Dusting off the reef gear
  |  First Published: June 2004

JUNE is when most of us are shelve the trolling gear and dust off the reef gear. However, a quick troll around the inshore reefs around the tide changes, on the way to the wider grounds, can often produce some large Spanish mackerel and late season spotties on their run back north, as the water cools. If I’m heading south of Point Lookout to chase reefies for the day, I sometimes have a quick troll around The Group. Likewise, if I’m heading north to fish the 29s, 33s or 35s off Morton Island, I have a troll around the closest bit of coffee rock. If this doesn’t produce, however, don’t waste too much time as there are quality reef dwellers to be caught at this time of year.

With the current starting to back off over the next few months, many more options open up to reef fishers. Try chasing squire pearlies and trag jew at spots like Deep Tempest and Square Patch, and targeting pearlies on the wide grounds off Point Lookout.


Quality bait is the key to catching both mackerel and reefies, and I always start the day by filling the bait tanks with livies. The fishing for squire and snapper will start to hot up in the coming months, and having quality fresh bait and livies will make all the difference. Snapper love pillies, squid and fresh cut baits such as mullet and tailor, but floating back live slimies and yakkas will give you the chance of hooking a real XOS knobby.

The main reef structures east of Moreton Island – such as the 29s, 33s and 35s – will all hold good numbers of fish, as will the Cathedral Reef south of Point Lookout. In many cases, however, good numbers and quality fish will be caught on the more isolated patches of reef. There’s lots of broken ground that’s well worth a drop between the 29 and 33 fathom reefs, and between the 33 and 35. The key is to have a quality sounder that’s set up properly and sounds well at speed, but don’t expect to see big ledges or huge shows of fish; mostly it’s just small pieces of broken ground or rubble with just a few dots showing on the sounder. Sometimes that’s all you need to find to have a hectic bite session before they shut down or move off. If you’re at a spot that’s produced fish for you before and there’s nothing showing on the sounder, have a drop anyway – you might find the fish just hanging off it a little as you drift away.

Always fish as light as possible in the current. Use a sea anchor to keep in the strike zone for longer, as you get only one or two drops each drift when fishing these small patches of reef. Another good hint is not to motor back over your drift line; always go wide of your marks to avoid spooking the fish.

When I’m fishing with pillies or cut bait I tie my hook straight to the main line, which is usually 30-40lb. When I use livebait, however, I use a couple of metres of heavy leader because amberjack frequent the same areas as snapper and it gives you a better chance of landing one of these reef thugs. When using livies, a little more lead is needed to keep them down in the strike zone.

At the time of writing there have been good squire on the 33s and trag jew on Nat’s Rock and the top of the 29s. Dropping livebaits on paternoster rigs in the deep water is another good option at the moment, and on some recent charters we’ve boated some reasonable amberjack and yellowtail kingfish on the 35s and Square Patch.

Shallow Tempest has also been fishing well of late, with mixed bags the norm. There have also been plenty of large yellowtail king and amberjack but you lose more than you win in the shallow water.

As you read this I’ll have just returned from the Fraser Island Fishing Expo, and hopefully I’ll have some good tales to tell.

Until next month, enjoy your fishing. If you’d like to join me on a charter (max. 4 persons), contact me at Outlaw Charters on 0418 738 750 or (07) 3822 9527.

1) The boys from Marburg with an amberjack and yellowtail kingfish from the 35s.

2) Tony O’Brien with 12kg of coffee rock Spaniard.

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