Hopefully once everyone has recovered from their Christmas festivities, they will manage to get out onto the water and experience some of the quality fishing on offer. The run of pelagics in the bay should continue to improve over the coming month or so with the fishing getting easier due to a slight decrease in boat traffic and fishing pressure. It’s now time for serious anglers to reap the aquatic rewards in the form of mackerel, tuna, threadfin salmon, mangrove jack, estuary cod, crabs, prawns and numerous others. The sun is beating down and the temperature is rising quickly in the mornings, however the quality fishing on offer is definitely worth tolerating the elements.
Last year we experienced a great run of prawns throughout the creeks and estuaries of Southern Queensland. This started late in December, and systems such as the Pine, Caboolture, Logan and Brisbane rivers were just some of the spots where prawners cleaned up with a 10L limit.
The quality of the prawns was exceptional for that time of the year, and hopefully we should see an early run again this year. In some areas the prawns were so thick that anglers only required a handful of casts to achieve their limit. Those anglers with high-quality, locally made nets generally got more prawns per cast, I used a standard store bought net and had no trouble getting a limit on most days. While the locally made nets sink at a more even rate and stay open longer, they are a lot more expensive.
Most serious prawners will use a maximum sized 12ft drop top pocket net. The top pocket will trap the majority of the prawns in the top of the net, and will open up for easy removal of these prawns. Many choose to not have additional bottom pockets in their top pocket net, which limits the amount of shell grit, mud and debris that will come up into the net. This reduces the amount of cleaning time between casts, which can be a critical factor as far as numbers go when you are onto a good patch of prawns. Whether the prawns show up early this year is anyone’s guess, however early indicators say they shouldn’t be too far away, so check and repair those cast nets and be ready to roll when they come.
January is generally a great month for anglers to get amongst numbers of threadfin, especially in the lower reaches of the Brisbane River. At times, large numbers can be found schooling along underwater contours and ledges, and around the dredge holes along the retaining wall at the mouth. Side imaging sounders have really made it easy to locate threadies, and at times, anglers are managing to catch and release double figures every session in this area.
Vibration baits, especially soft offerings such as Samaki Vibelicious and Thumper Tail, Jackall Transam, Threadybuster and Zerek Fish Traps, seem to account for the majority of captures. However, jighead rigged plastics (especially prawn, jerk shad and paddle-tail shads), micro jigs and diving minnow lures are all productive. Generally it is more important to put your offering in front of the fish, and work it well, than it is to be using a particular lure style or brand.
Live baits are especially popular in the Brisbane River for those who appreciate a more relaxed approach. Anglers commonly soak large prawns, herring, mullet, gar, pike and other baits in their quest. Anchoring along the edges of the main decline into the river basin, while deploying these baits, will put you in good stead, especially around the start of the falling tide. Live baiting from shore-based locations such as the Colmslie Jetty, Newstead Jetty, New Farm Park, and the Gateway Bridge, will likely produce a few decent threadfin. Just a word of caution; I have heard that several people have been fined for fishing and cast-netting off the Colmslie Pontoon in recent months, so you are best to stick to the jetty if heading down that way.
Good numbers of threadfin have been taken in other systems in recent years. The Logan River has produced some thumpers for anglers willing to do a little looking around with their sounders. The edges of the deeper banks and holes further up river have been some of the more common areas where anglers have scored.
Additionally, species such as estuary cod, flathead and barramundi have been taken on lures by savvy anglers with good knowledge of this system. Live baits are also popular for catching Logan River threadies. Anglers need to tolerate significant numbers of bull sharks and catfish. Many anglers also fish this system successfully with lures and this system is becoming almost as reliable as the Brisbane River for this species
The Pine River and Caboolture River, as well as most major creek systems feeding into the Pumicestone Passage, have been producing decent numbers of threadfin. Anglers chasing prawns can occasionally cast-net threadies, as these predators commonly follow the prawn schools up and down the river.
There have been decent numbers of school mackerel around for several months now, however it is the spotted mackerel that attract the most attention at this time of the year. These are commonly found schooling on the surface, and a cast with a chromed slug or slice, close to the action, will generally achieve a hook-up when retrieved flat-stick. Don’t cast into the melee, as you will probably get bitten off instantly. Casting to the side of the school will still produce a strike when the slug or slice is retrieved.
You can’t retrieve too fast for mackerel – if they are following it and not striking, then you’re not winding fast enough. If your lure is skipping out of the water then try putting the rod tip under the water as you retrieve, to keep it swimming. I like to begin winding the handle of the reel just before the lure lands on the water’s surface, as this decreases bite-offs. Mackerel have the tendency to snip off the tail of their prey to immobilise it before engulfing it – in this case, the tail is a razor sharp treble so you should achieve a hook-up in the front of their jaw, which is ideal.
Good locations to look for surface feeding mackerel at this time of the year include (but are not limited to), the area between Mud Island and the Four Beacons, the Measured Mile, the northern side of The Paddock green zone, around the Harry Atkinson Artificial Reef and Foul Ground, Moreton Shipping Channel, Middle Bank, Pearl Channel, Naval Reserve Banks and Banana Banks. Any time you are transiting throughout the bay, there is a good chance of encountering a school or two, so ensure you have a good spin rod rigged and ready with a chromed slug or slice to capitalise on this opportunity. The Measured Mile and most shipping channel beacons will generally hold a few mackerel, both school and spotted. Fishing these beacons can be done with jigged slugs and slices, micro jigs and baits such as pilchards, live yakka and slimy mackerel. When the tide is running strong, I generally find the lures reign supreme. However, around the changes of the tide, baits come into their own as the best producers.
Check out my techniques article in this issue for some live baiting rigs. Learn to tell the difference between school and spotted mackerel, as they have differing minimum size limits and bag limits. School mackerel can only be taken above 50cm in length and you are only permitted to keep 10 per person. Spotted mackerel have a minimum size limit of 60cm and a bag limit of five per person – breach of these regulations could be costly.
Last January saw awesome numbers of big longtails lurking throughout Moreton Bay. I had a few stellar sessions on slugs and stickbaits, with fish up to almost 20kg landed. The longtails were lurking in pretty much the same areas as mackerel – as this is where the concentration of bait was. Often they skirted the mackerel bust-ups, and you simply needed to wait for a cruising fish to break the surface and cast slightly ahead to achieve the strike.
However, on occasion, large numbers could be found wheeling across the surface, rounding up and harassing the baitfish in wanton mayhem. There was a lot of herring and larger pilchards around, which made the longies easy to tempt on a variety of different-sized lures. I commonly used Maria Mucho Lucir slugs on a 20lb outfit, and stickbaits such as the Nomad Madscad 115mm, and 140mm Maria Loaded on a 40lb casting outfit. Due to the size of the fish, I generally opted for the heavy outfit, as fights often lasted over 90 minutes on the lighter rig, particularly on fish over 15kg.
I was lucky that the sharks weren’t a problem in the areas I fished – though the numerous quantities of longtails were shortened over the next few months, once the ‘noahs’ lifted their game.
If chasing schools around the bay and casting lures at them isn’t your thing, then you should try a spot of live baiting. Areas such as the beacons in the Northern Bay, Shark Spit, Western Rocks and near the shark nets of Bribie are reliable producers of big longtails. Yakkas, slimy mackerel, cowanyoung, pike, and even small whiptails can make ideal baits for longtails.
These baits are generally fished on a snelled hook rig with the leading hook pinned through the nose of the livie, or with a single hook rubber-banded through the eye socket of the bait (see my technique article in this issue, for rigging how to’s, like this). I like to use circle hooks, which are ideal in a situation where there is a little slack before the tension takes up when the fish runs.
With the sun beating down and upping the warm water temperatures, estuary fishing can be quite good, especially for species such as mangrove jack, flathead, whiting and estuary cod.
Jacks in particular can often be quite aggressive, and seem to get rather agitated during the lead up to volatile weather, such as late afternoon storms. These periods can produce a hot bite, with numerous fish landed for the session.
The Nerang River and offshoot canals are popular with those venturing south. Closer to the bay, the Coomera River system, various residential canals, and most creeks offer a great habitat, and potentially good jack waters. North of the city there are systems such as the Pine River, Caboolture River, Burpengary Creek and a few more residential canals to explore.
Many anglers also achieve great success on larger specimens from the land-locked saltwater lakes. Casting to prominent structures will account for a lot of jacks, however, many choose to live bait deeper holes adjacent to structure for their red rewards.
Estuary cod can also be taken around the same areas with the same techniques. Many anglers encounter these as a by-catch while jack fishing, some anglers specifically target them due to their eating quality. Estuary cod can be real scrappers on the end of the line, and will often bury you in structure on the first run. If you survive their initial surge of power once they feel the hook, you will usually land them.
Rock walls are popular habitats for jacks due to their love of crabs. These fish can be encountered around any prominent saltwater structures. Rattling and rolling lures across the rock walls will put you in with a good chance of a hook-up. Live baits and dead offerings will be well received by these bucket-mouthed assassins.
Bream, flathead and whiting numbers will also be good around the estuaries and Bay Island shallows. These are a great bread and butter species to get the family out chasing. Drifting along the channels and edges of the flats with a few baits is all that you need to make a score.
I like to use small whole fish baits such as frogmouth pilchards, whitebait and hardiheads pinned on a no. 1 or no. 2 snelled hook rig. This can take anything from whiting to mulloway, and is an effective way to fish for those who don’t know the areas very well. There’s a multitude of areas in both the Pumicestone Passage and Jumpinpin systems to explore using this method.
More experienced anglers will often choose to target these species on lures. Shallow minnow lures, small poppers and stickbaits worked across the shallow estuarine flats will often produce whiting and bream. There are a lot of areas where this can be done land-based around Brisbane, and I have had very satisfying results in areas such as the mouth of the Pine River, Sandgate foreshore, around King Island (near Wellington Point), Wynnum foreshore, the mouth of Tingalpa Creek, Nudgee and Victoria Point.
Whether you’re into chasing bay pelagics on high speed lures, or prefer the more relaxed approach of live-baiting a threadfin, or even bait-fishing for estuarine staples such as bream, flathead and whiting, January has you covered. In addition, there are still good opportunities to score species such as prawns, crabs, snapper, mulloway, sweetlip and a host of others. Many will still be on holidays and keen juniors with be frothing to get out amongst it before they have to return to school. Turn off the air conditioning, put on your big person pants, grab the rods and tackle and head out in the boat or to a land-based location, and get amongst the aquatic smorgasbord on offer this January! You’ll never remember your Candy Crush victory or the cricket score on telly, but you will remember the big fish you caught that tried to brick you three times. Good Luck!Reads: 308