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May the fish be plentiful
  |  First Published: May 2017



As we enter the cooler months, anglers will notice a change in the more commonly caught species. Over May we’ll likely catch snapper, luderick, tailor, mulloway and squid. However, there’s still a high likelihood of encountering many of your warmer weather favourites.

Additionally, crabs and prawns should still be available in sufficient numbers to make targeting them worthwhile. Cooler weather will creep up on us during May and the daylight hours will become a little shorter. While some of the warm weather species will wane in numbers, anglers will have plenty to keep them happy as we approach winter.

BRISBANE RIVER

This wonderful fishery will see a few changes over the coming month. Species such as snapper and mulloway will increase in numbers throughout the lower reaches. Threadfin are likely to be a more common catch further up the river than they were during the warmer months. Anglers fishing the city reaches and as far as Kookaburra Park will encounter threadies if they target them.

Mulloway and tailor can be caught up as far as the city during the cooler months, most commonly around lighted areas at night. In the lower reaches, areas such as Claras Rocks, the oil pipeline, the retaining walls at the mouth, the ledge just inside the sewerage chute, the Gateway Bridge, most jetties and many other locations can all fish well for snapper, bream, mulloway, threadfin, tailor and a host of others. Some thumping snapper are often caught in May with specimens occasionally exceeding 70cm in length.

These will respond well to many different artificials as well as an array of quality dead and live baits. Ledges and submerged banks of the main river basin, the fronts of the numerous jetties (adhere to restrictions) and the deeper dredge holes adjacent the retaining wall at the mouth are all great places to target snapper. You’re likely to encounter a broad array of species in these areas.

SNAPPER

One of the favourite species for all Moreton Bay anglers is snapper. These can be taken on lures and baits, they fight well and they taste delicious. What’s not to like? As the larger specimens move into Moreton Bay for their annual breeding activities, anglers will notice an increase in the prominence of fish of all sizes. Those fishing baits are often plagued by huge numbers of sub-legal (less than 35cm) fish.

Many tolerate these as it is often just a numbers game until a big knobby nails your offering. Although they can be a nuisance, handling these smaller fish with care and releasing them quickly will help to ensure a healthy snapper population in years to come. Using larger baits, especially tough fillet baits and large squid will often give the larger specimens a chance once the smaller pinkies have had a good pick.

Most quality baits have a great chance of succeeding. Live yakkas, slimey mackerel, pike, squid and similar offerings are all likely to get your rod bending under the surge of a big red. Although the humble pilchard, frozen squid and similar baits have produced some cracking knobbies, quality baits will heighten chances.

Anglers fishing lures generally get fewer of these smaller specimens, especially when using 5” offerings and larger. Many will actually step up to 7” plastics to only tempt the trophy snapper and mulloway. Good plastics can include jerk shads, curl-tails, paddle-tails and crustacean (prawn and crab) profiles. A broad array of colours will work. It’s often more important to fish your plastic well than it is to use a particular brand, style or colour.

Around the edges of the bay islands and Turner Artificial I generally opt for 1/6-1/4oz jigheads while the deeper water at the other artificial reefs (Harry Atkinson, Curtin and Peel) will generally require a 3/8oz head. I prefer soft vibration baits over plastics these days and I particularly like the Samaki Thumpertail 100mm, although there’s a broad array or choices that will produce.

Lures can be cast up current and retrieved back with the current or slightly across it for optimal effect. A slow roll (winding the handle slowly with the occasional pause) or hopping the lure using lifts of the rod tip and pauses will generally get the job done. Strikes can come at any time, so be ready to set the hook at the slightest touch.

Micro-jigs are a great way to target snapper in deeper areas, especially the artificial reefs and wrecks. If you have located a show on the down scan, quickly put the jig in front of that fish. Use jigs in the 30-60g range and the centre weighted models are generally better. I use a wide variety including the Palms Slow Blatt and Oval Blatt, the Storm Slow Rocker and the Shimano Coltsniper.

You don’t need a heavy rod and reel and a big dropper lead on your rig to fish for Moreton Bay snapper. Although many experienced anglers fish even lighter, 15-20lb line on a suitably rated spinning or overhead rod and reel setup will work well.

I always think of snapper as big bream when rigging to fish baits. I’ll opt for a running ball sinker rig or light paternoster. Fluorocarbon leaders in the 8-15kg range will help in tempting those more wary fish, especially when the westerly winds produce high water clarity.

Keep your rigs and tackle light and you will achieve far more hook-ups. It’s not common for snapper to be dirty fighters, so most fish will still be landed on this setup. Sweetlip and tuskfish will often head for structure and sometimes bust you off. Unless you fish moderate tackle you’re not likely to hook them in the first place.

SQUID

As the inshore waters begin to clear up, anglers will notice an increase in squid. Both arrow and tiger squid can be caught on squid jigs. They’ll also attack baits and some lures with relative aggression. The shallows around the bay islands, weed beds, rubble grounds and discoloured patches of sand along the edges of major channels all have potential to hold a few cephalopods.

While anglers often encounter squid by accident, specific targeting will greatly increase your chances. Casting squid jigs around these areas and slowly winding or hopping them through the zone will generally work a treat. Even drifting along with a squid jig or baited skewer behind the boat will often reward, especially around the edges of bay islands and sand hill areas.

In the shallower zones around the sand flats you may need a float to keep the squid jig from hitting and dragging along the bottom. The float should be just buoyant enough to support the jig so that a squid can easily pull it under. The numbers and average size of squid will increase throughout Moreton Bay over the coming months as the westerly winds promote better water clarity, so stay tuned.

PRAWNS

The availability of prawns has been awesome since late December and there should still be a few about during May. Areas such as the flats out from Nudgee, the Saltworks (between Karragarra and Macleay islands), the holes near Russel Island, Canaipa Passage and many other areas can all hold prawns.

The rivers may produce a few but the bay is a better option. A good sounder and an intimate knowledge of it will short track your search considerably. A good cast can produce several kilograms of prawns, so knowing where the better concentrations are can save you a lot of casting to fill your 10L bucket limit. Prawns will taper off considerably over the month so get a few while you can.

LUDERICK

When the luderick turn up will be dictated by the water temperature and clarity. The cooler waters promote the growth of many types of aquatic weed, especially the cabbage and string weed, which are favoured by luderick. These commonly grow on the estuarine rock walls and anything that floats in these waters, including pontoons, jetties, navigation buoys and markers and moored boats. Weed can be collected a day or two before a trip and will keep for a few days in the fridge in salt water.

Learning the art of luderick fishing is a lot of fun and one of the good things about targeting luderick is that some of the best spots are easily fished land-based. The rock walls at the mouth of most canals and harbours are good places to start your search. Deep banks with collapsed mangroves and other submerged structure are well worth trying. Weed baits are better fished on small no. 6-10 hooks beneath a float, weighted so it will pull under the surface with the slightest touch.

These baits should float along the walls at the same speed as the current. Once the float dips slightly, strike promptly to set the hook. Start with your baits fished close to the bottom and adjust them up or down until you locate the level where the fish are feeding. Occasionally the bite can be abrupt and savage. Other times they will only slightly mouth the bait and you need a trained eye to detect the bite in the activity of the float. Luderick are chunky fish with a minimum size of 30cm and a bag limit of 10 fish.

Specimens between 38-45cm are fairly common and will fight extremely well on light tackle. Most use a 9ft to 10’6 sloppy actioned rod with an Alvey or similar centre pin reel. This type of outfit is highly desirable when the luderick are pedantic in their feeding activity. If they’re aggressive you will be able to take them on most outfits.

MULLOWAY

Although now a year round option, increased numbers of mulloway will begin to show up as the water temperatures fall. They will be located throughout many of the deeper reef and wreck areas within the bay and also throughout the estuaries and rivers, especially around the mouths.

The Brisbane River, Jumpinpin Bar and Gold Coast Seaway are well known locations for those targeting mulloway. They can also be caught in locations such as the Caboolture River, Pine River, Harry Atkinson, Peel Artificial, Logan River and many other locations.

Large live baits such as mullet, pike, slimey mackerel and yakkas are ideal. Smaller live offerings such as banana prawns and herring will also work well. Dead baits are your second best option, however squid and pilchards will also tempt a few decent mulloway. If you want to catch a large mulloway over 15kg, your best chance will come with large live baits such as mullet, yakkas and slimey mackerel.

Those who put in the effort will generally be rewarded with better quality specimens for their troubles. Large specimens are more commonly caught in the deeper holes around the southern bay islands, Gold Coast Seaway, Jumpinpin Bar and entrance channel and occasionally around the Bribie Island Bridge. Plenty of legal specimens over 75cm are caught by anglers on both baits and lures, even while targeting other species.

The big boys will require a concentrated effort and a bit of time spent with a big livey in the water to get a run. A broad array of artificials will work on mulloway. For those who like to cast, try plastics and vibration baits.

TAILOR

Although the best is yet to come, a few tailor will begin to show up in the estuaries over the coming month. Good rain in late March put a decent flow in the Brisbane River. If 2011 and 2013 are any indications then the tailor numbers should be healthy again this season, especially in the estuaries and larger rivers.

After the 2011 floods, it was ridiculous how many tailor were present in the Brisbane River and it was often hard to get away from them, especially when fishing around lighted areas at night. Although the water was still discoloured, huge amounts of baitfish and prawns were present and generally tailor were not too far away.

The beaches didn’t fish that well in either year and plenty of diehard surf fishers were pretty disappointed with the seasons. However, we had a lot of fun catching and releasing tailor on lures in the estuaries and rivers with small swimbaits, topwater offerings, minnow lures and an array of plastics doing the trick. How this season shapes up will be a bit of a guess. I’m hoping it will be a good one for all.

CONCLUSION

Anglers fishing Southern Queensland waters and especially Moreton Bay over the coming month will be in for a fairly mixed bag, dependent on water temperature and clarity. There will be plenty of good results for those who make the effort to explore the options. Daylight hours begin to shorten during May, so early morning starts will be somewhat later than during the warmer months.

You’ll probably need to dust off the thermos and also drag out the flannie and beanie if you decide on a night session or an early morning start. Being out in the warm sunshine during the day will make your angling effort a lot more enjoyable. May the fish be plentiful for you over the coming months.

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