Gamefishing in Full Swing
  |  First Published: February 2003

FEBRUARY is one of the best gamefishing months on the calendar, and it’s looking to be a surprisingly good season. The marlin arrived in force off the Gold Coast the week before Christmas, and when the blue water was in close the bait schools were plentiful. Most boats targeting marlin managed to tag one or more.

This month these fish should be in all the usual spots, including the 20 fathom line east of Jumpinpin, Tweed Nine Mile, 24 fathoms off Southport and out on the 50 fathom line (where the fish are often bigger).

The early season marlin ranged from 15kg to around 70kg, and the majority were caught on lures. Quite a few striped tuna and dolphinfish turned up as well, with local charter boat Lucky Strike getting a massive bull dolphin that went 23.8kg. Finding a big bait school is the key to successful gamefishing in February, and if you find a mess of slimy mackerel complete with mutton birds, don’t leave it! The marlin and other predators won’t be far away.

Livebaiting with slimies or yakkas is a good way to go, but trolling lures will cover more ground. Small lures like Pakula Uzis are working well at present. It’s surprising how billfish up to 70kg will ferociously hit such a small lure. We troll our Uzis with a single 10/0 Gamakatsu S12S. The hook-up rate with these wide gaped hooks is excellent.

The Spaniards and spotted mackerel should be in full swing this month. With the commercial ring netting ban, the spotties should make a significant comeback. I was pretty happy with the entire package of new regulations, and it would be fantastic to see the spotties thrashing the surface off the Gold Coast like they did a decade ago. It may take a few years to see the flow-on effect of the ring net ban, but it’s still a great thing for the Gold Coast inshore reefs. In February, Palm Beach and Mermaid Reefs are worth a look if you’re chasing macks, and trolling a few livies or big rigged dead baits is the best way to go.

The Nine Mile east of Tweed can be a fish smorgasbord in February, particularly when the current is running hard from the north. Lure and bait trolling will produce marlin, sailfish, wahoo, Spaniards, yellowfin and the ever-present mackerel tuna. If the weather is good it’s about a 50-minute run south of the Seaway entrance on a flat sea. It’s a good idea to put the lures out about 3km north of the Nine because you’ll troll over some pretty productive water in this area on your way down. At times this patch produces more wahoo and marlin than the Nine Mile itself.

For the bottom fisherman the wider reefs are generally dominated by fast current, although there are a few pearl perch, rosy jobfish and samsons around. Heavy jigs on gelspun line tend to minimise the effect of current a bit, and are proving productive in the Summer months. Closer to shore there should be tailor, trag and the odd mack tuna and cobia about.


February in the estuaries is a bit tough at times. Targets include whiting, trevally in the Seaway, the odd school mulloway and mangrove jacks. It’s an excellent month for mud crabs up the creeks and rivers. At present we’re still in drought conditions and even the few violent storms we’ve had haven’t put much fresh in the system. This has made things hard going and the water in the upper Nerang and Coomera is very salty at the time of writing.

In February, one of the wettest months, there are usually many fish moving down into the Broadwater after rain. At these times there are often plenty of whiting in the lower Nerang. Top baits are wrigglers and small soldier crabs, but another good bait is shrimp, which you can collect with a dip net along the rock walls and weedbeds on the run-in. These tiny shrimp go six to the hook, but they are a great whiting bait with the advantage of being catchable at high tide.

It’s been a pretty good season for mangrove jacks, with fish to 60cm turning up around all the marinas, Sovereign Islands and up the Coomera and Nerang rivers. This year we’ve had quite a bit of success on poppers, particularly around dawn. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how much time the jacks spend feeding on the surface at dawn and dusk, and it’s a fun way to catch them. February is a pretty good month for jacks. By the end of the month a lot move into the Seaway area.

Crabs should be in good numbers this month in the Pimpama, the north arm of the Coomera and Coombabah Creek. If we get a stack of rain the crabs will be on the move just after the fresh. Oily bait such as mullet, tuna and slimy mackerel work well. Big run-in tides are generally the most productive.

The Seaway is definitely worth livebaiting this month. Some years see lots of hammerheads and small whalers around at this time, and if the schools of white pilchards get sucked inside on a big run-in tide there can be everything from mulloway to marlin.

The hole at the end of the north wall is worth a look for a mulloway, and the white water around the rocks can produce trevally and jacks. Small live slimies are the best bait. The first of the run-in is often the most productive time, and dawn is usually best. Spinning the washes can produce tailor, mack tuna and even spotted macks at this time. When the blue water is coming inside there are often a few surprise captures, including cobia and Spaniards.

1) Rohan Short, visiting from Darwin, caught this 50kg black marlin off the Gold Coast.

2) This dolphinfish was taken off Southport. Finding a big bait school is the key to success.

3) Michael Green caught this big-eye trevally on a popper in the Broadwater.

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