Island shallows bring sweet success
  |  First Published: June 2007

For many local anglers these days, fishing is focused around the smaller bay islands (Mud, St Helena, Green) in search of the big bream and huge squid that inhabit the shallows.

Living in close proximity to Moreton Bay allows me time to explore these islands’ shallows properly, with different tides and weather conditions.

I’ve found over the last few years that very few people know what’s in the shallows around the islands. Most anglers drive close to the islands but never venture into the very shallow water to see what actually lives there.

Do yourself a favour and drive into the shallows. With the aid of polarised sunnies you will see what I am talking about. Snapper, bream, cod, whiting, flathead, squid and most other species (including pelagics) move into this nutrient-rich water to feed. The reefy flats that rim these islands are alive with a constant food source for the above-mentioned species.

Targeting these fish is pretty easy: light spinning tackle, a handful of small shallow-diving lures and a boat with an electric motor is all that is required. The key is keeping the boat in water that is no deeper than 1m and retrieving your lure slowly, so it is just ticking along above the rocky or reefy bottom. Surface poppers and top-water plastics like pink grubs also work a treat in this shallow water.

Having the boat in such close proximity to the fish you will constantly be spooking fish under the boat, so long casts are a must. Don’t be worried by the fleeing fish near the boat; this is usual for flats fishing and the fish that eat the lures are not the fish you are seeing.

Many things need to be considered when fishing the flats – tides, wind, depth of water, noise, turbulence from the electric motor, current structure, lure choice, rod and reel choice, lines and leaders. One of the most important things is the shadow thrown off by the anglers and the boat. Over the last few months I have really noticed an increase in my catch rates when the sun is shining in my face or overhead. Therefore, early morning, late afternoon and when the sun is overhead seem to be the most productive times. Positioning the boat so your shadow doesn’t encroach into the water where the lures are being presented to the fish definitely improves catch rates, despite making for crappy sight fishing.

What’s on the Chew?

The Brisbane River is looking good with snapper and jew being caught around the mouth. The best spots are around the ship loading terminals on the southern side of the river. The fish seem to be holding tight to the structure so getting as close as possible (30m) and casting plastics or vibration baits is working well. Stopping the fish around this type of structure is great fun: it’s 50/50 at the best of times and lots of lures will be lost.

Whiting and flathead are around in reasonable numbers. Try targeting these fish on sandy bottoms. If you drive around a dead low tide from the Gateway Bridge to the mouth, you should find plenty of fish-holding areas.

Crabs are slowing down for the moment but if the river fishes like it has for the last few years then you will be able to catch a few bottom dwellers throughout winter.

Bream are being caught along most of the rock walls from the Gateway Bridge to the mouth. Small hard-bodied lures like Ecogear SX40s and CK40s used at night along these rock walls will produce surprising results during the cooler months.

Estuary cod are around in huge numbers basically anywhere there is a bit of structure. Rock walls, rock ledges and jetties are great places to target these fish in the river. Live baits like mullet or whiting are best to use when chasing a feed of estuary cod or ‘inshore trout’ as we like to call them.

Bay Islands

As I said last month, the usual baitfish schools have well and truly shown up around the shallows of the smaller bay islands. All manner of species can be found feeding on the bait, from the occasional tuna and mackerel to the usual bream, tailor, snapper, estuary cod and squid.

Larger snapper and the usual reef dwellers can be found in the deeper water behind Mud, St Helena and Green islands. For the next few months it will be worth having a floating bait out for tailor or larger snapper, even if you are using plastics. Have the bait suspended about 4-6ft under a float for best results.

Tuna are around in reasonable numbers if you can find them. At this time of year casting large cup-faced poppers (or the complete opposite – casting small chrome slugs) will see good results. Tuna can show up anywhere from the shallows around the islands to the deepest water in the bay. Look for birds working the surface, or if the weather permits, you will see them free jumping around bait schools. Find the bait and you will usually find the fish.

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