Time to hit the estuaries
  |  First Published: October 2003

THE WEATHER warms up this month and the fishing gets pretty interesting. For lure anglers it’s time to get serious about mangrove jacks. October is actually one of the better months to target jacks in the Nerang, and as soon as the afternoons warm up and the first signs of humidity are around the fish start to hit lures and livebaits hard. The jacks on the Gold Coast have had quite a hammering in recent years and it’s important to practice catch and release on these great fish. Jacks are definitely too valuable to catch just once.

Popular methods include trolling deep diving minnows around bridges, rock bars and canal entrances, livebaiting and poppers. At night the fish often move well away from structure and are actively feeding. Lure fishing in the black of night can be surprisingly effective, and this season I intend to do a lot of fishing with soft plastics. I’ve had a bit of success up north and hopefully a few of the good rubbers will be just as effective down here.

Flathead are still in full swing in October, and plenty of big ones over 80cm should turn up. Be sure to remember that any fish over 70cm must be released, and bigger fish are all invariably dusky flathead, to which the legislation applies. Duskies are easily identified by the black spot on the tail.

Whiting also start to move around in October and the lower Nerang and Pimpama are great spots to catch the early season fish. Shrimps, soldier crabs and wriggler worms are the best baits. The whiting fishing will improve towards the end of the month.

Livebaiting in the Seaway and Jumpinpin entrances produces school jew and a few GTs. There are often a few tarpon about at the end of the Seaway wall, and big female flathead are in this area as well. Run-in tides early in the morning are your best bet, and live pike, herring and slimies make the best baits.

Bream start to thin out a bit in October although the resident fish will still be around in numbers. Some of the newer soft plastics such as the Berkley Power Bait 3in Bass Minnows are really carving a new standard for lure fishing for bream. They are best fished on a light jighead and are sensational – I told my mate Ross McCubbin about them and he caught five bream in his first five casts. They are often more effective than bait, and some of the bream are absolute whoppers.

Overall, October can be one of the best months of the year in the estuaries of the Gold Coast, especially for lure fishing. The flathead fishing this season has been the best in many seasons, and with the new bag limits and slot size limits in place it gives this fishery a great future.

On a sadder note, the development of the mouth of the South arm of the Coomera River and the constant dredging and disturbance to the bottom structure has seen us lose one of the best fishing areas in the system. I find it hard to understand how a part of the river I have fished for nearly 20 years can be pumped up onto the bank, filled in and concreted. This sort of development is the biggest threat to Gold Coast estuaries, and regardless of bag limits, it is impossible to find fish if an underwater bulldozer is flattening all the vital structure necessary to maintain them.


Unlike the estuaries, October can be a hard month on the ocean. It is between seasons, with most of the winter species thinning out and the summer fish yet to arrive. Despite this, the deeper reefs should still have quite a few snapper and it’s an excellent month to chase samsonfish, amberjacks and yellowtail kings on the 50 fathom line.

This month cobia will start to show on the inshore reefs of Palm Beach, Mermaid and Snapper Rocks. The Tweed sand bypass system has seen Kirra Reef almost completely sanded over, which will obviously decrease its holding power of these great fish. The best way to target cobia on these grounds is to berley heavily and fish livebaits or pilchards in a berley trail. Cobia are one of the few fish that bite in northerly winds, and are a good option in these normally unproductive conditions. Fish over 30kg turn up each year on these grounds, usually preceding the mackerel run.

The 36 fathom line north of the Seaway should still produce a few snapper this month, although the fishing gets harder as the current flow increases. By this time most of the fish have spawned and are actively feeding to regain condition. A lightly weighted pilchard slowly drifted down to the bottom is generally the most effective method. As well as snapper, a few pearl perch can be caught with the odd amberjack and parrot.

For the gamefishers there can be a long time between strikes. A few striped marlin turn up between about 28 fathoms and the shelf, and towards the end of the month dolphinfish start to move south as the current picks up and the water temperature increases. It’s a good month to re-spool the reels, get the boat sorted out and do all those little repair jobs in preparation for the warm water months ahead.

Trolling east of Tweed can produce a few surprises this month. Yellowtail kings, mack tuna and striped tuna are the main targets, but occasionally early season marlin and even wahoo have turned up at the Nine Mile reef way out of season. Trolling small tuna can be effective. Many years back I hooked a black marlin at Fido’s Reef on the last day of September on a live tuna. It was a big solid fish and I lost it after four and a half hours on 15kg gear. This goes to show that the unexpected does turn up in this normally quiet month.

1) Measuring a flathead. This dusky measured 73cm and was released to comply with the new slot limits.

2) A stargazer, while not a thing of beauty, is certainly a joy forever when you serve it up for dinner.

3) Trolling east of the Tweed produces yellowtail kingfish, striped tuna and mack tuna like this one, along with the odd marlin and wahoo.

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