Pelagics on the prowl
  |  First Published: May 2006

With winter looming the fishing is bound to slow down, so we have to make hay while the sun shines!

We have pelagics off the coast everywhere at the moment. The recent cyclone has disturbed the ocean, which has turned a murky green colour. This has been evident right out to the shelf in 1000m of water.

The big schools of mackerel are out and about, and they should hang around until June. We have been picking up tailor on the inshore reefs and they will probably move into the river once it cools down. The cooler weather will bring the bream on the bite too, so there are lots of positives in the months ahead.


On the whole you will see thing slowing down in the estuaries around Bundaberg this month. The fish like barra and mangrove jack tend to go off the bite but the people who get out and fish hard still come up with results, although they don’t usually catch large numbers of fish. Looking back at past years the whiting are usually on the bite from Easter onwards, and the odd salmon gets caught at this time of year too.

Prawns are the go at the moment and people are catching them in the Kolan River and the Baffle Creek system, just remember to stick to the limits as this is a valuable resource we all own.


We have had a great couple of months fishing the reefs. With winter looming things generally slow down a bit but we usually have more fishing days on the water.

We have been catching some big red emperor along the eastern edge of Lady Musgrave Island and Fairfax Island. Even around Lady Elliot on the 40m and 50m contour there were plenty of good bites. We fished the Herald patches and caught some nice big coral trout around the drop-offs.

Around the gutters off Bundaberg good size sweetlip have caught along with the old favourites like hussar and parrot filling the bag limits. You will also catch the odd red and trout around the gutter but the reds are very hard to catch over that magic 55cm mark.

Mackerel tend to slow down as we move into May and June but at the southern end of Lady Elliot and the northern end of Sandy Cape Shoals we catch some monster fish at this time of year. People with smaller boats should haunt the 5-degree patch as the big mackerel love this place. You might even catch a sailfish or marlin at this time of year.

Surprisingly, two of my friends have caught marlin this year while reef fishing, one caught a sailfish south of the Herald patches and the other caught a large black of around 100kg north of the 15-Mile reef.

Other places to catch big pelagics in May are Ryan’s Reef, the Two Mile Reef off Bargara and the Cochrane Artificial Reef off Elliot Heads. At the Cochrane Artificial Reef the snapper move in as the water cools, and you can catch good specimens early in the morning and late in the after noon. It’s a similar story at all the southern reefs.

Moving into the sandy areas of the bay, big snapper move in on the Southern Gutter, the 6-Mile Reef, the Northern Gutter, The 4-Mile Reef, the Trawler Wreck off Elliot Heads and some of the reefs around 1770 that have gravel bottoms. The reefs off 1770 hold these tasty ‘frying pan’ snapper that are great to catch during the winter months. You can catch them on the reefs within 12 miles of the coast.


The gamefishing was great until cyclone Larry came, devastating the northern coast around Innisfail. Our hearts go out to the people who are trying to rebuild their lives after the damage it caused.

The other downside is that it has churned the water into a murky green soup, turning the heavy tackle fish off. Fish were being caught right along the coast from the Mooloolaba to Bundaberg until this happened. Andrew Yeh had lots of blue marlin up to the back of the boat until the green water moved in off Mooloolaba as well.

On our latest heavy tackle trip there were no signs of fish in the green water, even though the temperature was great. Fortunately, the light tackle fish haven’t been put off quite as much; there are still plenty of small blacks and sailfish around. In fact, last year we were hooking up into six a day in May and into June.

On one recent trip I took my son Tommy out with us and we had a great day chasing pelagics on the inshore reefs. We caught a yellowfin tuna of about 5kg straight away and this is usually a good sign that marlin are about so we hung on the spot.

We trolled around and had a shot on the shotgun. We were short staffed so I didn’t stop to check the lure afterwards as I normally would, I just kept trolling. All of a sudden a small sailfish came in, hit the lure, peeled off about 40m of line and then dropped it. I yelled to seven-year-old Tom to wind the lure back in the spread and all the while the fish kept charging in to pick up the lure and run 40m before dropping it again.

After about four times the fish gave up and I went down to check the lure. Sure enough, the hook was bitten off just behind the crimp that held the lure on. Obviously the first bite was a mackerel which are notorious tail slappers and it took the hook after pulling it out off the clip. If we weren’t so short staffed I would have pulled in the lure, checked it and then returned it to the clip, but every one has their slack days! Still, it was great to see this sailfish charging all over the place and young Tom enjoyed the thrill.

We went on to catch more yellowfin, mackerel and trevally but we didn’t see any more billfish. Still, it was a great day for both of us.


Fish are still being caught in the dam and some of the better anglers are catching up to five fish per day. The moon seems to play a big part, with the days leading up to full moon being the best. Most people fishing outside of the peak times are catching one to three fish per day. Fish at the top of the dam are averaging around 92cm at the moment.

The winter westerlies will move in soon and cool the water, but you will still catch fish in the shallows where the water is warmer. Dave Woollard regularly fishes the top section and has caught some big fish up there this year, it’s not bad for getting away from the crowds either. Some people like trolling and have had good results but in the months ahead I reckon you will catch more fish casting to the banks and sticks.

Don’t forget if you’re up our way drop into the Gin Gin Hotel and say hello, and find out what’s happening.


1) Tommy Wood with a trevally caught on a recent trip to the inshore reefs.

2) Rob Wood with a yellowfin tuna. These fish are often accompanied by marlin.

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