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Spoilt for choice – table fish and sportfish
  |  First Published: October 2016



October is a good month for anglers fishing waters within the Moreton Bay region. The bay, creeks, rivers and estuaries offer an array of worthy sportfishing targets, and quality table fare. Species commonly caught include school mackerel, threadfin, mangrove jack, flathead, crabs, estuary cod, snapper and numerous others.

Throughout the month you will still have a chance of scoring a few squid, mulloway and perhaps even the odd decent tailor. Pelagics such as mac tuna, bonito, longtail tuna and cobia may also be around in varied numbers for anglers venturing throughout the bay. The weather and fishing action have warmed in unison, so now is a good time to get out and target a few of these beauties.

MANGROVE JACK

A favoured estuarine target for serious anglers during October is the crimson assailant called the mangrove jack. There’s a band of hardcore jack anglers who spend huge amounts of time on the water learning the jack’s habits, becoming intimate with the waterways they fish. These anglers regularly produce the goods on the red fish, which goes to show that there’s no substitute for time on the water.

Mangrove jack like to hunt and reside around prominent structure. This includes rock walls, bridge pylons, mangrove snags, pontoons, jetties and almost any submerged structure. Water flow is important, as the jacks rely on flows to bring foods like baitfish, prawns, crabs and other morsels. They will dart from their lair, engulf food and return to cover in the blink of an eye. For the angler, this highlights a need for lightning fast reflexes, a sturdy drag setting, positive thumb lock on the spool and a good degree of quality rod work, with some luck to subdue the majority of the better specimens.

Lures and baits can both be used to good effect on jacks. Live offerings such as herring, mullet, prawns and pike will all produce strikes. Occasionally these same dead baits, as well as mullet and other fillet, strips will work. However, most keen anglers choose lures in their search, as they can cover a lot of water, and put their offerings close to structure where the jacks lurk.

Diving minnow lures, soft plastics, poppers, vibration baits and numerous others can be employed to get strikes. Suspending lures can be paused and worked slowly in front of structure to tempt hesitant fish. Soft plastics can be rigged in a weedless fashion to be worked over or adjacent to heavy structure without fouling. TT SnakelockZ are ideal for fishing plastic shads and crustacean profiles on, and will rarely foul up when worked through tough structure.

The canal systems and populated river systems such as the Coomera and Nerang have plenty of structure, which makes them ideal jack habitats. The currents flow and eddy past these structures – jacks will lurk in the calmer areas of water, waiting for an opportunistic feed. Cast your lures close to these zones to increase your chances. Accurate casting is highly important. A few feet, where your lure lands, can be the difference between getting a strike or not. Most anglers use baitcasting tackle, as it lends itself to more accurate casting, but quality spin outfits will also suffice.

Anglers commonly use line classes of 7-15kg, mainly braid, as its castability and lack of stretch are positives for targeting jacks. Serious jack anglers will release the majority of their catches, as they appreciate the sporting prowess of the fish more than its eating quality. They want to ensure they catch quality jacks for years to come. Jacks have a minimum size limit of 35cm with a bag limit of 5. You’re best to minimise your take of this iconic estuarine brawler.

FLATHEAD

Great numbers of flathead have already been caught this season, by anglers fishing the estuarine systems in Southern Queensland. Numerous crocodiles, large flathead to over 90cm, have been caught and released over the last two months or so. Sessions can produce excess of thirty flathead per angler, with an intimate knowledge of the waterway.

At this time of year, flathead are often found in numbers, with one large female surrounded by numerous smaller males. If you catch one fish in an area, it’s worth subsequent casts, as you’re likely to catch several more. The size slot for flathead is 40-75cm with a bag limit of five fish per person. Any fish not destined for the table, especially larger females, should be handled carefully and released quickly to guarantee their chances of survival.

Learning your waterway is definitely the key to consistent success on flathead. Know where the flathead are likely to be at certain stages of the tide. Work the upper areas of flats and shallow gutters on the higher stages of the tide, the edges of major banks and flats as the tide begins to fall, and the deeper main channels and holes towards the low tide.

Probably the easiest fishing opportunities come from trolling minnow lures, or casting plastics and vibration baits, along the edges of major banks systems during the first of the run out tide. Drift baits like hardiheads, whitebait and pilchards in the main channels towards the lower stages of the tide – this is an easy way for inexperienced anglers to get amongst a few flatties.

CRABS

As the waters begin to warm, the presence of crabs will become more noticeable within the estuaries and bay. Both sand and mud crabs will be available, for those setting safety pots with baits like fish frames, chicken carcasses, whole mullet or even a few pillies in a mesh bag. Set your pots further up the creek, river and estuarine systems for the best chance at scoring mud crabs.

The deeper holes, collapsed mangrove banks, small gutters and drains feeding off the mangrove flats, are prime areas to set your pots. Leaving your pots to soak for at least a few hours, preferably over a tidal change will heighten your chances. Set your pots overnight to almost guarantee success, if you set in the right environment – muddies will move around to feed during the darkened hours.

Sand and blue swimmer crabs become more prominent towards the mouth of creeks and estuaries, and well out into the bay. Set pots along the edges of the channels and riverbeds, along the outer contours of the bay islands and in major channels – it will likely reward. Check your pots every few hours and don’t venturing too far from them, because pot theft is all too common. There are differing size and bag limits for crab species, and differing ways to measure them, so check regulations on crabbing and apparatus before venturing out.

ESTUARY COD

As the water temperatures rise, the activity of estuary cod will also increase. While these are regularly taken as by-catch of anglers targeting mangrove jack, specific targeting can increase your chances for both black-spot and gold-spot estuary cod. Both species are commonly taken around prominent structure, but they like to lurk around rock walls. This provides them with plenty of recesses and cavities between the rocks, where they can lurk and hunt in ambush mode.

The rock walls at the mouth of the canal systems, the Sunken Wall in the Brisbane River and the retaining wall at the mouth are good areas to target estuary cod. Additionally, the rock walls surrounding Mud Island, the shallow reefs surrounding the bay islands, and the deep structures offered by the artificial reefs, all provide good estuary cod habitats.

Cod love crabs, therefore any rock walls sporting a resident population of crab is likely to hold some quality cod. Banging and rattling your lures across these structures is likely to attract attention. Deep diving minnow lures and soft plastics are prime offerings for cod. Once the strike’s on, you’ll need some quality rod work and serious drag to pry the cod away from structure and prevent them from burying you back between the rock crevices. Although they often sport an unpleasant smell from their digestive juices after captures, their flesh is white and flavoursome.

SCHOOL MACKEREL

Numbers of school mackerel will increase throughout the month within Moreton Bay. The Rous Channel is usually one of the more reliable spots during October, but most of the major channels will hold a few decent schoolies. Towards the upper stages of the tide, school mackerel can often be located up on top of the major banks systems, such as Middle and Tangalooma banks.

They can be tempted with fast trolled minnow lures. I use lures between 90-120mm and troll them across the top of the flats as fast as possible on 10lb braid. As the tide turns and begins to fall, the edges of these flats are often worth some attention with your minnow lures, trolled spoons or drifted pilchards.

Jig the beacons in the northern bay with chromed slugs and slices, or drift pilchards into the depths adjacent them for another way to score schoolies. The Measured Mile is often a good option on an early morning rising tide, for anglers floating pilchards. A steady stream of finely sliced pilchard pieces can bring the action to your area.

Trolling spoons behind paravanes is a popular and successful way to probe the deeper channels such as the upper reaches of the Rous, the Pearl, Rainbow and Little Ships Channel. See last month’s QFM for the basics of rigging these spoons and paravanes. Even the deeper channels wide of the bay islands can hold decent quality school mackerel during October. If you are fishing on the drift around the bay islands or the artificial reefs, it will generally pay to have a pilchard rigged on ganged hooks out behind the boat as the occasional school mackerel will be lurking in these zones.

THREADFIN SALMON

As the water temperatures begin to warm, we’ll see greater concentrations of threadfin salmon in the lower reaches of the Brisbane River, and other major river systems of the South East. Good numbers of threadies have been caught in the Logan, as well as the Caboolture River, Pine River, Pumicestone Passage waters and other systems. Threadies seem to have a decent hold on most waterways of Southern Queensland, and we’re also seeing a marked increase in the capture of species like barramundi, grunter, queenfish and other species considered tropical water fare.

Threadfin are easy to locate with side imaging sounders, as they show up prominently. They’re commonly along the edges of the drop-offs into the main riverbed and submerged ledges. They respond to a broad array of lures and I’ve taken them on vibration baits, soft plastics (curl-tails, prawn profiles and shad styles), flies and minnow lures.

Additionally, anglers have used micro jigs, poppers, stickbaits and sliders to good effect. Good places to begin your search in the Brisbane River include the dredge holes along the retaining wall at the mouth, Clara’s Rocks, the rocky ledge upriver from the beacon, near the sewerage shute, and the drop-off into the main riverbed adjacent to the oil pipeline. These areas can be probed with lures, or you can take the relaxed approach and soak a few live baits such as herring, mullet, large prawns and pike.

CONCLUSION

October is an interesting month for anglers as you encounter an array of species. In addition to those highlighted through this article, there’s a good chance of getting amongst a few cobia, longtail tuna, snapper, sweetlip and tuskfish while fishing Moreton Bay.

Angler in estuaries will find tarpon, trevally, mulloway, bream, whiting and other desirables. You never know what will eat your lure or bait next. We’re very lucky to have such variety in Southern Queensland with estuarine, freshwater, bay and bluewater targets on offer. The fish are out there and hungry, so get into the sunshine and get amongst them.

1

Mangrove jacks are a highly prized capture in the estuaries for most keen anglers. Even a moderately sized jack like this can leave you with a frayed line and an astounded look on your face within a split second of the strike.

2

While estuary cod are often taken as by-catch when jack fishing, some quality specimens are also recorded from Moreton Bay. Mark recently scored this one on a Thumpertail from the Harry Atkinson.

3

Mud crabs will be located in the estuaries in decent numbers throughout October. Ensure you’re familiar with the different ways of measuring mud and sand crabs, and that your crabbing apparatus complies with legal requirements.

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