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Break out the winter woollies!
  |  First Published: July 2016



You will definitely have the winter woollies out by now for those early morning starts! While cold weather can make the fishing a little less comfortable than usual, the variety of species on offer is refreshing. The snapper run was somewhat delayed this year, but there are decent numbers now being taken throughout Moreton Bay and around the lower reaches of the Brisbane River and the Pumicestone Passage. Other cool weather species that have made their presence known are mulloway, squid, tailor, bream and luderick. Get your casting arm warmed up for some of these beauties.

LUDERICK

Luderick are an unusual species and few anglers encounter them without specific targeted techniques as these fish are primarily vegetarian. Rigging up for this species is quite different than most other species, yet the rewards are there for those who want to try. Anglers commonly use weed baits suspended below a near-neutral buoyancy float to target luderick.

As you move into cockroach country blackfish become a lot more common, however there are still plenty of places locally to chase them. I was lucky to be taught the art of luderick fishing by the late Les James who was an awesome luderick angler and an old-school gentleman. We spent many hours watching the tip of our floats drift along the rock wall at Boat Passage and along the mangrove edge around Short Island and Crusoe Island. However, there are many other areas close-by that will hold quality luderick including the rock walls at the mouths of the canal systems, the Sunken Wall in the Brisbane River, Gold Coast Seaway, Wavebreak Island walls, Breakfast Creek, the entrance to Weinam Creek, Caloundra Boardwalk and many other locations. If there is weed growing on the rocks and a decent water flow then there is a good chance there will be a few luderick around. They are a very interesting species and a real challenge to target. Luderick are only available in Southern Queensland during the cooler months so you will need to get organised to get among them.

If you want to know exactly how to rig for luderick then check out my techniques column in this issue.

SNAPPER

The snapper season had a fairly slow and belated start this year, probably due to the unusually warm water temperatures during May and early June. However, decent numbers of quality fish have been caught in recently, and we should see the main run of snapper continue over the coming months. The usual grounds throughout the bay have again produced the goods for anglers fishing baits and lures. The margins of the bay islands, the artificial reefs, Scarborough Reef and numerous other productive locations scattered through the bay will all hold quality snapper and numerous other species such as sweetlip, tuskfish and others. Obviously there are also many lesser-known spots that anglers have found, including wrecks and small patches of rubble, coffee rock and reef. Most of these are closely guarded secrets by those who have found them and I know plenty of anglers who will only fish their grounds in the dark of night or when conditions are less than favourable and there are few anglers out on the water. Being stealthy is extremely important for those who want to secure the better quality knobbies, especially in the shallows less than 10m in depth.

It never ceases to amaze me how many anglers will drive all over the ground they intend to fish first before anchoring. A better option would be to approach your spot from an up-current position then anchor and let out rope until you are within reach of your chosen zone. When working ground while drifting, you should only use your electric motor for positioning. When repositioning it is best to skirt wide of the ground you want to work (and well clear of other anglers) as you motor around to restart your drift. Effort like this will greatly increase the productiveness of the area you are fishing for you and other anglers.

Anglers fishing in kayaks and small craft easily reach shallow areas such as the grounds out from Wellington Point, Cleveland and Scarborough Reef. A stealthy approach is a must when fishing these grounds and anglers are often surprised at the quality of the snapper than can be taken from these areas with subtle rigging, especially early morning, evening and night.

Snapper respond to a broad array of offerings. Quality fresh or live baits are ideal, especially when presented with simple yet strong rigging. Quality hooks, fluorocarbon leaders and a minimum of sinker weight will all help to tempt those wary specimens. Baits do not need to be anchored right on the bottom and having them in the lower third of the water column is sufficient to hook some quality reds. With so many squid around the bay it goes without saying that these are a good bait for anglers to use. When lightly pinned through the hood and the head on a snelled hook rig and sent back into the depths, squid will get the attention of any quality fish in the area within a short period. Other fresh snapper baits that are easily caught in the bay include pike, yakkas and diver whiting, although a broad array of other offerings both fresh and frozen will produce the goods.

Those who like to cast lures find that soft plastics, vibration baits (both hard and soft) and micro jigs commonly tempt snapper within Moreton Bay. Deep diving minnow lures are great for trolling, which is ideal when you want to explore a reasonable area of water, especially around rubble grounds. In addition to snapper, these lures are likely to produce sweetlip, estuary cod, mulloway, mackerel and numerous other species.

TAILOR

Numbers of undersize tailor began to show up in Moreton Bay late in April. During the last month or so, we have seen increasing numbers of legal specimens being caught within the bay, Brisbane River, Jumpinpin Area, lower reaches of the Pumicestone Passage and numerous other areas. Land-based anglers have reaped rewards at the Woody Point Jetty, Manly Rock Wall, Amity Point Rock Wall, Scarborough Jetty and even at a few spots along the Brisbane River.

The eastern facing beaches of Moreton and Stradbroke islands have produced some quality tailor, although the numbers have not been spectacular yet. Anglers catching trophy greenbacks often put in the hours with quality baits such as gar or bonito strips and fish well into the night, or hit their favourite gutters an hour or two before sunrise. Beach anglers should see better results in the next few months as the water temperatures fall and the baitfish schools become more predominant along the beaches. Within the bay, tailor have been taken at the artificial reefs, Scarborough Reef and the bay island shallows. Some decent specimens have been taken at Peel Island by anglers working plastics and crankbaits along the edge of the reef on the top of the tide and the start of the run-out. Tailor will lurk along this reef edge, preying on morsels flushed from the shallows as the tide falls. An occasional longtail tuna will also be found in this zone.

SQUID

Even early in April, good quality squid were being caught around the bay island shallows and the edges of the major channels. Clear water conditions are essential for good squidding, and with a lack of rain late in summer, the clarity has been good through most of the bay. Many squid I caught early in the season were well over 1kg, which must be from last year’s stocks. Squid grow quickly and many do not live much past a year or so. Most reach maturity quickly and female tiger squid will breed at anywhere between 90-160 days of age. Many anglers caught their squid simply by dragging a squid jig (egi) along behind them as they drifted the sand banks targeting whiting or the bay islands shallows pursuing snapper.

Squid often attack drifted baits such as pilchards, which were meant for other species. Many anglers think they are getting a bite, yet the line goes slack once they strike. This is commonly because a squid has been sucking on your bait, yet they are rarely subdued on normal rigs. If you think there are a few squid around, it is often worth casting out an egi or a baited skewer. If I think a squid is attacking my bait, I will often wind it in slowly to keep the squid still chewing on it then throw an egi out behind him, before pulling the pilchard out of the water. The squid will generally attack and hook-up on the egi and you will have the makings of a good calamari entrée.

The shallows of Mud, Green, Coochiemudlo, Peel, Bird and Goat are popular with anglers casting egi for squid, yet there is a myriad of other locations where they can be found. I often chase mine along the edges of the Rous and Rainbow Channels, especially in areas where weed beds or the bottom is discoloured. The general technique is to cast out an egi and then allow it to sink almost to the bottom before raising the rod tip abruptly. Allow it to sink again and then repeat. Sometimes a slow wind of the reel handle with occasional pauses is all that is required to get a squid interested. In clear water, their attacks on your egi are quite visible. Apart from being a tasty form of seafood, catching squid can be a lot of fun for inexperienced and junior anglers. Just ensure that you face the tentacle end away from you and the boat otherwise you might receive an inky blast.

Land-based anglers can get among the squid around the Wynnum and Manly foreshore, Scarborough and Redcliff area, Wellington Point, Victoria Point and several other areas. Usually around the higher tidal stages is best, as squid will come in close to hunt around the rock walls and jetties. While blind casting with egi (usually 1.2-2.5 size) around likely areas will produce the goods, many like to use high powered head torches to locate squid close to the surface. This can work well, but you will often walk past squid lurking a little deeper in the water column.

BRISBANE RIVER

Although this waterway receives a huge amount of pressure, it still continues to produce good numbers of quality fish for the skilled or lucky fisher. King threadfin, mulloway, tailor, snapper, bream, flathead and many other species are common captures for anglers fishing the river during July. Threadies seem to be a little more common further upriver than they are during the warmer months. Although still encountered in the lower reaches, the area upriver from the Gateway Bridge, tends to hold better numbers. Whether these move up following the prawn schools, or for some other reason, I am not sure. They can be encountered virtually all the way up to Mount Crosby, although some areas hold better concentrations than others. Many anglers fish around the lighted areas at night and encounter the occasional quality fish casting lures in these areas. Side imaging sounders can generally be used to locate decent numbers of threadfin, as they show up quite prominently due to their large air bladders.

Snapper numbers can be fairly healthy in the lower reaches of the river during the cooler months. Anglers can sometimes encounter snapper to well over 70cm in length on both lures and live baits. Plenty of smaller specimens are also there to reward anglers and are often caught as by-catch by those who target bream, mulloway or other species. Many of these are caught along the retaining wall at the mouth, the sunken wall, Claras Rocks, from adjacent to the main jetties (especially around the bases of the pylons), the Caltex Reach wall, the decline adjacent the Oil Pipeline and the rock wall at the northern end of Boat Passage where the tugs moor. These will respond to vibes, soft plastics, micro jigs and numerous other artificials, as well as a broad array of baits, both alive and dead.

Mulloway numbers have been good leading up to July and I see no reason why their numbers won’t continue to flourish over the next few months. They will also respond well to a broad array of baits and lures and can be quite aggressive predators right up the river to well past the city reaches. For some reason we rarely see mulloway caught at weights much over 10kg in the river. Maybe the resident bull shark population keeps the numbers of larger, slower moving specimens at bay. However, regular captures of mulloway to 1m+ are enough to keep keen anglers casting their plastics, vibration baits and other lures. Live baits will generally produce good results when fished in the deeper holes and along the ledges. Mullet are prime offerings however large prawns, herring and pike are definitely worth using.

There will be some good numbers of quality fish to be caught over the coming months. No matter when you fish the bay, the Brisbane River or estuarine systems, there will be plenty of variety to sample. Although I generally find it bitterly cold during July, I am still tempted to get out among the great species on offer.

Early morning and night time sojourns often produce some of the best opportunity, however, you will have to don plenty of winter garb to guarantee your comfort level. Winter will be over before we know it, so start catching the quality species on offer before they diminish in numbers for another eight months or so.

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