Top class fishing offshore
  |  First Published: May 2003

PLENTY of rain and some cooler weather will bring changes to the angling in the Sunshine Coast area for May and into winter. With the drop in water temperature, the offshore fishing is firing at the moment. Bottom bashers are going well, and those chasing pelagics are also having plenty of fun. The only impediment to getting out there has been sloppy seas and the notorious Noosa River bar.


Six boats were overturned or swamped towards the end of March on the bar, and this resulted in major damage to some of the vessels and some injuries as well. One local woman was washed overboard as a big wave swamped the boat she was in. The Noosa Coast Guard did an excellent job rescuing boats and people during a very busy period. If you want to cross the bar and need assistance, talk to the local Coast Guard first!


Reefs at the northern end of the Sunny Coast have delivered top class fishing, with the guys from Noosa Blue Water Charters boating plenty of table fish. Quality 20kg amberjack, some top snapper, red emperor, sweetlip, pearlies, rosy jobfish and gold-spot wrasse round off some excellent fishing. On one day in late March the crew were on North Reef, and everyone had a ball getting into scarlet sea perch, reds, moses perch, squire and a few other reef dwellers. They also got some beaut yellowfin to 15kg. Not a bad day!

On the surface there have been lots of smallish mack tuna in the bay not far from the bar, with some bigger specimens mixed with a few good Spanish mackerel further afield. Northern bluefin tuna have also been on the boil here and there, but they are patchy and shy.

Further south, cobia seem to be popping up regularly at local hot spots including the Caloundra 12 Mile, Inner Gneerings and Murphys Reef. A few good trout have come aboard out at Currimundi Wide, whilst Murphy’s has also seen some pretty good sweetlip and a few snapper.

The Barwon Banks have delivered as well, with some very tidy catches including parrot, gold-spot wrasse, snapper, hussar and red-throat emperor. Caloundra Wide has seen some good Spanish mackerel, although plenty of punters from down that way have been disappointed with the mackerel season thus far. A few quality yellowfin tuna have been caught out there as well, with the beacons producing good fishing for dolphinfish and trevally.


The estuaries have been rather slow of late, and it seems that the best options have been the lower reaches due to all the fresh in the systems at the moment. At least the crabbers have had a good month or two, with some big bucks being caught in the lower Noosa River, Weyba Creek, the Mooloolah River and canals, the Maroochy and the creeks running into the Pumicestone Passage. Prawns were on the go in most estuaries in late March. This will, I hope, kick things into gear for some great estuary fishing for a few months at least.

Flathead, sand whiting and bream seem to be the mainstays at the moment, with the occasional grunter and school jew to make things interesting. A few good catches of prawns have been made in the Noosa system as well as the Mooloolah River. As well as being great tucker, they make very good bait – particularly when they’re alive and kicking. In my experience, live prawns will outfish all other baits – particularly in the estuaries.


Poddies and legal whiting are also great live baits, but they can be a real waiting game. Sometimes live offerings are blitzed very quickly, and at other times they go untouched for hours.

There are alternatives though! A barra fisherman in Weipa once told me his special ‘secret bait’, which I later found out that everyone already knew and used. He very quietly whispered the instructions for putting this fabulous bait together over the fourth beer that I bought him, while regularly looking over his shoulder to make sure there were no sly eavesdroppers.

His never fail, record-breaking bait is butterflied mullet. He recommended using reasonably big mullet of around 20cm plus. The method is to carefully fillet each side but leave the fillet attached at the head end. You then turn the fillets inside out so that the fleshy side is outermost, and pin the whole lot together with a super sharp 6/0. He reckons barra, estuary cod, mangrove jack and jew love this type of offering. You didn’t hear it from me.

Other worthwhile baits are the humble yabby (nipper), pilchards whole or in chunks, pipis and fish flesh. Gar is a very good flesh bait, as is mullet and whiting. Soldier crabs can tempt takers, and of course crabs off the rocks can work wonders, as do cunje and cabbage. Squid is another good option, particularly offshore, although I did hear of a couple of Brissie fishos catching good jacks on the Sunshine Coast using whole dead squid!

Overall, the key with bait fishing is to be versatile and use live if you can or fresh as second best. I once had an exceptional session on a jetty as a kid using abalone gut for bait. We never would have thought to try it, but we were offered some and it was dynamite!

1) This snapper was caught on the troll off Mooloolaba.

2) A rarely seen stargazer caught on a Noosa Eco Fishing charter in the Noosa River.

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