches downriver from the Gateway Bridge, generally using side imaging sounders to locate their target species before casting. Threadies will generally inhabit the same locations as snapper, however large schools can often be found mid-water or amongst the pylons of the larger jetties. In addition, species such as estuary cod, flathead, bream, sharks and mulloway will be caught within the Brisbane River during April.
April offers plenty of opportunities for anglers and it is one of those months where a surprising array of species can be taken. The prominent warmer water species can still be hanging around, and the cooler water species such as mulloway, tailor and snapper are already making their presence known. A good array of both pelagics and demersal species abound in both the bay and offshore waters. Cooler water and air temperatures, a good array of options and school holidays make April an amazing month to get the family out on the water in the boat or to a good land-based location to soak a line. A broad array of species will be active in April and you should be too.Reads: 941