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Hungry, aggressive fish make a lot of fun
  |  First Published: November 2017



Hot summer conditions catalyse hot angling action. As the waters warm within the bay and estuaries, the metabolism of many species increases and their aggressiveness soars. Mackerel, mangrove jack, estuary cod, threadfin, sharks, crabs and tuna species will be common fare within their respective waters. There’s a broad array on offer. Heightened baitfish activity will bring some quality pelagics into the bay. With the hot sun beating down, anglers need to apply sunscreen, put on some protective clothing and keep up the fluids, but piscatorial rewards are out there for the taking.

SHARKS

Warm conditions can increase the activity of sharks within the estuaries and bay. These toothy assailants cause havoc for anglers and attack any decent fish you hook, at times. I lost count of how many school mackerel, longtail tuna and spotted mackerel I lost to big sharks while fishing the bay last season – mainly pig-eye and bull whalers.

In addition to fish, you usually lose the lure as well, which is mega annoying. The same can be said for other areas along the east coast and further afield. Even those fishing in the estuaries regularly had bream, flathead, threadfin, mulloway and other species attacked by sharks during the fight. While you can’t stop this happening, you can get a bit of your own back by actually going out and targeting a few sharks for fun.

I’ve done a lot of shark fishing over the years and have found them a great species to teach anglers the skills of fighting a fish. Junior anglers get a buzz out of catching a shark and checking them out once they are safely on board and suitably restrained. You’re not permitted to keep a shark over 1.5m, but most will be less than this in length –probably a metre or so. These smaller sharks can also be good eating if filleted soon after capture.

In the bay, sharks are commonly found around the bay island margin, the spoil grounds and along the edges of most channels. If you specifically target them, it doesn’t take too long to hook-up. I find that drifting likely areas with a whole fish bait like gar, slimey mackerel, mullet or pike pinned on a couple of hooks snelled together with nylon-coated wire, will usually get results. A tuna oil slick will also increase your chances considerably.

In the Brisbane River and other estuarine systems, live baits will definitely produce the goods quicker than dead baits. Mullet, pike and catfish are all prime offerings. Catfish are a major food source for many estuarine sharks, especially in the Brisbane River. Sharks generally strike the rear of the cattie and just remove the tail section leaving the head and three spikes. Ensure you have at least one hook in the tail.

Live offerings suspended beneath a balloon struggle and create vibrations in the water. This is like ringing the dinner bell to a shark and any in the area will quickly home in on this bait. Even smaller sharks should be handled with care as their teeth can still inflict life-threatening wounds. Use a large landing net for securing sharks to around 10kg and then pin them to the ground or floor of the boat with a secure grip on the back of the head to remove the hooks or cut the leader.

MANGROVE JACK

There’s been some great mangrove jacks already caught this season with anglers fishing the numerous creeks, rivers and estuaries within the Moreton Bay region. The Coomera and Logan Rivers offer prime waters – many anglers will score quality jacks as well as threadfin, estuary cod, trevally, flathead and even the occasional barramundi in these systems. Residential canals offer heaps of structure and prime jack habitat.

Features such as mangroves, bridge pylons, pontoons, jetties and rock walls are prime jack-holding structure and lures cast close to these will be slammed. Diving minnow lures, vibration baits, poppers, stickbaits, soft plastics and a host of others can produce in the hands of knowledgeable anglers. Dawn, dusk and night sessions generally produce the best results.

Lighted areas are often the key to locating jacks at night as these areas promote increased baitfish activity. Live baits fished around the bridges, rock walls and other structure will also reward the less active angler not keen on working lures. Herring, pike, prawns and mullet are some of the prime offerings when fished lightly weighted adjacent to prominent structure.

ESTUARY COD

Often found in the same spots as jacks, estuary cod are serious targets for the estuarine and inshore angler. Both black and gold-spot can be caught to over 10kg in weight, but most are less than 2kg. They can put up quite a scrap on the average spin and baitcasting tackle that anglers use for jacks and a sturdy thumb-lock on the spool. A degree of luck goes into almost every capture.

The bay island shallows are good estuary cod territory. The rock walls at the mouth of the Brisbane River and the northern and eastern sides of Mud Island, as well as the fringing reefs of Peel (beware of the Green Zone exclusion area), the shallow reef and rubble areas around the bay islands and the numerous jetties and other structure in the Brisbane River will all hold quality cod.

Lures cast close to the structure, preferably banging and rattling across it, will produce. Live and dead baits work well, however the amount of water that can be covered with lures usually means a higher catch rate.

THREADFIN

During warmer months, higher concentrations of threadfin tend to be in the lower reaches of the river systems, especially in the Brisbane River. The area downstream from the Gateway Bridge is where most anglers concentrate their efforts, although there are still threadies to be found further up. Large numbers of threadfin will often school up in the lower reaches commonly around the prawn or herring schools. Some anglers manage numerous large fish in a session, releasing most of them while they’re still in the water to maximise their chance of survival.

Vibration lures, especially soft ones, are extremely popular and productive. Working these lures close to the bottom, bouncing them along in small hops, will increase the threadfin’s chance of locating and engulfing them, because their eyesight is poor and they locate most of their food through vibration. For this reason, live bait will always out-fish dead offerings, as threadies can home in on the struggling morsel. Prawns, herring and mullet are the most commonly used, but many work too.

The decline into the river basin is a good spot to be putting your baits, especially at the start of the falling tide. The Oil Pipeline area is especially popular for live baiting and continues to produce the goods. Snapper, cod, bream, flathead and numerous undesirables like catfish, rays and sharks will also engulf your offerings. Claras Rocks, the Caltex Reach, deeper sections around the Gateway Bridge and the fronts of all the jetties along the river are also likely to hold threadfin.

As they stress easily, threadies should be released quickly after a minimum of handling if they aren’t being kept for the table.

CRABs

Mud crabs are worth targeting this month in creeks, rivers and estuaries. Set a few safety pots in likely locations such as the mouths of small drains and gutters leading from the mangrove flats, collapsed mangrove banks, deeper holes, edges of riverbank contours and deeper channels. Fish heads and frames, chicken carcasses, whole mullet or even a few pilchards in a mesh bag will entice muddies into your pots.

Leave your pots in during a tidal change, especially during darkened hours to heighten chances considerably. Unfortunately, it’s not a good idea to venture too far from pots these days, as crab pot raiding and theft is a problem. However, a feed of tasty mud crabs will definitely make your effort worthwhile.

Sand crab numbers will also be ramping up. Better results usually come in a month or two, but every year is different. It will be worth setting pots with the aforementioned baits at locations throughout Moreton Bay and the mouth of major systems such as the Brisbane, Caboolture, Logan and Pine. Within the bay, the contours surrounding the bay islands, the deeper channels between the islands and the edges of prominent banks are all worthy spots to set your pots.

What depth the crabs are mainly at can vary, so it’s a good idea to initially set your pots at a variety of depths between 4-12m until you start to see a pattern. The depths at which the pros have their pots set will also give you an idea, but it’s not advisable to set your pots in the same run as they have a habit of disappearing in some areas. Find another location with a similar depth and you’re in the game.

TUNA

This time last year, longtail numbers were excellent throughout the bay. I caught numerous quality specimens in areas like the Measured Mile, northern side of the ‘Paddock’ green zone, Harry Atkinson area, west of the Four Beacons and around the main shipping channels, although they were present further south as well. The longtails were easy to approach and would eat almost anything you threw at them – most of mine were hooked on Maria Mucho Lucir 25g and 35g and Nomad Mad Scad 115 in the HGS and Sardine finishes.

There were plenty of 15kg+ specimens that really gave a workout on 20lb spin gear. Hopefully, we’ll see a few more of these crackers this season. On calmer days, longtails can be located easily due to the disturbance as they smash baitfish on the surface, which is visible from quite some distance. Birds circling in the sky are a dead giveaway that something good is going to happen.

Position yourself in the general area to put you in with a great chance of being within casting distance once they break the surface. Longtails can be very profile oriented, so it pays to have a variety of offerings at your disposal to keep changing lures until there’s a result.

Longtails hooked on larger lures, like stickbaits and pencil poppers, will generally knock up and be captured quicker, possibly because they can’t get their mouth shut properly. Those hooked on smaller lures, like slugs and jighead rigged jerk shads, will generally slog it out for longer, but sometimes you need smaller profiles to get a hook-up.

The smaller tuna and bonito are usually around in decent numbers during November. These can commonly be found in the channels and edges of banks. On the higher tidal stages, frigate tuna and bonito will often be right up on the banks and we regularly catch them trolling lures for school mackerel in these areas. The Rainbow Channel, Pearl Channel, Rous Channel, Naval Reserve Banks area and bay island surrounds are all likely to hold few schools of these smaller pelagics. Small chromed slugs and slices and baitfish profiled flies are the main offerings they respond to. Some larger mac tuna may eat a jerk shad plastic or smaller stickbait.

MACKEREL

School mackerel will still be the main species found throughout the bay during November. These have been fairly prevalent since late September, although they weren’t always surface feeding. In recent months, I’ve caught schoolies on pilchards drifted around the beacons and at the Harry Atkinson, lures trolled in the Rous Channel and on top of the Tangalooma Banks, on chromed slugs jigged at the shipping channel beacons and micro jigs at the Harry Atkinson.

Other reports have filtered in of schoolies taken on pilchards at the Measured Mile, edges of the reef at Peel, Rainbow Channel, Scarborough Reef, Curtin Artificial and Western Rocks area and numerous other spots. They’ve been fairly widespread and even during September, specimens to 75cm+ were caught. Numbers should increase during November and you may find them smashing the surface if baitfish schools are abundant.

CONCLUSION

Warmer months often result in increased aggression of many species and increased metabolism. Anglers can take advantage of their hunger and get a few piscatorial runs on the board this month. Early morning starts are very pleasant, but when the sun starts beating down you better apply sunscreen. Cover up to avoid a bad sunburn, which can have long lasting effects. Increased baitfish activity will also heighten many species’ activity and thinking anglers can use this to their advantage. Hot conditions produce hot angling action, so get amongst the awesome species on offer.

1

Mangrove jack are aggressive estuarine predators and will eat a wide array of food items. This one decided a crab was pretty good fare until he felt the sting of the hooks.

2

School mackerel have been plentiful over the last few months. This was one of several taken on drifted pilchards from around the beacons.

3

Sharks are generally a nuisance and will often take hooked fish, but they can also be a lot of fun to target and are great for teaching inexperienced anglers the skills of fighting a tough adversary.

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