The fishing has been great so far this year, although the weather has hampered anglers’ chances to get out onto the water at times.
The variety of action on offer usually increases in April as anglers get the last of the warm weather species and the start of the winter run. Baitfish activity is usually very high and as a result many species of fish, both pelagic and demersal, venture closer inshore within the reach of the average angler. Whether you like to fish the estuaries, bay or offshore there is some exciting action in store for you this month.
Possibly one of the most sought after species in the bay this month will be longtail tuna. Whilst decent schools were found throughout the bay over the last month, April should see heightened activity from these sashimi torpedoes.
Good places to start your search for surface feeding schools of fish include the front of Bribie Island, Pearl Channel, the area between Tangalooma and Middle Bank, Rainbow Channel and any of the major shipping channels. Schools of baitfish, predominately whitebait and juvenile frogmouths, attract these predators inside the bay in good numbers. Although they can often be seen visibly feeding and slashing on the surface, this is not always the case.
Live baiting is a productive way to get connected if there are no visible signs of fish in the area. The beacons in the main shipping channels, Cowan Ledge, Benowa Track grounds, Shark Spit and Caloundra Four Mile Grounds are just a few spots that are usually productive for longtails and other species when live baited with yakkas, slimies or even pike.
Surface feeding schools can be cast at with chromed offerings such as generic slugs, Lazers, Twisties, Raiders or the new Maria 25g, which is one of the best chrome lures I have used to date. You will need to keep profiles small as the bait species are usually only a little over 1cm in length at this time of the season.
Often the fly fishermen do best, with patterns such as surf candies, eyes flies, bay bait, Polar Fibre minnows, silversides and Gummi Minnows coming to the fore. If the longtails are just milling around sipping bait from the surface then cast a small fly to the general area on an intermediate line and simply allow it to sink. It will often be casually slurped up, so be ready to strip-strike to set the hook.
Other species of tunas such as frigates, macks and occasionally juvenile yellowfin can also be found and caught with the same techniques, as can bonito. Mackerel are also still around at certain times although they are considered an out of season capture during April.
School mackerel can often be caught around the beacons on drifted pillies with the period around the change of tide being the prime time for this approach. Fish a minimum of lead so that your pilchard just drifts down slowly adjacent to the structure. Add a little berley in the form of cut pilchard pieces and the action can be hot. Spinning reels are best for this as the bail arm can be opened to allow the line to peel out unhindered. If it increases in speed then flick the bail arm over and you should be connected.
The Scarborough Reef area is usually worth a few trips during April as species such as bream, snapper, estuary cod, flathead, morwong, sweetlip and others can be quite plentiful at times. This area is easily accessible to small tinnies departing Scarborough Harbour, Margate Beach or Woody Point ramps although the latter are not all tide ramps from all accounts.
Plenty of kayakers are also venturing out to Scarborough Reef, departing from anywhere along the foreshore. Most usually meet with good results due to the quietness of their approach, which is important in shallow water. If fishing from a small tinnie, an electric motor is a must if you plan to work plastics around the various areas. Fresh, or live, baits fished towards the high tide during the darkened hours have produced several snapper well over 5kg as well as the occasional mulloway for anglers with a stealthy approach. Many kayakers also achieve good success while trolling hard body minnow lures in these areas.
Fishing plastics around any of the bay islands can be productive primarily for snapper with by-catch of bream, sweetlip, estuary cod and the occasional other species. A broad array of plastics and locations can be fruitful, combined with my personal top three key aspects for success. These are: to get away from the crowds, be quiet in your approach and always keep an eye out for baitfish such as hardiheads, gar and others, because predatory fish such as snapper are often not too far away.
A heap of anglers anchored in one spot is usually not an indication that this is a hot area to fish. It is often the result of them having no idea where to fish, so they get the sheep mentality of follow the leader and crowd around the first angler on the grounds thinking that he must know what he is doing. The snapper are usually found out a little wider of the islands, however in the shallows adjacent the islands, there can still be plenty of action.
Bream are the main targets for most anglers wielding light spin rods to cast small plastics, hard bodied minnows and surface lures. Topwater stick-baits such as Lucky Craft NW Pencil 52, Maria Wise Dog, Tiemco Stick Minnow, Ecogear PX45F and Megabass Dog-X will provide some exciting fishing at times with smashing surface strikes from bream, tailor, trevally, pike and many other species.
The shallows on the northern end of Mud Island often produce some exciting action on tailor and trevally during April on early morning high tides. I have had some awesome sessions here on small white poppers cast with my seven weight fly rod. An electric motor or paddle power is a must for this sort of fishing.
A few squid could be on the menu for anglers fishing the shallows around the bay islands and any shallow rubble areas, reef, rocks and weed beds that are covered with good clean water. One of my favourite areas, the shallows around St. Helena Island is now a green zone so don’t get caught fishing this area. The back of Goat and Bird Island, Amity Rock Wall, shallows around Mud and numerous weed beds along the western beach of Moreton are all worth a try with the classic prawn style jig.
Often while I am drifting around targeting snapper on plastics at Mud Island I cast out a squid jig suspended below a float that is baited with a whole pillie or gar. When the float bobs under I know I have a squid or cuttlefish on the bait. With a slow yet steady retrieve and a tasty entrée is in the bag. Some quite big cuttlefish to several kilos can be caught at times, with early winter being one of the more productive times.
Offshore is a hard one to call during April as far as pelagics are concerned. Often there are still a few small black marlin about as well as sailfish on the inshore waters of The Trench, Hutchies, Flinders, Point Lookout and Sullies, however the blue and striped marlin are usually the focus of keen game fishermen.
Trolling 25cm to 40cm skirted-lures, such as Bahama, Hollowpoint, Meridian, Pakula and Black Bart, will usually put you in with a chance whilst trolling the waters offshore from Moreton and Stradbroke in depths between 100m to 1300m. Often, striped marlin are at depths between 80m and 300m so are accessible for most anglers with boats in excess of 5.5m on a good day.
Striped marlin can be targeted on 15kg and 24kg line class. But if you want to chase blue marlin then you generally need at least 600m plus of 37kg line on a good quality game reel and a skipper who knows how to chase large gamefish effectively. The average blue marlin is around 150kg but specimens to around 400kg are hooked every season. Many anglers have stepped up to 60kg tackle lately to try and stop some of these larger blues, which will generally spool you on lighter line classes.
Pelagics such as mahi mahi, wahoo, Spanish mackerel, yellowfin tuna and others are also worth targeting on both resin-head and metal headed lures. Bibbless offerings such as Mack Baits, Tremblers, Reflectas, Braid Runners and R2S Terminator Vibes are all worth using and can be trolled in conjunction with other high speed offerings to allow you to cover a degree of ground as you search for fish. This year has seen one of the best Spanish mackerel seasons for years and April is a prime month for these awesome sport and table fish.
Whilst bibbed minnows such as X-Rap 30, Rapala Magnum, Halco Laser Pro and Classic Bluewater will produce a few Spaniards, there is no denying that trolling rigged baits such as gar, sauries and especially wolf herring (ribbonfish) will increase your strike rate tenfold. Try around Flinders Reef, The Group (off Point Lookout), the coffee rock along the eastern side of Moreton as well as the Cotton Reef off the Jumpinpin Bar. Wahoo will also eat all these offerings and often there are a few 20kg plus specimens around during April at the usual haunts of Hutchies, The Group and Flinders.
Offshore demersal species such as snapper, sweetlip, parrot and trag as well as pelagics such as amberjack, yellowtail kingfish, cobia and samsonfish are worth targeting at places such as Deep Tempest, Square Patch, Shallow Tempest, the coffee rock off Moreton and the various reef areas around The Group.
Cobia are also a serious possibility within the bay and although April is not renowned as the best time for them, I have had some of my best ever trips in April. Productive areas include Comboyuro, Four Beacons, Curtain Artificial and around any of the beacons in the northern bay, especially the M1, M3 M5 and M12. Large live baits such as whiptails, yakkas and slimey mackerel are easiest to find but a just legal sand crab also works a treat.
The inshore fishery should be firing during April, providing we have not received a lot more rain in the last few weeks. The rain earlier in the year did wonders for the estuaries and I am predicting some awesome snapper fishing in the lower Brisbane River over the cooler months.
Most anglers target snapper with plastics however Jackal Mask 70, most lipless crankbaits, live prawns and small poddy mullet will also produce great results. My favoured plastic is the Atomic Prong but I have caught snapper on many different offerings. Threadfin should also about in numbers as per usual. Releasing these great fish should guarantee this fishery for years to come. Estuary cod, flathead, grunter, mulloway, bream and tailor will all be taken in the river throughout April.
Prawns should also still be about in decent numbers but will not be as plentiful as in March. Often some good hauls are still taken in the rivers as well as on the flats out from Nudgee and around the mouth of the Logan River.
Towards the end of April there are often schools of tailor around at places such as Skirmish Point, South Passage Bar, eastern facing beaches of Moreton and Stradbroke, Jumpinpin Bar and many other spots. Odd fish are also caught by land-based anglers from the Scarborough Jetty, sewerage shoot in the Brisbane River, Manly Rock Wall, Bribie Island Bridge, Sandgate Jetty, Victoria Point Jetty and the Woody Point Jetty, especially early morning, evening and at night. I find that frogmouth pillies often work better than the larger blue pilchards from these locations and are also mouthed more easily by bream, squire, flathead and other by-catch, producing a better hook-up rate.
Setting a few crab pots for muddies should still be worthwhile, but as it cools down these will be fewer in number and not as full during the warmer months. Sand crab numbers will still be reasonable and often crabbers experience a late flurry of sandies throughout the bay during April. As per usual, set your pots around the bay islands and along any prominent contours and ledges. The fish frames left from your last successful fishing trip, make productive and economical bait.
Don’t be the April Fool this month. Get out and target some of the great piscators and other species that Moreton Bay and the surrounding waters has to offer you.
Remember, the new Green Zones came into force last month so don’t get caught fishing in these zones. The EPA have assured me that there will be a beacon on the corner of all the Green Zones by now so anglers without GPS systems will know whether or not they are within a restricted area. As we know what they say they will do and what they actually do are two different things so we will see if this eventuates. It is amazing that they now have all the adds on radio and television to tell the public about the new Green Zones in force within the Moreton Bay Marine Park yet when they were putting this proposal in place everything was kept so quiet and last minute. This was to limit the amount of information reaching the general public, because I believe the EPA knew the public outrage that would be forthcoming for their ridiculous proposal, which lacks any serious scientific data, if the populace were aware of the extremity of it.Reads: 551