Reef Fishing Great
  |  First Published: April 2006

I can’t believe that summer is over and we are officially in autumn – time flies when you’re having fun! Still, a different season means different fish varieties to catch so get ready for winter.

It’s been a bumper year on the Sunshine Coast so far and if late February’s weather had been better we would have all had stacks of extra trips out wide. However we weren’t alone with most of the East Coast has coping a bit of a bashing.


The fishing hasn’t stopped out on the all reefs especially those close in and right out to the 130m marks. Snapper have been the talk of the town with some absolute monsters caught out from the Barwon Banks and Wide Caloundra over the past few weeks. Fish over 6kg have been everywhere along with plenty of good-sized pearl perch; a few 4kg+ pearlies have even been around. Most of these quality fish have been caught from around the 85m mark out past the Banks and the dog leg past Wide Caloundra.

Plenty of mixed reefies have also been around with coronation and coral trout, reds, parrot, cobia, Maori cod, dolphinfish and spangled emperor all available from our great reef systems. Some pelagics have also been around and have given everyone a great run throughout the summer months. Cobia, have been around in strong numbers with 6kg fish regular catches. Amberjack have been quiet but barracuda, trevally and samson have all struck a few cords.

Closer in reefs like the Inner and Outer Gneerings and Murphys have been great spots around the full and new moons with good catches of sweetlip, snapper, Spanish and spotty mackerel reported. The best time to fish these reefs is early afternoon around 3.30pm. Set out and find your spot, then anchor up and begin the berley trail. By this time the sun should be only an hour or so from setting and the fish should begin to belt your lines right through depending on the tide.

Recently when fishing the 12 Mile Reef off Caloundra we caught a truckload of juvenile red emperor and some nice snapper to 4kg. Trolling for Spaniards and the odd cobia has been keeping anglers busy around the Caloundra Reefs, both 3 and 5 Mile, with livebait, lures and floaters accounting for most Spaniards catches this season.

Large schools of spotty mackerel have been found all over the place; if you’re outside you’re bound to run in to some thrashing on the water surface. Some of these feeding schools are made up of mack tuna, bonito and the odd cobia or two.


Our beaches have been a bit up and down with the weather but when it’s been good some great catches have been reported with dart, bream, whiting and flathead all being taken along the foreshore. Bait has been available from around the Wurtulla strip with pipis and beachworms in good supply. Coolum has also been a top spot to find pipis and is where I prefer to go to find them.

School and spotty mackerel have occasionally been taken from the beach, along the break walls at Mooloolaba and the rocks off Point Cartwright. It’s always handy to have a rod set up ready to throw in amongst a feeding school no matter where you decide to fish. Beachworms, strips of pillies, pipis and bloodworms have been the pick of the baits for the beach and as April begins bigger bream should start to cruise along the beaches searching for good feeds of hardiheads, worms and herring.


Estuary fishing has improved recently with mangrove jacks being caught further down the Pumicestone Passage. Fish past Roys and around the bridges and pylons of Pelican Waters and the canals to if you want to find some. The canals are my tip for some great fun with the trevally and queenies on lures. Casting around and close to the pontoons are the best places to target and you may even catch a good-sized bream.

Plastics have been landing more fish than hard-bodied lures have so far this season. Whiting can be caught around the boaties within the shallows and closer to the banks around the sailing club and Bill Boat Hire. Wading through this area during low tide is a good way to find the fish – just make sure you wear an old pair of sandshoes so you don’t stand on a stingray. Fishing the drop-offs using a slow retrieval technique could bag you some nice flathead and trevally.

The boardwalk

The Boardwalk at Caloundra still seems to be the surprise package with anglers catching good-sized trevally, grunter, queenies and 1kg+ bream taking baits during the rising tides. I have sounded the deep water at the western end of the Boardwalk and the fish it holds would surprise everyone. Getting them to take a bait or lure is a different story.

Crabs have been around in good numbers thanks to all the fresh we have had lately. Crab pot stealing has been really bad recently in the passage and you need to be vigilant with your property.

Baitfish have been found in all the usual haunts with hardiheads and herring around in good numbers. Remember to only take what you need for a fishing trip as you can always come back for more later.

What’s next?

April should bring bream back in to play around the estuaries with some awesome grunter amongst them. The seasonal transition between summer and winter whiting will take place soon but there will be plenty around so don’t think you’ll miss out on these tasty numbers.

Flathead will be back in numbers in April and I’m looking forward to seeing some big ones caught this season. Out wider the coral trout and other mixed reef species will start to hammer lines again – watch out for sweetlinp in particular.

Amberjack, kingies and samsonfish will all start to take over the reigns of the pelagic action once the mackerel slow right down. I intend to get right in there amongst them and I hope you find the time to do so as well.

I want to thank all the readers who have contacted me for either advice or some top spots to try. I am happy to help anyone who wants to try out something different and to put you in the area to get you started.

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