Great blue hope
  |  First Published: December 2009

It looks like the run of small black marlin on the inshore grounds will be a bit of a fizzer this summer, with only a few fish showing up so far and isolated reports. But there have been quite a few big blue marlin making an appearance on the wider grounds from 70 fathoms out.

There have also been good numbers of big mahi mahi from the 36 fathom line out to the shelf, and quite a few small wahoo have also turned up in the same area. Most of the black marlin encountered so far have been over 40kg, with quite a few more than twice that size.

Even a month out, it is hard to predict the best tackle to use for trolling this month. On the inshore grounds 10-15kg line will give you a reasonable chance when bigger fish turn up, and still allow smaller marlin to put on a reasonable performance.

The average black marlin encountered this month will probably be 60-80kg. These are the smaller fish from last summer with a season’s growth on their shoulders.

Good areas to troll this month include Spot X and the 36 and 50 fathom lines. Try medium lures and mix up the spread to include a range of sizes and colours. We often get a good run of solid black marlin on the wider reefs in January when the big slimy mackerel schools arrive.

Live baiting is generally a much more effective method than lure trolling when the slimies show up in numbers. The key to catching billfish is dogged persistence, and when you find a good bait school, don’t leave it.

Closer inshore the spotted mackerel have already shown up at Palm Beach, and by January we should also see quite a few Spanish mackerel turn up as well. We are due for a decent mackerel season, and when the small black marlin don’t show, the mackerel often do.

Slow trolling dead baits, spinning with chrome lures or fishing live baits and pilchards in a berley trail are all effective. Mackerel are at their best on the inshore grounds if there is a bit of current. Also expect mackerel tuna and the odd cobia.

As well as Palm Beach, the 12 fathom reef and 18 fathom line off Surfers Paradise are worth a look this month. Remember the grounds off South Stradbroke are now in a green zone and no fishing is permitted in this area. Get a copy of the marine parks book to see the green zone boundaries.

Bottom fishing is tough this month as the water temperature rises and the current flows hard from the north. There are a few inshore options on the 20 fathom line and the best fishing is generally at night targeting teraglin, mulloway and snapper.

If the current is running hard from the north and the blue water is in close, it is definitely worth a run down south to fish the Tweed Nine Mile. This area can produce everything from mackerel to marlin and is, without any doubt, the most reliable wahoo spot in the area.


The dry conditions and lack of summer storms have made the jack fishing quite erratic so far. Some good fish have turned up in the Nerang and Coomera rivers, and quite a few big eye trevally have also been caught at night casting soft plastics and poppers.

In January the best jack fishing is generally from first light to an hour after sunrise, as this coincides with a period of minimal boat traffic. The Southport Broadwater can be a crazy place at this time of year, and the heavy boat traffic definitely puts the fish off the chew in the busier sections of the river. But in the solitude of a 4am start, plenty of good fish can be caught.

Whiting are a good target species this month, although good bait can be hard to come by. Wriggler worms, small soldier crabs and shrimp are the best baits. Soldier crabs seem to work much more effectively during daylight hours.

Some of the better whiting fishing this month will be at night, when the river is quieter. It is also worth casting tiny poppers around the shallow flats when the jelly prawns are active as whiting are quite susceptible to this method.

On run-in tides around the Seaway entrance and also Jumpinpin there should be a few chopper tailor and the odd pelagic about. Look for the birds and you will soon find the fish. In January large schools of frog mouthed pilchards commonly move into the estuary and these attract tailor, bonito, mackerel tuna and even mackerel.

The wash at the end of the north wall can produce some great spinning with metal lures this month. Tarpon also turn up in this area from time to time and are very susceptible to small soft plastics or bucktail jigs fished on light tackle. Flyfishing is another good alternative method.

Flathead and bream are quiet this month but there are always a few to catch if you are persistent. Most of the bream are smaller resident ‘pet’ fish and tend to concentrate around marinas, canals and moorings. These tend to be quite educated little buggers and can be hard to tempt on a lure.

Most of the flathead caught this month will be smaller fish from 30-50cm in length. Soft plastics work well in the deeper sections of the estuaries. Crabs will be in full swing this month so get the pots out, especially after a bit of rain.

Remember to take care on our waterways this holiday season and please stay safe so you don’t get to visit me in the emergency department at Gold Coast Hospitals. Tight lines and safe and productive fishing to all.

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