April is generally the best month of the year to chase big Spanish mackerel, wahoo and blue marlin off the Gold Coast and we hope to see an increase in action this month.
The summer of 2016/17 was not a good season for chasing pelagic species off the Gold Coast. I have been able to catch a few blue marlin, but the by-catch of tuna, wahoo and mahimahi has been almost non- existent. The inshore grounds have often been quite barren and even the best boats are experiencing lots of fish free hours.
The mackerel season has been quite patchy so far. When there has been a bit of current over Palm Beach Reef and the water has been clear and blue, there have been a few spotted mackerel and the odd Spanish mackerel caught, but it is very hit and miss. To get the best results you need to refine your techniques. Live baits trolled from a downrigger so that the bait is about 5-10m from the bottom has been the most effective method for bigger Spanish mackerel.Chopped berley and drifted live baits and pilchards have caught quite a few spotted mackerel. In April, the fish generally increase in size and if you find a school of small tuna it is definitely worth trolling a small mackerel tuna, frigate mackerel or striped tuna around the tuna school. Put the front hook through the top lip of the tuna and rig the stinger hook so it sits in the middle of the bait. Don’t put it too far back.
With a bit of luck the wahoo should turn up this month. Trolling high speed lures like Hex Heads at around 10-14 knots often gets strikes early in the morning. The Tweed Nine Mile is usually one of the most reliable spots in April and can produce big Spaniards. The Mud Hole is located 4-5km northwest of the Nine Mile and is an area of flat reef that also holds good numbers of wahoo at times and is well worth a visit if the Nine Mile is crowded. Other areas worth a look include the 24 fathom line east of Southport and all along the 36 fathom line.
Out on the continental shelf, this is usually a good month to target blue marlin. There are often a few striped and black marlin mixed in with the blues. I have caught quite a few big wahoo out wide of the continental shelf in April. This year the blue marlin have been relatively small in my experience, with quite a few in the 80-120kg range with the odd bigger fish.
As the current slows a little this month the bottom fishing on the 50 fathom line improves. Pearl perch, parrot fish, teraglin and snapper all turn up on both the 36 and 50 fathom reefs, with the odd kingfish and amberjack. It is worth a few drifts using deep live baits this month if the trolling is slow. Overall, I hope April sees really improved fishing as it has been an extremely slow season so far.
The water will cool down a bit this month and that will see the fishing improve. It has been a great season for banana prawns so far. They started very early around Jacobs Well, Russell and Lamb Island in late January. Hopefully the prawns will still be around this month and they should be even bigger! A good cast net with pockets at the top greatly improves catches. It hasn’t been too hard to catch a 10L bucket of prawns this season.
As the water gets colder and the days get longer a lot more fish start to move up on the flats. Bream, whiting and flathead are the main target species, and casting poppers and small stick baits can be a great way to spend a morning. I like to fish the middle of a run up tide as the water flows hard over the yabby flats. While you can catch both whiting and bream on poppers on the flats, they need very different retrieves. For whiting, wind fast with a few twitches so the lure spits water ahead of it, simulating a fleeing prawn. Bream like a slower more erratic retrieve with quite a few pauses. It is not uncommon to have quite reasonable sized flathead crash your popper in shallow water, and tailor and small GTs can make for variety. A run-in tide early in the morning with a bit of breeze and nice clean water makes for good fishing. Clear-bodied poppers and stick baits tend to produce the best results. Casting unweighted yabbies across the flats is also very effective.
Crabbing is generally pretty good in April but it has been quite a dry year. Mud crabbing has been poor but there have been reasonable numbers of sand crabs around. The weed beds from the Aldershott’s south to Crab Island have produced plenty of sand crabs. If we get any decent rain the Pimpama River is worth a look for mud crabs this month. Fresh chicken frames make great bait for mud crabs.
There should be a few medium-sized mulloway in both the Seaway and Jumpinpin entrances. Deep fished soft plastics and live baits are worth trying, but there are often a lot of tailor in these areas as well that can eat through a lot of live baits and plastics in a short time. Most of the mulloway will be around the minimum legal size of 75cm this month with the odd bigger fish - especially at night. Giant trevally are also commonly caught when targeting mulloway.
Overall, April should see improved fishing on the Gold Coast and if we get a bit of rain it will greatly improve the action in both the estuaries and the offshore grounds.Reads: 279