Some pretty ordinary weather in January ruined quite a few offshore trips along the Sunshine Coast. Cyclonic activity is common at this time of year, but the rain is certainly welcome.
The big fresh towards the end of January saw some pretty average fishing in most Sunshine Coast estuaries as we headed into February. While an occasional flush-out is a good thing it can slow the fishing in the short term. Lots of fresh in the systems can push the estuarine dwellers right down to the lower reaches, and even out to sea. This can be a bonus when the dirty water flowing out of the rivers meets the clean water of the ocean in a distinct line. These colour changes are good ambush points and big Spanish mackerel, northern and yellowfin tuna and other pelagic cruisers use these areas to their advantage.
Trolling the colour changes is a good tactic. Large minnows, particularly in chrome, rigged gar or any of the recognized trolling tools will get the job done. Plenty of big Spaniards better than 20kg are caught along the coast in March, along with a fair number of tuna. Spotted mackerel are also still on the scene, and these are often caught in the 5-6kg class this month. A rod rigged with a slug and some wire often comes in handy at the end of Summer. Boiling schools are often encountered during bottom bashing trips, and a slug cast into, or over, the school and rapidly retrieved back to the boat often brings results.
Matching the size of the baitfish being chased by the predators below is essential. A slug that’s too small or too big will often go untouched, as the fish can become focused on prey of one size. I have heard unlucky anglers whining on about “the blokes in the other boat cleaning up on slugs” while theirs were ignored. Size really does matter.
Yellowfin tuna are a challenge at any time, and this is a good month to try for one or two. They can be tempted with rapidly trolled bibless lures such as Mack Baits or Big Eyes. Bibbed minnows can also get the job done, as will a floating pilchard or livie.
Also on the bluewater scene in March are yellowtail kingfish. These brutes are mostly caught by bait anglers and are a serious challenge. Like amberjack, kings fight hard and slug it out deep. If you can’t get the king’s head up and on the way to the boat it could be a long battle – often a losing one!
Other bottom targets will be snapper, Moses perch, parrots and pearl perch, which seem to be just about everywhere. Most reefs will cough up a few of these good table fish anyway! The bonus fish will be red emperor and the occasional coral trout. Sunshine Reef is always a fair bet for a trout, and the further out you go the better your chances of a quality red. Double Island Point was the place to fish in early January, with excellent catches of big knobby snapper and some hefty Spaniards.
The beaches can fish pretty well during March as well. The big swells will hopefully be gone by then and the beach anglers can get back to their lonely night-time vigils in the hope of a sizable greenback or jew. Whiting, dart and choppers have dominated southern beach catch lists for the past few months, so perhaps we are due for a change for the better. A few good tailor have been caught on the north shore though, and some 3kg fish have been taken from the rock groin at the mouth of the Noosa River. Jew are also caught from time to time along the Noosa National Park rocks.
Up in the estuaries things have been a tad quiet, due to the fresh. Flathead have been available for trollers and those drifting baits. Good places to hunt for a feed of flathead fillets will be the lower Noosa River including Munna Point, the run from the spit to the mouth, and the Frying Pan. Further down the coast the waters around Chambers Island in the Maroochy are always worth a try for flathead, as is the lower Mooloolah and the Pumicestone Passage. Bream and whiting have made regular appearances also in most estuaries.
The good run of mangrove jack has slowed somewhat, but the stayers are still finding a few fish. Anglers fishing at night have been doing the best, and fishing live or very fresh baits around rock bars or snags is a good bet.
Lure tossers don’t have to pack it in at sunset though! Plenty of good jacks are caught by casting lures into the snags, around bridge pylons, rock walls or under jetties. Not that long ago I was comprehensively stitched up by a big jack that intercepted a lure just near the boat quite late at night. The brute raced straight up the river and I applied too much pressure to halt the very long run. Once or twice I stopped the fish, but it soon got into gear again and I was too keen to stop the fish before it found cover. Just for the record, the lure was a gold body/red head minnow.
Trevally have been a good target for those prepared to get up at ‘stupid o’clock’. Poppers are the best way to target these fish, and surface luring is always the most fun anyway. Other fish that keenly attack poppers are tailor and occasionally jacks. Even flathead, bream and whiting will get in on the act occasionally, so you never know who’s going to have a crack at your popper next.
Small GTs and golden trevally have been quite active during January and this will hopefully continue into March.
The motorway bridge over the Maroochy River has seen a few jacks and jew, particularly at night and with livebait. Slabs of tailor or tarpon are good as well. While you’re sitting out those long nights waiting for a jew or jack to grab your bait and run for it, I recommend dropping in a crab pot or two.
1. Alex Bewsey with a quality spotted mackerel. There will be plenty of these around in March, along with some big Spaniards.
2. A pretty fair GT for these parts. This one liked the look of a gold minnow lure cast under a bridge.Reads: 680