Estuaries fire and offshore patchy
  |  First Published: December 2005

A great past month has produced some outstanding catches right across the board on the Sunshine Coast. Like all other destinations we have had our share of less than average weather conditions but the estuaries have been accessible and opportunities available to venture outside on to the reefs.


The strong northerlies have pounded the beaches once again making fishing very uncomfortable for both fish and anglers alike. The few reported catches have consisted of dart, flathead and whiting and they have been few. Leading up to the full moon is still the best option and if the rising tide peaks around dusk you know that these are the best opportunities you will have at catching a good feed. Despite the lack of fish numbers there are some good holes and gutters around that will be worth watching over the coming months. The best beaches around are Dickies and through to beach access 36-39 along the Wurtulla - Bokarina Strip.


Outside has been up and down and that is not a reflection on the continuous swell over the past month. In close around Murphy’s Reef, the Inner and Outer Gneerings fishing has slowed considerably which can be expected at this time of year. The bigger fish have headed out in to the deeper waters and will remain there until the waters cool considerably. There are still chances of landing a big one in close but it would be more likely that you know a top spot than not. Mixed reefies are making up most of the catches in close or for those that love the pelagics they are around in awesome numbers.

Baitfish can be readily seen breaking the surface as they try to escape predators. Most of these predators include tuna, bonito, school, doggy and Spanish mackerel. A small 50g slug cast in the middle of the school allowed to sink and retrieved at a relatively high speed will nearly always take a fish. The ferocity of these feeds is something you have to see to believe. Keeping a close eye on the birds is the best indicator as to where the pelagics are gorging themselves. Hard-bodied lures such as a Lively Lure Blue Pilly or a Halco Gold Bomber are two of the lures that catch plenty of mackerel for me. The idea whilst trolling, is not only to circle or chase the schools that are breaking the surface, but rather to troll in and around structures such as reefs or bomboras not to mention the bait schools. Keeping a sharp eye on the fish finder will let you know just when you are going over a feeding school and also more importantly let you know what depth the fish are feeding at so that you can adjust either your lures or jig depth accordingly.

The bait schools are around in great numbers and watching your fish finder you will notice the larger fish in between and around the schools waiting for the opportunity to pounce. If the bottom fishing is slow then what we do is find the feeders and using either a jig, live bait or pilchard on a gang rig and drop it down with as little weight as possible or none if the current allows it, down through the school and then retrieve it in a slow lift and sink motion.

To the feeding predators this is just another fish to swallow and they probably believe that your bait is the easier one to catch and take it out. This is without doubt the best way to tackle the pelagics at the time of writing this article. There have been some monster Spaniards circling anchored boats out close but try as you may they just won’t take any thing presented to them. We tried lures, live bait, even a berley trail to entice a feeding frenzy but nothing got them close to a hook. I have no doubt that it was because they were absolutely full and could not have eaten another thing by the look and size of them.

Out around the Barwon Banks and Caloundra Wide is where most of the better fishing has taken place lately. I enjoyed a great session at the Banks with Noel recently bringing home some real quality fish. The minute the lines hit the water we were on to pearlies which did not take long to reach the bag limit landing some great snapper to 6kg and a lot of trag jew. There where other mixed reefies but between the jew, snapper and pearlies our lines were kept one hundred percent occupied. In and around the 40-50m marks the fishing is a lot slower than out wider but I appreciate it is a long way to go for some owners. Snapper will start to slow a bit over the next couple of months particularly the bigger ones over 6-7kg. They will move to much deeper and cooler waters but good numbers could be around out wide at anytime.

We fished earlier in the morning for these results and will soon take a trip out overnight to see what is happening. As the weather warms through November and December fishing out this wide will become difficult because of the change in the currents. We were drifting at 0.4 of a knot, which is no problem in 70-80m of water and allows you to use minimal weight for better fishing results. It’s a different ball game when you have both wind and current. Normally a good wind of 10–15knots will have you racing across the water forcing you to add weight and adjust the drift pattern over your favourite spots. A sea anchor may be a worthy investment to slow the drift speed down; they work quite well. It can be very frustrating trying to compensate for the drift, wind and waves but patience is the key along with a solid trust in your instruments to guide you correctly.

Over the next couple of months the mackerel will be the target of every angler around the Sunshine Coast with an occasional cobia, samson and amberjack thrown in to complete a great start to the real summer months. Most of the other species such as cod, pearlies, snapper, sweetlip and others will be found out in the deeper water for those wanting to get them. Don’t rule out the shallow reefs come evening time. Plenty of berley and some fresh bait will always bring you home some nice fish.


Mangrove jack have hit early in the season and all reports indicate a bumper time on the way. Fish in excess of 3kg are being taken around the mangrove areas deep in to the southern reaches of Bribie Island, canal pontoons and bridge pylons. Live and dead baits are some methods of catching these lightning fighters but I prefer my Prawnstar lure collection to get a few, it is an exciting way to catch them. The multitude of lures that are on the shelves at your local fishing tackle shop is incredible these days. Berkley Power Baits are another worth a close look at for the estuary work among other uses. There are a stack of books and videos, not to mention experts, which can guide you as to what lures to try in what situations. I would recommend that you take the time to learn the ins and outs of this fishing technique.

The estuaries have been quiet by normal standards but the talk around at the moment is all about the great catches of big flathead. Giants over the 80cm mark are now starting to be captured with some regularity something that should increase over the coming years. Drifting along the passage is a great way to get on to flathead. Using baits such as pillie strips or white bait is amongst the best and when you get a hit, that is the area that you should return to and cast a few lures around to see what else is in that spot. Most times you will find that there is more than one flathead in the one spot because they would all think it’s a top spot to wait in ambush for a passing feed. This then becomes part of the learning process as to what sort of locations and conditions you will encounter lizards in.

I have said it before and I will again, the use of a fishing diary is almost paramount for fishing these days. The data that you collect over the years will become very useful in the future and assist your fishing out of sight. The Pumicestone Passage has flathead, whiting, trevally, estuary cod, mangrove jack and a whole host of other fish available to both land and boat anglers.

Holiday fun

Plenty of activity to keep us all on our toes over the coming months with the holiday makers soon inbound for our great destination bringing with them stacks of fishing gear and plenty of high hopes of catching the big one. So again we call on your patience with everyone and ask you to offer tourists assistance wherever they may need it. The fishing will fire up over the coming months with the pelagics being the best fun along with the many predators on offer around the beaches and estuaries. What a great place to call home.

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