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One of the best months of the year
  |  First Published: March 2004



AT THE time of writing there have been quite a few medium-sized black marlin on the 50 fathom line, and in a normal season these continue well into March. A lot of these fish are 80-100kg so it’s important to use at least 15kg tackle to get good releases. Livebaiting around the slimy schools has been the most effective method most days. Over the Australia Day long weekend local charter boat Lucky Strike tagged 10 blacks to 180kg in three days. The big fish ate a livie fished down deep.

Closer in the billfish are smaller, and this year there have been quite a few sails as well. Depending on where the bluewater starts, there may still be a few marlin around on the close grounds.

March usually sees the toothy critters begin in earnest, and it’s often lure demolition time. Spaniards, wahoo and spotted mackerel should all be about in numbers, and the area east of the Couran Cove resort between 10 and 20 fathoms is well worth a troll with small skirted lures or high speed bibless minnows. If the schools are up and on the surface, spinning with metal lures is also very effective.

March is a great month on the close reefs off Tweed. A wide variety of pelagics are on the chew, with everything from tuna to wahoo to billfish available at the Nine Mile Reef. Heavy headed skirts such as Hex Heads rigged on cable are very effective, but perhaps the most effective method of all is to troll a small live tuna. This sorts out the big fish from the pack, although sharks can be a pest at times.

Palm Beach and Mermaid Reef should fish well for both Spanish and spotted mackerel throughout the month. Spinning metal lures in a berley trail is very effective, as is slowly trolling small livebaits. Weekdays often fish better than weekends, and the current can be very fickle at times. Now that ring netting for spotties is banned all hopes are for an excellent season, and at the time of writing there have been big schools in Moreton Bay.

Bottom fishing in March is usually a bit slow, and hard current can make things tough on the wide grounds. There should still be a few tailor, trag and squire about. When bottom fishing it’s a good idea to put out a surface bait such as a live slimy, tailor or even a floating pilchard as this is a good way of picking up a mackerel while you fish your bottom rigs.

Another spot worth looking at this month is the sand drop-off just north of the Gold Coast Seaway. There are some big mackerel and cobia to be caught here, and the drop-off usually has plenty of baitfish activity. A few hours here on the run-in tide early in the morning can produce some surprising results for minimal petrol outlay.

ESTUARY AND RIVERS

With the water temperatures up the summer species stay on the bite until the end of the month. It’s a great month to livebait for mangrove jacks in the Seaway, and the best area is right in tight on the rocks near the north wall, using live mullet, slimy mackerel or herrings. Jacks take a bit of muscle to get out but are well worth chasing. The same spot also produces a few school jew, tailor and flathead with the same method. Trevally are also common in the deeper hole.

March is a great month to chase whiting in the Nerang River. Early morning run-in tides and live shrimp, soldier crabs and wriggler worms are all very effective. Some of the whiting have been over 40cm and over 600g – great quality fish that are well worth the effort. The reward is on the table. It’s also a good idea to put out pots for sand crabs this month while you fish for whiting. The Nerang can have surprisingly good numbers of sand crabs in March.

Bream start to be more active in the lower reaches this month and this activity increases as the water cools down a bit. There have been some sensational catches of bream on soft plastics in recent months. The 3” Berkley Power Bait is probably the most effective bream lure I have ever used and works well on all Gold Coast estuaries.

School size flathead will increase in numbers towards the end of the month and most will be caught in the central Broadwater between Crab Island and Tippler’s Passage. Small soft plastics like the Squidgy Fish are popular and effective. As well as flathead, expect a few bream, yellowtail pike and trevally. Most of the flathead action this month is in the deeper channels.

Garfish are also worth fishing for this month. The weed beds to the south of Crab Island and around the back of Wavebreak island are reliable on the top half of a run-in tide. Bread berley and a small bait of peeled prawn is all that’s usually required to get a decent feed and some great bait. Small quill floats that sit on the surface work best. Calm days are best, and if you have no action in the berley in 15 minutes, move around. The gar schools move around a bit.

Mud crabs should be on the move if there is a good fresh, and March is often the best crabbing month on the calendar. Tuna and oily fish baits work best, and the bigger the tide, the better the crabbing.

Overall, March is one of the best months of the year, both on the bluewater and in the estuaries. It’s mackerel time, and early starts are often rewarded with the most action just as the sun gets over the horizon. With the banning of ring nets for spotties, we could see an excellent season.

1) Chris Metcalfe with a 10kg dolphinfish.

2) A rare purple cod from the Seaway.

3) Fighting a kingfish.

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