Winter species become active
  |  First Published: May 2004

MAY is a bit of a transitional month on the offshore grounds. Current on the grounds inside of 50 fathoms generally drops off, and a lot of winter species such as snapper, teraglin, amberjacks and yellowtail kingfish become active on the 50-fathom line in to 36 fathoms. Pelagic species such as Spanish and spotted mackerel are still active on the inshore reefs and wahoo should be around the 9-Mile Reef off Tweed. Out wide, blue marlin are an excellent chance in May and the season so far has been a beauty.

For the mackerel fisherman, try Mermaid Reef and Palm Beach Reef. If you get the opportunity to fish a weekday the fishing is usually a lot better than on weekends. Although you can catch mackerel in a crowd it dilutes the bites a bit and the extra engine noise definitely seems to put the fish off. In May the Spanish mackerel tend to get a bit bigger, and fish over 15kg are often quite common. The bigger fish usually fall to live baits or slowly trolled big dead baits. The sand bank just north of the Seaway is another good spot to target big Spaniards. Trolling a livie along the sandy drop-off on high tide at dawn is a great way to get quality mackerel. Recently a 26.5kg mackerel was caught in this spot.

May is the first month of the year in which to seriously target snapper. As the current drops a lot of the adult snapper start to move from deeper water onto the closer reefs, and although the numbers aren’t what they used to be you can get a decent feed if you use a little finesse, berley and light line. Hopefully the new bag and size limits will improve the snapper fishery in time.

On the wider grounds there have been plenty of blue marlin about this year. The most productive area has been in 250-270 fathoms north-east of the Seaway. This run is about 33 nautical miles from the entrance, so it requires optimal weather conditions to get out there. At the time of writing this area has been producing roughly one or two fish a day out of three to six bites for most experienced crews, and the average blue marlin is about 120-150kg. Some bigger fish well over 200kg have also turned up. It’s a heavy tackle, big boat fishery in the main, but the explosive take-off and sheer power of blue marlin is staggering to watch, and this season, weather permitting, has been a beauty on the wide grounds.

Wahoo should be around this month. Most are caught at the Nine Mile Reef off Tweed, but the area at the back of 36 Fathoms and the 24-fathom line are also worth a troll. High speed trolling with Hexheads is productive and covers plenty of water. Using live tuna is also effective and often produce bigger fish. Most wahoo at this time of year are over 20kg.

Overall, there are plenty of options offshore this month. With favourable weather, all of the options are worth a look, from snapper in close to blue marlin off the shelf.


In May the water temperature in the estuaries drops a bit and winter species such as bream and flathead become a lot more active. This year the flatties seem to have bitten right through the warm months and most of the action has been around the mouth of the Seaway and Jumpinpin. Fish over 50cm have been reasonably common and live baits, soft plastics and trolled lures have all been effective.

The spawning run of bream starts in May, and the areas around Jumpinpin and the Seaway should hold good numbers of big fish. The hole at the end of the north wall is a great place to target big bream on small live baits such as mullet and herrings. Fish over a kilo are relatively common at this time, and there are often a few mangrove jacks and school jew as well. Catching big bream on soft plastics in deep water is another challenging method. Berkley Power Bait drop shot minnows work very well.

Whiting will be active in the Nerang and can be caught during the day on soldier crabs and shrimp, although worms work a lot better at night. The autumn fish are often of excellent quality, with fish over 40cm quite common. The mouth of the Pimpama is another good whiting spot in May.

Towards the end of the month mulloway start to turn up in the Seaway area in numbers. These range from school fish up to big models over 20kg. The activity of these fish is linked closely to the spawning run of mullet, particularly tiger mullet in the river mouths. Live mullet fished at night are the best option to catch a decent jewie in May.

For the lure fisherman the main targets this month are flathead and bream on soft plastics. A few trevally will be around the river entrances, but as things cool down the shallow flats early in the morning offer the most opportunities for lure casting. Tailor are another target in the Jumpinpin bar in May. Casting metal lures on a run-in tide early in the morning usually works well, and the bird and baitfish activity show where the fish are.

May is one of the best months of the year both inshore and offshore. The Gold Coast estuaries improve markedly this month and catching bream, flathead, whiting and tailor is pretty reliable. May also has the major advantage of being one of the most stable months for weather. Regardless of whether you want a bream or a wahoo, this month gives you a good chance of success. The autumn rains will definitely help the fishing this month.

1) Ross McCubbin with a typical Gold Coast snapper.

2) Jason Nebbs with a spotted mackerel. These fish are still active on the inshore reefs.

3) A big dolphinfish caught by Russell Gage.

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