Great Mix of Fish
  |  First Published: October 2006

October around Noosa is another of those transitionary months where the water warms up nicely in the estuaries and we see a mix of species offshore. In the fresh, saratoga will be keen as mustard and as usual there will be plenty of willing bass.

Offshore Action

Bluewater fishing during October can be difficult and a rather haphazard affair. Whilst there are still plenty of snapper available they can be a little hit and miss – there one day and gone the next. Given the amount of angling pressure that these fish have to cope with over the winter months it is nothing short of a miracle that there are any left at all!

It is a large ocean, and the reef systems off Noosa are vast and numerous. Once out on the briny it can pay dividends to sound out a likely looking pinnacle or hump, particularly if you can find one with a good show of bait or lingering fish.

Anchoring allows your bait presentations to drift down to these fish, rather than away from the fish. This is much harder than most anglers realise. Anchoring over the fish will see your bait hit the bottom structure 20-30m away. It can take a skilled approach to anchor in the best position. The anchor must be in the right spot otherwise it will drag along the bottom and the boat and baits won’t sit in the right spot.

Once at anchor it is worth berleying to bring the fish up in the water column. Unweighted baits of pilchard, squid, mullet fillet or whatever takes your fancy can then be drifted down the trail. It is much more fun to hook a good snapper on an unweighted bait in the berley trail rather than down deep with a lump of lead attached to get you there.

At this time of year your berley trail could attract northern bluefin tuna, cobia, amberjack, mackerel tuna or the first of the mackerel species. Dolphinfish are also a real possibility and these fish will put a smile on every face in the boat when they come aboard.

Other chances on the bottom are sweetlip, pearl perch, Moses perch and tuskfish, particularly at North Reef. Sunshine Reef would be a better bet for a good trout or even a legal red emperor. At the Barwon Banks the catch will increase in both size and species with jobfish, red emperor, amberjack, trout, snapper and pearl perch.

Don’t forget your safety gear including a quality fire extinguisher. A friend had a fire onboard just recently. A minor electrical fault started what could have been a major catastrophe. Thankfully they had all the required safety gear on board and the situation was quickly controlled.


By October, flathead should be going hard in the Noosa River and its lakes and creeks. This spawning aggregation builds for months and the fish are often exploited during this time. Occasionally big patches of similar sized fish (generally male) can be found in quite small areas. It is in amongst these lustful boys that there will be a big henfish or two. These big girls are important to the future of the flathead fishery and fish over 70cm must be immediately released. Many locals actually enforce their own maximum size limit of 60cm to protect this valuable species. Taking a couple of legal sized flatties home to the cook is still responsible angling and no one will complain about that.

The entire system is worth prospecting with a trolled minnow or two. The lower of the two lakes is worth a look, particularly along the edges of the well marked channel. Trolling is a bit of a no brainer at times, but with some planning and correct techniques it can deliver the goods. It can also help locate fish that can be targeted with prawn imitations or soft plastics. Slowly bouncing a plastic along the bottom is a sure fire way attract the attention of flathead in the vicinity. Once again, drop a couple in the esky and let the rest go for next time.

Other species worth targeting in the Noosa system at this time of year are the highly regarded mangrove jack, bream, whiting, trevally and tailor. The jacks are present all year round but fire up as the water warms. These fish inhabit structure and as such those looking for jacks need to look at mangroves, bridges and jetties, rock bars and the like. Trolling these areas will attract jacks but casting and retrieving is more fun. The jarring strike of a mean jack and its first frantic run for cover will test your mettle and your gear in one quick instant. Drags need to be cranked up, line should be at least 20lb with a leader of at least 40lb. A lighter leader dragged through a jack’s lair won’t stand a chance. Even with gear of this calibre plenty of mangrove jack are lost in the first few frenzied seconds of the encounter. There are a few barra in the Noosa system as well so you never know what you might hook on the next cast!

Bait anglers don’t miss out when it comes to these red devils. A live herring or mullet drifted with the current into a likely looking snag or rock bar won’t last long if there are a few hungry jacks about. Some swear by tarpon fillet as great bait for jacks. If you can stand the smell of these fish give it a go. I’ll be sticking to the bibbed minnows, slowly worked around the roots of mangrove trees and under overhanging branches. If that doesn’t bring results I’ll occasionally indulge in a troll session or two, but I invariably end up casting again at some stage.

Tailor and trevally are best targeted early and late with poppers or slugs. If the action slows try jighead rigged plastics down deep or troll a deep running minnow to the next spot and try there – you might even pick up a flattie on the way!

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