December usually marks the arrival of the warm East Australian Current on the inshore grounds off the Gold Coast and with it the arrival of mahimahi, juvenile black marlin, mackerel, tuna and wahoo. It’s always hard to predict the abundance of certain species, and the news from more northern ports as far as the run of juvenile black marlin is concerned is not encouraging.
There have been relatively few black marlin on the inshore grounds off Central Queensland this spring. Despite this, it’s still worth the time to troll skirted lures off the Gold Coast this month, as it’s usually a very good month to chase mahimahi, and a marlin may be a welcome bonus. Early in the season, I work the 40-50m line east of South Stradbroke, the Gravel Patch off Burleigh Heads and Sullies east of the Jumpinpin Bar.
Look for bait, birds and marlin on your echo sounder. I’ve had a few surprises over the years, where the inshore run of small 15-30kg marlin are mostly absent, but a lot of bigger 40-100kg fish show up. For this reason I troll 15kg tackle on the inshore grounds, until I get a feel for the general size of the fish. We’re also due for a good wahoo season this month, after two relatively poor seasons.
Out on the wider grounds beyond the continental shelf, there should be decent blue marlin fishing. Mid-October, the water temperature was up to 25°C on the wide grounds and we caught blue marlin every day we targeted them. This month should see an increase in the strike rate. From a small boat, this type of fishing is not for the faint hearted. The fish average around 140kg. When they grab a lure, the take-off is at blistering speed.
I use 37kg stand up tackle and troll a spread of five lures with two of us on board. When we hook-up, I drive after the fish straight away and clear the rest of the gear later. The first few minutes are quite chaotic and very busy. What I’ve learnt is to not leave the wheel. If you get caught winding in the other lines and leave the wheel, there’s a very good chance of losing all your line and getting spooled.
On the inshore grounds, there are usually a few spotted mackerel, tuna and the odd Spanish mackerel at places like Palm Beach Reef. Some seasons see a great inshore run of cobia. Chopped pilchards and a lot of berley will bring the fish to you, but you need a bit of current for this to work.
Bottom fishing in December can be tough and very restricted by strong current. The snapper run is over and pearl perch become scarce, but there are often a few pigfish and rosy snapper on the 36 and 50 fathom lines, as well as the odd amberjack. These reefs are also worth a troll if the bottom fishing is slow. I always put a couple of lures out when moving between spots. This area produces wahoo, mahimahi and marlin on a regular basis.
As the water warms up, the activity changes. Flathead catches drop off markedly in December, but there are still quite a few to be caught in deeper water. Whiting catches improve. Mangrove jack, trevally and estuary cod become a lot more active. It’s also a great month to dust off the crab pots in anticipation of a good feed of mud crabs.
I really enjoy targeting whiting on poppers in December. Unlike most types of fishing, whiting bite better in strong winds, particularly on surface lures. Work weedy sand edges, where the tide is pushing up onto the flats in 15-100cm of water, with small poppers and stickbaits along the edges. It’s amazing how aggressive a whiting can be. The retrieve needs to be a fast wind, and if you see a whiting chasing your lure, don’t slow the retrieve down.
I’ve caught some beauties over 38cm on poppers. My best was a tad over 41cm to the fork of the tail. It’s an interesting and challenging way to fish, and the average session produces 3–8 fish, with a few bream and flathead. Like most things, the more you go, the better your results will be.
December is a great month for mangrove jack, particularly if there are humid, stormy conditions. Casting paddle-tail plastics around floating pontoons is the most popular method, but hardbodied lures are also very effective at times. Live baits such as mullet and herring can be deadly at times, particularly after a bit of rain. The Coomera and Nerang rivers usually produce the most fish. Poppers fished in the early morning before sunrise are also very effective this month.
In the Seaway and Jumpinpin entrances, there are usually quite a few big-eye and giant trevally and a few mulloway about in December, as well as the summer run of chopper tailer. Live baits, soft vibes and plastics are all very effective, and the run in tide is generally the most productive time to fish the entrances. A few big flathead also turn up in the deep water.
Mud and sand crabs are on the move in December, particularly after heavy rain. Crabbing takes a bit of practice, and the key is to use good oily fresh bait such as tuna, mullet or fresh chicken frames. I like to crab on the run in tide and work areas where there’s a bit of current flow. I check my pots every 30-60 minutes and move them around a bit until I find the right depth. Crabs move a lot this month and you often find that the second to third hour of the run in tide is the most productive time.
Overall, December is a great month to fish the Gold Coast. A feed of mud crabs and mahimahi is our standard menu at this time of year. Have a safe and happy holiday season and good fishing!Reads: 307