Mixed Bags and Surprises Offshore
  |  First Published: December 2002

WIND and weed have been the flavour of the month along the Sunshine Coast during most of October and into November. Many anglers can’t be bothered beach fishing when every cast ends up in a tangled mess of weed, hooks and line.

Many of the estuaries have been quite weeded up as well, particularly on the run-in tide down amongst the lower areas of the systems. All is not lost though!


The run-out generally produces more fish than the run-in, and this period can provide some relief from the annoying weed. Trollers in particular have picked up some top quality flathead on the run-out tide right along the coast. Trolling the run-in in the lower reaches, or even casting lures during this tidal phase, is currently not worth the effort.

So what can we do?

Drifting live baits, particularly at night, is a very productive way to catch a few fish for the table. The poddy mullet is my number one livebait, but herring, legal whiting and big clicking prawns also do the trick very nicely. Golden-lined whiting and sand whiting must be at least 23cm long in possession. Other species of whiting are not regulated, and are therefore fair game. If in doubt, check with your local friendly QB&FP Office. That’s what they’re there for!

A fair bet for rigging a live bait is to pass a 2/0 or 4/0 hook through the back of the fish. Avoid the spine when doing this so that the bait will stay alive for as long as possible. Another good system is to push the hook through the lips of the bait, generally from bottom to top. The bait will remain alive for a very long time if hooked up in this way (unless it’s unceremoniously scoffed by a willing predator).

Target species are flathead, mangrove jack, tailor, shark, jew and the occasional horse bream. Annoying competitors for this easy feed include fork-tailed catfish and eels (some of which are of massive proportions). But while I find these fellows to be pests, some anglers are happy to take home a bucket of catties or an eel. I’ve never been able to summon the intestinal fortitude to cook and consume a catfish, but I’m told that they’re good tucker.

A few months back I did battle with some monster Noosa River eels on a late night live bait session. Some of the eels we pulled were truly huge, with teeth to match. Along with the sharks and other bities in most systems along the coast, I doubt that I’ll be jumping off too many bridges around here in the years to come.

Mangrove jack are a good option over the holiday period. A steamy summer evening is an excellent time to chase these fish, and there is absolutely nothing better than landing a lure-cast jack. Live baits are a good option, as are strips of fresh fillet lobbed into a snag. A few jacks have been caught in the Noosa system, particularly by the diehards with severe cases of ‘jack fever’. These guys and gals will go to any lengths to find the toothy red fellows and will fish all night if need be.

Lately the fish seem to be succumbing to well-presented fillet baits and livies drifted into snags. The run between lakes Cooroibah and Cootharaba is the best place to try at present. Other areas that have delivered jacks recently have been the Cod Hole at Maroochydore, snaggy areas and around the rocks in the Pumicestone Passage.

Legendary fisho ‘Pothole’ from the Coolum Perigean Hookers Fishing Club reckons that trevally and mangrove jack will be the major targets in the Maroochy and Mooloolah Rivers in December. Tailor in the Cod Hole and flathead widespread throughout the Maroochy River will be on the go during the silly season too, according to Pothole.

He also reports that November saw plenty of smallish trevs in the Maroochy, some pretty good jew in the Cod Hole and some extra big bream along the beaches between Coolum and Mudjimba. If you’re interested in joining the famous ‘Hookers’ fishing club, give Pothole a ring on 5446 4308.

The flathead fishing may slow with the warmer water, but there will still be enough lizards around to keep most anglers happy. Good spots to try are the lower reaches of the Noosa River, including the Frying Pan, and also Weyba Creek and the channel opposite the Davo’s boat ramp. Further south, good flattie options are the channels upstream from Chambers Island in the Maroochy River, around the motorway bridge and all throughout the Pumicestone Passage - especially all the feeder creeks.

The crew at Davo’s Bait and Tackle reported a few catches of hairtail in the Woods Bay area during early November. These fish are thrashing machines when hooked up, and first timers will have no idea what they’re tangling with. Hairtails have an awesome array of canine-like teeth and must be handled carefully. They can be good chewing though and I’ve seen a few carted home from northern jetties, destined for the smoker.


Muddies will be about this month, however, the Sunshine Coast cops a hammering during the Christmas holidays and legal crabs can be a tad hard to come by.

A few locals cleaned up on muddies last December during the very hot weather. These guys set their pots in relatively shallow water, the theory being that the very high water temperatures would encourage the crabs to give their burrows a miss and go wandering, eventually stumbling upon an easy feed of crab pot bait. Apparently the locals caught so many big bucks it became embarrassing and they gave it away for a month or so!


The beaches will hopefully deliver well if there are plenty of anglers having a go. If there’s an end to the annoying weed right along the coast and well up into the Fraser regions, there should be some nice dart and tailor caught, as well as whiting, bream and the odd flathead.

There is also the chance of a nice jew from any Sunshine Coast beach over Christmas, particularly at night under a full moon. Beach worms and live tailor are excellent baits for jewies, but you still need plenty of patience.


Offshore fishing is a very attractive option during the Summer months on the Sunshine Coast. It’s much safer, easier and a lot cheaper to use one of the experienced charter operators for your offshore expeditions. Almost every trip results in a good bag of mixed fillets, and some surprises as well.

Gamefish are cruising the offshore reefs at the moment and are regularly sighted and hooked throughout the holiday period. A few happy snaps of a leaping sailfish are always nice to take back to the office! Along with the sails and occasional marlin, offshore boaties will see plenty of cobia. The annual run of mackerel and tuna should be in full swing too.

Sunshine Coast fishaholics Mario and Anthony Bellantoni trolled up some nice spotty mackerel and a smallish Spaniard on a morning session off Caloundra during early November. Anthony pulled the prize fish of the day with a 4.5kg snapper that nailed a trolled Blue Pilly lure.

The guys at Noosa Blue Water Charters have been going hard for months now, and catches from inshore reefs have included top quality snapper, longtail tuna, sweetlip, pearlies and cobia. Their trips out to the Barwon Banks have seen similar results, with some red emperor, amberjack and a few sailfish as well. If you’re interested in a offshore trip you can contact Tony and the guys on 5449 9355.


You need to navigate carefully during the holiday period on Sunny Coast waterways. Nearly every year there is a major accident of some sort, so please be careful and follow the local rules and regulations. Stick to the speed limits and carry nav lights if you’re on the waterways at night. If you’re keen on jet skis, please be extra careful because plenty of these machines and their drivers have come to grief around here.

Lastly, many thanks to the keen coast fishos who keep me up to date with an endless supply of fishing reports and great photos. Merry Christmas!

1. Murray Sandilands with a top class 6.5kg spangled emperor caught off Noosa on a Noosa Blue Water Charter.

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