With the hot sun bearing down during December, water temperatures will be high and piscatorial activity at a premium. Late afternoon storms are commonly preceded by rising barometers, and this heightens the activity and aggressiveness of many species, from inshore mangrove jacks to offshore marlin. December offers anglers some quality fishing with species such as mackerel, longtail tuna, mangrove jacks, sharks, threadfin, crabs and numerous others.
With the hot sun beating down, it pays to don some protective clothing, apply sunscreen and keep up the hydrating fluids to avoid a case of sunstroke, sunburn or dehydration. However, with such quality seafood on offer, the effort to slip, slop, slap and slurp is a small price to pay for an enjoyable day of piscatorial action. Plenty of anglers will be on holidays during December, and the kids will be keen for adventure during their Christmas break, so there will be a lot of activity on the water. Whilst this can require a little more patience at the ramp, and sometimes tolerance of poor etiquette on the water, there’s plenty of quality fish for thinking anglers. Let’s look at a few options.
Mackerel should be around in good numbers during December. School mackerel have been common captures for bay anglers for the last three months or so, however we should see an increase in spotted mackerel numbers during December. When these sleek and succulent silver speedsters will decide to show up is anyone’s guess, however last year they were present late in November in some areas and really kicked into gear during December. Surface feeding schools could be located right throughout Moreton Bay.
I found a lot of action in the Mud Island to Measured Mile to Four Beacons area, as well as the northern side of ‘The Paddock’ green zone and into Lucinda Bay. The spotties were very easy to approach and would eat almost anything you threw at them, from small chromed slices and jerkshad plastics to quite large stickbaits. The spotties commonly ranged in size from 60cm to 85cm and were a lot of fun, as well as tasty table fare.
Commonly the schools were sighted from a distance as their surface feeding antics caused quite a ruckus on the surface. The birds circling overhead and diving into the melee were a dead giveaway. The numerous glassed-out days didn’t do the mackerel any favours as their antics could be seen from several kilometres away at times. During adverse conditions when the water surface is disturbed and there is more broken water due to wave activity, the mackerel are a lot harder to sight, especially when birds aren’t present. In calm conditions spotted mackerel can even be sighted just cruising beneath the surface. The small V-shaped wakes are an indicator of this activity, and a quick cast with a chromed slug, 10-15m ahead of them, will generally entice a follow when retrieved flat stick.
The Measured Mile is a popular area for boats to anchor and float out pilchards rigged on ganged hooks. A small amount of lead can be used to get the bait down a bit when the current is strong. Often all baits in the water will go off within a few seconds of each other when a mackerel school cruises past. If you still have a spare hand, casting out a chromed slug and allowing it to sink a bit before retrieving back at speed will often produce a hit. Berleying with thin slices of pilchard can keep the mackerel in the area, and keep them on the chew. The same approach can be used for most of the beacons in the shipping channels north and east of this structure.
Jigging beacons with chromed slugs or slices will produce a few mackerel, mainly schoolies. You can even catch them on jighead-rigged plastics including the ZMan 5” StreakZ (bubblegum is a popular colour), Samaki Boom Baits Rattlesnake 5” or Forking Jerk 5”.
Micro jigs can also be used around the beacons, and are a great way to produce a few strikes around the artificial reefs such as Curtin, Harry Atkinson and Peel Artificial. Often when I drift over these areas casting soft plastics, I keep an eye on my sounder for positive signs below. When these are found, I can quickly free-spool a micro jig and put it right in the fish’s face, which will generally elicit a strike. Most micro jigs work well, and I rig these with a short 30lb multi-strand wire trace in front to limit bite offs. The new Storm Gomoku Slow Rocker 40g has been just one of the micro jigs producing the goods on mackerel and snapper for me of late.
Warm conditions can produce some awesome crabbing with sand/blue swimmer and mud crabs on offer for those setting safety pots baited with fish frames, whole mullet, chicken carcasses and other tasty morsels. The deeper holes up in the estuaries and rivers, collapsed mangrove banks, the mouths of small creeks and gutters leading from the mangroves are ideal places to set your pots for muddies. Down around the mouths of the estuarine systems you may also score a few sand crabs, however these are more common out in the bay. Setting your pots along the edges of contour lines and ledges, in the deeper channels and along the edges of bank systems should result in sand crabs coming up in pots. Setting pots at different depths is a good way to determine where the best crabs are travelling.
Remember to check that your crabbing apparatus complies with current regulations (especially in regards to labelling of your pots) before setting out. Being able to identify the different crab species is also important because there are different sizes and ways of measuring each species. You also need to know the difference between males (bucks) and females (jennies) because you are only permitted to keep male crabs in Queensland.
Good numbers of threadfin are being found throughout most estuarine systems of Southern Queensland. Locating them in each system is made a lot easier with the use of side imaging sounders. The threadfin show up quite prominently due to their large air bladder.
Once you have located the threadies, you can target them with cast lures such as vibration baits, jighead-rigged plastics, and sometimes suspending minnow lures. In deeper areas, such as the Brisbane River where currents can be quite strong, micro jigs are also exceptionally productive lures. Getting to know your system well will fast-track your path to success on any given day. Anglers in the know are consistently catching threadies in the Brisbane, Logan, Caboolture, Pine and many other systems.
In the Brisbane River most of the action happens in the lower reaches during the warmer months, as the threadies move into the lower reaches and even to the shallows north and south of the mouth to breed. As they commonly school in breeding aggregations, quite a few can be caught once you find them. The netters targeting small sharks, whiting, bream and the like on the shallow flats either side of the Brisbane River often encounter large numbers (sometimes tons) of threadfin salmon, which goes to show these fish will venture well outside the mouth of river systems. Specimens have been caught from around the beacons well out into the bay and the western side of Mud Island. Soft vibration baits are my favourite offering for threadies in the river, but many lures will work when put in the zone.
For a more relaxed approach, live baits will reward when fished along the edges of the decline into the main river basin, especially during a falling tide. Live prawns, mullet, gar, pike and herring are all worth using. Baits are best fished fairly close to the bottom with just enough lead to keep it in this zone.
Bait fishing is a good option for fishing with the kids, as there is a lot of bycatch in the form of bream, cod, snapper, flathead, catfish, rays, sharks and others to keep them occupied. Whilst some of these species are considered vermin by seasoned anglers, kids still enjoy reeling them in, and often the bait gathering is as much of an adventure for the kids as the fishing. A cast net will quickly get you a few quality baits around the sewerage chute, Boggy Creek, Breakfast Creek, Aquarium Passage and numerous other areas. Bait schools (usually herring) can be found using your sound in many of the shallower areas such as the banks at the mouth of Boggy Creek and Claras Rocks. Live baits are a great option for land-based anglers with popular locations including around the Gateway Bridge, Colmslie Jetty, Sunken Wall, Newstead Jetty and New Farm Park.
Threadfin don’t cope well with handling therefore keeping them in the water and releasing promptly is generally the best way to guarantee survival. A release weight is a good way to return them to the depths if they are a bit bloated.
Spring wasn’t one of the best for mangrove jack, probably due to slightly lower water temperatures than usual. Hopefully water temps will rise in December, and the crimson assailants will be hitting lures at full ferocity. Casting lures around prominent structure should result in some jolting strikes. Fast reflexes and a sturdy drag setting will go a long way to putting the fight in your favour, but there are no guarantees.
Lures such as minnows (both deep and shallow models), vibration baits, soft plastics (especially prawn and baitfish profiles) and even topwater offerings such as poppers can be used. Eddies around structure, lighted areas at night and prominent structure such as mangrove snags, rock walls, bridge pylons, pontoons and the like all offer great jack habitat. Live baits can also work exceptionally well, but lures allow you to probe a lot more water in your search. Estuary cod, flathead, trevally, bream and occasional other species are encountered while chasing jacks.
Longtail numbers can be varied during December, and anglers often find them hanging along the edges of mackerel schools or at least in the general precinct of the bait schools. Last December was fairly good for anglers chasing longtails in the bay. Schools were located in the Mud Island to Measured Mile area at times, as well as around Peel, the Rainbow Channel, northern bay shipping channels and along the front of Bribie Island.
Commonly in small numbers of less than ten individuals, the longtails and were simply cruising the edges of the mayhem, slurping up the occasional morsel. At times they were also found cruising current lines, and anglers followed these fish, often using the occasional bird hovering overhead as a guide to their movements. Being Johnny-on-the-spot when they surfaced would put you in with a great chance of a hook-up, as they were eating a good range of profiles early in the season. Casting a chromed slug, stickbait, pencil popper or jerkshad plastic within their zone was often all that was required to achieve a follow and strike. The average size was in excess of 12kg, and plenty of specimens in the 15kg to 23kg range were landed.
Fish that size are tough on line of 10kg or less, and after several fights that exceeded the 90-minute mark I switched to heavier line and larger lures. The Nomad Madscad 115mm in the HGS and SAR finishes accounted for plenty of fish for me. The larger profile meant that the longtails couldn’t fully close their mouth when hooked, which also seemed to aid in tiring them out quicker.
Other favoured lures include the Yozuri Adagio 30g, Maria Mucho Lucir 35g and 45g, and the ZMan StreakZ 5” in bubblegum rigged on a HeadlockZ 1/2oz 5/0. However, these are just a few of the offerings that longtails will accept. It pays to have several different lures at your disposal as these fish can be quite fussy at times, and will only eat lures which are the same profile as the baitfish they’re currently eating.
Live baiting at areas such as Shark Spit and around the shipping channel beacons also works well. Yakkas, gar and slimy mackerel are prime offerings, however pike and cowanyoung are also worth using. I recommend using a 6/0 to 8/0 circle hook on 50lb to 80lb leader. A circle hook will generally produce a hook-up in the corner of the mouth if the fish is allowed to run with the bait for a few seconds before the reel is engaged, and the line allowed to tighten under the efforts of the running fish.
Plenty of options exist for anglers during the coming months, with pelagics high on the list for those getting out into Moreton Bay. The mackerel in particular offer anglers some of the easiest opportunities for a tasty feed. Snapper, sweetlip, tuskfish and several others will still be present around the bay islands and artificial reefs as well.
Estuarine anglers will still have heaps of options in the form of bream, flathead, mangrove jack, whiting, estuary cod, trevally, tarpon, threadfin and the like. Sharks are common within the estuaries and bay during the warmer months too, and are a lot of fun to target.
With so much on offer during December, anglers will often have to make hard decisions as to what to target next! Getting the kids out during their Christmas break will create memories that will last for years. Hopefully the fat man in the red suit will bring you plenty of quality tackle, and you’ll get to put it to good use on some of SEQs finest angling targets. Have a safe and happy Christmas, and here’s to plenty of tight lines in the New Year.Reads: 299