Sizzling Summer Smorgasbord
  |  First Published: December 2002

DURING December the water warms up considerably, and water temps over 24 degrees indicate that the East Australian Current is winding its way south from the Great Barrier Reef. Most of our pelagic Summer gamefish travel in this current, and these include Spanish mackerel, dolphin fish and black marlin.


It’s always difficult to predict what the coming gamefish season will be like, but in most years the small black marlin arrive in force by mid-December. It’s time to dust off the trolling gear and start putting a few miles under the boat.

Good areas to start looking for small marlin and dolphin fish include the 20 fathom line east of Jumpinpin, just east of the Seaway (this was definitely the hottest spot last year) and the area east of Cook Island. I usually start with lures and cover the water, searching the old strike zones from previous years by using a GPS plotter. If I find a school of bait I generally jig up a few livies and slow troll these around the bait schools. Both methods are effective and, over a season, both produce fish. Livies usually outfish lures when the bait schools are solid, but lures cover more water when the bait is scattered or absent. Trolling teasers and then pitch-baiting a livie is another effective method.

December is an excellent month for dolphin fish, and these usually precede the marlin by a few weeks. They respond well to the same methods and have a passion for purple lures. The average dolphin fish is around 6kg and they are excellent eating. The 50-metre line north of Jumpinpin Bar is a good spot for this species.

A few Spanish mackerel show around Palm Beach Reef in December. The spotted mackerel run used to coincide with the start of school holidays, but ring nets have drastically reduced the population and not nearly as many fish are migrating south as in prior years.

Cobia are another possibility on Palm Beach in December. The best method is to berley and use floating pilchards and livebaits as set rods, and have a spin rod ready at the same time.

On the wider reefs the current makes bottom fishing difficult, although rosy jobfish, pigfish and the odd snapper are still about. In general however, bottom fishing can be pretty tough on the wide reefs. The inshore grounds will produce tailor, parrot, teraglin and a few squire with early season spotties, dolphin fish and Spaniards always a chance on a floating pilchard. Mackerel tuna can be a pest.

Another spot that is really starting to produce some seriously large fish is the artificial reef just off Narrowneck .In the past couple of weeks this has produced a 30kg jewie and a 19kg longtail tuna, as well as bonito and tailor. It’s worth a look really early in the morning with a few slowly trolled live slimies in December. As the reef ages the growth on the bags increases and the fish-attracting ability improves. It may be a good mackerel spot this year, particularly for doggie mackerel.


Hot days and afternoon storms mean it’s mangrove jack time. This year I’m going to concentrate on catching them on soft plastics because it may prove a whole lot cheaper. It’s been a very dry year and the jacks may push far upstream this season. All the bridges and rock bars in the Nerang, Coomera and Pimpama are worth a look, and deep trolling minnows at sunset is the preferred method for most. Interestingly, jacks also bite well at night on the troll. If you have a favourite hole, try a livebait or big strip bait on the bottom of the tide when the water movement stops. The jacks tend to come out of their holes and move around a lot on slack water. Don’t use a sinker - just feed the bait out unweighted and let it sink slowly with the minimal current.

Whiting increase in numbers and size through December. The Nerang, from TSS through to the Council Chambers, is usually a reliable area to start, and I like the first of a run-in tide. The key to whiting fishing is in the bait, with wrigglers and small soldier crabs being the pick of them. Big whiting are tricky to catch and are very timid biters. Long soft rods and light line is the way to go.

The Seaway in December is a busy place, but the hole at the end of the north wall is worth a look with live herrings or shad tail jigs, and a lot more school jew have been falling to soft plastics in the past few months. Expect to catch GTs, a few tarpon, tailor and school jew at this spot. An early morning run-in tide is ideal, and weekdays fish better than weekends.

December is prime time for mud crabs, so get those pots out and start working! Tuna is a very effective bait for muddies, and because we generally catch a few mack tuna I usually have an ample supply of crab bait. Sand crabs will be around in the weed beds of the Broadwater. Don’t forget to correctly label your pots and your floats.

For the lure troller in the estuaries, expect a few estuary cod, mangrove jacks, trevally and flathead. The flathead numbers drop off a bit as the water warms up, but it’s still relatively easy to catch a few nice ones. The south arm of the Coomera often fishes well at this time of year for jacks and big flathead. It will be interesting to see how the shad tails go this December in the spots where hard-bodied lures were successful in previous seasons.

I wish all QFM readers the best for the Xmas season and hope you have fun on the water and catch some good fish. Tight lines!

1) A 77cm jew taken on a 3” shad.

2) A Flathead Classic bycatch – a 60cm stargazer taken no a shad.

3) Michael Green releases an 83cm flathead. These fish aren’t as common during December, but they’re still around.

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