What a difference a month makes. In last month’s column I was lamenting the lack of marlin off the Gold Coast in December and early January. In a period of about four days the fish turned up in good numbers and the marlin fishing has gone from poor to pretty good.
Since 10 January, a lot of boats have been catching up to nine marlin per day in water between 60-90m on live baits. The fish have been quite solid, between 40-100kg.
This month the marlin action for these medium black marlin should continue on grounds such as Deep Trag, Spot X, the 36 fathom line and the area east of Point Lookout and Jumpinpin. There should also be an increase in blue marlin activity on the wider grounds east of the shelf, and with good weather conditions a lot of billfish will be caught off the Gold Coast.
In most seasons the inshore run of black marlin generally slows down in March as the main body of fish head south, but this year has been a late season so hopefully they hang about a bit longer.
On the inshore grounds the mackerel should be in full swing with Spaniards increasing in numbers and wahoo becoming much more common around the Tweed Nine Mile and the 24 fathom line.
So far the spotted mackerel season has been a bit hit and miss, with excellent numbers one day and very few the next. Since the closure of the mackerel grounds off South Stradbroke Island due to the Marine Park legislation, the crowds at Palm Beach and Mermaid Reef have been enormous; over a 100 boats on both reefs being the norm on weekends when the fish are biting. If you like crowds, a few blues, fighting fish around anchor ropes and watching a lot of chaos, then these are the spots for you!
The current on the wider grounds has been running between 2-3 knots most days, but hopefully this will slow down a little this month. When the blue water is in close try some early morning high speed trolling for wahoo using lures like Hexheads rigged on wire. A troll speed of 10-12 knots is ideal for this type of work. If that doesn’t work, try trolling a small live tuna – most wahoo can’t resist these. There are also quite a few wahoo on the 36 and 42 fathom lines in March when the slimy mackerel schools are concentrated.
On the inshore grounds a berley trail on the reefs just off the Seaway can produce some very good fishing, particularly if you get out early. I like to fish a live bait under a float, a drifting unweighted pilchard and another live bait down deep. This can produce a range of species from snapper to Spanish mackerel to marlin, and if you keep the chopped berley going, you will be surprised just how productive this method can be.
Overall, this is one of the best months on the calendar to troll for pelagic game fish off the Gold Coast, and mixing up the lure spread with both skirts and minnows can be very productive for billfish and mackerel species.
March sees the water temperature in the estuaries start to drop a little and there is quite a bit of fish movement around the entrances of both Jumpinpin and the Seaway.
Mangrove jacks move from the rivers to the Seaway walls this month, and they won’t stray far from the rock walls. Targeting them using small live baits cast into the washes can be very effective at times, especially if it is a bit rough with a good wash around the end of the North wall. Expect to be busted off more times than you land the fish. Deeply jigged soft plastics are another successful method. As well as mangrove jacks, the washes produce mulloway, trevally, tarpon and tailor. Run-in tides are generally the most productive when live baiting this area.
White pilchard schools sometimes move into the estuaries in March, and these attract plenty of predators. Kalinga Bank, the mouth of Swan Bay and the deep ledges in between will produce flathead, tailor and mulloway on drifted live baits or soft plastics. White lures are usually the most productive in this area.
Most of the jewies at Jumpinpin have been quite small fish over the past few months with very few making the legal size of 75cm, although when the bait schools have been about the jewies have been in good numbers. Small metal blades are also a very good lure to try when the baitfish are thick, and these also produce good numbers of bream.
Further up river the whiting should also be around.
March is an excellent month for mud crabs and sand crabs. The muddies this season have been great in areas such as the Pimpama, Coombabah Creek and the north arm of the Coomera. I have done very well using chicken frames with a tuna or mackerel head jammed inside the frame. This bait attracts crabs from a long distance and is very resistant to attack from small fish, which can demolish soft baits. For sand crabs it is hard to go past using mullet frames.
When crabbing, work big run-in tides and check your pots hourly. Make sure your entrances are nice and tight so it is easy for crabs to enter, but hard to escape.
On cooler days, flathead should be around up the creeks. Most will be small fish, but using light tackle and small soft plastics should produce reasonable numbers of 40-50cm specimens.
Overall, March is a great month in the estuaries and should see plenty of activity in the Seaway area.
Tight lines and good fishing!Reads: 1783