Beware the Ides of March
  |  First Published: February 2010

March can produce challenging conditions for offshore fishing trips.

Big swells (a swell topped 18m off Cape Moreton a couple of years ago), strong winds and king tides all combine to reduce your chances of a successful offshore sojourn during March. The flooding rains usually push out plenty of floating debris such as logs, branches and car tyres, which are very hard to avoid during pre dawn starts. I tore the front off my transducer housing in March last year while making an early start. That was about $800 in hard earned experience...

Even days of low winds can be plagued by large short swells that will break on the run-out tides. You have been warned!

Feb Folly

Last month pearl perch were about in good numbers and size around the full and new moons but dropped off quickly on the smaller tides.

Kingfish made sporadic appearances on the 70m line. Kingies are not in the numbers we have come to expect at this time of the year. They are usually the staple catch but are pretty thin on the ground at the moment.

On the shallow reefs on the neap tides, there have been some fantastic mixed bags. Last weekend I thought I may have been fishing on the Swains Reef, as I landed spangled emperor, red throat emperor, other sweetlip species, hussar in good size and numbers, cod, trevally, and all without a rocky reef species in sight.


Considering the weather, March can be deadly. A couple of Redcliffe men, John Meiers and Jason Warry, lost their lives under the Cape in March last year while fishing in very, very heavy conditions. So be very careful and plan ahead.

Nevertheless it is not all dome and gloom, there are several safe options for this month:

Close Reefs Offshore in Good Conditions with Small Swells

Head offshore before dawn to the shallow rocky reefs with large rigged trolling baits or a big flashy deep diving lure, like a Rapala CD18. At first light, I have seen Spaniards launch themselves through the air to smash lures as they return to the water. Spectacular!

After that, as the sun gets up and the Spaniards go deeper, drift or anchor and berley on the shallow reefs. Float line for spangled and red throat emperor, as well as grassy sweetlips and possibly Maori and other cod species. There are a lot more of these species around than you would think but they don’t respond well to paternoster rigs.

Bay Fishing in Moderate Conditions or Big Swell Run

This year is seeing a brilliant run of the small mackerel species. Spotties and schoolies are everywhere at the moment. Close inshore in Laguna Bay and Mooloolaba Bay, as well as the more protected parts of Moreton Bay, will have schools of mackerel mixed in with bonito, Watson’s leaping bonito and small mac tuna.

River and Creek Fishing in Bad Weather

March means prawns and mud crabs and big bream from dirty water, so wear a raincoat and have some fun. Places like Deception Bay, the Pine River and the Pumicestone Passage are crawling with crabs when it is raining and windy. Just find a sheltered corner to hide from the elements, and the run-in tide is best.

Prawns are on the go on the last of the run-out. Use a sounder to find a deep hole around the corner out of the wind. Cast nets with top pockets are my weapon of choice. And wherever the prawns are, the bream won’t be far away. Use the little prawns you don’t want to eat and the bream will inhale them. Little lead and light lines make for a great battle.

Last year a lot of the bream in the Pine River were ulcerated and returned to the water. Let’s hope the cause of this problem has been washed away.


There has been lots of grumbling recently about a government Shark Cat pulling up next to fishers and taking photos and making notes. The crew of the Shark Cat won’t answer calls on VHF or respond to requests to come closer to explain who they are. They then move off to the next boat and repeat the process. This very thing happened to me, and I didn’t appreciate it at all.

It turns out they are a group of CSIRO researchers who have been hired by the EPA (now a part of DERM) to describe ‘displaced fishing effort’ in the MBMP. I received a call from one of the researchers. These blokes spend only about four days a month with one boat mapping ‘displaced effort’ from Broadwater to the top end of Pumicestone Passage and all the MBMP offshore areas as well. This process will continue for about three years.

How a research group that had about 6 months of notice (when the Green Zones were released) could describe the displaced effort accurately without having a clear picture of where effort was before the closures? Or were they really only describing where current effort was taking place? And what did EPA/DERM want to use the information for? And how robust was the quantitative nature of their research when they chose a Sunday, one of the best days weatherwise for offshore fishing in over a year, to drive up the Pumicestone Passage?

The replies were pretty vague. There needs to be robust stakeholder involvement in these processes run by EPA. I would like to think the Ecofishers and Sunfish are all over this on behalf of all the rec anglers in the MBMP.

TINNie and TACKLE show

Pearl perch have been in good numbers around the full and new moons.

On the shallow reefs on the neap tides have been plenty of great looking spangled emperor.


Mixed reefies are the order of the day. This Venus tuskfish was caught from the shallows.

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