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Poppering Macleay Island
  |  First Published: July 2004



I RECENTLY found the time to make a few trips around the Macleay Island area in southern Moreton Bay. It’s the doorstep of the city and close to many other areas that I’ve fished since I was knee-high to a grasshopper, but it had been a long time between visits and my memory needed a fair amount of jogging.

To my delight I was pleasantly surprised by the accessibility and quality of the fishing. In only a couple of hours we managed to score a bunch of bream on surface poppers and a few squid as well. That trip was with Duncan O’Conner of the local Fish Head tackle store at Redland Bay.

TRIP STATS

From early June 2004, around the full moon.

6.00am: Approximately sun-up. After leaving the boat ramp we idled up to a spot on the east spot of Macleay Island. It wasn’t expected to be one of the better spots but it suited us in the low light conditions. A half-hearted strike later and we moved to the gravel/rocky area to the south of the Pelican Banks.

6.30am: At the second spot my lure was on the receiving end of two shows of interest but no hook-ups. We persisted for a while but assumed it was a once-off.

7.00am: My first cast at Lamb Rocks saw a bream try to sip the popper off the surface and momentarily hook up. We then tried the lee side of the rocks with the occasional show of interest seducing us into staying. After a while we were ‘half a dozen and zero’ (six strikes but no hook-ups). Time for a change in strategy.

Firing up the big engine we zipped around the front of the rocks and in no time at all Steve (Dad) was trying to stop a bream from using the fast-flowing current to its advantage. Finally we’d landed one. This fish boiled behind the clear-bodied popper, about 50cm away, and then came back for a second strike after the lure was left to sit on the surface.

7.45am: With one fish aboard our confidence rose and we started working our way north over the submerged rocks along the northeastern face of Macleay Island. Soon a squid was landed (squid love poppers that are presented into the shallow edges where sinking squid jigs dare not go). Then Duncan scored his first bream on a popper – a chrome metallic 50mm Sugoi Mini Splash. Then I nailed my first bream of the day. We were now all on the board and almost out of time.

8.00am: For the next half hour we had a ball. We travelled a short distance anticlockwise to Pott’s Point and the action really heated up. Duncan, Dad and I almost scored a triple hook-up except that Dad leaned a little too hard on a bream that was trying to muscle its way back to a rock crevice and pulled the hooks. In another flurry of activity Duncan landed three legal bream in three casts. We’d kept enough bream and three squid for a feed. All this action was on poppers. As I removed the chemically sharpened trebles from my final fish for the day we zipped back to the boat ramp via a few casts at an unproductive ‘Iron Stem’.

We’d left them biting and we seemed to be surrounded by ‘fishy’ country – far too much to explore in a morning’s session. From rocky outcrops to weedbeds, gravel patches, boulders, mangroves and jetties, there are plenty of opportunities to throw lures around. And with so much fish-holding structure you’d be surprised at the action you’ll get amongst.

To find out more about the finer details (including lures, locations & tactics) of fishing the southern bay, pop in at Fish Head and see Duncan.

Boat Ramps

These awesome fishing grounds are sheltered from unsavoury winds and they house masses of bait and structure. With islands all around there’s a good chance you’ll almost always be able to find a spot that’s out of the wind. The region is visually appealing, with houses overlooking the water and cruisers at anchor. If you needed any more encouragement there’s the beautiful coral, fish swimming past in the clear incoming winter tides and great fishing.

All this and it’s just a stone’s throw away from three launching ramps. Well-known spots around the island include Lamb Rocks, Potts Point, the Saltworks at the southern end of the island, the Macleay Island Ferry Terminal Jetty, Iron Stem and any of the rocks and/or mangroves that are covered by water at high tide.

There are a number of launching ramps in the region from which to access Macleay and Lamb Islands. The following are three of the stand-out facilities.

1. The northern two ramps at Victoria Point (near the Air Sea Rescue at the end of Colburn Avenue) have a floating pontoon down the centre, making them great facilities for family comfort. I certainly liked that on a cold winter’s morning when I had dry shoes when climbing aboard the boat.

2. A few hundred yards down the road, at the end of Masters Avenue, is another great multi-lane ramp adjacent to the ferry terminal and jetty for passengers travelling to Coochie Mudlo Island.

3. Farther south at the mouth of Weinam Creek on the northern bank, in the harbour, is another concrete multilane ramp with parking and a nearby jetty for friends and family to board your boat.

Macleay and Lamb Islands

Macleay and Lamb islands are separated by a narrow channel of water that’s navigable at high tide. Accordingly, most lurecasting anglers treat the region as one location and a great concept is to circumnavigate the island group, clockwise or anticlockwise.

It’s important to motor in quietly on the big engine (in my boat’s case we’re talking about a quiet running four-stroke) and to shut it down well away from the spot you’re about to fish.

My 435 Stessl Edge Tracker runs an 82lb thrust 24-volt saltwater Motor Guide, and I use this power to cruise quickly from spot to spot and to manoeuvre against or across the sometimes strong currents that are a feature of some of the hotspots in this region.

Tackle AND Techniques
Moving Water

In fast-flowing water the bream probably aren’t out on patrol. Instead, they can wait in ambush for food to wash or swim past, then they flash out and grab it. They’ll still take surface lures in these faster flowing waters but you’ll generally find that the lure needs to be worked a lot faster to keep the belly out of the line.

In moving water we try a larger 65mm popper first and retrieve it with a bit of action, speed, and popping. The retrieve isn’t super fast, just a little faster than the standard still-water retrieve. In still water we generally throw two-hook 50mm poppers in metallic chrome or gold, and as a first backup I like to have a clear popper. This lure is a good option when the bream have seen your lure a few times and it’s time to show them something a little different.

The best catch I’ve seen come from a single school of bream is six bream in about the same number of casts. For the interest of tournament competitors, the best five would have totalled around 3kg.

In fast-flowing water you can target both sides of any current-interrupting structure. There will be some bream in the lee of a sandbank, for example, and there will also be a few actively feeding in front of any rocks that are breaking the flow. Fast-flow bream often attack the lure with less time between strikes, as they are keen to eat the offering before the current whisks it away. When the food is there they’ll dash out and grab it, so it’s best to use a moving lure.

Slow Flow

In still water, bream stalk the lure and attack it if it has stopped on the surface for a while or if it stops near a piece of structure which the fish can use to limit an escape path.

In calmer waters you’re most often find the bream moving in, out and around the rocks, plates and corals looking for crabs. Nearly all of the bream taken around the rocky outcrops of Moreton Bay are constantly enjoying a diet of small ‘rock’ crabs. But they also have no problems in racing to the surface to smash your surface popper. Gentler retrieves win the bream opinion polls most days. However, as in the best of houses, a rebel backbencher will occasionally show that he doesn’t mind a ruckus.

The ideal situation is when a bunch of bream school up and compete against each other for your lure when it lands amongst them. This competition means that it’s the quick that gets fed. In the battle for survival of the fittest, no bream can afford to stalk the lure – it must beat its mate to grab it first. They’ll attack voraciously, whether your popper is moving or stationary, but pausing the lure will usually get them coming back for more if they start to lose interest.

I like to try to locate the fish in shallow water as the tide is rising, my theory being that the only reason the fish would move into this newly flooded area is to feed.

Tackle

Casting distance can make all the difference. My tackle has expanded in recent times in order to get the best out of both of the lure sizes I use – 50mm and 65mm.

The 65mm lure weighs in at 7g and I use a heavier rod for it these days, my reasoning being that this outfit can get me involved with a host of other species including small tuna. The rod is a Greenwater GWR901 and it is coupled to a 4000 sized Shimano Stradic (the high speed reel can come in handy for tuna). The reel is spooled with 15lb Super Braid and I run a 10lb leader in clear, skinny water but move up to 20lb out in the open.

For the 50mm, 4g lure the GLoomis HSR9000 GLX is still my weapon of choice.

Sportfishing and lurecasting anglers can have a field day in this almost untapped region. Queenfish, trevally, tuna, tailor, giant herring, bream, pike and mangrove jack can all be taken in here on surface poppers. It’s a great sport fishery, so don’t overlook it any longer!

[CAPTIONS]

1) Fish Head’s Duncan O’Conner and the author display a sunrise catch of popper caught winter bream and tasty squid.

2) Don’t overlook the humble yellowtail pike. They’re easy to catch on poppers around weeds and rocks, and they make great live- and fleshbaits – plus they taste far better than their reputation would have you believe.

3) Bream taken on clear-bodied (translucent) poppers. Surface lures are the most fun way to catch bream by lurecasting.

4) Southeast Queensland Sportfishing Stalwart Bob ‘Crazy’ Carruthers with two milestone fish for any angler, a bream and a mangrove jack, both taken on a 70mm double hook popper. The more hooks the better.

5) Duncan O’Connor with a 700g bream taken on a 50mm metallic chrome coloured double-hook popper. This is one of three legal bream that Duncan landed from the same spot in three consecutive casts at Pott’s Point on the North Eastern tip of Macleay Island.

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