Warm Welcome to Winter
  |  First Published: July 2006

Sunshine Coast fishing from Caloundra to Maroochydore has given anglers a warm welcome to the winter months with a large variety of species on offer to every type of angling.

As we move in to the deeper winter months the fishing will pick up for anglers who love to brave the cool nights and colder mornings. The ramps have been full even on weekdays, so the word has certainly got around that the fish are on.

The closer in reefs, Murphys, Inner and Outer Gneerings and all the shallow Caloundra areas have produced a mountain of quality sweetlip with some hitting the scales at 6kg+ and the average around 2-3kg. Snapper are starting to come on in numbers as the winter transition from deep to shallow takes effect.

A late season run of big schoolies with fish around 6kg have been busting lines and filling eskies all over the shop. Smaller parrotfish have started to arrive and early morning fishing trips should account for a number of pan-sized fish along with some lovely reds that are just over legal length. Big estuary cod will start to take bigger flesh baits as July rolls in and the best way to pick up one of these brutes is to anchor over rough country or drift and hang on.

The currents have increased rather late this season and anglers who have been fishing out wide have noticed that more weight is now required to keep the bait in the strike zone. The current certainly hasn’t dampened the fishing experience with the Barwon Banks providing good snapper, amberjack, samsonfish, reds, bigger cod and other mixed species fairly regularly of late. The southern end of the Banks and Wide Caloundra have held really good numbers of snapper. Pearl perch are back and throughout July should make up a strong part of any angler’s catch. It appears that this winter could be one of the best pelagic seasons for a while, with kingfish starting to show and amberjack and samsonfish creating some hot action all around the inner and outer reefs.

Livebait has been around in good numbers with massive schools of yellowtail and slimies busting the surface around Currimundi Reef, Caloundra 7 Mile and right out towards the Banks. I remember last winter it was a lot tougher work than usual to get a hold of livies to fish with. Obviously with all the bait around it gets easy to make the call about a top pelagic season. Also chasing the bait schools have been plenty of bonito and other tuna varieties and it has been great to see boat loads of flyfishers out testing their skills on these great little sportfish.

The best baits for the snapper and sweetlip have been squid and larger pillies or slimies floated down the berley trail and this should continue through winter.

The number one rule with any type of bait is the fresher the better. Fish won’t eat old and smelly bait if there is better, fresher stuff around so take particular care with your bait and berley. As a general rule of thumb, if I have defrosted a bait twice I won’t freeze it again. When making berley don’t be shy about dropping in some big pieces or whole small fish. Take for instance an average size pilchard, if I’m fishing for snapper or larger predators I prefer to throw over a whole pillie cut in three pieces or half. Using smaller pieces often atttracts the smaller fish that they can easily stomach the chopped up pieces. Normally the bigger fish will be up the berley trail nailing the larger baits. The key is not too much too often, but just enough to keep the fish interested and in the strike zone. Lately we have been plagued with mutton birds and dolphins around the boat, which are stealing the berley before it can take effect. The only way around a situation like this is to up anchor and move a long way away. Preferably more than 5km as the dolphins will follow you all the way if you move to a closer position.

Old Womens Island just north of Point Cartwright is a great spot to fish in heavier seas as the northern edge will shelter you from most winds. You can troll lures around the island or work the eastern shelf for rat kings, smaller sweetlip and other reefies. If that is too quiet for you, head out to the east marker buoy and float out a pillie or two. There is plenty of reef country within this area so it’s worth spending some time exploring each trip.

The rockwalls at Mooloolaba have plenty of pike that can be taken on small slugs. These only need to be cast out from the western wall and retrieved at a moderate pace. Pike are excellent snapper bait; they have a very strong smell and a great oily flesh that make them terrific berley bait. I never use the whole pike only the long body, cutting the tail away for better presentation.

Chopper tailor are everywhere and in and around the Mooloolaba canals they are making a racket at night as they hunt the larger bait schools. Bigger bream can be caught around the trawler and long line jetties with some big trevally busting up stacks of lines. Make sure you have permission to fish in these areas and stay well out of the way of all workers. Don’t spoil it for everyone else!

The Pumicestone Passage has really fired up and now that tailor are running in through the mouth of the Caloundra Bar early morning anglers are trying to snap up some of these great eating fish. The best bet is to use a fast retrieve slug or chrome lure and wind in against the tidal flow. Some anglers prefer drifting with a pillie and waiting until the bait is hammered by a passing fish.

The flathead scene has been good and will get even better throughout July, as will the quality bream and winter whiting. The Blue Hole, Bells Creek and Egg Island are all great spots to try for trevally, bream and flathead in winter and using live poddy mullet or hardiheads seems to be the way to go. We really are lucky to have such a great fishery so close to our doorsteps, so let’s take what we need and leave some fish for another day. Trevally are another target species around the passage and on the moving side of the tides try around Military Jetty and the Boardwalk for your best chances.

The beaches have been the big surprise with the southwesterlies around, it has been a great chance to test out the gutters and holes scattered all around the coastal beaches. For a more sheltered approach try Moffat and Kings beaches at dusk for bream and sweetlip. If you’re after dart, flathead, tarwhine or tailor to 2kg+ head further north towards Point Cartwright. The tailor don’t yet seem to be taking full pillies on gangs so downsize your bait and try small hooks and fillets of fish including pillies for better results. I prefer to use a 1/0–2/0 long shank Mustad hook rigged on a paternoster rig with a 4oz sinker or lighter if the conditions will allow. I like this rig as it allows you to target a wide range of fish and I have caught many tailor using this method. Once I have an understanding of the predominant species for the session, I adjust my rig accordingly and target them.

Anglers fishing from the beach access points 36-39 on the Wurtulla Strip have really come into their own. A large continuous gutter runs the length of the three access points providing some great holes for big predators. At low tide it is still fishable and provides plenty of opportunity to catch dart and tailor. The top or bottom of the tides at dawn or dusk is the preferred time to fish for the best results. You must watch the rips though, trying to fish in them is a total waste of time. Better to spend a little more time searching for a spot than waste bait in an area that the fish won’t hold in.

Throughout July the reef systems should be inundated with quality fish such as sweetlip, snapper, amberjack, cod and many more, so you won’t need to travel very far for some fun and a feed. The estuaries will provide some great bream and whiting fishing along with a few surprises, with big predators like mulloway cruising the beaches in search of mullet and tailor. It’s shaping up to be a top class winter so enjoy your fishing.

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