With the cooler weather eminent, many anglers will be getting out onto the water and enjoying the last of the warm days and the dwindling plethora of prominent summer species.
I detest the cool weather of the coming months, but the fishing can often be exceptional which seems to take the sting out of the chilly conditions.
Throughout April we can expect species such as bream, tailor, snapper and mulloway to start showing up in limited numbers although it is still not too late to target classic warm weather species such as mangrove jack, mackerel, light tackle billfish, crabs and threadfin.
Get out and enjoy your time on the water before you have to crack out the winter woolies.
April is classically one of the more productive months for this high-speed sashimi.
Large numbers of longtail tuna will make their way along the coast as they gorge on the juvenile baitfish species that generally thrive at this time of the year. They will follow these baitfish into quite shallow water and I have regularly seen them feeding in the shore dump along Bribie Island and on the Sunshine Coast.
Once I even witnessed a longtail left high and dry on the sand between receding waves and a guy driving along the beach just missed grabbing it before the next wave washed it to freedom.
As they make their way along the coast, longtail tuna provide exciting targets for keen anglers and can often be accessed by those in small craft as well as land-based lure-tossers and live-baiters.
Good places to begin your search are along the front of Bribie Island, around Gilligan’s Island, Pearl Channel, major shipping channels, Rainbow Channel and in the area between The Measured Mile and Four Beacons.
Over the coming months they will venture south into the main Paddock area between Mud Island and The Sand Hills, around Peel Island, Naval Reserve Banks and all the way south down to Coochiemudlo Island.
While this will give you an idea of areas in which to concentrate your efforts, longtails can be caught anywhere at any time.
Targeting snapper by casting plastics wide of Mud Island can often produce the occasional longtail by-catch, which will often prove too good for those using lighter gear.
Surface feeding schools are historically worked over with chromed slugs and slices however recent years have seen the popularity of stick-bait style plastics, blades, poppers and hard stick-baits. Early in the run, baitfish are often small, even miniscule, simply appearing as a set of eyes with a thin clear body trailing behind.
Longtails can often be pedantic, only eating exact profile replicas of the bait on which they are feeding, so getting hook-ups with slugs and plastics can be a frustrating experience.
In this situation I generally resort to casting a small fly such as an eyes-fly, bay bait or small surf candy on an intermediate line and #9 weight fly rod.
If you aren’t experienced with fly tackle, and relevant technique, then casting a small stick bait plastic on a Squidgy resin-head jig on spin tackle will often produce the goods. Good producers are Berkley 3” Power Minnow and Zoom Flukes, especially the predominately transparent ones.
Allow these to simply sink through the melee and expect a take at any second as it is slurped up by a cruising longtail or one of the many other species that often lurk around the bait balls.
When larger fish are feeding sporadically on scattered baitfish on the surface, a stickbait (hardbody or plastic) or a high-speed popper such as a Cotton Cordell Pencil Popper or Kingfisher Fat R will often solicit strikes. If one technique fails for you then try other approaches to see what will work.
The chromed slug will always be the favoured technique due to ease of casting, however other methods need to be employed at times to gain results.
Longtails are a great sporting species and provide a real tussle for anglers. They are very palatable when eaten fresh, lightly cooked and consumed immediately or eaten raw, sashimi style. One fish is more than enough to feed many mouths, so a quick release is the sensible approach for subsequent fish.
In April, snapper numbers will gradually increase throughout the bay and anglers will notice larger numbers of juveniles as well as the occasional quality specimen.
The best of the snapper run is yet to come however there will be enough legal fish caught to make the effort worthwhile for most.
Many anglers concentrate their efforts around the bay islands, and with good reason. These are easily accessible to anglers in tinnies as small as 4.1m on a decent forecast and do produce good numbers of snapper and many other species.
However, don’t discount areas such as Scarborough Reef, the artificial reefs (Harry Atkinson and Curtin), various wrecks (including the Houseboat, Bulldozer, Kaptajn Nelson, River Wreck and Ammo Barge) and even the ledges such as out from Cowan, Cleveland and Bulwer.
Snapper can be caught in a myriad of places and are not just limited to being caught around prominent structure.
They will regularly feed close to the surface around Peel and Mud islands, where they target the gar and hardiheads. Often a plastic is slammed within a second of landing, even in depths over 10m.
Once considered as a species to be caught only on bait, recent years have seen snapper regularly taken on a variety of artificials. I have caught more large snapper on soft plastics than I ever encountered while targeting them with bait.
A broad array of lures will work but some of the more productive offerings include Gulp Jerk Shads, Zoom Flukes, Assassins and Atomic Jerk Minnows.
These are regularly fished on a jighead with weights kept to a minimum, dependant on water depth and current. Usually a 1/6oz or 1/4oz will suffice around the bay islands but sometimes heavier jigheads will be required around the artificial reefs or wrecks.
Keep retrieves slow and drift in the boat to allow you to cover more ground in your search. If you have a fast drift, usually the result of wind and current flow travelling in the same direction, then you can cast a plastic out and just allow it to drag behind the boat. This technique will receive plenty of strikes, often producing the best fish of the day.
Baits are also worth using and will produce plenty of quality fish.
Well-presented fresh offerings can entice snapper to over 9kg around the bay with the best bites often around the change of the tide when the baits rest on the bottom, instead of spinning in the current and appearing unnatural.
Fresh or live squid, slimey mackerel, hardiheads, yakkas, pike and gar make great offerings. The humble frozen pillie will also produce some action if fresh offerings are not available.
Running ball sinker rigs sporting a minimum of lead will generally receive the best results when presenting baits for bay snapper. Drifting will also offer better bait presentation but will increase the likelihood of snagging.
This popular species has been hard to predict over the last few years and seem to show when they damn well feel like it instead of the predictable seasonal run of years gone by.
Tailor should begin to show up towards the end of April in limited numbers and these fish are often some of the better quality specimens.
They can be found on the beaches of Moreton and Stradbroke islands, around the Jumpinpin Bar area and around any prominent headlands.
Smaller fish often show in areas such as Bribie Beach, the shallows around Peel and Mud and occasionally in the Sand Hills and Rous Channel area.
Land-based anglers are likely to encounter the occasional tailor from the Manly Rock Wall, Scarborough Jetty, Woody Point Jetty, Amity Wall and around the Skirmish point area on Bribie Island.
The best run of these fish will hopefully start next month, however those keen to tangle with a few will be able to find a bit of action throughout April.
One of the prized targets for estuarine anglers, mulloway will begin to show throughout April although captures of larger fish will not be common.
The Brisbane River often produces some good numbers of juvenile mulloway with the odd larger specimen caught as well.
With the new minimum size limit of 75cm brought in last year, many Brisbane River anglers struggled to catch a legal specimen for the entire season. While mulloway numbers in the river were the best experienced for many years, the fish were mainly smaller.
With another year of growth, we should see a lot more legal fish amongst those caught this year. Some anglers were managing to lure more than 10 juvenile mulloway in a session last year, often on lures targeted at threadfin.
In the Brisbane River try around areas such as the oil pipeline, the drop-off out from the sewerage shute, around the Gateway Bridge pylons, Claras Rocks, the Caltex Reach and around any lighted bridges and pontoons (at night).
Live baits are a prime offering if you can acquire them. Mullet, pike, herring, prawns and squid are a few of the better offerings for mulloway and will also tempt a broad array of species in the Brisbane River.
Lures such as Jackal Mask and Trans Am, TT Switch Blades, Evergreen Little Max and several lipless crankbaits will work for mulloway, threadfin, cod, flathead, trevally and bream.
A broad array of soft plastics, predominately jighead rigged, will also work in the river. I have had success on Atomic Prongs and Barra Worms, Gulp 5” Jerk Baits, Slick Rigs, Sizmic Shads and various others. One that I have been using successfully recently is the Castaic 3.5” Jerky J Swim Baits rigged on 1/4oz TT Jigheads.
Those chasing threadfin will often do well up the around the city reaches and even further up around the lighted areas at night. Threadies can often be sighted cruising the edges of the lighted areas or even smashing bait on the fringes.
Lightly weighted plastics, minnow lures and baitfish-profiled flies will often work a treat in this situation and anglers have landed and released more than five large threadfin in a session.
Remember these are a limited resource so release all or the majority of your catch.
There should also still be a few prawns in the Brisbane River for those chasing a feed but you will probably have to work fairly hard for them.
The shallow offshore reefs are often exceptionally productive during April.
Early morning, pre-dawn sessions at grounds such as Roberts and Brennans shoals with soft plastics will often produce quality snapper, sweetlip and even other species such as Spanish mackerel, trevally, yellowtail kingfish and amberjack.
These waters should not be under-estimated as they can be very dangerous at times. Two very experienced anglers lost their lives there last year while fishing at night.
Trolling the wide grounds will produce some larger marlin throughout April.
From around the 80m line, encounters with striped marlin and the occasional larger black from around 70kg will allow smaller boats to chase some quality gamefish.
The larger boats will be get out even further to chase the blue marlin which are commonly found between the 250m line and 500m line but may be encountered anywhere between the 100m line and 1300m line.
Large skirted lures such as Bahama, Black Bart, Hollowpoint, Pakula, Meridian and Pro-Soft are a few of the more popular offerings that are fished on 37-60kg tackle in these grounds.
Snapper will start to show up in better numbers on all the offshore grounds and are commonly caught in depths between 50m and 150m.
Pilchards and squid are the most common offerings however recent years have proven soft plastics, octo jigs, swing jigs and metal knife jigs will often out produce these baits, especially in faster currents.
Pearl Perch, sweetlip, yellowtail kingfish and amberjack are also common captures on all these offerings.
Both summer and winter whiting can be common throughout the bay and filtering waterways throughout April.
Live worms are the number one bait but thin strips of squid will also produce good results.
Tenderising the squid strip by hitting then with the back of a knife will soften them and make them easier for the whiting to mouth and swallow.
The Mustad Fine Worm hook is a great one due to its thin wire construction and small barbs on the shank to hold and present the bait well.
Areas to try for whiting include the Manly Foreshore, mouth of Tingalpa Creek, The Sand Hills area, Rous Channel, Browns Gutter and the Little Ships Channel.
Many estuarine areas are also worth a try with popular spots being around the Avon Wreck, mouth of Elimbah Creek and The Ws at Pumicestone Passage and Slipping Sands, Aldershots and Canaipa Passsage at Jumpinpin.
Whiting can be found in many different areas, especially around shallow flats, are extremely tasty and are a great species for the kids to catch and handle.
Recently they have also been a popular species for anglers casting small poppers around the shallow flats and weed bed areas.
There is plenty on offer around the Moreton Bay area during April.
Cooler conditions often make for pleasant days on the water however the mornings and evenings will already be getting a little cooler as winter approaches.
Don’t forget the sunscreen, as a nice day on the water can quickly be ruined by a bad case of sunburn.
April weather provides good opportunity to get the junior anglers out and about during the school holidays without it being too hot or cold. Even a few hours down at a local jetty or sand flat can provide a lot of fun for them.
Enjoy your time on the water and be careful and courteous to others, especially during the busy school holiday period.Reads: 188