October can be an exciting month on the Sunshine Coast. There are plenty of snapper and cobia to target offshore, the estuaries continue to deliver quality flathead and bream and the first few jacks of the summer are out and about once again. Roll on summer!
An angler’s first few encounters with angry mangrove jacks can be terrifying experiences! In most cases it’s all over in a matter of seconds, leaving astounded anglers with trembling knees and shattered pride.
The amazing thing about jacks is that they can dust you up in an instant, and fishers who haven’t caught a jack before would swear they were done like a dinner by some massive speed machine a metre long. In most cases the culprit is a jack around 40-45cm long, built for powerful short bursts.
These cunning brutes have a habit of belting a lure or bait on the turn. This means that by the time the unwary angler registers a hook-up, the fish is back in its oyster- and barnacle-encrusted lair. Shredded leaders and shredded nerves are often the result of these encounters.
The answer, of course, is to upgrade to 20lb or even 30lb braid, to eliminate line stretch. The flexibility of modern fishing rods, even those rated as ‘heavy’, will allow the fish to swim in the other direction anyway without adding a metre or so of stretch that most mono lines allow! A tough leader of 30-40lb breaking strain and a nearly locked drag complete the equation. Hanging on tight and staying alert are other good policies when chasing jacks.
Drifting livebaits into snags is a good way to find jacks – and it can be nerve wracking if there are a few fish at home. The best snags are those that are mostly submerged and quite leafy. These provide lots of shelter and shade which is just the type of structure that jacks spend most of their time in.
Warm evenings are great for chasing jacks on lures, and one good producer is the aptly-named Jack Snack. These lures dive quite quickly and are just positively buoyant, allowing adept anglers to pull the lure down into structure, pause the retrieve and seductively twitch the lure right in front of the audience with small flicks of the rod tip. As the Jack Snack slowly rises, twitching back and forth, it looks an easy meal for a jack. And even if the jack isn’t hungry, it is at the mercy of its territorial nature. When a big jack finds a prime spot in the snags, it is likely to shoo away any little tacker that comes too close. This behaviour often results in hook-ups.
Other lures worth casting around structure are Barra-Pro Minis, Tilsan Barra and the Mad Mullet range from Lively Lures.
Lastly, always remember that jacks are structure dwellers. Casts that land out in the middle of nowhere rarely attract the attention of mangrove jack. On the other hand, any cast that lands nice and close to mangrove roots, boulders, overhanging bankside vegetation or any other structure is likely to bring success.
Bridges are regular jack haunts as well, and many a battle has been lost under a bridge when a jack has wrapped the leader around pylons. But the challenge of catching a jack is just what keeps us coming back for more!
The great flathead fishing will continue well into October and beyond. Trolling small minnows during the run-out phase of the tide will bring success. Sometimes it can take some perseverance to achieve results, but once you achieve success it is likely to continue.
When it comes to trolling, you need to employ specific tactics to give yourself the best chance of catching fish. Those who blindly wander around anywhere may well enjoy the boat ride but might not catch too many fish.
On the other hand, those willing to learn a waterway and its peculiarities, including where flathead sit and wait, will reap the rewards. The only way to do this is to ask advice and spend time on the water. Keep an eye on your sounder and follow the drop-offs. If you are pretty sure there will be fish in a particular area, troll it several times. Use different colours and lure sizes and try to present them to the flathead in a way that makes them an attractive option. Lures that swim at 2m in 6m of water won’t catch too many lizards!
Once you have caught a fish or two, try casting the area using soft plastics, prawn imitations or just the lure that achieved the desired result. Wading is another good way to chase flatties, casting ahead and probing deeper holes and channels. This is good fun and rewarding, and when you startle big flatties sunning themselves in ankle-deep water this can keep you interested for another hundred casts or so!
Offshore fishing during October along the Sunshine Coast can also be very rewarding. The usual suspects will be haunting the reefs – species like snapper/squire, sweetlip, pearl perch, estuary cod and the odd red emperor. You can expect some very big cobia to move in at this time, and fishing the full moon should be a good bet for anglers targeting these bruisers.
A few northern bluefin tuna and the occasional yellowfin should be around this month, and those who troll might just pick up one of these speedsters.
Many readers would know that my other half and I have made a living as lure makers for the past eight years or so. We have enjoyed this time immensely and the opportunities that it has created for us both. More importantly though, the people we have met have made this an outstandingly worthwhile experience.
Sadly though, it is time to move on. Sandy Corrie and his fabulous team at Tacspo have taken over the C-Lure range and I’m sure they will improve these great products even further. I hope our many supporters and fanatical C-Lure casters will continue with these classy timber lures, and I’m sure that Sandy and the team will take them to an even better level of finish, strength and durability.
1. A gold chrome Barra Pro cast by Mike Geary brought this big Noosa jack undone. The fish was released and will hopefully assist with future recruitment.
2. Antonio Bellantoni caught and released this very big flathead on a pink Micro Mullet trolled in the Pumicestone passage – his first ever experience of lure fishing.
3. Chris Lacey subdued this fine snapper out at the Hards.Reads: 800