Pelagic prime time
  |  First Published: February 2005

February is a great month on the waters offshore from the Gold Coast. The warm water current brings a wide range of pelagics to the waters of Southern Queensland, and you can troll for everything from spotted mackerel to blue marlin.

This season the small black marlin have been quite scattered. In the week before Christmas the action was just starting to pick up. Most of the small black marlin have been from 15-30kg, and the shallow water off South Stradbroke Island has produced the majority of fish, despite the water being green.

There have been quite extensive schools of pilchards and small slimies in close along Stradbroke Island. The fish have been quite widespread and any current line or bluewater edge is worth a look. The first two little blacks we caught this season came from 25m of water directly in front of the Seaway less than a mile offshore, on the edge of the dirty water line.

February is a prime month for little blacks, and increasingly there have been a fair number of sailfish caught off the Gold Coast. 10 years ago sailfish weren’t common, but in recent seasons there have been quite a few in the area. They are a lot easier to catch on livebaits or by switchbaiting than by using lures. In February, prime areas for small black marlin and sailfish include Sullies, the Cotton Reef, the 40-50m line off Couran Cove, Kirra Reef and the drop off right in front of the Seaway.

The mackerel should hot up this month and there will be plenty of spotties and Spaniards around Palm Beach and Mermaid Reefs. There are many ways to catch a mackerel, but spinning metal lures down a berley trail is fun, productive and easy. This method appeals to both species and often out-fishes trolling and livebaiting.

If the Spaniards are scattered, trolling a big bait such as a tailor works very well, and small live tuna are very hard to beat.

Aside from pelagics there has been an unseasonable run of reasonable quality snapper throughout summer on the 36 and 42 fathom lines. These fish have fallen mainly to floatlining techniques and have been biting quite well despite the strong current. A few decent trag have also been on these reefs, along with venus tuskfish, pigfish and rosy jobfish. The gravel patches around the 24 fathom line have produced tailor, parrot and a few squire. When fishing these areas, a livebait floated out the back is a good way to catch a dolphinfish or even a small marlin.

A few wahoo should also show up this month so be ready to lose a few of your favourite expensive skirts. The Tweed Nine Mile is worth a look later in the month to high-speed troll with Hexheads or livebait using small tuna. Overall, February is the best month of the year to go trolling on the big blue off the Gold Coast.

Estuaries and Rivers

In February there’s a significant drop in the number of jet skis, floatplanes and gigantic boats, and the fish respond by returning to the main section of the Broadwater.

February is often a month of unusual captures in Gold Coast estuaries. Giant herring, golden trevally, barracuda, queenfish and other more tropical species often turn up around the Nerang and Coomera rivers. It’s also the best month of the year for mud crabs, and there are plenty of sand crabs as well.

The main target species in February are whiting, school flathead and bream. There are also a few jacks about and quite a few giant trevally.

Whiting start to fish well in the Nerang River as the holiday boat traffic settles. The section of river between TSS and Sorrento is usually the most productive. Good baits include soldier crabs, bloodworms and shrimp, and these are easily caught with a dip net around the canals and mangrove edges. I like to fish for whiting early in the morning on a rising tide, before the boat traffic starts.

It’s quite amazing how well the Nerang River fishes, considering the extensive development that surrounds it. It is one of the most consistent whiting rivers in the state, with plenty of big fish well over 40cm turning up each season.

With a reasonable amount of rain this summer, the flathead have continued to bite right through the hotter months and in February there will probably still be plenty around Jumpinpin. My son recently caught a 92cm flathead off the bank in Coombabah Creek, so the quality flathead have continued well past what is usually considered the end of the season.

Mangrove jacks in February are a dawn, dusk and night proposition. Poppers around the oyster leases, trolling deep divers and livebaits or strip bait all work very well. The Coomera has fished very well for jacks this season. Some big fish over 50cm have been quite common, and a fair few have been caught on dead bait at night. The last big jack I saw ate a lump of squid in Saltwater Creek.

The Seaway is worth a look this month very early in the morning on a run-in tide. There should be a few tailor, trevally and tarpon about, and at times a few spotted and doggy (school) mackerel can be caught around the north wall when the baitfish are in close. Raiders and Lazers work well in these situations, and first light is the best time to try.

Overall, February is one of the most exciting months on the fishing calendar. This season has been a beauty for small black marlin, and come February the action should be even hotter. Get out there and start catching a few, because a good season like this comes only every seven or so years.


1) A black marlin of around 90kg. February is a good month for chasing blacks.

2) Kerrie Green with a 10kg dolphinfish.

3) Michael Green with a giant herring caught while flathead trolling in the Nerang.

4) Doug Burt with a hefty flathead. These fish have continued to bite throughout summer.

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