Winter Wash Up
  |  First Published: April 2010

Noosa in winter is generally quite a mild affair, however, the available species will alter in availability and size.

The number of mackerel and tuna will thin out as we move into the cooler months, but they will generally be bigger fish. Spanish mackerel in particular are caught regularly at 20kg+ during May and beyond, and hopefully that will reoccur once again this year.

The tuna should also be harassing the bait schools with North, Chardons and Sunshine Reef systems all worth a look. Tuna can be the fussiest creature in the ocean at times. If they are balling up 25mm bait and gorging on them, they will often totally ignore cast slugs that are not close to that length. It can pay big dividends to have a good collection of various sized metals on board and at the ready.

Schools of tuna will feed voraciously on the surface, however, as soon as a boat turns up they can disappear and reappear 500m away. This procedure can be annoyingly repetitive, and if the schools are that spooked it can pay to cut the motor well upwind of any surface activity and drift in, firing long casts over and around the frenzy once in range. Another tactic that sometimes works is to charge in at full noise and try a cast or two until the fish scatter, which won’t take long. I prefer the quiet approach.

Snapper will be increasing in numbers and size on the inner reefs as the water temperature slowly drops. Good areas to try for squire and snapper are Chardons, Sunshine, North and, of course, the outer reefs that hold snapper year round.

Pilchards are a pretty good reliable bait for snapper, but the soft plastic revolution is continuing and many anglers are successfully targeting snapper offshore. All manner of new lure types are hitting the market regularly and the relatively recent cephalopod type jigs are also gaining some momentum. A popular techniques is to simply drop the jig to the bottom, wind in a 1m or so of line, and then drop the rod into a holder and allow the movement of the boat to deliver flutter and dance to the lure below. Even though I have seen this work quite a lot, I prefer to hold the rod and feel the crunch as a big knobby slams the offering.

Quality squid is another good option for snapper and a whole rigged squid can be a deadly bait for almost any fish. Fresh and local is best.

Other fish that will gladly swallow a nicely presented squid bait at this time of year will include cobia, sweetlip, Maori cod and the chance of a thumping red emperor or delicious pearl perch.

The river will take some months to clear after the incessant squalls through February and March made quite a mess of it. Nevertheless, the fish and crabs don’t seem to mind too much with plenty of tailor in the lower reaches along with trevally and a few mangrove jacks. These fish can be targeted using poppers and memorable sessions can be had at dawn and dusk. Catching any fish on a popper is great fun but when you can include 2kg jacks on your catch list the fun level reaches an all time high.

Bream numbers will be increasing for the annual spawning run and as such they can be a great target heading into the cooler part of the year. Kids love catching bream and there can be some valuable lessons learnt. Fish handling techniques can be drilled into the youngsters when there are plenty of bream about and these skills will be an asset for life.

Releasing undersize or unwanted fish is very important to ensure longevity of fish stocks, however it is a complete waste of time and effort if the fish are going to die anyway. Incorrect handling of fish can result in permanent damage that often results in dead fish, so if you are going to release some please handle the fish carefully and release them quickly. Lip grips in particular can be very damaging to fish, particularly if the fish is suspended vertically by the lower jaw. Everyone has seen this before on television, in DVDs and in magazines. The fish is then gently slipped back in the water and it swims away often accompanied by cheering and high fives. The bad news is that it is usually dead within a day or two.

Anyway, bream can often be caught in big numbers from May onwards. Some berley can improve catch rates and keep the fish’s attention for quite some time. Small amounts delivered regularly will do the job, or perhaps a bag that can leach out a fishy scent and minute particles might be even better.

Whiting and flathead will be other good options, particularly in cleaner water with a bit of movement.

Something to record in your dairy is the forthcoming Riverfest Fishing Competition to be held over the weekend of 15 and 16 May. This is being run by the Noosa Yacht and Rowing Club and you can register there or at Davo’s Bait and Tackle.

Five to 12 year olds are welcome to join in with the fish clinics to be conducted near the Yacht Club and for only $5 per head you’d be silly not to. Five to 16 year olds can enter the fishing comp and at $10 a head this also represents great value with fantastic prizes on offer.

I will be manning the weigh station on Saturday morning so come along, weigh in your live fish and say hello! Any species are eligible for the impressive list of prizes, exception being: rays, sharks, catfish and undersized fish. Entry is only $10 – for more info please contact Shane Wickson on 0403 037 004.

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