Noosa: From salt to sweet
  |  First Published: July 2005

Anglers living in Brisbane have a lot of great fishing options. They can chase bass in any of the numerous dams nearby, go breaming down at the Gold Coast or escape the hustle and bustle and head up the coast to Noosa for a top fishing weekend.

Noosa is roughly an hour and half north of Brisbane on the Bruce Highway and it is generally an easy trip. I usually leave late on Friday afternoon, as you will always beat the ‘home time’ traffic this way. This also gives you enough time to go home and pack your tackle and gear for the weekend away.

Noosa offers a great choice of fishing options and suits both fresh and saltwater anglers. So if you’re looking to chase some bass, bream, jacks, flathead, trevally and tailor all in the one weekend, it’s just the place!

The Breakfast Club

They say that the early bird catches the worm, and this is pretty much true when it comes to popper fishing in Noosa. Anglers can launch their boats at the two double-spaced ramps along Gympie Terrace, and with this extra space, ramp rage doesn’t often occur.

I usually like to head out on the river first thing and target some of the lure-smashing resident tailor and trevally that often hold up in the deeper holes around the infamous ‘Woods’ area and recently up in ‘The Frying Pan’. These fish are ferocious to say the least and by targeting them with surface poppers blooped randomly across the glassy morning water, you’re in with a good chance.

Retrieves are usually done in three quick snaps of the rod with a small 3-4 second pause in between. The strikes are huge and the adrenalin will be pumping right from the word go. Anyone who was a bit seedy on the wake up call will be bright eyed and bushy tailed after their first strike, guaranteed!

Anglers can use pretty much any surface lure, but Storm Chug Bugs in gold or silver draw the most strikes. They have a loud, built-in rattle and are long enough to not get swallowed (most of the time anyway). As my dad has said more than once before, there’s no turnstile at the mouth of the river saying no sharks, and I will always remember my 60cm-plus tailor being smashed in two bites by an estimated 6ft whaler shark. Good thing I had my brown jocks on!

By-catches are always on the cards when throwing poppers around, with bream, jacks, whiting and even flathead getting a look in at times. Fishing the early morning glass in this way is an excellent way of feeling out the area and fish will often start smashing into hapless little prawns and herring skipping madly right in front of you. After landing a fish, don’t forget to feel your leader for nicks and fray as, although very effective, these lures can be a little pricey and losing one hurts big time!

All Day Long

Around mid-morning, and right through the day for that matter, is an excellent time to move up the river slightly and target some of the resident flathead, bream and ever-present Noosa jacks. Noosa is a popular holiday and boating destination and with its fantastically clean river and good ramps, it usually doesn’t take very long for the daytime ski boats, jet-skis and cruisers to get out on the water.

When fishing for the estuary bread and butter species, the boat traffic seems to be part of the scene and fish will still readily take well-presented lures, fresh live baits and flies. A lot of anglers even say that the boats can help, with their wash and wake often alerting fish sitting under houseboats and jetties of food that has been dislodged.

Using the incoming or outgoing tide here is the key. By flicking soft plastic lures such as Berkley Bass Minnows (particularly in watermelon or pearl shad colours) around the back of structure such as the houseboats that dot the river, anglers can really get amongst the action! Don’t let the depth fool you as bigfish will often sit in water as little as 6ft.

Anglers using slightly lighter leaders of around 3-4kg will get the most strikes but beware; the bust-offs can be massive! Light, natural lure presentations also attract the most attention, with 1/16oz jigheads being successful.

Mangrove jacks often sit in the same area as bream and flathead and cause total mayhem for unsuspecting fishos. Casting upstream of structure and letting your lure drift underneath is the way to go. By sneaking up onto moored sailboats in the early morning you can clearly see the schools of bream waiting for the current to sweep their dinner to them.

Fishing the river in this fashion can, and usually does, turn up a feed, but please remember size and bag limits. It can be hard to let that trophy flathead slide away at times but a picture will help you remember it forever and the smaller fish taste better anyway.

Old MacDonald

Noosa River can fish so well at times that it’s easy to forget magnificent Lake MacDonald, which is just 15 minutes away. Enjoying the lake’s tranquil freshwater environment is a lovely way to spend a Sunday morning and also allows you to ‘de-salt’ your boat and tackle at the same time!

Being stocked over the years with bass, golden and silver perch, saratoga and the crown jewel, Mary River cod, Lake Macca can give you a fresh water fix with fishing to match. Trolling deep diving bibbed minnows, such as C-Lures Deep Borers through the ‘Bubble Trail’ and ‘Old Creek Bed’ is a successful technique that locals seem to clean up with.

However, I prefer to cast light spinnerbaits and vibration-type lures around the ever-present weed beds. The weed can be frustrating at times, fouling trebles and bibs, but remembering that the big bass and ‘toga love to patrol its edges can help ease the pain.

Something to remember when fishing Lake MacDonald is that some of the bass in there are in excess of 50cm and can thump lures, pop knots and leave you wondering what went wrong. Therefore, a leader of about 6-7kg is a good starting point.

The retrieve that seems to work more often than not is a bit of a stop-start affair, with the fish usually smashing your offering on the pause. You never get sick of this style of strike as there is usually little or no tension on the rod, which doubles over itself when the fish is on. Bass, in particular, will also use the weed to their advantage, often powering deep into the nearest clump and adding that extra challenge when trying to coax them out.

The lake, like the river, seems to fish better first thing in the morning. This will suit most anglers up for the weekend, leaving more than enough time to head back home that afternoon. Anyone needing tackle can pop into any of the three main stores in Noosa: Hooked On Angling and Outdoors, Davo’s or Barra Jacks.

Noosa is a beautiful place that produces quality angling and scenery to match, so if you need to get away from it all and want to do some fishing at the same time, cruise on up. See you out there!

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