The fish we’ve been waiting for
  |  First Published: February 2017

The dreaded northerlies have started to blow out and we should see more southerly winds in February that will improve the water temperature, water clarity and push the bait close to our shores. All these factors will bring the pelagic species on, which is what all the anglers are waiting for.

Mackerel numbers have been very scarce in the last month or so and fish were only caught after a short southerly blow, and only on the Palm Beach Reef. Expect good numbers of spotties and the odd Spaniard mixed in from Mermaid Reef and the 12-fathom bait reef off Southport. Float lining pilchards and casting 25-40g metal lures in a berley trail will get the most fish. The first week in February is usually when I start to fish for Spanish mackerel.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve preferred to troll two rods with live baits like slimies and yakkas. I put one on a downrigger and the other close to the surface, and I always have a 65-80g metal slug on a spinning rod. A good sounder is an effective tool when chasing mackerel and makes them easier to spot.

Schooled up mackerel down deep have the tendency to be tight-lipped. They can be easily tempted by a live bait offering on a downrigger. David Green introduced me to spinning for Spanish mackerel with 65 and 80g slugs many years ago. I have caught many more after this trip and worked out the best technique. Make long casts and let your metal hit the sea floor. Try to bring your lure up at a 45° angle, as this seems to get more bites than a vertical retrieve.

Diamond Reef, Focus Reef and Burleigh Gravel Patch are great spots, and over the border try Fido Reef. Bottom bouncing often gets overlooked due to the mackerel fishing. The close reefs off Southport can be very rewarding, with good numbers of snapper that will start to turn up this month. Float lining pilchards down a consistent berley trail is a great way to get a feed of these tasty red fish.


The water temperature will peak this month in the estuary systems and this will fire up the local mangrove jack population. Slow rolling soft plastics under pontoons and along bridge pylons has caught most of the fish. Many of the rivers and creeks have excellent rock bars and bridges that mangrove jack call home.

I like to use live herring and mullet fillets as bait with 20lb mainline and 40lb leader. I still prefer to bait fish for jacks at night on a run-out tide. The coffee rocks in front off TSS in the Nerang River will produce quality fish this month.

The whiting in the Nerang River have been in big numbers around the Council Chambers. Fishing the week before and after the full moon with bloodworms and canal wrigglers has been producing elbow-slappers up to the low 40cm mark.

The whiting have also been caught in good numbers around Crab Island drifting over shallow yabby banks. It’s a great way to introduce children to fishing, as bites are very common.

Mulloway have been in excellent numbers. Both the Seaway and Jumpinpin bars have been producing big fish over the 30kg mark. Timing is everything in catching these fish. Try live baiting with yellowtail pike on the change of tide on sunrise or dusk.

Sharks can be a problem when chasing mulloway, so heavy tackle is required. Use 80lb main line and 100lb leader with a locked up drag.

The long-range weather forecast predicts good rainfall for the southeast. If this happens, wet a few crab pots while you fish, look for any drop-offs in front of any creeks and use plenty of bait. Mackerel heads and chicken frames work well together.


Surface fishing for bass has produced plenty of fish in Hinze Dam. Try the upper reaches of the Nerang and Tweed rivers for bass as well. Cicada and spider lure profiles have worked well. It’s good practice to let your lure sit for a while on the surface before retrieving.

A high barometer mixed with early and late afternoon sessions can often lead to good numbers of fish. Overall, most of the action will be chasing pelagic fish offshore on the good days, with plenty of bread and butter species to be targeted on those windy days.

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