Chasing grass sweetlip
  |  First Published: June 2007

Thanks to the arrival of some cooler weather, now is the time to gear up and chase grassy sweetlip, otherwise known as red-throat.

Life on the inshore reefs that fringe Moreton Bay and inshore islands has really fired up recently. These reefs stretch all the way from Cleveland to Green and Mud islands and are home to many reef fish species including grassy sweetlip. All of the reefs’ corals, sponges, specific weeds/grasses, shells and gravely type grits provide a daily supply of nutrients for the fish. Grass sweetlip are the kings of these reefs.

My father Grant introduced me to these reefs 25 years ago and over the years we have fishing in many different situations and conditions. Despite their accessible location and the extensive amount of time I have spent on the reefs, I still have lots of exploring and learning to do. It’s addictive to see all of your preparation and planning pay off with a great catch.

When targeting sweetlip there are a number of factors that need to coincide: wind, tide, currents, moon phase, rainfall and the list goes on. These reefs fish the best when the water is clean and hasn’t been stirred up by northeasterly winds. The best tides vary depending on the moon phase but I think the new moon high tides around 9am over 2m are the most consistent.

If all the aforementioned factors are in order there is one last element that will influence bag numbers: relative humidity. Sweetlip, like many other reef fish, become more active when the humidity is extremely high. The fish will still approach food cautiously but they will bite and run aggressively.

Humidity and excessive moisture in the atmosphere usually create stagnant fishing conditions so all you have to do is choose a bait. Many anglers use traditional style reef baits, with squid and fish baits the most popular. Sweetlip are inquisitive and bait presentation should be varied.

I prefer to use larger squid that has been cut in half with the hook through the large part of the squid’s eye. I also like to hang 10-15cm of the squid tentacle and mullet gut off the hook to give the sweetlip something to suck on. My father Grant prefers to use lots of mullet gut. Try baiting a 2/0 Mustad barbed hook with a 20lb trace on 9lb line and dangling 10-15cm of gut.

Choosing a suitable location to fish can be frustrating. You don’t want to be too far in on the reef, while being too far off the reef will present poor fishing conditions. If you have a sounder, life will be much easier. On the other hand using the anchor to actually feel the bottom is very effective. The bottom has to feel rough and snaggy. Be prepared to lose some gear – this is where a larger trace is successful.

It’s fantastic to see the inshore reefs providing fun fishing on a number of species at this time of year. On a recent trip we couldn’t believe the amount of sweetlip around 27-29cm – just undersize but still great angling.

So get out there and have a go at catching some of the beautiful species our local reefs have to offer!

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