Trout turn it on
  |  First Published: March 2005

Fishing in Bundaberg in the last month has been great, with some good size reef fish and light tackle gamefish at their best.


The reefs have been firing and the flavour of the month is coral trout. These fish have been chewing their heads off since Christmas.

My favourite way to catch coral trout is on livebait, but this isn’t always possible as livebaits usually tangle other lines. If you have a number of people fishing out of the one boat, the only way is to use a dead bait, such as a strip bait or a full fish bait.

A full fish bait works well on coral trout, and also on sweetlip and big red emperor. The bait is best presented with both fillets half removed from the anal fin forward and the back bone removed. This creates the illusion of movement in the dead bait, with a butterfly swimming effect that attracts the predators. It’s best to use a freshly caught fish to reduce the rigidness in the bait.

If you really want a good bait for a big reef fish, you can’t beat a freshly-caught tuna. They are a favourite of mine, and are easy to catch by trolling or casting slugs to schools between reef fishing spots. I have caught my biggest reds using a whole chunk of tuna steak with the hook buried in the flesh.

The secret to catching good reef fish is fresh bait that looks natural, so experiment and see what you can come up with to make your fishing a little more interesting.

Gamefishers use baits to troll, and the secret is making the bait swim. You only have to talk to any deckie especially the ones who have worked in Cairns. They will tell you that they come up with a new way to sew up bait every day, and usually refine their craft so the fish almost comes back to life and swims itself. If you use the same principle with your reef fishing I’m sure it will produce results.

Pilchards are another great bait for reef fishing – Some of my best trout have been caught on the humble pillie – but these baits must be kept in good condition. On ice is best, and don’t use the damaged ones. The best pilchards are the ones with no blemishes and plenty of shine, which makes them look natural.

We have caught a some great sweeties this month. Some of the biggest fish I’ve seen this season were caught on a new spot I found thanks to the new sounder on our game boat The Watch-Tower. It has a 3kw sounder, designed for deep water, and we took her reef fishing only to find extra reef showing on the sounder in fine detail. Now we can almost tell the type of fish before we catch them.


All the rivers are fishing well with plenty of mangrove jack around, and what stars these fish are! They’re good to eat and exciting to catch. Plenty of bream and flatties are being caught as well, with bream being a specialty around pylons and in marinas at the moment. With big storms and cyclones hitting the coast, big schools of bait have been in marinas and river mouths. Plenty of good bream are caught on soft plastics in and around structure.

Monduran Dam is still fishing well for barra, and some monsters have been caught this year. My mate Adam Kratzman from the Hervey Bay Game Fishing Club has taken to barra fishing really well this year, with some of his first captures around the metre mark. It’s a great option during windy periods in Hervey Bay.


The light tackle fishing is at its best at the moment off the spit north of Fraser Island, with stacks of small blacks caught and still plenty of sails around.

Interestingly, on a recent charter we caught our first black marlin at 4.50am near Rooney’s Point, and followed with a black and a sailfish at 7.50am. The next day we hooked into a 14ft tiger shark at 5.00am and our first black marlin at 6.05am. I found it amazing to catch these fish so early in the morning. After a heavy tackle day we fished on the spit for sailfish and managed two from five at 6.00pm, fishing right up to 7.00pm in the dark.

Plenty of GTs are hitting lures around the shoals and Trevally Alley. There have been some spectacular results on these fish, with some specimens reaching 25kg.

We have also been catching plenty of wahoo and dolphinfish – one of the staple supplies of fresh fish for gamefishers, as most of our fishing is tag and release.

We’re looking forward to year ahead, with plenty off fishing to do from Hervey Bay to Bundaberg, Cairns and to the Coral Sea. For information on our charters, or just for info on what’s biting and where, give me a call at Bundaberg Fishing Charters on (07) 4159 0995 or 0427 590 995.


1) One of the Murray boys who fishing on The Watch-Tower recently and caught a 10kg trout.

2) 12 feet of tiger shark on the leader at the back of the boat, shortly before being released.

3) A sailfish coming aboard The Watch-Tower.

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