If you enjoy a long and uninterrupted boat ride try trolling the offshore grounds off the Gold Coast.
In December we trolled just over 300km without a single bite, which is a new record aboard my boat, but there were a few mahi mahi and the odd small marlin encountered by other boats. So far it has been pretty slow in general, but by February things will hopefully have picked up a bit.
The much-anticipated run of small black marlin have been very few and far between. But by February we generally start to see a lot more medium sized black marlin from 50-120kg on grounds such as the 50 fathom line, 36 fathoms east of the Seaway and around Spot X and Deep Trag.
February is a good month to try live baiting, as there are generally big schools of slimy mackerel, yellowtail and pilchards on the wider grounds. There has been no shortage of bait this season so far, and the predators can’t be far away.
Working a live slimy by slow trolling through the bait schools is the most reliable method of catching billfish this month. I fish baits (generally one) with a 30-60g sinker, and the second bait unweighted. These are trolled with a bridle rig using a rubber band through the eye socket of the baitfish and positioned so they are swimming close to big bait schools on the sounder.
It is usually pretty easy to see billfish on most good sounders, as they show as a line or distinct arch close to the bait schools. Because marlin have a very large and unusual swim bladder they give very distinct patterns on a sounder.
Closer inshore, most anglers are anticipating a very good run of spotted mackerel this month, as reports from grounds to the north have been very encouraging. There have also been quite a few Spaniards showing in Hervey Bay, and the very strong push of current in late December should see these fish arrive off the Gold Coast this month. Hopefully the wahoo will also increase in numbers on the wider grounds.
In contrast to the poor black marlin season so far, the blue marlin fishing out past the continental shelf has been pretty reasonable with most boats getting a couple of strikes per day and some good fish to 250kg already being tagged.
Mahi mahi have at times been quite prolific on the wide grounds but these fish generally slow down in February. If the weather is good, a days heavy tackle trolling is well worth a look this month.
February is also a good month to troll a mixed pattern of skirts and hardbodied minnows targeting mackerel, wahoo, yellowfin and marlin on the 24 and 18 fathom lines east of Surfers Paradise. If the wind is blowing from the southeast and the water is blue this can be a very productive strategy, particularly in years like this where there are fewer marlin numbers. I like X-Rap Rapalas and Halco Laser Pros for this work, and run a couple of skirts off the riggers at the same time.
February often sees big schools of frog mouthed pilchards enter the estuaries, and following them come a wide variety of predators. Tailor, bonito, mackerel tuna and even mackerel enter the estuaries on run-in tides this month, and an early morning spinning session can often be quite productive.
Recently there have been plenty of chopper tailor in the Broadwater on the run-in tides, and these fish are mostly between 35 and 45cm. They are good eating and make great mackerel baits for trolling, so it is worth stocking up on a few for the coming mackerel season.
Conditions have been quite dry until the last week of December and while there has been plenty of big eye trevally about, it has been a pretty average mangrove jack season. The rock bars of the Nerang have been the most consistent spot.
There is a lot of talk of global warming these days, and in December there was a band of water off the Gold Coast that was 28.6ºC. That is as hot a current as I can ever remember, and the changing patterns of water temperature will undoubtedly change the ecologies and species we encounter off the Queensland coast.Reads: 1023