Here we are once again, sweltering in the summer heat, waiting for Christmas to run its course and spread its cheer across the Southeast.
December is renowned for being one of the busiest months on the water in Southeast Queensland with the boat ramps particularly being a place of congestion and frustration. Getting out on the water early at this time of the year is a must to avoid any boat ramp backlog as well as get the best chance of catching a feed.
Snapper have been still around in reasonable numbers but are mostly smaller plate-sized fish. The occasional 5kg+ snapper has been taken at night wide of the Redcliffe Jetty drifting both live and dead baits. Sounding around for small broken rubble patches that hold a good supply of baitfish near the bottom is generally a haunt for bigger Bay snapper. Trolling 100mm deep diving lures around these areas while looking for possible fishing grounds can also be a very fruitful way of finding decent snapper.
The soft plastics fraternity have been catching their fair share of snapper just before sunrise using large jerk tail type soft plastics in the same areas. Mud Island has also been productive early along the northern and eastern reef flanks. A few good sized sweetlip (emperor) have been caught amongst the squire-size snapper and give a great account for themselves when hooked. Most decent dust-ups can be put down to these fish making their first run for freedom. Using heavier gear is usually the only way to land some of these bruisers but can result in less action from other species.
School mackerel are starting to show up in good numbers throughout the Bay with most days producing a few good fish for anglers putting in the effort. Using drifted pilchards around beacons or the Pearl Channel is mackerel fishing at its most basic. Beacon bashing with metal slugs or upgraded vibration blades leads to a more exciting day on the water and helps to cover more ground.
Beacon bashing at this time of the year can also produce a large array of different pelagic species, including cobia. This year the cobia have been in good numbers and sizes; one even pulled the scales down to 60lb. Drifting beacons with large jigs or live baits of yakkas or whiptails at varying depths can result in some red hot action when the fish are on.
When the fish are not concentrated around beacons, you can often get them chewing by using a good strong berley mix. Try using pilchards, bread, tuna oils, fish/crab offal and a few handfuls of beach sand mashed up into a pureed slurry, disperse the berley in small amounts frequently rather than lumping large amounts into a stern-mounted berley bucket.
Flathead have begun their post-spawn migration back up river systems. Most of the fish that have been caught are in good condition but are mostly smaller males. These fish can be targeted along shallow mudflats in all the local river systems right through December using small hardbody lures as well as curl-tailed plastics with a slow steady retrieve. Using heavier jigheads like TTs 1/4oz will help to create bottom disturbance which the flatties just love.
Another good area to flick a lure for flatties is the northern sand spit at Scarborough. Walking along the exposed sand at low tide can provide good access for land-based anglers searching for a feed of flathead and bream.
Good numbers of gold-spot cod are being caught from the Pearl Channel area and are well worth targeting over December. Even on those hot, still days when all other fishing becomes difficult, cod are always willing to take a bait or artificial. These fish can be a good introduction to youngsters delving into the world of larger predators. Gold-spot cod are big, clean fighting brutes that have excellent table qualities.
Looking back on the year I like to reflect on what I have learned from my fishing experiences and what I want to achieve for the year ahead. This year my biggest lightbulb moment has been to think laterally when fishing, trusting my instincts and acting on them. Fighting the urge to do only what other people tell you is probably the hardest habit to break.
Listening and reading what is happening in our neck of the woods is great but more often it means you know the fish are biting, where and how the last angler caught them, not how they can be caught when your time comes to getting on the water! Like most other animals, fish regularly change their diet and prey, often several times a day.
So what have I learned? Mainly the unpredictability of all things fishy and that in order to catch good fish in a pressured fishery I need to be more adaptive and twigged onto what gets fish eating my offering. This is where angler instinct comes into play, having the ability to absorb the environment and try to understand nature at work.
In a nutshell, it’s about understanding Mother Nature and the multiple conditions she can throw at us any moment. Here are some examples.
1. Weather: This can play the most important role in determining fish feeding habits. Most days when the weather is bad the fishing is good. Poor weather creates better cover for fish to feed and also stirs up the ocean, triggering a chain reaction of available food sources. Many people believe that a falling barometer can bring fish on the bite as well.
2. Current: More current equals more food being brought into an area, and therefore more fish activity. No run, no fun!
3. Food source: Working out what food source is most abundant can be tricky. Yes, seeing schools of bait getting smashed by ravenous predators is easy to spot but it’s the other food supply that goes unnoticed. You can’t see the worms that are being syphoned by passing schools of whiting, the schools of prawns being engulfed by jewfish or threadfin salmon and the new season oysters being grazed upon by mooching bream. Homework and time on the water will allow you to become more in tune with what fish are eating at any given time, and this can make your outings more fruitful. To take on a saying from our wand wielding, trout fishing friends: match the hatch.
With these three major influences, as well as the knowledge passed around by different media, we now have the tools to learn more with every year that passes. Every season brings new lessons and different situations. I will be remembering where and how I found fish biting on those days when the fishing was tough, and apply those lessons in similar situations in the future.
The reason I write fishing reports is to arm anglers with as much information as possible to help with the where and when, to give you a starting point – but it’s up to you to figure out the how and why!
Enjoy your Christmas and holidays on the water, and all the best for the festive season ahead.Reads: 1985