December sees a marked increase in current and water temperature off the Gold Coast. The water turns a deep shade of blue as the East Australian Current starts to push down hard from the north, bringing plenty of bait and nutrients.
The main species to chase this month on the offshore grounds are mahi mahi (dolphin fish) and black marlin. Reports from more northern ports seem to indicate the baby black marlin may be few and far between this year. However it is very hard to predict what the summer billfishing will be like this season, even just a month out from the start.
The marlin run is generally preceded by a good run of mahi mahi, which make great targets for anglers who like trolling lures.
Mahi mahi are a true pelagic species, travelling thousands of kilometres on the currents in their relatively short lives, These fish live fast, grow fast and generally don’t survive more than a couple of years. A mahi mahi can grow to more than 8kg in just its first year of life.
Over the past few seasons December has seen intermittent runs of immature wahoo as well as mahi mahi; both of which are excellent table fish. In December a trolled spread of skirted lures or garfish is definitely one of the most effective methods to explore a lot of water.
I find it is worth putting the lures out as soon as you hit the current of blue water. Some days, particularly in north easterlies, the current may be almost on the beach, other days it will be out on the 36-fathom line. This month you’ll generally find good water in around the 40m line just a few miles offshore.
We usually troll a spread of five lures, two in close, two from the outriggers and a shotgun positioned about 20cm behind the long outrigger lure.
In December we generally use fairly small lures around 15-20cm long. Everyone has a favourite, but the locally made Black Snacks, small Meridians, Pakulas and Tropic Anglers all work well. Mix up the colours in your spread too; I like purple over pink, green over yellow, blue and silver and one darker lure.
As each lure starts to develop its own success or failure, we end up with our favourites. The lures that catch the fish stay behind the boat in the water!
I’ve given up recommending particular lures for particular spots, as every season the fish seem to change preferences slightly. The most important thing is to rig your lures correctly for light tackle.
The best hooks to use are Gamakatsu SL12 10/0s in my opinion, and we generally rig our lures with two hooks. Since we have started using these fine saltwater fly hooks our hook-up rate on small marlin has improved dramatically. We use these hooks on 8-10kg tackle as they are a tad light for 15kg work.
There may also be a run of spotted mackerel this month on Palm Beach Reef and a few cobia may show up here as well. Bottom fishing on the wider grounds is generally very restricted by the current, so trolling is usually the most effective method.
December can be a crazy time on the Broadwater. Big boats, jet skis and wash make fishing in the holiday period a bit different, but there are still some excellent opportunities about.
By this stage of the year all of the flathead have generally spawned and have moved away from the entrances of Jumpinpin and the Seaway, although there will still be a few resident fish around.
The current often brings plenty of bait in close to shore, and big schools of white pilchards commonly enter the Seaway this month on run-in tides. These attract school jew, tailor and trevally. Early morning run-in tides can see plenty of action at the end of the north wall of the Seaway.
There are often a few school jew around Jumpinpin and the Seaway this month. With the new rather excessive size limit of 75cm it can be pretty hard to get one big enough for a feed at the moment.
My mate, Mitch Calcutt, caught 13 school jew on soft plastics the other day, all of which were under 75cm. To top it off all of the flathead he caught were over 75cm, so it can be frustrating getting a fish for your dinner.
School jew respond well to soft plastics and small live baits such as herring and small slimy mackerel.
Jacks will be on the chew this month so try working the upper Nerang around the Cotton Trees and the Bundall Road bridge. The second Monaco Street Bridge is also worth a troll with deep diving lures.
All of the rock bars in the main river should hold jacks this month. There have been plenty of big eye trevally in the river over the past month, and quite a few jacks have been caught as well. A few giant herring have also been caught in the Nerang River near Sorrento.
Whiting are also around in numbers this month in the Nerang, Pimpama and Coombabah creeks. A bit more rain would help things along nicely because storms have been few and far between.
Crabs should also be quite active this month, with plenty of sandies in the Broadwater and some decent muddies starting to show in the Pimpama and Coomera Rivers.
The Christmas period is a very busy time on Gold Coast waterways. Remember to take extreme care when boating, slow down and avoid excessive speed. I hate seeing boating trips end in tragedy, but at the Emergency Department where I work, such events are all too common at this time of year.Reads: 1850