Hefty catches offshore
  |  First Published: September 2003

THE SUNSHINE Coast sees a decent jump in average temperatures during September, with minimums leaping up to 13 degrees and maximums a very comfortable 24. With only seven or so wet days during September and sunny days galore, who could resist wetting a line once or twice in paradise?


The options have been many and varied for the last month or so and this can only improve from now on. Offshore fishos have been having a ball catching top class snapper, pearl perch, coral trout, sweetlip and parrots on most reefs. Along with these excellent tablefish have been a fair number of cobia and amberjack just to make sure a few arms are well and truly stretched. The mackerel will probably all be northwards by now, but there were a few surprise catches of 20kg-plus fish along the coast in July.

Tuna and mackerel

The good run of tuna on the coast has also been enjoyed for longer than many expected. 20kg northern blues have made some anglers pay for their sins through winter, but these big fellows will all but disappear as the year rolls into the warmer months. Trolling large chrome minnows has been the best tactic when hoping to tangle with a big tuna. It pays to sharpen the trebles to a decent point when trolling offshore. Most new hooks are not up to speed and need some attention with a stone or file. Once a hook digs into your thumbnail rather than sliding across it, it’s ready for a swim.

Whilst chrome on timber or plastic lures doesn’t hold as well as it might on a bumper bar, it is well and truly worth a go. The exceptionally shiny surface reflects light all over the place as the lure shimmies its way through the water, and this in itself will attract plenty of attention.

The bigger mackerel and tuna will generally be deeper than the smaller school fish. Given that, it pays to use a lure or troll rig that runs at a depth of 5m or so. Add some chrome, a couple of super-sharp trebles and you’re in business! It can pay to use a length of wire trace as well. Even though this may reduce your hookup rate, your bust-off rate will definitely be reduced to an absolute minimum with some good quality wire at the business end. Having said that, some rigs cope without wire very well – but when big mackerel are available wire is the go for me.

Reef catches

Tony Webber and his buddies at Noosa Blue Water Charters are in the midst of one of their best seasons ever. Local reefs have produced very good catches of squire and snapper as well as some amazing parrots of around 5kg. The average size of these tasty fellows has been 2-3kg, and fish this size are top-shelf tucker. Red emperor have also been a regular catch along the Sunshine Coast reefs, and a few lucky anglers have tangled with the odd cobia and amberjack.

September sees the peak of snapper activity on Sunshine Coast reefs. If we are blessed with light winds the gravel beds will yield good quality snapper for those persistent anglers who are prepared to fish with relatively light gear in a berley trail. Don’t go too light though as you won’t land those quality knobbies that you went out there for in the first place. North Reef and Chardon’s are very good places to target snapper during September.

Everyone seems to have different theories when it comes to berley trails. Regular drops of small quantities seem to be the go in my experience. Too much berley will make your baited hook unattractive, while too little won’t attract enough interest. I recommend meagre scatterings of cubed pillies, or whatever you choose, and slowly increasing the dose until the desired result is achieved. Once the berley has attracted the attention of some worthy keepers an unweighted bait drifting down the trail will always bring a result.

September is also a good month to target one of the best eating fish in the sea – red emperor. These fellows are a member of the exclusive Lutjanid family, which also includes some other top tablefish. Included in the list of close relatives are scarlet sea-perch, small mouth nannygai, fingermark, hussar, mangrove jack and stripey (Spanish flag). Lutjanids are all exceptional tablefish and they are great sport as well. Even the good old stripey is great tucker, and it’s a good bait for big Spanish mackerel as well, particularly suspended under a balloon with a sharp 6/0 attached!

The spectacular red emperor grows to over 20kg and I’ve seen a few out on the Barwon Banks close to that size. Double Island Point is another top spot to hunt for reds, and good baits are squid, fish strips and octopus. Many reds have also been tempted by the humble pillie.


On the whole, fishing the estuaries right along the Sunshine Coast during September is a worthwhile experience. While the bream that have been widespread during July and August may start to slow a little, the flathead will increase in both numbers and size. Most flatties caught in the estuaries over winter are smaller males, with the occasional big girl just to keep us interested. As the weather (and water) warms the frequency of large female flathead caught on lure, bait or fly will increase.

Good spots to try for a few lizards are Lake Cooroibah, the lower reaches of the Noosa River, Weyba Creek, the Frying Pan, the lower Maroochy River, Petrie Creek, the lower reaches of the Mooloolah River and just about anywhere throughout the Pumicestone Passage.

Bream are still quite active, and nocturnal anglers are achieving the best results. Bait fishos could do a lot worse than targeting the deeper channels and structure throughout the afternoon and trying the shallow flats at night. Good bream baits are live nippers, live prawns, cut flesh (such as gar or mullet) or even chunks of pilchard. The lightest approach possible will bring the most bites.

Luderick have been available around rock walls and the like in the lower Noosa River. Chopper tailor with the odd larger specimen and some pretty good trevally have also been on the chew early and late in most estuaries right along the coast. Whiting and dart along the beaches and some very good whiting in the lower reaches of most estuaries just about round it all up for another month!

1) How’s that for a big pair of knobbies? Damien Jiason from Griffith in NSW scored these top snapper on a trip with Noosa Blue Water Charters.

2) Mark Stevens proudly displays a top shelf spangled emperor caught at Sunshine Reef, off Noosa.

3) A couple of big pearl perch made Bruce Warrell’s day recently when he had a day’s fishing out of Noosa.

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