With temperatures starting to rise throughout August, anglers will be eager to get out onto the water in search of some piscatorial action.
Whether you fish the bay, bluewater or estuaries, there will be plenty on offer. Species such as flathead, big bay snapper, school mackerel and cobia should be prominent, however there’s plenty of opportunities to target classic cold weather species such as bream, mulloway, tailor and others.
With the days starting to get longer throughout August, anglers will have plenty of opportunity to get out and about enjoying their favourite sport and pastime.
Flathead would have to be one of the most prominent captures for anglers throughout the estuaries. Since the introduction of the minimum 40cm and maximum 75cm size slot, and a bag limit of five flathead per person, numbers have swelled considerably.
Flathead are a species that predominately hunts by ambush and can be caught on all manner of baits and lures.
As they lie on the bottom, submerged up to their lateral line in the sand or mud, flathead pick up vibrations of any possible food source approaching. Once within range they will erupt from the bottom to inhale the hapless baitfish, prawn or other morsel.
With this in mind, it doesn’t take long to realise that targeting specific, prominent areas, will greatly increase the chance of encountering flathead. Understanding how, when and where they usually feed will also enable you to have your offering within striking range of a flathead at the relevant stage of the tide.
As the tide rises, flathead venture onto the flats after prey species that enter these shallows. The smaller lizards migrate here first, then the larger specimens later as the tide rises and they feel less conspicuous.
Water clarity also plays a part in this tidal ritual. Once in this environment, flathead will lie in any little gutters, recesses, weed beds or darker patches, so these are obviously the first areas to target.
As the tide turns to run out, flathead will come out to the edges of the flats so they can ambush any bait being flushed from the flats with the receding tide. The larger specimens will generally leave first, taking up the best ambush locations along the drop-offs into the main river, or channel.
The lower lying areas, where the most water and the last of the water on the flat will flow, are key positions where the largest specimens and most flathead are usually found.
During August, which is a prime breeding period, there will often be one large female surrounded by several smaller males. With this basic knowledge, plan trips to coincide with the best tidal periods to fish any particular area.
For bait fishers, I would suggest fishing on the drift with dead baits or using live baits either while drifting or from an anchored position.
Try the deeper holes, along the edges of prominent banks and at the mouth of major gutters if deciding to fish at anchor. Drifting in the major channels will put you in with a good chance of encountering any flathead lying in ambush mode on the bottom.
When fishing along the edges of banks, cast your offering up onto the bank and allow the current to wash it into the main channel. Bream, whiting and many other species will also be taken.
Lure fishers will find the best opportunities while trolling the edges of prominent banks on the falling tide or casting plastics onto the banks and hopping them down into the deeper water.
The more regularly your offering hits the bottom, the greater the chance that a flathead will detect its presence. Brighter colours such as chartreuse, orange and pink provide the best visibility and heightened chance for success.
Soft plastics are one of the easiest lures to use for cast and retrieve fishing for flathead, regardless of water depth.
Minnow lures that dive deep enough to occasionally bang the bottom will also produce good results for anglers trolling or cast and retrieve fishing.
Make sure to return the larger female flathead to the water quickly because if they become stressed they can re-absorb their eggs and therefore not produce for the season.
Most anglers associate the capture of school mackerel with those long hot days of summer, however they are a species that can be caught in Moreton Bay during any month of the year.
Good numbers often enter the bay during August and their arrival in many areas is heralded by the presence of commercial anglers plying their trade in areas such as the upper Rous Channel. This area is often abundant with school mackerel, which can be caught in numerous ways.
Most commercial line fishers tend to troll spoons, such as Halco No.3 Barra Drones, behind a paravane or trolling board, which gets them down into the strike zone. When trolled at speeds of between 3-5 knots, depending on current direction, these flashy presentations will solicit strikes from school mackerel as well as the occasional longtail tuna and Spanish mackerel, which are sometimes located in this area.
Trolling lures behind paravanes requires a heavy main line, which seems more like harvesting than fishing to me. I generally opt for lighter line options such as trolling diving minnow lures or drifting with pilchards.
The upper Rous Channel and edges of major bank systems can be trolled with minnow lures such as Smith DD Panish and Cherry Bloods, Bomber 24A and Rapala Deep Magnums during the lower stages of the rising tide and the last half of the falling tide.
Troll as fast as you can go with your chosen offering. If the lures blow out of the water, slow down a fraction. Flat lining the lures with the use of a rubber band, or flat line clip, will lower the angle in relation to the water, allowing faster troll speeds.
I mainly use 8lb to 15lb braid, which gets the lures down deep and provides a lot of fun on these succulent silver streaks. During the higher stages of the tide, good results can also be achieved when trolling on the top of the flats and in the deeper gutters.
Pilchards rigged on ganged hooks and drifted in these same areas will also solicit strikes. This can be done on light line too; 4kg to 6kg monofilament is substantial enough to land the majority of fish and provide a lot of fun.
Hooks such as VMC 9255 or Tru-Turn 711, rigged with swivels between each hook will allow the bait to be put on easily and because each hook can move independently of the others, you will also achieve a better hook up rate.
Putting the points of the hooks down through the mackerel’s back, with the front hook centralised in the head between the nose and the eye, will allow the bait to waft enticingly in the water. It also reduces the possibility of spinning in the current, which looks unnatural. As the hook points end up in the gut cavity of the fish, the softest area, there is more chance of hook-up after a slashing strike.
Using a flourocarbon trace, instead of wire, will increase the hook-up potential with both baits and lures and the occasional fish lost will be more than compensated for with the increase in the overall number of strikes.
Cobia would have to be one of my favourite bay inhabitants and are a prize for any angler. They fight exceptionally well and taste excellent in my opinion.
Unlike most other species, I find the larger specimens better fare than the smaller ones, the flesh possessing a lot more flavour. One large fish is enough for many meals and luckily they freeze quite well, however there is generally no need to keep more than one per trip.
During August, your best opportunity to encounter a cobia will come while live baiting, but some astute anglers manage a few on lures and even fly tackle.
Cobia will eat a wide array of live offerings and occasionally will even be taken on pilchards and other dead baits. Large live baits such as whiptails, squid, sand crabs, yakkas, bonito and slimey mackerel are prime offerings for cobia, which can be caught.
Cobia weighing more than 40kg can be caught in Moreton Bay, but they are more commonly encountered between 10-20kg.
Areas such as Western Rocks, Caloundra Four Mile grounds, beacons in the NW and NE series, Curtin Artificial and Four Beacons are worth a try. For those in smaller craft, the NW12 beacon out from the Pumicestone Passage is worth a look during good conditions, however there is even a few cobia encountered around the bay islands on rare occasions.
August is generally one of the best months for anglers to target large bay snapper.
There will still be good numbers of the smaller snapper around, but if you want to catch a quality knobby within Moreton Bay then August is probably your best opportunity.
While pulling an all night session will often pay dividends, these larger snapper can also be caught during daylight hours with the right approach and a little stealth.
Quality snapper tend roam a lot in their search for food, often being found more than a kilometre from the bay islands and on isolated patches off reef and rubble in areas such as the Pearl Channel. The various wrecks littering Moreton Bay would also be a safe bet.
On a day of good weather you can try several of these by dropping plastics or quality baits over them as you drift the area from an up current position.
I prefer to hop plastics such as jerk shads (Gulp, Zoom, Atomic, Assassin or Slam) however anchoring well up current and then letting out anchor rope until you are within casting distance will allow you to float out quality baits such as pencil gar, squid, pilchards, yakkas or slimey mackerel to the strike zone.
Even fillet baits from mac tuna, bonito and mullet will produce some excellent fish. This approach may even produce an occasional cobia, yellowtail kingfish, sweetlip, trevally or shark.
Early morning and late afternoon sessions casting plastics around the various pieces of ground skirting the bay islands can also be very productive for snapper of all sizes.
Don’t discount the middle of the day if there is minimal boat traffic as large snapper can often be found close to the surface as they harass cruising garfish and hardiheads.
Often your plastic will get engulfed within a second or two of hitting the water – I have caught snapper on the surface to around 7kg in the middle of the day in glassed out conditions in more than 16m of water.
Other captures can include longtail tuna, with specimens to over 20kg encountered at times. Even closer in around the various reef and rubble areas of the bay islands, quality snapper can be taken at all times of the day, with results definitely better when boat traffic is at a minimum.
Get away from the noise of the general boating public and you will generally achieve good results. You do not need to be on any magic piece of ground, just get away to a quiet spot by yourself and your results will be heightened considerable.
When fishing plastics, using an electric motor to position yourself, will guarantee a stealthy approach, which will increase your chances, especially in the shallower areas. Skirting well wide of your chosen drift area while under power from your main motor is a good ploy.
Quality fresh baits, or a well presented plastic, combined with a little thought and a stealthy approach will result in some quality captures of bay snapper throughout August.
For anglers venturing a little wider to the offshore grounds, results will be excellent throughout the coming month. Plenty of snapper will be caught as well as pearl perch, amberjack, kingfish, bar-cod, sweetlip and many other species.
The conventional paternoster rig loaded with bait, is quickly being replaced by offerings such as soft plastics, swing jigs, knife jigs, octo jigs and other offerings. These often require less effort to fish and they can be delivered with much lighter outfits than the conventional 15-24kg overhead combinations used by bait fishers.
Grounds such as Shallow Tempest, Deep Tempest, Square Patch, The Cathedrals, Middle Reef (off Point Lookout), Hutchinson Shoals, Brennan’s Shoals, Robert’s Shoals and many other areas are worth a look.
There are a lot of isolated marks for wrecks, coffee rock and other submerged structure that will also fish well but these will generally require a lot of luck or a good bribe to a mate to find.
Trolling offshore will probably be a little quiet this month but there may be a few decent Spanish mackerel, yellowfin tuna, wahoo and other species to be encountered for those willing to put in the effort and the miles.
With the weather starting to warm over August, anglers will find more inspiration to get out and about in their quest for a few decent fish.
Although I often find the numbers of fish reduced throughout August, the quality of captures definitely makes up for it. August can often be quite a breezy month, with strong westerly winds however the estuaries have enough bounty to make the effort worthwhile for most anglers.
Even if you can’t get out and about on the water you can do some maintenance on your boat and tackle or rack up a few brownie points at home in preparation for warm and windless days in the coming months.Reads: 313