As the weather cools down, the action in the bay should start to hot up for species such as snapper, bream, mulloway, squid, sweetlip and tailor. The most active times will be during warm daylight hours, but anglers willing to brave the winter chill will be rewarded with better catches.
All estuary anglers dream of catching a big mulloway, or jewie as they are colloquially known, during their angling career. The spawning run of mullet tempts these brutes in from the shallow offshore reefs and into the estuaries where they can be targeted by the small boat angler and land-based fishers.
Historically these large silvery beasts were targeted with live baits such as mullet, pike, prawns, herring and other species, however, recent times have seen soft plastics come to the forefront. The difficulties often involved with catching live baits mean that many anglers opt for the simplicity of using artificials, which can work just as well in experienced hands.
Jigging with plastics is best on the last of the rising tide, especially if this coincides with dawn and dusk. However, any time of the day can produce the goods providing there is not too much boat traffic. Drifting these areas whilst jigging plastics such as Storm 5” Wildeye Minnows, Berkley Mullets, Reidy’s Rubbers, Saltwater Assassin 7”, Gulp 7” Jerk Shads and Slam Baits will put you in with a great chance of mulloway, as well as by-catch species such as flathead, trevally, tailor and others.
Live baits slowly drifted in these same areas, or fished at anchor, are also likely to attract shovelnose rays, sharks, stargazers and other vermin such as catfish and pike eels, but the rewards of that big jewie make it all worthwhile when your plan comes together. Being able to fish these baits whilst at anchor makes it a more simplistic approach than drifting and jigging plastics for some anglers.
Areas such as the Jumpinpin Bar (along Kalinga Bank and the ledge in front of Swan Bay) as well as the Gold Coast Seaway, Pumicestone Passage and Brisbane River are all renowned mulloway haunts.
Tailor are usually around in numbers at areas such as Jumpinpin Bar, Pumicestone Passage and the eastern facing beaches of Bribie, Moreton and Stradbroke islands. Early morning drives along the Bribie Island Beach (permit required) are enjoyable and often productive sessions, without the cost involved to get your vehicle to either of the other two islands via the barge.
For anglers without a 4WD, access can still be made via Shank’s Pony to areas such as Skirmish Point or further afield, if you are up for a walk. Other land-based opportunities for tailor present themselves occasionally from the Manly Rock Wall, Redcliffe Jetty, Woody Point Jetty, Victoria Point Jetty, Amity Rock Wall, Point Lookout and all the western facing beaches, especially around dawn.
Pilchards are the most popular baits, however, spinning with chrome spoons such as Flasha’s, Raiders, Maniacs and Twisties can also work exceptionally well.
Scarborough Reef anglers will also see some great action for tailor. Kayakers often achieve great results whilst trolling with small minnow lures along the edges of the reef. Other captures can include snapper, school mackerel, cod and occasionally other species.
Baits fished along the various sections of Scarborough Reef can work well but stealth is required for consistent results in such shallow water. Night sessions are most likely to produce the best fishing when larger species feel comfortable venturing into shallower water. Working the area with soft plastics, blades and other lures is often extremely productive for quality bream, snapper and other species.
Bream are a popular and numerous species for land-based anglers during May and can be caught from any jetty, pontoon, riverbank, beach or canal in the area. Despite the huge amount of fishing pressure it receives, bream can still be caught from the rock walls under the Fishermans Island Bridge. I often wonder if this spot would receive so much angler attention if it were not called Fishermans Island. Try areas such as Scott’s Point, mouth of Raby Bay Canals, Victoria Point Jetty, Manly Jetty, Redcliffe Jetty, Sandgate Jetty, Hornibrook Highway Bridge, Woody Point Jetty and Amity Rock Wall, just to name a few.
A running ball sinker rig and baits such as mullet fillet, tuna flesh, fowl gut, mullet gut and pilchard pieces are all popular, however, I prefer strips of raw chicken fillet as it is easy to acquire, not messy and stays on the hook well. Baitholder style hooks are best to use as they present the bait well. Keep sinker weights to a minimum and it shouldn’t take you long to connect to one of these plucky little fighters.
Cold weather and snapper go hand-in-hand. This species can readily be caught all year round in Moreton Bay but the cooler months see the spawning aggregations of snapper entering.
Working the ledges, gutters and shoals around the bay islands with plastics can be very rewarding and keeps the blood flowing in the winter chill.
Try Gulp 4” and 5” Jerk Shads, Slam Baits, curl tail grubs and the various stick bait style plastics such as Berkley Powerbaits and Zoom Flukes fished on 1/6oz to 1/4oz jigheads with appropriately sized hooks for your offering. Cast these up current and work them back to the drifting boat with slow lifts and rattles of the rod tip.
Anchoring and bait fishing in these same areas will also produce results. Most anglers find the best bite just as the tide is slowing, because their bait stops spinning in the current and looks enticing, and others have achieved better results whilst drifting.
Snapper feed and travel all around the bay islands so my best bit of advice is to fish away from the crowds and be stealthy in your approach. Noise transmits easily in these shallow waters and will scatter any quality fish for at least the next 30 minutes or so.
Green Island also produces some quality snapper over the cooler months, but they are usually a by-catch from the mud ledges and gutters on the eastern side when anglers are targeting grass sweetlip. Grassies will take plastics however baits such as fresh gar, pike and mullet fillets or even frozen offerings such as squid and pilchards will often be more consistent producers. Early morning and night sojourns are often the best.
Often the water around the bay islands can get very clear due to westerly winds over winter so fishing a little wider and a little deeper is a good ploy during the daylight hours or periods around the full moon. The various wrecks in the bay such as the Houseboat, Bulldozer and two Captain Nelson marks are also worth jigging with plastics or probing with fresh or live baits for big snapper as well as the occasional longtail, cobia or other species.
The Brisbane River fishes well during May as the clear conditions further offshore can entice baitfish into the dirtier water around the mouth. This in turn creates interest from snapper, mulloway, threadfin, flathead, tailor and other species.
It is great to travel less than a kilometre from the ramp and be able to target quality species such as these around areas including Claras Rocks, the oil pipeline, Grain Wharf and edges of the main riverbed. Remember there is a 30m exclusion-zone from around all jetties in the Brisbane River.
Whilst live and dead baits will work well most of the time, many anglers choose to use artificials such as Jackall Mask, Trans Am and TN60 Silent as well as a huge array of soft plastics, blades and other offerings. Drifting with a live prawns, suspended a half metre or less from the bottom will entice some awesome strikes from snapper and other species.
Best rig is a paternoster style rig with a small ball sinker that will just keep the bait the desired depth from the bottom. Try the Mustad Penetrator hooks, which are thin yet strong and present baits more naturally, allowing them to stay alive and kicking longer.
Good numbers of longtail and other tuna species will still be around throughout various areas of the bay but it might require a little fuel to be burnt to locate them. Areas of the Southern Bay, all the way down to Coochiemudlo, will hold the better quantities of fish. Try the Rous Channel, Rainbow Channel, Naval Reserve Banks, Horseshoe Bay area and the Sand Hills.
Tuna can be a little spooky by this time of the year so those with electric motors or four-strokes will be at an advantage to sneak within casting range.
Squid are a favoured species for many seafood lovers. May sees numbers increasing and they can regularly be caught from a variety of land-based areas as well as the usual weed beds and shallow reef and rubble areas throughout the bay.
Most jetties protruding into the bay provide good opportunity for land-based squid fishers. They are most productive at night when lights attract the squid in to feed on small baitfish and prawns that are often mesmerized by the glow. Casting a prawn style squid jig and slowly retrieving it will usually do the trick.
For boaties, try the area around Bird and Goat Island, the weed beds and shallow reef areas on the southern side of Peel, weed beds on the eastern side of Moreton Island, areas of Scarborough reef and the shallow areas surrounding any of the bay islands.
Winter whiting should hopefully be abundant this year, although last season results were disappointing from the banks within the bay. Try fresh worm baits or thin, tenderised strips of squid around any of the prominent bay banks, out from the Wynnum foreshore, mouth of Nudgee Creek and areas of Jumpinpin and Pumicestone Passage, especially around the Avon Wreck.
Fish the baits as light as possibly and be prepared to move around a bit until you find a concentration of fish.
May is a great month for some hot action on Moreton Bay and can provide some awesome variety for anglers willing to try a few different approaches.
Don’t let the cold mornings and frosty nights deter you as these periods usually provide the best opportunities to target one of the great species on offer. Chuck on a coat, slip on some trackie daks and don a beanie and you are set to get out amongst them. Good Luck.Reads: 274