End on a high
  |  First Published: May 2010

All good things come to an end they say, and the excellent mackerel season we have had off the Sunshine Coast will be winding up as the water cools off.

Most local anglers consider the great run of spotted and Spanish mackerel the best we have seen for many years. Climatic conditions have obviously been favourable for these fish to hang around in such big numbers, or they simply would not have stayed! Water temperatures, current and food supply must have all been in sync to keep the mackerel happy and growing.

Lately there have been several big Spanish mackerel landed along the coast weighing more than 20kg. The bigger fish are generally caught at the end of the season.

Perhaps their growth rate is so good that a few months rest and relaxation off Noosa allows them to pile on the kilos. The same could be said for plenty of land-based visitors, I’m sure.

Mackerel of 20kg plus can deliver a serious workout to any gear. Substandard drags or terminals will not cope with fish of this size. Similarly the brutish tuna available during May will push anglers and their equipment to the very limit, so be prepared or miss out.

Trollers have done well this season so we are expecting a good May to finish the proceedings. Trolled gar have been good value, both on weighted rigs and unweighted gangs. Dead slow seems to work best and on some days you don’t even need to troll. Simply cast a ganged unweighted pillie out and drift. As soon as a school comes past every bait is smashed and double hook-ups are common, particularly on the spotted variety.

Trolling tailor can be very effective, particularly on the extra large Spanish mackerel. Baits of small mac tuna or bonito are also good to use while trolling. Cubers have been having fun and even bottom bashers are catching their fair share of jumbo mackerel; the bottom line is you need a line in the water to be in with a chance!

Snapper will start to dominate catch lists from May onwards as numbers continue to climb on the inshore reefs. These excellent eating fish can grow to well over 1m long and weigh more than 20kg, however, most fish are 3-6kg with the odd thumper of 10kg occasionally seen.

The use of soft plastics when targeting snapper is becoming a common occurrence and on occasions plastics out fish bait. I prefer bait however with pilchard or slabs of mullet particularly useful in the past.

The use of berley can be very helpful, with unweighted baits in the trail. Hang on to your rod tightly as a big snapper can hit the bait with significant muscle behind it. The thump, thump, thump of the big tail quickly gives away the identity of the fish then a generally brief tussle begins. The bigger fish can be harder to get to the boat than the smaller versions.

Coral trout are also available and are just about the most prestigious of all reef dwellers. They are remarkably beautiful fish and sensational on the plate.

Sunshine Reef is a very good area to prospect for a few trout during May. Mostly they are an incidental catch for all but the most regular trout fishers. These tenacious fish have a very nasty habit – they will often hit a bait on the turn and head straight into a rocky crevasse or coral cave often shredding the leader in the process.

To have a fighting chance on a trout, heavy leaders are essential; hold onto your rod or handline; and be prepared to muscle a trout away from sharp edges. Trout can weigh more than 20kg, however most around Noosa are in the 5kg range.

Parrots and pearl perch will also be on offer offshore during May. These species are top shelf table fish and should be freely available for some months. A few sweetlip and possibly a red emperor or two will make it into the ice slurry too.

The river has been fishing well with trevally and tailor on the go at dawn in the lower reaches and occasionally later in the day further upriver. Some big flathead have been taken on the troll and on soft plastics with the run-out tide generally the best bet. Those who prefer to drift have scored some good fish on live baits and frog mouth pilchards.

As we head into the cooler months the river and its creeks will start to fill up with bream for the annual spawning aggregation. By all means take a few home for a feed but please don’t over do it. Spawning fish are often subject to over fishing, which is why some species are totally protected during their annual period of proliferation.

A few jew and some quality jacks have been caught throughout the system which is a good sign. Just about all of the jewies are undersized but of course they will grow and procreate along the way which is a good sign for the future of this great fishery. The jacks will slow down somewhat for the cooler months but they are catchable all year round. Active fish will be in the warmer water, near structure or on the prowl at dawn and dusk.

On another note: restaurateur, television and radio personality Phippsy is well and truly back with a vengeance! He is revisiting his days as a successful guide on the beautiful Noosa River and is available for river charters in his custom-built 19ft Tournament Centre Console charter vessel.

Phippsy concentrates on lure and flyfishing and he caters for novice anglers right through to the very experienced. These trips are entertaining, informative, productive and very economical. Give Phippsy a ring on 0417 617 819 for more info.

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