Currently, it has been one of the best marlin seasons in many years. Small black marlin have been prolific on the inshore grounds, with catches over five in a session being relatively common. Out a bit wider there have been quite a few bigger fish in the 60-120kg range feeding around the slimy mackerel schools. And beyond the Shelf there have been plenty of blues for those boats that ventured out past the black marlin.
In December we had over eight trips, and caught 20 black marlin, two mahi mahi and three striped tuna. Small black marlin from 15-40kg have certainly dominated the catches. However, the by-catch has been strangely absent.
Good areas to try for small blacks include the Gravel Patch east of Burleigh Heads, Jumpinpin Bar, the area east of Couran Cove and the 20-30m line just to the north of the Seaway. One of the secrets to catching the juvenile black marlin this year is to not go too wide. There is a lot of bait between 20-30m and some of the marlin we have caught have been in very close to the shore, some in only 12m of water. If you find big schools of pilchards then the billfish won’t be far away.
Out on the 36 and 50 fathom line, tackle selection has proven to be a big problem as the fish are ranging from 15-150kg. Local charter boat Lucky Strike caught 10 in a session between 70-150kg. There have been plenty of thumper blacks around the slimy mackerel schools and these aren’t the kind of marlin you want to catch on 8kg tackle. Using 15kg or 24kg stand up is a much better alternative.
The mackerel should turn up in numbers on the close reefs this month. Peter Crawford caught a massive 27kg Spanish mackerel while live baiting for marlin on a mono trace in late December. Hopefully there will be plenty more big ones heading south on the East Australian Current.
On Palm Beach and Mermaid Reef there should be plenty of Spaniards and spotted mackerel this month. Live baiting, jigging and high-speed spinning are all very effective. A few cobia will also turn up.
Bottom fishing is quiet this month. The current makes things difficult out on the 50 fathom line, although the kings and amberjacks will still bite if you can get a jig or live bait to the bottom. There should also be a few pearl perch on the northern end of the 50 fathom reef, current permitting.
Closer to shore there will be a few tailer, teraglin and squire on the 18 and 24 fathom line, although it has been very quiet at the time of writing. The best idea when bottom fishing is to fish a floating pilchard and a live bait under a balloon while you use a paternoster rig on the bottom. Most days in recent weeks a small black marlin has found the live bait within 30 minutes, and mackerel like pilchards.
Spinning the run out tide line near the Seaway can be very productive this month, with mackerel, striped tuna, bonito and tailer all making an appearance.
The storm season has certainly been very active this year, and the large number of afternoon downpours has put plenty of freshwater into the river systems. Fishing has been compromised a bit by all the dirty water, but this month there should be some good opportunities to chase whiting, trevally, mangrove jacks and a few school mulloway.
In February there is often a lot of bait in the seaway area, and big schools of frog-mouthed pilchards attract a wide range of predators. On a run in tide there are usually chopper tailer, bonito and queenfish chopping into the bait, and around the wash at the end of the north wall is where surprisingly big tailer turn up at times.
Casting poppers and metal lures are the preferred methods. Drifting a live bait through the seaway is also generally quite productive. Some decent mangrove jacks move into the seaway area this month and can be caught on live mullet, herrings and slimy mackerel. Mulloway between 70-90cm are also common on early morning run in tides.
Jumpinpin also produces chopper tailer on run in tides, and deep jigging with large soft plastics will produce a few mulloway and flathead. In the past there have also been consistent rumours of a couple of barramundi caught in the Jumpinpin area in February near the coffee rock ledge to the east of the mouth of Swan Bay. It would certainly be an eye opener to catch a true Gold Coast barramundi!
The main body of water between Tippler’s Passage and Crab Island will produce a few flathead on soft plastics, whiting on bait and plenty of sand crabs around the weed beds. With the madness of the boat traffic of January subsiding a bit the fishing should improve this month.
Up the Nerang River, the whiting should be fishing well on shrimp and wriggler worms, and spinning for resident bream with blades and hardbodies should produce quite a few good fish. Oddities like giant herrings and barracuda can also turn up in February.
Overall, this month should see a continuation of the excellent marlin fishing we have had since early December. The smaller fish will thin out a bit towards the end of the month but there should be an increase in numbers of 5-120kg black marlin. Out wider blue marlin will be very active. With the estuaries offering a range of possibilities, and the marlin firing well, there are plenty of good options.Reads: 2017