Rain has fallen in the Bundaberg area and revitalised the fishing and the landscape. With the rain the schoolies and the spotted mackerel have moved back along the coast.
The big news this month is that we have small black marlin all the way along the coast from 1770 to Burrum Heads. The fish have been haunting wreck sites and reef areas holding bait, as well as drop-offs and current lines. One of the best places to catch them is to troll along the side of major algal blooms that baitfish hide under.
These marlin are hard to catch as they will turn on the acrobatics, causing the lure to fly out. You don’t need big heavy gear for these guys – all you need is light tackle of around 8kg and basic reel. I find the TLD 20 from Shimano is a very good light tackle game reel and, incorporated with a Backbone series rod, it’s very affordable as Shimano has dropped the price. So if you want to have a go at catching your first black marlin, the boys at Salty’s have a range of Pakula light tackle lures in at the moment, plus everything else.
With the closures set down by GBRMPA, and soon the state government, more and more people are turning to game- and sportfishing rather than reef fishing. Gamefishing, with its tag and release philosophy, can be a very rewarding way to satisfy your hunter-gatherer instincts. If you’re not sure where to start, join a club and reap the benefit of the years of experience of the members. You can often learn more in a couple of conversations than you can with time on the water.
This month the weather has been against us and we haven’t been able to make the big trip out to the shelf as often as we would like. On the only trip that we have been out we managed to tag and release a 65kg sailfish on 10kg gear. We also hooked up to a 300lb plus black marlin but couldn’t keep the hooks in. There seems to be no end to the amount of sails to the north of the spit. We haven’t fished south of the 4-mile crossing but there have been reports of lots of small blacks being tagged.
Bundaberg often enjoys some of the best reef fishing this time of year, with red emperor a special right through the Christmas holiday period. Plenty of parrot have been filling the eskies on our recent trips but they will slow down in the months ahead.
The mackerel are here, and if this season is anything like last year they’ll be in plague proportions on the reefs. There have been reports of good numbers of these fish around the 8-mile at Burrum Heads, and they have had a resident population all year. This is probably due to the reduction in gill-netting, with recent new laws making it unprofitable for most pro fisherman to continue fishing for this species.
Every month I hear bigger and better stories about the wreck of the Karma, with some great fish coming off it. This month I decided to go and check it out for myself.
For those of you who don’t know, the Karma was an old vessel being transported north past Bundaberg, destined for Rockhampton by a salvage operator. The vessel broke down and was washed onto the beach south of 1770. The owner refused to salvage it so Queensland Transport took over the operation, with the vessel ending up sinking some 20 miles offshore.
The wreck is about 24nm north of Bundaberg in 20m of water, and was only sunk last year. It’s a big vessel and was last pictured with a large crane on the front of it, and it can be seen as a dark shadow under the water on a clear day.
Recently we were doing some bottom bouncing nearby in my boat Kato and decided to go for a bit of a look. On the way over we saw large schools of birds which we couldn’t resist a troll around. The ocean was full of mack tuna and Watson’s leaping bonito and we had a ball catching these fish on light tackle. As we approached the Karma we shot two lures out the back, and about 200m from the wreck one of the reels screamed. As I looked around I could see a small black marlin come racing to the port side lure and cream it. The marlin jumped 2m out of the water, cart-wheeling forward and dropping the hooks.
We trolled around some more but the emphasis was on bottom fishing. We caught some small-mouth nannygai, snapper, sweetlip, hussar, and striped sea perch. There were also plenty of baitfish, mostly yellowtails and the like, chopping up the surface. We had livebaits out the whole time we were there, but with the wind picking up we headed home early.
Other anglers who have been fishing the Karma say there have been some monster black king caught there. Personally, I was surprised by its population of yellowtail kings. They’re not usually common in this area but they’re a formidable fish, especially around structure such as wrecks. The average size of the kings was around 30cm, but it won’t take long for these guys to grow. I can’t wait to get back to fish the Karma, and I’m also keen to dive it, as it seems to hold an enormous amount of fish life.
This time of year, with the first warm northerlies, excites the barramundi in the dam into feeding in the shallows on bait. If you want to catch a big barra, this is the place to come; you don’t have to travel thousands of kilometres north to experience some great angling. It has great overnight camping facilities, and even inexperienced anglers can catch a fish this time of year. It’s really simple, with a few basic rules to follow.
The first thing to do is visit local tackle store Salty’s and get advice on what’s happening and where. You may also want to pick up some shallow diving B52s or gold Bombers while you’re there.
Next, when you arrive at the dam try to move around quietly as noise often spooks the fish. It’s best to have an electric motor, and a poly boat or fibreglass boat usually out-fishes the tinnies. Head to the southern bays and fish in 2m of water, throwing your lures into the shallows towards the bank. Most of the barra are feeding in 60cm of water.
Remember that the more casts you put in, the more fish you will catch. You might have to cast up to six hours without seeing a fish, and at times like these it’s not easy trying to stay positive. On a recent trip to the dam we nailed four barra in four hours on the Saturday afternoon and seven barra in four hours on the Sunday afternoon. All fish bar one were just either side of a metre or around the 18kg mark.
When the northerlies are blowing is definitely the best time, but they make the dam very hot so bring some cool clothing and a good hat.
In the month ahead everything will be firing. The creeks will be full of jacks, barra, bream and flathead. In the dam the barra will be around through to March, with plenty of bass and maybe the odd catfish.
Offshore, you an expect all the big pelagics like mackerel, wahoo and kingfish, along with sailfish and small black marlin. In the deep we should catch big blue marlin and big black marlin. Plenty of dolphinfish will also be around, with big GTs nailing poppers on the shallow reefs. The reef fishing will be great right over the Christmas break, and we should see some good catches of big red emperor and coral trout.
1) Dave Woolard and Brendan Walsh with a sailfish caught aboard Watch-Tower.
2) The author with a 38kg barra. Now is a great time to target these fish at Monduran.Reads: 1997