Smoking reels featured highly in February. We’re now well and truly into the surface pelagic season and it has been a ripper so far. What is it about the sound of high-pitched screeching that causes such a big adrenalin rush? All corners of the bay and further offshore have been alive with large schools of mackerel. March will see the line-burning action continue much to the delight of SEQ’s anglers.
Doggy mackerel have been entertaining locals on Redcliffe jetty with anglers reporting good catches. Pilchards are the best bait for targeting these fish. A 3-ganged hook with a small amount of single strand wire suspended about 6ft under a balloon has been producing the best results. Let the current or wind push the balloon out away from the jetty so that there is less chance of fish grabbing your offering and heading straight for the pylons. Spinning from the headlands on an evening high tide has been a proven doggy taker in the past; just keep changing the size and style of lure until you get one that works. These fish can change their feeding habits almost instantly so varying your slug often will prompt even the fussiest of fish into striking. One tip is to not overlook tiny spinners with varying colours, even when the water is murky, a hungry fish will see you lure.
Further out into the bay and around the islands the spotty season has been the best for years, probably due to the ban on ring netting a few years ago. It’s a great sign when the fish stocks are able to return to what they were in ‘ye oldie days’. Trips out to the main channels are yielding catches of 3-4 fish each morning. Any bait holding area or drop-off with clean flowing water will have fish holding in it.
A good sign of pelagic activity is obviously when they are boiling up in shoals of bait, but other more unnoticeable signs of action are quivering surface ripples or even bait balling up under your boat. Setting up a drift pattern is easy with a GPS and a sounder and you can match your drift with bottom structure after a few attempts. Dropping marks where fish are hooked can also help find fish. I also look for bottom structure in winter when snapper are around; it’s a simple method that will yield results for your next fishing season. Without a GPS you can still familiarise yourself with marks at sea. One of the great things about Moreton Bay is the sand bars can actually lead you to the fish and the fish to you!
Out wider still, the Spanish mackerel are still around the shallower coffee rock areas on the eastern side of the big islands. These fish, when they’re on, will crash almost anything that moves in the water. Live baits, dead baits, or lures will cause them to striking with purpose and ferocity. Hook-ups are typically effortless but maintaining your connection to the fish can be tricky. Ensure that your hooks are sharp and given a good going over with a file before use. When it comes to hook selection I use strong knife-edge hooks rather than chemically sharpened hooks as they penetrate better through hard, tooth-laden jaws. These fish will be around for a good month or so. If the weather allows get out and have a crack.
For more great pelagic action try trolling the deeper grounds on the eastern side of the Moreton Island. Wahoo, dolphinfish and billfish are around in numbers and are really spicing up the fishing action.
I recently fished the Redcliffe Billfish Challenge and some fantastic captures were reported over the two day event. Around 30 marlin were tagged and at least 60 were hooked or lost during the fight. One of the marlin was hooked in only 12m of water straight out from Yellow Patch on the northern side of Moreton.
Halley Longhurst caught a 24kg wahoo out from Hutchies shoal on 8kg line. It immediately became obvious that she had just caught a pending Australian and possibly international record. A mighty effort considering the fish measured about 2ft longer than she does! Well done Halley, you showed up all the men in the competition!
Good luck this month and get amongst the mackerel while they are still around.Reads: 1006