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What a Year it’s Been!
  |  First Published: December 2002



FOR ME, 2002 brought some very good estuary fishing, a few blinder offshore trips and a very mixed bag in the fresh.

ESTUARY

Once again, my crabbing efforts produced results in the poor-to-dismal range. Securing a good feed of muddies in this part of the world is no easy task! Occasionally crabbers clean up, but this is fairly rare. The Noosa River can become a skipper’s nightmare due to the huge number of crab pot floats. The massive influx of visitors to the Sunshine Coast is directly proportional to the number of milk bottles bobbing around on the rivers. Last January I walked from Munna Point to the Sheraton Jetty without getting my feet wet, and no – I didn’t rat any of the pots beneath me!

My fishing efforts in the Sunshine Coast estuaries for the year were mixed, but mostly successful. I find bait fishing to be no great joy, but I relish in the chase for bait! I’ve been known to spend hour after hour wandering around with the cast net only to end up with half a dozen poddy mullet for my trouble. Wading attached to one end of the 50-foot bait net is good fun too, I reckon. You never quite know what’s going to be dragged up onto the sand on the next haul.

Lure casting and trolling are more my bag. Trolling for flathead can be relatively easy if you happen to hit the prime times. Fishing the run-out tide has been far more productive than the run-in, particularly with all that yucky algae infesting the system over the past few months. Thankfully, the algae seems to be clearing well with some much-needed rain.

The most productive areas for me have been opposite Noosa Harbour, the Frying Pan and around the Munna Point Bridge. The best lure colours have been gold chrome, orange/red, and pink with black stripes. The prime trolling depths have been 8-14 feet, and the best times have been mid to late afternoon on the run-out.

Casting lures (with some degree of success) is much more fun than trolling. I’ve been pushing for some time that anglers should cease trolling as soon as they catch a fish, because the area can be well tested by casting all around the boat. Lures that swim on or near the bottom are more likely to be considered worthy of attention by flathead than those that don’t! Bibbed minnows, soft plastics and sinking prawn lures all do the trick well when it comes to the humble and widespread lizard. This year the flathead may end up with a legal window size of 40-60cm, which will protect the little fellows and also the very important big girls. Hopefully there will even be an overdue ‘in possession’ limit.

I haven’t had too many opportunities to chase mangrove jack around these parts during 2002. There is a reasonable population in most Sunshine Coast estuaries and the Pumicestone Passage, but these fish are usually a by-catch. When using live baits or strips for flathead, you can expect to encounter an occasional jack. Like many other species, the further north you go the more there are! The Bundaberg region seems to be a better option for anglers intent on tangling with the mighty ‘dog tooth bream’. There are plenty of diehard jack anglers on the Sunshine Coast though and, once the spots are identified and the tactics are mastered, good jack fishing is the reward.

I managed to pull some good bream out of the Noosa River during the year. Most of these fish fell to bait presentations, but many were taken on small lures including soft plastics, surface poppers and fly. The bream season wasn’t up to scratch once again, but there were some quality fish available. Night time sessions were very productive, particularly if I lobbed the bait into deeper channels during late afternoon through to dusk, and up into the shallows once darkness set in. The bycatch included flatties, whiting, moses perch and the occasional tarwhine.

There were quite a few good jew taken on the Sunny Coast in 2002, in the rivers, from the rocks and beaches and out on the reefs. Some hooters were weighed in during the Noosa Family Fishing Classic, and I received quite a few reports of good jewies taken from beaches well to the south of Noosa. There’s always the chance of a decent jew around here, particularly for the anglers who fish at night. Deeper holes and around bridge pylons are a good place to drop a tailor fillet or a good sized livey and wait! Most times when I try that I’m plagued by catfish and eels the size of small canoes.

OFFSHORE

My few offshore forays generally resulted in a feed of fillets and a story of the ones that got away. One session was chaotic when a mob of monster amberjack arrived and proceeded to blow us away time and time again. Our gear was ‘a snag short of a barbie’, you might say, and of the many hookups only one fish made it to the boat. At one point during the melee we had three hookups at once and only two fishermen to handle the lot. Never mind – I came to the rescue and successfully busted off two fish worthy of storytelling for years.

Thankfully, my fishing mate did the right thing and boated a 30kg AJ all on his own.

By the time this hits the press there should be massive schools of tuna and mackerel right along the coast. There have been captures of several species of both during October, November and December, but nothing quite like the smorgasbord we saw during the Summer of 2001/2002. Massive schools boiled on the surface for weeks on end, accompanied by zillions of birds cashing in on the easy feed.

During that period many boats ventured out to do battle, and many came back in far earlier than planned with crews whingeing about sore backs and stretched arms. I look forward to some more of that frenzied activity soon!

BIZARRE CATCH AWARDS

I can’t wind 2002 up without recalling some of the weird catches for the year.

First place goes to Sunshine Coast lure maker Alan Dolan with his monster cuttlefish. After that amazing catch, Alan enjoyed crumbed cuttlefish, curried cuttlefish, cuttlefish balls (big), deep-fried cuttlefish and cuttlefish-everything-else for months.

Second and third places for Bizarre Catches of 2002 were both taken out by local radio DJ ‘Clarky’. The second prize-getter was the huge eel that he caught on a trolled extra-deep minnow lure in Lake MacDonald. I was there at the time and we thought for all money that he had at last hooked a big cod.

Third was the occasion when Clarky was photographing a fish that I had caught in the same body of water. Clarky had left his extra deep minnow floating on the surface while he netted my fish and helped with photos. Suddenly his rod bucked over and line started disappearing from his reel. A bass had taken his lure from the surface after it had been floating for some minutes. It only happens to the good guys...

If you’re boating on the Sunshine Coast during the holiday period. stay safe and consider your fellow boaties. Happy New Year!

1) Caloundra lure maker Alan Dolan with six months worth of cuttlefish dinners.

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