Ripper reefies
  |  First Published: July 2004

BUNDABERG has really come into its own this winter with good hauls of reef fish and snapper. The river systems are still full of prawns and you can expect to catch some monster bream, trumpeter and flathead.

This month we decided to head out to the shelf and catch some big pelagics. Our sportfishing adventure began with a trip from Bundaberg across to the northern end of the sand spit at Fraser Island – a distance of over 50 nautical miles. On board with me was my mate Ian Borland, Ian’s son David and my son Tom. Ian has spent a lot of time gamefishing in southern waters around Kiama, Wollongong and Port Stephens, and we were on a mission to catch a marlin off Bundaberg.

Our first stop was a navigation beacon that we hoped would yield some dolphinfish. We had limited time as we had a weigh-in with our sports fishing club by 2pm, so our plan was to hit this navigational beacon at dawn and cube it with pilchards. We arrived at our destination at 6am after a two-hour trip across a flat sea, and with the sun rising across the water our anticipation grew as we could see the cobalt blue water swirling past our nav mark.

We started with 10kg gear and started our first drift past the marker, throwing in a handfuls of chopped pillies as we drifted. Ian was the first on with beautiful 8kg female dolphinfish which put on a great aerial display. David was on the next drift but his fish stayed low. We assumed it was another dolphinfish but after 30 minutes of fighting he had a 9kg yellowtail kingfish. On 8kg tackle it was a good effort.

Our next pass started with a shower of water as a large male dolphinfish hit the surface, creating a great disturbance, but I soon boated the 9kg fish on the 10kg tackle. We went on to catch another three kingfish and some small dolphinfish and, with all the adrenalin pumping through our veins, we almost forgot about targeting marlin. We had only two hours to troll one up but it wasn’t to be this day. With the oily-flat conditions the lures swam great but there was no action on the water.

Our technique on the day was derived from Ian’s experience berleying for yellowfin tuna. It’s called ‘cubing’, the idea being to cut pillies into 2cm cubes and to pass these over the side to create a slick. While you’re doing this, wait for each cube to disappear into the abyss before you put another cube in the water. You want to attract the fish, not feed them.

We trolled all the reefs and wrecks on the way home for a large pelagic but had no hits. We made it back in time for our weigh-in though, and the blokes who had fished with the Bundaberg Sports Fishing Club had some great fish to weigh in, showing the full array of the fish that can be caught off Bundaberg. There were some big black king, red emperor, grass sweetlip, red throat, coral trout, wrasse and parrot.


We always catch more trout at this time of year. It may be a spawning time or just a coincidence, but they just seem to bite more readily on all baits.

Coral trout are a favourite fish in this area and aren’t all that easy to catch. When diving our reefs it’s easy to see that the trout are plentiful, but they just don’t bite that readily. One of the all-time favourite trout methods is to use livebait with a running ball sinker rig. The preferred bait is the old whiptail, which are easy to catch in the sandy weedy areas off to the side of the reefs. You can use all types of livebaits – the trout like everything – but when you have six people fishing aboard you’ll end up with all your lines tangled.

Our best technique is to get the best pilchards we can get – ones with shiny skin and no blemishes, looking as though they’ve just died or have been stunned by another fish. We use a running sinker rig with just enough weight to hit the bottom, and push a 6/0 hook through the hard piece of the pilchard to the rear of the gills and then, with a half hitch, put two wraps around the tail. This has the pilchard hanging head down, looking very natural as it falls through the water. Give this a try and tell me how you go with it.

The fishing over the next month will remain much the same with most of the reef species biting. Snapper will hang around until the warmer currents come back in. We’ll have to wait a while for warmer weather to fire up the mangrove jacks and barra around the creeks and dams.

The Bundaberg round of the ABT BREAM comp is being run on the weekend of August 21-22. Many of the serious fishermen are in Bundy at the moment trying to find the secrets to fishing the Burnett River. A lot of the local blokes are out practising every week and are hoping to make a good showing this year. Last year we had a cold change come through the week of the comp which slowed the fish down, and the guys with all the different techniques did well while the others felt the fishing was bad and thought everybody would have a bad day too. The secret is to stay positive to the end of each day and learn what you can from the people catching fish. I think the local blokes will be amazed by the ability of some of the fisherman coming to Bundy to fish this comp, and will learn a lot from these guys.

We hope to see you all in Bundaberg, and if you need any info on the area give me a call at Bundaberg Fishing Charters and Hire Boats on 0427 590 995.

1) Ian Borland’s first dolphinfish of the day put on a great aerial display.

2) Now is a good time of year for targeting coral trout.

3) David Wood and Thomas Borland having fun catching kingfish.

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