THE REGULAR evening storm activity on the Sunshine Coast can be likened to the wet season downpours that the tropics experiences on an almost daily basis. This weather continued through the last week of January and the first week of February, and at least some of the estuarine inhabitants seemed to enjoy it.
The Sunshine Coast is in the midst of one of the best jack seasons for years. Plenty of these purple bruisers have succumbed to well-placed minnow lures and soft plastics. Live baiting the snags has also been a deadly tactic, however lots of fish have been lost in those first crucial seconds.
Jacks that I’ve dropped in the past have generally been hooked for only seconds after the initial hit. Even with an almost locked drag, jacks can still peel enough line to find at least some structure where they’ll often cut the line on oyster-encrusted roots or rocks. When the fish heads for the safety of structure sometimes a free hook will catch on a submerged object and the fish swims away, often leaving the lure hopelessly hung up. Last summer I was enjoying a good jack session in a small Sunshine Coast creek when my fishing buddy hooked a good fish. Like any jack it wasn’t very cooperative and swam away at a fast pace straight up the middle of the creek. After peeling 20 or so metres of line from a firmly set drag, the commotion came to a sudden halt. Our investigation revealed that the cunning devil had swum straight through a discarded crab pot, leaving the lure neatly hung on the mesh inside the pot.
More recently I battled a big jack in the Noosa River. Somehow I managed to pull the fish out of its log-ridden lair and play it out in the open. Twice it swam directly towards the boat. On the first occasion I fell for the ruse and thought that I’d dropped yet another good fish. However, the rod loaded up again and the battle continued. On the second occasion the jack had swum deep under the boat and turned, only to head straight back up again. This time I wound as rapidly as possible and stayed connected once again. Amid the chaos I discovered that the skipper for the day had forgotten his landing net, and whilst preparing to hoist the fish aboard it made one final lunge for freedom and this time it succeeded. I’ll be back.
As usual, casts need to land in the structure, not simply near it. The jack’s propensity to sit in thick cover and ambush unsuspecting prey comes into play while lure fishing. Jacks rarely launch attacks out in the open, and as such drags must be twitched pretty well to lock up. A 40lb leader is a good idea, and this insurance can help with extracting the buggers from their foresty home. Light line and light leaders will only result in lost lures and extreme frustration.
Rock bars and the like can present a different story. These mid-water structures often hold jacks, particularly at night or on rainy, overcast days. The lure needs to run deep, at or near the bottom. Large soft plastics and prawn imitation lures can work exceptionally well in these areas because they can be dropped straight down to where the fish are holding and danced seductively right in their faces.
The snag-ridden run between the two major lakes in the Noosa system has been delivering some very tidy specimens to those who persevere. We don’t get cricket score catches around here but most would consider two or three fish in a session very good going. Drifting an unweighted live offering into a likely looking snag is a good tactic but it’s more of a waiting game than actively hunting the fish, with casts to various aspects of the snag. Good live baits are herring and mullet, and strips of mullet can often do the job just as well.
Further south the jacks have been active in the Maroochy River, particularly around the motorway bridge and the Cod Hole. In the Mooloolah River the rock walls are worth a try for lure casters whilst bait anglers might have more joy in the deeper holes of an evening. The creeks that run into the Pumicestone Passage are all worth a try.
While the fiery jacks have stolen the show this summer there are plenty of other fish also available. Since the monsoonal rains the best places to wet a line would probably be in the lower reaches of most systems. As the flooding tide pushes its way upstream it also pushes some of the discoloured fresh making its way downstream. The point where the clean and silted water meets is an excellent starting point. Many predatory fish cruise these areas, using the discoloured water as camouflage. Similarly, the smaller drains and creeks that pour stained or silted water into the main estuaries are great areas to fish.
Bream, trevally, flathead and jacks often haunt these areas in the hope of an easy feed. Barra anglers up north often use these tactics during the run-off, and with good reason – all tropical species that hunt in rivers and creeks use the same techniques to secure their dinner. Look for the dirty water meeting the clean seawater, or for drains emptying into the main channels.
Trevally and tailor have been very active right along the coast, particularly at dawn and dusk. The lower reaches of most systems have produced the best results, with a few big tarpon here and there as well.
The islands in the Maroochy have produced good flathead on the drift and some thumper whiting as well. Further upstream in the Maroochy some quality school jew have succumbed to bait presentations while muddies have been keen also, particularly in the deeper holes.
Teewah, along with many other Sunny Coast beaches, has seen some excellent bream coming from the surf through summer thus far. I must admit it’s been a while since I’ve pulled a kilo bream onto the beach, but as I recall it was a lot of fun. Pipis are a very good bait for bream off the beach. Most beaches hold a good population of pipis, and if you don’t catch any fish you can always take the bait home and eat that instead!
The warmer weather has also seen some quality dart, whiting and a few flathead during the day on most beaches. Night-time brings on other competitors such as tailor, sharks and the occasional jew. The best beaches to while away the hours so far this summer have been Sunshine Beach for quality bream, Mudjimba for plenty of tailor and Castaways for the odd bigger specimen.
Spanish mackerel have been the star of the offshore show in recent weeks. The numbers haven’t quite been as good as expected so things can only improve. Trollers are taking their fair share, particularly with large chrome minnows, rigged gar and Spaniard Specials. At the time of writing there hasn’t been much in the way of tuna to report, but they’ll hopefully arrive en masse very soon. These fellows are quite responsive to trolled lures but it’s more fun to cast slugs to a boiling school. Matching the hatch is very important with these finicky speedsters and a correct choice can make all the difference.
Sandi at Noosa Blue Water Charters has organised some memorable trips of late. An excellent run of Spanish mackerel out at Chardons made the day for one group of hopefuls. Every offering was smashed by big hungry macks, and those who did get a bait to the bottom were rewarded with quality pearlies and some good snapper as well. Arkwright Shoal has also fished well recently, with more Spaniards being the prize catch with spotties, yellowtail kings and pearlies the consolation.
Max at Fishing Offshore Noosa reports good numbers of Spaniards around Sunshine Reef. This very popular area is easily accessible and is fished pretty hard by both weekenders and those ultra-keen types who get outside at least every other day. Amazingly, it continues to fish well, year in and year out. Snapper, sweetlip and some top class yellowtail kings round off a very respectable catch list.
North Reef has been slow, but those who’ve put in the time have been rewarded with very big sweetlip. Spotted and school mackerel have been on the go right along the coast for some weeks now, and many boats are bagging out on whichever species they come across. Please make sure you know the size and in possession regulations if you get out there for a bash.
1) Keen Sunshine Coast angler Davin Bewsey with a big Noosa River jack taken on an Atomic 2” paddle-tail grub.Reads: 4440