Offshore and estuaries turn it on
  |  First Published: May 2003

MAY is one of the best months on the calendar for both estuary and offshore fishing. It is a bit of a transitional period, but has a great mix of both temperate and tropical species.


May is an interesting month on the reefs off the Gold Coast. The water is generally still around 22 degrees and wahoo and Spanish mackerel are generally of good size. Snapper also start to move into the inshore reefs, and the current on the wider grounds generally drops, making bottom fishing a lot easier.

This is a really good time of year to target big Spanish mackerel. The 24 fathom grounds off Surfers often produce fish over 15kg on trolled baits this month. Tailor, bonito, pike and small tuna make ideal baits and work best off a downrigger or when trolled with a leadline. An early morning high tide is ideal. Other recognised big mackerel grounds include Mermaid Reef, Palm Beach, Fidos off Cook Island and the Tweed Nine Mile.

Trolling small live tuna is another exciting way to target big macks and wahoos. The ideal bait is around a kilo in weight and should be trolled on wire. I usually use 2 x 8/0s – one in the nose of the baitfish and the other placed midships. Trolled at one to two knots, these small tunas really ring the big fish dinner bell, especially at the Tweed Nine Mile. They also appeal to sharks, which on wire can be a big problem.

On the billfish front, most of the action is on the wider grounds. Already this season quite a few blue marlin have turned up wide of the Gold Coast, and most have averaged around 130kg. A few yellowfin tuna and striped marlin as well as the odd big dolphinfish will also be encountered. Striped marlin also venture into the 50s, around Spot X and up towards Sullies and the Cotton Reef. Most fish are caught on big skirted lures.

Deep water bottom fishing for snapper, pearl perch and Amberjacks starts to improve this month. As the water cools the 36 fathom grounds are worth a look for big snapper, and most pearl perch will be caught on the 50 fathom line. Jigging heavy metal jigs on the kingie reef, the 50 fathom line and the traps should produce amberjacks, yellowtail kingies, samsonfish and a few pearl perch.

Another area worthy of attention in May is the sand drop-off just north of the Seaway. This creeps relentlessly north each month, and the drop-off goes from about six to 17 metres. This drop-off always holds big schools of baitfish, and these attract mackerel, mulloway, tuna and even cobia. I have caught some big Spaniards here on trolled lures and baits, and now, even when coming in from out wide, am always tempted to leave the lures out just that little bit longer. One of the best ways to fish the drop-off is to troll baits along the edge of it on the top of the tide. At this time the water is at its clearest and the fish are active. As the tide runs out there is usually a dirty water line just east of the drop-off, and this area is also worth trolling. The wreck of the Aquarius is just north of this drop-off and can produce mackerel in May.


May sees the days get shorter and the water cooler. Bream in particular become very active with the start of the winter spawning run, and Jumpinpin, the Seaway and the Broadwater all start to produce well on bait. Further up the Nerang, the lure-eating bream start to develop an increasing taste for plastic. Bream over 800g become more common and school flathead from 40 to 60cm start to push up into the rivers from the Broadwater.

For the estuary lure fisher it’s a good time to get out the small gear and target flathead and bream. Small Micro Mullets, Tilsans and soft plastics will all produce a stack of good fish this month. The section of the Broadwater between Crab Island and Tippler’s Passage is particularly good on run-out tides early in the morning.

Garfish are another good target in May. The weedbeds in the central Broadwater all hold good populations of gar, and with a bit of bread berley they’ll usually be feeding actively on the surface within 10 or 15 minutes. A small float, 2kg line and no. 10 hook with a bit of peeled prawn are all that’s required. These fish tend to bite best on a run-in tide.

Whiting start to thin out towards the end of the month, but after the heavy summer rains the Nerang River has been fishing very well. Shrimps, squirt worms and small soldier crabs are the best baits, and the last half of a run-in tide is the best time to go.

In the Seaway livebaiting produces mulloway, mangrove jacks, GTs and tailor. Slimies are the best bait and can usually be caught on the close reefs or on the drop-off north of the Seaway (watch out for swell here). The hole at the end of the north wall is very productive at times, and this season has seen plenty of big jacks caught there. Towards the end of this month bigger mulloway start to show up in the Seaway. Live mullet fished on the top of the tide at night is often effective. The yellow channel marker near the north wall of Wave Break Island is one of the best spots. This spot also produces a few yellowtail kings on lures.

Towards Jumpinpin there should be plenty of bream and increasing numbers of flathead this month. The Lagoons, just south of the Jumpinpin bar, is a great place to cast a lure or bait for a few lizards and pike and then go for a walk over to the beach.

1) The results of tuna trolling for a feed and bait.

2) Flathead numbers in the Jumpinpin should increase this month.

3) Michael Van Der Jagt with an acrobatic dolphinfish.

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