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May, Bay, Play
  |  First Published: April 2010



With the weather cooling down over the last few weeks, anglers will be making the transition into winter species. Snapper, tailor, squid, bream and mulloway will become more prevalent throughout Southern Queensland.

The action for the bay is promising and I am predicting this to be one of the best snapper seasons for a few years, due the rains we had earlier in the year. This influx added nutrient and colour to the water, which increases baitfish activity and subsequently predatory activity throughout the bay.

The Brisbane River should also fish well, as will most other estuarine systems. Although the weather is cooling down throughout May, the action is heating up for these fish. If everything falls into place, it should be one of the best cold weather fishing periods for many seasons.

Let’s look at a few of the possibilities.

BAY SNAPPER

Westerly winds usually result in very clear water around the bay shallows throughout winter, however with the rain earlier in the year this should not be as apparent. The shallows will generally fish better when water clarity is low as the snapper and other species feel less conspicuous in these margins.

Baitfish will also shelter in dirtier water as it provides better cover for them. Snapper are savvy to this, so will hunt in these areas of low clarity. Subsequently, strikes are usually fairly ferocious as the snapper know how easily a baitfish can escape in murky water so will not hesitate to slam it upon sight. I have caught good snapper in just a couple of metres of water when clarity is low and subsequently have had several of these taken by sharks, which are also aware of the activity in these margins.

Soft plastics seem to account for more and more snapper every year, as anglers become aware of their productiveness and switch to this exciting and active form of fishing. Whilst this can be undertaken from any vessel, smaller craft to around 5m, sporting a four-stroke motor and an electric motor, make an ideal platform.

The electric motor is very important to fishing success as it allows near-silent passage in the shallows. Approaching the chosen area with a four-stroke will also heighten your chances, as it will greatly reduce the possibility of spooking fish in the area.

It never ceases to amaze me how many anglers I witness who will go to an area, motor around it with their noisy two-stroke as they sound it out, rattle the anchor chain over the side, sit right over the spot where they have located a few fish on the sounder and then leave in 20 minutes for greener pastures after they have not had a bite. It annoys me even more when they have seen you catch a fish and will come to where you have been carefully fishing in near silence and ruin the chances for you.

The less noise you make the greater your chances of success in these shallow grounds. Snapper are cruising and feeding right around the islands and the surrounding structure – unfortunately there are no magic spots. Get away from the crowds, be stealthy in your approach and you are likely to get good results.

There are many varieties of good plastics for this type of fishing with most working when presented and fished well. Some of the more popular presentations include Gulp 5” Jerk Shads, 4” Swimming Mullet and 4” Shrimp, Zoom Flukes, Bass Assassin 4” SW Shad, Slam 5” Minnows and 4” Curl Tail, Atomic 3” and 6” Jerk Minnow and 4” Prongs, plus many others. Match these to the appropriate sized jig hooks sporting weights of 1/6oz to 3/8oz and you are in business.

Keep retrieves extremely slow with either a lift, drop and wind retrieve or a short wind and pause retrieve. Often when you are drifting relatively fast you can cast a plastic out behind you, put the rod in the holder and simply allow your offering to drag behind the boat. This often accounts for the best fish of the day.

It is probably a good idea to attach a lanyard to the rod as strikes can be ferocious and there’s a possibility of it dislodging from the holder.

Baits are also exceptionally productive when presented well. Fresh offerings such as squid, fillets, herring, gar, mullet and prawns are the best option however the humble frozen pilchard and other pre-frozen baits can also produce good results.

Pike are usually numerous and easy to catch on a small soft plastic over the shallow reef areas surrounding the islands. These make great fillet baits or the smaller ones can even be used whole. Good presentation, which sees the bait sitting naturally in the water and not spinning, is most likely to produce positive results on larger fish.

Many anglers believe that the bite period is around the change of the tide, when in reality this is the only time their bait can sink to the bottom and sit naturally, so this is when they achieve results. Good presentation will see this bite period extended throughout the entire tidal stage.

Those fishing with plastics are offering a presentation that looks natural throughout the entire tidal stage so naturally they are in with the best chance of achieving the best results over an extended period.

JUMPINPIN

May is a good time to get down to the ‘Pin to tangle with a wide array of predatory species. The area between Jumpinpin Bar and Kalinga Bank is heavily fished yet continues to produce excellent results for the majority of anglers.

Larger tides see increased amounts of water enter this estuarine bottle-neck and as a result these are often the better times to fish here.

Drifting with a bait such as whitebait, frogmouth pillie or hardihead pinned on a snelled-hook rig will provide good results on bream, flathead, trevally, tailor and occasional mulloway.

Run-in tides are usually best and this presentation allows you to cover a lot of water and will produce the goods in all parts of the estuarine system, no matter what the depth. Use the appropriate sized sinker to just keep your bait close to the bottom in the relevant depth, depending on water flow.

Making up a few rigs before you head out can maximise your fishing time in case you get snagged and have to re-rig. I like to use Mustad Penetrator hooks, usually size 1, 1/0 or 2/0, as these are fine, super sharp and a similar colour to these baitfish. Snell these directly onto some 30lb fluorocarbon leader with the hooks spaced to allow one to be inserted through the chin of the bait and the other down towards the tail.

Plastics drifted in the Jumpinpin Channel will also produce captures, such as mulloway, which are often the desired target of many anglers throughout May and the coming months. Flathead, quality bream, tailor and the occasional yellowtail kingfish and other species are also caught.

On the falling tide, try casting your plastics around the mouth of Swan Bay, as predatory fish often patrol the drop-off into the main riverbed awaiting the baitfish washed out of Swan Bay with the receding tide. The aforementioned baits can also be cast and worked down this mud ledge with surprisingly positive results.

Keep your eyes peeled whilst in the Jumpinpin Bar area as schools of tailor and trevally can often bust on the surface anywhere between the Bar and Crusoe Island. Casting small stickbait plastics, chromed slices and poppers can be an exciting and productive way to target these species.

For anglers with insomnia, live-baiting this channel at night will often produce some creditable mulloway as well as sharks, shovelnose rays and stingrays. Large mullet are best but pike, yakkas, slimy mackerel, herring and others will suffice. You will want a minimum of 30lb line, a snelled-hook rig and just enough weight to keep the bait near the bottom. Drifting is best, however anchoring in the main channel or in the hole down towards Crusoe will also put you in with a good chance.

BRISBANE RIVER

The fishing in the Brisbane River continues to impress with numbers of threadfin, tailor, trevally, bream, flathead, cod, snapper and other species being caught. Some good schools of tailor have been working around the mouth at times, mainly on the rising tide.

Last year saw a lot of small, undersized mulloway caught but, with another year of growth under their belts, many of these fish should now be of a legal size so hopefully quality captures will be more frequent. These can be caught with live baits (mullet, herring and prawns) and all manner of lures including vibration baits, blades and plastics.

Some anglers specifically target mulloway, however, many are often taken as by-catch by those chasing threadfin. Working the edges of the main riverbed, adjacent the wharf pylons and deep holes will provide the best opportunity.

Mulloway are occasionally taken around the lighted waters adjacent to the restaurants in Breakfast Creek by anglers with plastics and minnow lures at night.

Remember, mulloway now have a minimum size limit of 75cm.

BREAM

Cool weather and bream fishing go hand in hand, although this plucky little fish can be caught all year round. Better numbers are definitely around during winter and this month we will start to see a few quality specimens along the eastern facing beaches and in the mouth of the estuaries.

Kilogram-plus fish are not that uncommon for surf anglers at times with the deeper inshore gutters providing good habitat for bream towards the top of the tide. Late afternoon and night sessions are usually the best times to soak a few baits such as pipis, beachworms, foul gut, mullet gut, fillet baits and half pillies.

The lower reaches of the Brisbane River also often hold good numbers of bream with areas such as the Sewerage Shute, Sunken Wall, Clara’s Rocks and Grain Loading Wharf being some of the better areas to try with baits, soft plastics, blades and vibration baits.

The shallows around the bay islands and Scarborough Reef are also worth a try and can produce some absolute horse bream. Small surface stickbaits, blades, plastics and shallow diving minnow lures can all be put to good use.

By-catch can include tailor, squid, sweetlip, whiting, flathead and several other species. Try around the entrance to the Mud Island Lagoon (northeast corner) on the start of the falling tide with shallow diving minnow lures as kilogram-plus bream are fairly common here, if the netters have not been working the lagoon.

You will also hook some thumper pike, trevally and flathead.

FLATHEAD

Flathead numbers are on a steady increase and although the main run will not happen for almost three months, there are often plenty of school-sized flatties about. These will willingly hit anything that comes within range.

I like wading shallow water areas whilst casting small minnow lures and plastics on light line. Try areas such as the mouth of the Pine River and Tingalpa Creek, Jackson Creek, the flats out the front of Nudgee and around the mouths of the canals. Usually the last few hours of the falling tide and the first hour of the rising tide provides the best results.

BIG BLUES

May is one of the better months for anglers who like to head offshore and target blue marlin. These are usually under 200kg and are one of the toughest of all pelagic fish, capable of stripping a reel of 800m of 37kg line in less than a couple of minutes.

Anglers targeting them on 24kg tackle are rather under-gunned but may land the occasional blue. Most anglers tend to either fish 37kg line from a chair or stand-up. In recent years some have opted for 60kg line, as they have been spooled on 37kg line on larger blues, which can occasionally exceed 300kg. On rare occasions blues will better 400kg although none of this size have been officially weighed in our waters for many years, although they are out there.

Most anglers fish between 300m and 600m depth of water but some even venture out to the 1300m line in their search. Game fishing can be quite good for an array of species during May.

The Moreton Bay Game Fish Club hold their Back to Tanga’s Tournament on the last weekend in May, which is always well attended and has heaps of categories and great prizes. Give Noel Webb a call on (07) 3286 5762 to find out more.

BAY PELAGICS

Longtail tuna are still around in the bay, with May often being the pick of months for them. Good schools of longtails and other tunas are often found close to the beach along Bribie Island where they feed on the same schools of baitfish that tailor follow.

Keen fly fishers will be trying their luck against longtail tuna in the Bribie Island Sport Fishing Club’s Longtail Tuna Challenge, which is run from Bribie Island on the last weekend of May. Contact Jeff Sorrel on (07) 3284 2632 or Peter Griffiths on (07) 3265 2926 for more details. This is a good weekend for experienced and novice fly anglers alike and is a lot of fun. Hope to see you there.

There will still be a few school mackerel around and snapper fishers around the bay islands would be well advised to have a pillie floating out under a balloon for the occasional mackerel lurking in these waters. Squid and big cuttlefish will also attack such a bait.

Trolling the edges of prominent banks on the first few hours of the rising tide and up on tops of the banks for the remainder should produce a few on small minnow lures and micro skirts. Pilchards drifted around the beacons will also be worth a try around the change of the tide.

Live baiting around the beacons with yakkas or slimy mackerel can produce longtails, mackerel and cobia. If a cobia is on your wish list, try using large whiptails, legal sized school mackerel, crabs or any other larger baits. Cobia find these irresistible but you will also hook a few large white-spot shovelnose rays and sharks.

It can be a bit of a waiting game but when you have that 30kg plus cobia on the deck the effort will be forgotten.

GO PLAY

Well there definitely is a lot of possibilities for anglers over the coming month. Estuarine, bay and bluewater anglers all have some awesome targets to plan a few trips around throughout May.

Think about the habits of your target species and organize your trips, tackle and approach to suit if you are keen to accomplish what you set out to do. Just getting out onto the water when you can manage, then trying a few different techniques is a good ploy. Don’t put all you eggs into one basket – try different things until one comes up trumps for you.

You will probably need to crack out the beanie and jacket during May for those early morning and late afternoon and night sessions but the fishing should be good. Just being out there is reward in itself for a keen angler.

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