Moreton Bay comes to life
  |  First Published: October 2004

WE SOUTHEAST Queenslanders are lucky to have such a great aquatic playground like Moreton Bay right on our doorstep. There are excellent boating facilities from the Brisbane River through to Redland Bay, so access is easy.

The big wide Bay was a bit tough during winter, which set in early this year. By early May most of the tuna were gone, with dregs still appearing sporadically at Bribie Island for a little longer.

Then the Bay became very clear. This caused winter whiting catches to become patchy, but occasionally, when a southerly blew, some nice reef fish were taken around Peel and Mud Islands.

In any case, now that spring is here we can shake off the doldrums and see what lies ahead.

Mack tuna are showing up already. There have been schools of these fish in the Bribie Island area so it’s only a matter of time before they move into the Bay proper.


Mack tuna may be a bit rugged in the eating department but they do have a couple of endearing traits. For a start, they can be challenging to catch when they’re employing their ‘hit and run’ feeding tactics. You’ll generally see an almighty show of fish breaking the surface with a big flock of terns diving above it, which all looks great but seldom lasts. The boat has to be right on the spot for success, and the fish usually move off before the lure or fly can get among them. Anglers are a dedicated lot, however, and with a determined team in action sooner or later a fish is on, the line smoking off the reel.

Macks put up a spirited fight, as do all the tunas, but if your luck holds you’ll have it by the boat sooner or later. The fish’s circling runs progressively decrease, although the tail still kicks as hard as ever.

Once you’ve gaffed your mack and brought it aboard, you have some great bait on your hands. Mack tuna is the bait for reefies and virtually every other sought-after fish, including big tailor.

On a recent trip to the north wall of the Seaway, my son Robert and his mate Dan had lashed out and bought some top quality gar and IQF pillies. I, on the other hand, had a couple of slabs of mack tuna which had been carefully looked after with icing down and the like before being frozen. The first cast with a slab of mack tuna on linked 6/0s scored me a big 2.5kg mangrove jack. Successive casts scored big tailor, while the lads went virtually fishless until they, too, started using chunks of mack tuna. Mack flesh is definitely worth looking after and keeping for another day.


Now that the weather is warming and some of the water clarity has dispersed, let’s look at some productive spots.

The Harry Atkinson artificial reef, at the western end of the Rous Channel, is one location where good bait will pay off. By good bait I don’t mean a half pillie on a single 1/0 hook as you’d use for bream! I’m talking about a whole pillie rigged with a squid on top of it, on linked 3/0 hooks – just the sort of bait we’d use on a wide offshore reef. A big bait equals big fish. While a few raggers might hit your big bait, the sheer bulk of it should still be enough to tempt a larger fish.

So by all means use a whole squid or whole pillie combination, or perhaps a fresh pike jigged off the nearby Chain Banks to the south. If some mack tuna are in the Bay, have a drive around to locate a school and try to knock off a few on spinners before starting to reef fish.

This artificial reef, along with the reef areas of Peel Island and Mud Island, can either fish really hot or really cold. I don’t know for certain what turns the fish on, but southeasterly weather usually makes for better fishing – although it certainly might not be better boating.

I like to fish Peel and Harry Atkinson during the latter part of the ebb tide. This is simply because the Peel Island reefs are then in shallower water, with the fish moving off the reef into the deeper edges, and at the Harry Atkinson artificial there can be a bit of shelter from wave action. This is due to the vast Amity banks to the east.

Look to the Bay this month for some great fishing action, and while you’re there you might see a white 5.5m Galeforce with a blue lower hull being driven by a scrawny bloke with bloodshot eyes, clutching a fly or spin rod in search of some surface fishing. Love that Moreton Bay surface action!


1) Leonie Kampe with a fat mack tuna taken on spin tackle.

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