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Chasing ghosts
  |  First Published: May 2016



The warmth of summer is a distant memory as we prepare for winter. I dislike the cooler weather, however the one positive is the abundance of new species to target. Increasing numbers of mulloway, tailor, bream, snapper, squid and numerous other species are on offer for anglers during May. While early mornings can be chilly, anglers who get out early can get into some hot fishing action. Let’s explore a few possibilities for the coming month.

MULLOWAY

Often referred to as ‘ghosts of the estuary’ due to their elusive nature, mulloway have become a common capture through Southern Queensland since the 2011 floods. Quality mulloway to over a metre in length can be caught in most of the major rivers, estuary systems and within Moreton Bay. Mulloway are commonly taken on both lures and baits. While live offerings can achieve some satisfying results, lures allow you to cover a lot more water. Skilled anglers locate a school of mulloway with their electronics and present their favourite offering right to them.

Common offerings are jighead-rigged soft plastics (especially paddle-tails, curl-tails and crustacean profiles) and vibration baits (hard, soft and blades). However, other lures such as micro-jigs, and diving minnows will produce. Mulloway can be opportunistic feeders at times, but they can also be pedantic, only coming on the chew around the tide changes. Being in the right place at the right time is key, no matter what baits or lures you present. Live baits generally beat dead offerings and are definitely the key to secure larger specimens over 10kg. Banana prawns, herring, slimy mackerel, yakkas, cowanyoung, mullet, pike and diver whiting offer great choices as live offerings.

The Brisbane River, Caboolture River, Logan River, Jumpinpin and Pumicestone Passage are prime locations. In the Brisbane River, mulloway are often found along the edges of the decline into the main riverbed, especially around the front of the major jetties where baitfish hold. Deeper holes and ledges are worth probing along with any lighted areas where baitfish congregate at night, such as the Bribie Island Bridge. Threadfin respond to the same baits and techniques, so you will possibly encounter them while chasing mulloway in the Brisbane River.

SQUID

We should see a further increase in squid numbers as the water begin to cool during May, especially in the shallows and around the bay foreshore. Land-based squidding opportunities exist at Manly, Wynnum, Wellington Point, Scarborough, Victoria Point and many other locations. Anywhere that clean water flows over weed beds, reef, rubble grounds or other structure, is a likely spot to catch squid.

Night is the best time to target them, and the best opportunities occur around more heavily populated areas, especially on the higher stages of the tide. Anglers commonly scour these areas using high-powered LED head torches. Once a squid is located cast an egi (squid jig). Obviously the resident squid get to see a lot of jigs in the more heavily populated areas and they can become hard to tempt at times. Anglers commonly use smaller egi from size 1.2-2.5 around the foreshores.

Out in the bay the squid fishing can be quite easy with cephalopods pouncing on any jig in their vicinity. Squid can commonly be located around the Bay Island shallows, the weed beds along the western side of Moreton Island, Amity Rock Wall, the Rous Channel, Browns Gutter, the edges of the Rainbow Channel opposite Amity, and numerous other locales. Egi from size 2.0-4.0 are commonly used within the bay to tempt squid (mostly arrows and tigers). Quality egi (generally Japanese-made) will produce better results than cheaper offerings, because they have more controlled sink rates, better action and more realistic coating. The squid will hold on for longer, which increases the chance of hooking them. The rows of spikes at the rear of the egi are generally chemically sharpened, and penetrate a squid tentacle at the lightest touch. Some of the better egi brands include Yamashita, Yo-Zuri, Daiwa and Gancraft, however there are plenty of quality brands available.

It definitely pays to have several egi in a variety of colours, as squid can be particular. In deeper water it pays to allow the egi to sink before ripping it upwards with a solid strike of the rod. Allow it to sink before repeating. This will imitate the real action of a prawn – the squid will generally pounce upon the jig as it sinks. In shallower water you often have little choice but to slowly wind the jig and pause occasionally. Both retrieves work well for either species of squid.

Arrows will sometimes snub egi and prefer real bait. A whole pilchard, yakka, slimy mackerel or other dead fish is generally pinned on a squid skewer and either floated behind the boat, beneath a float or just allowed to drift mid-water. The Yamashita KTISFB Skewer is the best I have seen, and the only one I can find with chemically sharpened barbs. Floating out a baited skewer is a great way to secure a few squid when fishing around the Bay Islands, in the channels (such as the Rous), or while fishing for whiting in areas such as the Sand Hills. The squid will grab the bait and then the razor sharp tentacles will penetrate the tentacles as it tries to drag the bait away.

Because the spikes on egi and skewers do not have a barb on them like a hook, you are best to just employ an upwards motion to set the spikes more securely into the squid after a take, then simply wind the reel handle slowly to secure your prize back to the boat or shore. The rod tip will absorb the lunges of the squid to avoid tearing out the spikes. A fine meshed landing net is handy to get the squid out of the water however you can easily grasp a squid behind the head with your hand. Ensure to point the tentacles away from you to avoid an inky blast.

SNAPPER

Snapper numbers will have increased noticeably in most areas throughout Moreton Bay. While there are a lot of juveniles under the 35cm minimum legal length caught, the larger specimens are generally lurking on the fringes. It is just a matter of time before that larger knobby comes calling, so don’t be disillusioned if you are mainly catching smaller specimens. Although sometimes annoying, these smaller snapper need to be handled with care and released quickly to optimise the chance of them growing into a big red. The areas surrounding the Bay Islands, the artificial reefs, ledges and wrecks are key areas to try. All snapper respond favourably to quality bait, however I have caught a lot more quality snapper on lures over the last decade then I ever did when fishing with baits.

However, I do know many anglers successfully target snapper on bait. Small live yakkas, pike, squid and slimy mackerel are awesome offerings for quality snapper, however any fresh fillet baits, squid, whole fish or quality pilchards make ideal bait. Present your bait as naturally as possible with a 20-50lb fluorocarbon leader and the minimum of lead and you are well on your way to scoring a quality snapper.

Cast baits up current and allow them to drift down with the tidal flow while anchored. Drift with lightly weighted baits close to the bottom allows you to present offerings naturally and also cover a good degree of ground. In some of the reefy and rubble areas this may not be possible, especially when using too much lead.

Soft plastics seem to be the choice of many lure anglers who target snapper; I prefer to use soft vibration baits. The Samaki Thumper Tail has become my favourite due to the results have had on it over the last two seasons. Previously I scored on Trans Am, River2Sea Fish Candy, Samaki Vibelicious and several others. Blades are worthwhile presentations when hopped or slowly rolled close to the bottom. In the plastics department I use ZMan Diezel Minnowz and Curltailz, Atomic Prongs and numerous jerk-shad style plastics. I have taken snapper on a huge array of plastics over the years and seriously believe it is more important to present and work the offering well than it is to have any particular style, brand or colour. Snapper respond favourably to most offerings put before them.

TAILOR

Although the best is yet to come, anglers will find some decent tailor through the area over the coming weeks. The Brisbane River has already produced some good numbers of quality tailor with plenty of decent specimens over 45cm. Many of these have been caught on lures worked around the lights in the Brisbane River, especially around the docks, by anglers fishing at night. However, even those fishing the daylight hours have caught a few tailor along the retaining wall at the mouth, from around the current lines produced by the Gateway Bridge pylon bases, the numerous jetties and along the sunken wall. Many of these have fallen to live baits, pilchards or numerous lures targeted at threadfin, mulloway and snapper.

Some anglers trolled diving minnow lures along the retaining wall at the mouth, the edge of the main channel leading eastwards from the sewerage shute, or the rock wall in the Caltex Reach with satisfying results. Tailor often school between the mainland and Mud, the Koopa Channel and across the flats on the northern side up to Nudgee (beware of green zones in this area). However, they are also encountered on the artificial reefs, the shallows of the bay islands, Rous Channel, Brown’s Gutter, the Amity area, many other spots through Moreton Bay and up in the estuaries and rivers.

Some land-based opportunities exist from the Amity Rock Wall, Manly Harbour Rock Walls, Woody Point, Shorncliffe Pier (now re-opened), Redcliffe Jetty, around the Bribie Island Bridge, Hornibrook Highway Bridge and numerous other spots. If there are lights shining onto the water at night, which attract baitfish, then there is a high possibility of a few tailor lurking nearby. Tailor are voracious feeders and will engulf most lures and a broad array of baits, especially whole fish baits such as hardiheads, whitebait, pilchards, gar and herring.

OTHER OPTIONS

There should still be a few prawns around during May, especially at locations such as ‘The Saltworks’ (between Karragarra and Macleay Islands), the Logan River, flats off Nudgee, Cleveland Bay and a few other spots.

School mackerel will still be lurking around the bay, most likely along the edges of the reef at Peel, around the beacons in the northern bay, the artificial reefs and the Rous Channel. Float out a pilchard while you target snapper in these areas to produce a mackerel or tailor. Jigging the beacons with chromed slices and slugs will often reward anglers with a schoolie or two.

Numbers of bream will be on the increase during May and these will be encountered almost anywhere in the estuaries, Bay Island shallows, canals and creeks. The deeper scoured out areas adjacent to the jetties and pylons in the Brisbane River as well as Claras Rocks often hold some stud bream. Quality fresh bait will generally reward anglers with better quality bream. Small soft plastics and blades are also productive in the hands of skilled anglers.

It has been a great year for longtail tuna in Moreton bay and we have been blessed with both quality and quantity. There have been heaps of 15kg+ specimens and even a few well over 20kg hitting the decks. Anglers have predominately cast metal slices, jerk-shad plastics and stick baits to tempt these sashimi barrels. A few have been taken on live baits from around the beacons and along the ledges in the northern bay.

Crabs will thin out over the next few weeks, however this will depend on water temperatures. Set a few pots for both mud and sand crabs, but you will need to check to ensure the crabs are full enough to be worth keeping. Any light crabs should be returned to the water pronto.

If the last few seasons are anything to go by then there will be a few Spanish mackerel caught within Moreton Bay during May. These have shown up randomly around the beacons, the channel on the south-eastern side of Peel, the Harry Atkinson, Curtain Artificial, the dog-leg in the Rous Channel and Mud Island. Have quality live bait out under a balloon especially around first light.

Cooling temperatures will change up the piscatorial line-up this month, however there are still plenty of worthwhile targets in the bay, rivers, estuaries and canals. Many anglers will be excited to know that snapper numbers in the bay are on the increase.

May is one of those months where that next hit could be a tailor or mangrove jack. Cooler mornings may require an extra layer of clothes and a second warming coffee, but the piscatorial rewards are out there for the taking. May the fish be with you!

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