Estuary May Fire Up
  |  First Published: May 2008


May is known as a good month to target big wahoo and Spaniards, but the pelagic fish have been most erratic in appearance this year. Small black marlin are uncommon, the Spanish mackerel have been sporadic, and the wahoo are very hard to find. Hopefully, this will change throughout the next month.

In most years the bigger fish start to show up as the water starts to cool. Some chunky Spanish mackerel over 15kg have been sighted since late March, and what they lack in numbers they make up for in size.

The Tweed Nine Mile Reef is definitely worth a look in May, particularly when the current is running from the north. There are usually big wahoo, an abundance of mackerel tuna, a few yellowtail kingfish, and a lot of cheeky bronze whalers keen to chew on any fish left in the water for too long. Try trolling high-speed skirted lures and then go on to troll small live tuna, which are usually easy to spin up on a small metal slug. I’ve caught a few decent black marlin on the Nine Mile in May over the years whilst using this method. If the long toms are jumping, then the wahoo aren’t too far away.

Out wider on the shelf, blue marlin are still active and a lot of striped marlin start to show up around the 100-fathom line. There have been some outstanding blue marlin tagged off the Gold Coast in recent times, with Barry Alty tagging a ripper estimated at over 350kg fishing aboard his vessel, Mistress.

Most of the blues have been caught on trolled skirted lures, although some vessels are using switch-baiting methods. The average size of blue marlin encountered has been around 140kg. The Tweed Canyons to the south and Jims Mountain north of the Seaway have both produced fish, but it has been quite inconsistent. Some boats have been getting up to five shots a day and others not turning a reel.

On the inshore grounds the cooling water has started to see a few cobia move on to the close reefs, and a few early season snapper have shown up on the 24- and 36-fathom line. Recently the 7” Gulp Jerk Shad in nuclear chicken colour has been doing very well for snapper on the Gold Coast reefs. Anchoring up and berleying while fishing floating baits or soft plastics is also very effective. Live bait fished at the same time has a good chance of catching a cobia or a nice mulloway.

The key to good catches offshore this month is to work the blue current hard when it pushes inshore, but if the water is green or not too clear, anchor up and try other options. May is a transitional ‘between seasons’ month and while the results can be spectacular, it is the hardest month on the fishing calendar to predict what to do offshore.

Gold Coast Broadwater and Rivers.

Things start to cool this month but the fishing should still be good. The summer rains have left the estuary systems in excellent condition and there is plenty of bait throughout.

A lot of species are getting ready for winter spawning and there is a lot of fish movement in the estuaries, particularly as the first westerly winds start to blow. Tiger and sea mullet start to school up around the mouths of the rivers and in the Seaway. At Jumpinpin there should also be increasing numbers of mulloway following the mullet.

May is the first month of the year where I begin to seriously target flathead on soft plastics. As the water cools flathead start to get a lot more active on the local sand and mud flats. Even though most fish are less than 60cm long, they make great sport on light tackle and provided excellent flats fishing around Tipplers, Jumpinpin and Crusoe Island.

At this time of year big flathead are less common than in spring, so smaller 3” and 4” tails on lighter jigheads and 6kg leader are generally sufficient to catch a good bag of medium flathead. Quite a few nice bream are also being caught on soft plastics in the same area. Try the 65mm Squidgy fish or the 4” Gulp minnow. These have been outstanding in recent early season fishing. Use golds and silvers if the water is clear, or white, pink or green if it is discoloured.

Mulloway are definitely worth a try around the Seaway on deeply fished shads, jerk baits or live baits. Quite a few bigger fish over 15kg will start to show up as the water cools down a bit, and a live mullet fished on the top of a high tide at night is a good way to find the bigger fish. A few decent mangrove jacks will also be in the Seaway, particularly at the end of the North Wall.

Up the Nerang River the whiting will still be in large numbers, the recent rains have lead to an excellent whiting season. At night, preserved beach worms have been remarkably effective. During the day wriggler worms, small soldier crabs and live shrimps are generally the best baits, with yabbies working well if there is a bit of fresh.

There have also been plenty of bass in the upper Nerang River after the recent overflow from the Hinze Dam. These fish can be caught in the upper reaches on soft plastics, spinnerbaits and small hardbodied lures. The fishing in the Hinze Dam has also been excellent since the rise in water, with plenty of fish being caught on most trips. Purple Bassman spinnerbaits have been our deadly lure in recent weeks.

Overall, this May should be a good one for fishing the Gold Coast estuaries, and while it is hard to predict the offshore action, the estuaries should really fire up this month as the first westerlies of the year start to blow and the fish start to school up and move around a lot.

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