Feasting predators there for the taking
  |  First Published: July 2007

It’s that time of year when anglers fishing the smaller bay islands or the mouth of the river have the chance to catch a variety of species with relative ease.

Winter weather causes large schools of small baitfish and mullet to congregate around the reefed-rimmed islands and the mouth of the Brisbane River. This annual migration of baitfish increases the number of predatory species such as jew, snapper, bream, tailor, flathead and the annoying pike, as they feast on the readily available food source.

Squid also congregate in large numbers around the shallows, waiting to ambush the easy feed. In turn, squid then become the prey for larger species. I’ve actually seen squid being attacked by modest eagle rays and snapper in the shallows. It’s an eye opener to see how shallow some fish will swim to prey on squid, and it’s amazing to watch the squid use their defence mechanism (ink) to outsmart their predators. The eagle rays, which usually hunt in packs, go crazy when they get inked.

What’s on the chew

The river is producing great quality snapper for both bait and lure fishers. Like last month, snapper are holding along the shipping terminals on the southern side of the river at the mouth. Sometimes this area can be hard to access due to the ships using the loading terminals. Finding a stretch to fish along this section is like landing big fish in this area – 50/50 at best. If there is a gap of more than 100m between ships then it is worth fishing.

Jew appear in larger numbers towards the mouth every winter. Deep holes in front of loading terminals, anywhere from Hamilton to the mouth and on both sides of the river, are worth fishing. When fishing for jew in the river, live bait like large mullet or legal tailor, fished at different depths in the water column will produce some jew.

If the shipping terminals aren’t your preferred target areas, try the rocky or reefed bottoms around the intersection of the river and the boat passage (Claras Rocks). Basically, jew will show up at this time of year close to any of the deeper, dredged holes around loading terminals or near deep reef bottoms or rocks that have good tidal flow.

Estuary cod are available to anglers in the river on any given day. They can be caught around rock or reef areas ranging from the deepest ledges to the artificial structures that snapper and jew like to frequent. Large, whole mullet fillets or live baits are effective for chasing an estuary cod. They are also suckers for hard-bodied lures, trolled or cast along any of the rocky, artificial walls in the river. The majority of cod along these areas are smaller fish to 2kg, but huge 50kg+ cod live in good numbers around the port.

Bream are around in good numbers for anglers wanting to brave the cool night air. For the bait fisher, small 4-5cm strips of fresh mullet or yabbies will bring good numbers your way. Anglers fishing with artificial offerings should get the best results at night. Pinkenba rock wall and the surrounding rocky flats leading into Boggy Creek are great areas to target bream at night for both types of anglers.

Flathead and whiting are being caught around the mouths of Bulimba and Boggy Creeks and around the flats towards Bramble Bay. Worms and yabbies are the preferred bait for whiting but flathead will take just about anything.

Crabs are still being caught but you must continually move your pots around to locate them. Setting a line of pots along a bank like during peak season will generally not work throughout the cooler months. Instead spread your pots out until you find areas that are holding numbers and then move all pots that aren’t catching to those areas to catch a feed.

Tailor schools have been feeding on the readily available bait around the mouth of the river. The fish are relatively small with just legal fish being caught. There are some large solo fish hunting away from the school along the shipping terminals worth targeting. The majority of fish are only small but the signs are good for another tailor season along the rock wall at the mouth. Early morning, late afternoon and into the evening are the best times to fish, but at this time of year they can be caught any time of the day.

Bay Islands

Bream, squid, tailor and snapper are worth chasing around the smaller bay islands (Mud, St Helena, Green and King). I have been chasing bream and squid and they are everywhere in the shallows. Anglers fishing for tailor are catching their bag limits and those chasing snapper are catching fish from the just legal length right through to 8kg+ bay monsters.

It’s been good to see more anglers fishing the island shallows, but most boats that I’ve seen lately are still positioning their boats in water that is too deep. Casting parallel to the bank and working the depth contours works better than trying to retrieve the lure at 90° to the bank. Ecogear’s CK and SX range of lures work well in the shallows around these islands.

Night fishing in the shallows with lures is really worth a shot at this time of year. It can be very rewarding with the possibility of catching basically anything that lives around the islands. Slow trolling barra-style lures or casting the same size or smaller bream lures will produce excellent results over the winter months.

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