Extraordinary Fishing on Coast
  |  First Published: March 2006

Late January and early February saw some extraordinary fishing around the Sunshine Coast with a large variety of estuary, beach, mixed reef and pelagics available to anglers.

Good numbers of pelagics have been around all the reef systems with strong catches of cobia, school and spotted mackerel, amberjack and trevally. The usual run of Spanish mackerel should be in full swing by March but have been a little slow so far this season. The strong northerlies have kept them at bay, but late January’s southeasterlies brought a truck load of spotty and Spanish mackerel with them.

The closer reefs such as Murphy’s, The Inner and Outer Gneerings have enjoyed good mixed reef action with a number of 4kg snapper being taken close to the full moon. Around Point Cartwright and through to Old Women Island the pelagics such as rat kings, cobia and mackerel have been the target. Trolling within the 18m range around the Island should reward you with some good fish, but be careful not to stray in to shallow water and bust of your lures.

The rise around the Island is steep and as a general rule shallow diving lures are the safest way to travel. If the lure action is slow then fishing the eastern side of the island with some berley on the 14-18m ledge could produce some rat kings and other species. Try drifting past the face along the 18m mark and hang on, making sure you get your line of the bottom because it is pretty rough down there.

Out wider around the Barwon Banks and Caloundra Wide the fish have just hammered us over the past five weeks. Large 6-7kg+ snapper have been caught on floating rigs using the smallest amount of weight that the current allows. The lead up to the new and full moons have been producing great fishing with up to four days after both moons filling the eskies. Quality emperor, sweet lip, pearlies, Maori cod, coronation trout, parrot, cobia, amberjack, morwong, trevally and wahoo have all been available and can be a part of the day’s catch. A recent trip saw us land a stack of big fish and including Noel’s good diamond trevally.

My specialty rig for floating for snapper and the like is no secret; I use a 3 gang 6/0 Tru-Turn combination with swivels in between the hooks and a size 1-2 ball sinker (anchored) or 6-7 ball (drifting), on an 80lb leader with a main line of 40lb. You might think that 80lb is a little excessive but with today’s finer lines it really helps when you get taken under the rocks and need to work the fish out.

I cast a good-sized pillie or slimey out as far as I can and release another 5-10m of line (when anchored) and let that sink down slowly. Most times it will get hammered before it comes to the end of the drop and if it doesn’t then all you need do is release a few metres at a time until it gets a bite.

When drifting it’s a matter of dropping to the bottom and then winding up 1-2m to avoid snagging the line, and repeating the process. We fish between 25-45m on the drift and go through to around 85m when looking for quality pearlies and bigger snapper on the bottom.

Paternoster rigs are ideal for deeper water work but I still have a rig of gangs set up with a 10 ball or smaller depending on the current ready to float down to the bottom. So the rule is – adjust your sinker to suit the current using as small a weight as possible. I bet we have all heard that before!

When you are fishing a very rocky bottom you will notice that getting snagged increases tenfold. To avoid the problems rig a 3 gang as a single paternoster with an 8oz sinker so that the hooks stay off the bottom. This rig works well and can save you money on lost gear.

The use of plastics is slowly working its way in to our way of fishing. Although bait and lures are my preference, the occasional plastic is dropped to try and tempt the pelagics in to some action.

Trolling a combination of skirts, shallow and deep diving lures around the shallow part of the Barwon Banks on the western side can also produce all types of pelagics including dolphinfish. This season they seem to be out a little wider in the deeper water but will generally hang around good pinnacles and larger bait schools. Cobia and trevally have been around great numbers and should give you endless hours of fun on lighter gear so look for the concentration of bait schools and holding formations on the bottom and try trolling when things are quiet out wider. A good way to break down a full days fishing is as follows:

Start at 5am and fish the high tide from 6-8am. Between 8-11 drift the shallow grounds or try the deeper waters for pearlies and snapper on anchor. At midday if things are quiet, enjoy your lunch while trolling around until 2pm. Whilst trolling your lures spend some time glued to the sounder and make some marks over places to try the next time you are out. After 2pm find a good spot for the low tide and fish into the evening until 7pm before heading home. That’s a pretty long day but it’s a good way to break it up and try new options.

The beaches copped a fair bit of rain and strong northerlies through January, which also affected the estuary fishing. As the southeasterlies blow the water clears and can produce some cracker catches. Whiting, dart, flathead and bream have been the most common catches using both strip and worm baits lately.

Moffat Beach through to Dicky’s has seen a good run of bream over 1kg with an odd sweetlip amongst them. Whiting have been in good numbers a little further north of the Dicky Beach wreck. Beachworms have worked well in the good gutters and holes along the Wurtulla Strip. They’ve been producing a mixed bag including an excessive amount of small stingrays.

The biggest problem with the beaches has been the northerly winds on the ebbing tide and there have been constant numbers of blue bottles on the shoreline, so keep a close eye on the water when casting to avoid the inevitable sting. Hopefully the beach fishing scene will improve in 2006 because last year was pretty average.

The Pumistone Passage had a great run of grunter bream, trevally and queenfish until the rain came in. They were falling for live herring and strip baits around Military Jetty and the pontoons in the passage.

Whiting have been the most consistent catch of late and flathead catches should increase as February progresses. Mangrove jack began with a bang and slowed down but will start to hammer baits again right through February and into March. The occasion bream has been taken but nothing compared to the numbers around towards the end of last year.

The rain brings the crabs out in full force and good numbers of muddies have been crashing into pots around the area. I would be fishing around the rocks of Kings and further around at Shelly’s for a few bream at low tide. If you have the right bait and the local knowledge there always seems to be a feed around there, just watch some off the old masters at work. The full moon brings out the prawns and you can’t go past fresh or live prawns when chasing bream.

Spanish mackerel should really come on through February along with a stack of other popular pelagics. Bigger parrot and pearlies will start to become more consistent out at the wider reefs and hopefully the dolphinfish will come in around the shallower areas of the Banks. Snapper and Maori cod will continue their run with more sweetlip making up the catches as March fires up.

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