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Spring into October Action
  |  First Published: September 2009



Now we are in the middle of spring and the air temperature is rapidly rising, water temperatures should follow over the coming weeks creating some great angling options for those venturing out.

Classic summer species such as mangrove jack, mackerel, marlin, sailfish and other pelagics should make their presence noticed.

Action is usually fairly consistent for a broad array of species, both fresh and salt, creating plenty of viable angling options, no matter what conditions the weather gods throw at us.

JACKS BACK

Keen estuary lure anglers often have itchy casting fingers at this time of the year because they know mangrove jack action heats up in direct relation to the water temperature.

These crimson assailants will take a broad array of live baits and lures. However their habit of hanging close to rock walls, mangrove snags and man-made structure means bust-offs are often imminent.

Live baiting the deeper holes in the canals will often pay dividends at night. Live mullet and prawns are generally the most productive, but herring, small pike, glassy minnows and others will also work well.

Try to position your baits close to areas where mangrove jack will reside to ambush bait species, such as around rock walls, deeper holes and in the eddies on the corners of canals. Often, live squid are easy to catch in the canals and these make great baits if you can get them.

Most creek and river systems have collapsed mangrove banks, rock walls and other structure which also make good spots for live baiting and casting minnow lures, plastics and even surface offerings.

FLATHEAD

This prominent inshore species will be around in reasonable numbers throughout October. At this is the time of the year the larger breeders seem most prevalent.

Apart from being law, it makes good sense to carefully release these larger breeding flathead over 75cm. Since this size limit was put into force, flathead numbers have steadily risen and they are now very common captures for estuarine anglers.

Drifting a small whole fish bait in any of the estuarine channels will provide a good opportunity for a flathead. However understanding how this species feeds will open up many more avenues for targeting them throughout various stages of the tide.

Flathead can regularly be found in shallow water making them easily accessible for land-based anglers. Fishing the lower stages of the tide around the mouths of creeks and rivers will put you in with a good chance.

Try the Pine River area, Jackson’s Creek, Cabbage Tree Creek, Lota Creek, Tingalpa Creek and from any of the numerous jetties in the area.

Keep your bait, minnow lure or soft plastic close to the bottom, cover an area methodically and you are almost ensured success.

BLUEWATER PELAGICS

Offshore anglers can expect heightened pelagic activity throughout October with species such as yellowfin tuna, wahoo, striped tuna, billfish and others on the increase.

Sailfish often show up en masse at this time of the year as well, although they can move on as fast as they arrived. Usually the hot bite will only last a week or so, unless there is a lot of slimey mackerel and yakka schools on the grounds. Any large bait balls in the offshore grounds between Hervey Bay and the Gold Coast are worth further investigation.

Drop down a bait jig to acquire live bait, pin it through the nose with a circle hook, before sending it back. This method will usually produce the goods on sailfish or other pelagics, such as yellowfin, wahoo or marlin.

While some sailfish are occasionally caught on trolled skirted lures, bibbed minnows and bibless vibration lures, a rigged skipping or swimming garfish will be ten times more productive while trolling. These will also work on all other pelagic species and once you master the simple rigging techniques, your only hurdle will be acquiring quality garfish.

Our local waters, such as Hutchinson Shoals, The Trench and The Group (off Point Lookout) are all worth a try. The average sailfish will be less than 30kg so line classes between 6-15kg will easily handle most fish.

Fishing heavier line classes can be dangerous as you will quickly have a green (very lively) fish at the boat that will not be too happy about coming too close to have its picture taken. An erratic and frantic fish with a long, sharp, shish-kebab device on one end is not what you want to have anywhere near you.

I have only ever fished 8kg line for sailfish and have not yet encountered a fish I couldn’t land with a bit of patience and we have landed specimens to nearly 60kg.

A NEED FOR SPEED

Although not yet at their peak, wahoo are starting to test our drags, providing some excitement for offshore lure and bait trollers.

Classically, anglers have used high-speed bibless minnows and weighted-head skirted offerings to target these speedsters. However recently there has been a swing back to deeper diving minnow lures such as Rapala X-Rap 30 and Halco Laser-Pro.

With lower troll speeds between 4-7 knots, these lures do not allow you to cover as much area as high-speed offerings, but allow you to keep a lure in the strike zone longer once you are in a prominent area. Ensure to put a short, piano wire leader (around 30cm) on each lure to avoid bite-offs.

Trolling a live bonito, frigate tuna or small mack tuna will entice exciting, large wahoo. Ensure to rig the live baits with a hook near the tail also as wahoo and mackerel will readily hit the tail first to immobilize the bait. Even dead baits can be rigged to swim well if live offerings are hard to acquire on the day.

The area around The Group often produces good numbers of wahoo with some creditable specimens weighing more than 30kg being caught here at times. This spot is even accessible to those in small tinnies who beach launch from Stradbroke Island.

The high spot on the northeast of Hutchies (around 30m) is another good spot to start looking. Many anglers troll around here and also over to Flinders Reef in their quest for some hi-speed hi-jinx. Wahoo are great to eat and now have a 75cm minimum size and a bag limit of two per person.

KING OF THE BAY

Cobia numbers should be at their peak around October although a few get caught all year round. Live baits such as slimey mackerel, whiptails, sand crabs and small demersal species (adhere to current size limits) will all work a treat when fished around prominent structure such as wrecks, ledges, beacons and coffee rock.

The Curtin Artificial is usually a good option for bay anglers (especially at night) although cobia can be hard to land here when there are a few anchored boats in residence.

Dropping live baits adjacent to the beacons and drifting away with the current is another good ploy. Bait runners and overhead outfits with 15kg line will easily allow you to land the average fish to 25kg, although they can show up in excess of 40kg at times. The beacons in the M, NW and NE series are all worth a try.

Often trolling lures such as large plastic shads and diving minnows in the NE Channel or Western Rocks area will produce a few quality cobia. You are running close to the edge of a Green Zone in both the NW and NE channels, so check the map before venturing out.

SCHOOL’S IN

The eastern end of the Rous is usually in fine form during October and producing healthy numbers of school mackerel, plus by-catch such as bonito, longtails and occasional Spanish mackerel.

Keep an eye out for the commercial fishers trolling spoons behind paravanes, as this will give you a heads up as to what is going on.

You can employ this same technique or can drift around pilchards on lighter line if you are after a little fun. The last half of the falling tide and first half of the run-in tide seem to be prime periods, although good action can often be experienced at any time.

The lower end of the Rous Channel is often worth a try and occasionally mackerel can be seen busting on the surface here if there is baitfish activity around. The Harry Atkinson area, the edge of the sand bank between the Rous Channel and start of the green zone and Navel Reserve Banks are other spots worth a look.

Drifting pilchards around the bay islands, while at anchor or drifting, is also likely to produce the odd school mackerel and other species. Beacons in the northern bay can be worked over with pilchards or jigged with chromed metal lures.

CRAB CAPERS

If you haven’t wet the crab pots yet this season then now is the time to do it. Both mud and sand crabs are consistent throughout October. These tasty treats can provide a welcome addition to a meal or a delicious accompaniment to a refreshing beverage after a session on the water. Remember to ensure all your crabbing gear falls within the regulations before setting your pots.

Mud crabs can be caught in most mangrove creeks and also the mouths of larger systems filtering into the bay.

Sand crabs can also be caught in this zone and well out into Moreton Bay and its islands. The contours around the bay islands and the edges of channels are good areas to start setting your pots if succulent sand crabs are on your wish list.

For mud crabs try the mouths of feeder creeks, collapsed mangrove banks and any deeper holes. Leaving your pots overnight will heighten your chances for mud and sand crabs, however beware of venturing too far from your pots as theft is a sad part of this pastime.

October is definitely a great time to be on the water. A mix of prevalent species, warm days and pleasant early morning starts to all add up to a great time to be out and about.

Even though there is a lot of action to be had locally, being able to venture further afield to broaden your horizons and experience other saltwater environments, or one of our great freshwater impoundments, is the great thing about being an angler.

Things are changing constantly, so there are always new waters to explore and fishing situations to master and fishing is a great pastime that can be enjoyed by the whole family. What are you waiting for?

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