Maroochy River Report

This report is supplied by Mal McKinlay

June 18, 2020

My Best mate Gilligan, came up from BrisVegas to spend a couple of days on the river with me chasing garfish. 5 days before the June New moon we pumped 100 yabbies and headed to one of my favourite gar spots on the ocean side of Goat island. We had to fill in an hour or so till the run in tide began so we went out to the bar mouth to have a look at the progress of the giant sausage sand bags they are using to build the retaining wall on the southern entrance of the river at Cotton tree. They dig out the base, fill these huge tough bags with sand, that must weigh tons, then cranes place them on top of each other forming a wall. Aesthetically, they look very neat and I guess time will tell whether they can handle the fury that the Ocean is going to throw at them.

Anyhow…back to the fishing. With our burley streaming behind the boat on the incoming tide our floats were soon doing their thing as quality gar to 36cm started to quaff down the half yabbies we were using for bait. Although they weren’t exactly biting their heads off, in a couple of hours we had caught 40 quality garfish for the session. Next day we went back to the same spot and sat there for 30 minutes without a gar inquiry so moved 150 metres upstream but closer into the sand bank. After yet another 20 mins of no action, we were about to move again when the burley started to do its trick. Soon we had a school of mixed quality gar working the burley and our first yellowfin bream for the winter season also joined in for a feed. We ended up with 30 gar and 2 nice bream at 29 & 30cms respectively and released 3 or 4 smaller ones at legal size. Finally the annual winter migration of yellowfin bream into the Maroochy river system has started. All the bream we caught were in absolute prime condition.

As we were travelling to our gar spot we passed a bath tub sized tinny with 4 young dudes standing up casting lures and baits. One of them was lifting a nice flathead over the side as we went past. How they maintained their balance in this small boat is beyond me. Two old codgers who chase black bream every year at their favourite spot (I won’t say where) were also playing a couple of fish as we passed…so I can only assume the black bream have returned once again for the winter.

Back at the Picnic Point boat ramp one of my readers happened by and showed me some recent photos of big yellowfin bream he had been pulling off his favourite snag somewhere near where we were fishing for gar. He also showed me a video on his phone of a monster bream of snapper proportions that went 40cms and he said that he dropped an even bigger one  at the side of the boat. He was using flesh baits and live prawns he caught in his cast net. While we were cleaning our fish, a massive school of sea mullet were lazing about on the incoming current right in front of us at the filleting table. I’m talking about  thousands of huge, silver sea mullet rippling the glassy surface of the river like an invisible sea breeze…what a wonderful sight. Something to keep in mind if you are going to launch at the Picnic Point boat ramp. It is very badly silted up with sand and you will have extreme trouble getting away from the ramp, anywhere near the bottom of the tide.

Tailor usually follow the sea mullet into the river, so you keen tailor fishos had better get to it.

The annual run of all winter species has begun in earnest, and should only improve as the water temp gets colder.  If you would like to share a little knowledge of your fishing experiences contact me on malcolmmckinlay0@gmail.com.  Good luck!

June 3, 2020

It is great to see the winter weather pattern finally reach us. Expect SE to SW winds  followed by calm balmy days to dominate the next 3 months as the huge high-pressure systems work their way across Australia. Without a doubt this is one of the best times of the year to fish the Maroochy river.

I have already mentioned in my last report that the winter migration of eastern Australian sea gar has begun, and I have had a couple of trips where I have bagged out (50) in the last couple of weeks. The quality of these little beauties has been terrific with many of them reaching 36cm to the tail fork. The fillet size has been so big, I have been taking home 2 X 2 litre ice cream containers of boned, sweet eating gar fillets from each trip. Most people think that gar are just too hard to process because of their size, but once you have mastered the art, the rewards are well worth the effort.

The annual run of yellow fin bream has not really begun in earnest yet. A sure indication of their presence is when they take over the burley stream when I am fishing for gar. So far this winter I have not caught one bream at the back of the boat in the burley trail. I put this down to the fact that the water temp is still very warm, and the bream do not usually show up in great numbers until the cold winter current works its way onto the coastline. With a few cold fronts working their way towards Qld this could all change soon. As a rule of thumb, the June Full moon usually signals the start of their winter run so they should increase in size and numbers over the next couple of weeks. Although I do not personally target bream, they are still a lot of fun on light tackle. A burley bucket hanging over the side of your boat with a slow release burley will increase your chances of nailing some good fish. Bream will travel a long way to your boat once they get a whiff off burley floating on the tide. Fish as light a sinker as you can, drifting it back from your boat on the current. They are scavengers by nature cleaning up the river as they feed. Live baits are best, with yabbies or soldier crabs a good choice. They will also accept just about any other fish flesh bait you want to throw at them especially, chunks of herring or WA pillies. I was fishing with a Kiwi mate once, who plonked a piece of saveloy, ‘red sausage’ as he called it, on his hook  and reeled in a 34cm bream much to my disbelief. So take it from me, they will have a crack at anything when they are hungry.

Best spots for bream are around structure such as floating trees that have run aground during rain events, jetties and pontoons that abound on the high-rise side of the river and the bold banks around Goat Island. They like to congregate in the deeper channels away from prying eyes, as the river is always at its clearest during winter. Of course the cod hole and the pylons around the motorway bridge are a favourite spot for big bream on lures and live baits. Flathead should still be around in fair numbers for the next 2 months also, for lure and live bait fishos.

For those of you who like to fish the beach there are some exceptionally good gutters along the Kawana Waters section at the moment holding some reasonable sized dart. I spoke to a fisho whilst walking my dogs the other day and he showed me a photo of a big mulloway Jew he had pulled out of a close inshore gutter at night on a pillie. There are plenty of beach worms (if you can catch them) in the same area which are excellent bait for all species.

Anyway after being cooped up in your caves for the past 3 months avoiding the dreaded virus you should all be busting to get out and give em a go. If you would like to share a little knowledge of your fishing experiences contact me on malcolmmckinlay0@gmail.com. Good luck!

April 24, 2020

It has been 2 months since my last report and a lot of water has passed under the bridge during that time. The deadly Corona virus escalated, turned the world on its ear and changed the world as we knew forever. The only good thing to come out of this turmoil as far as I am concerned is that the Maroochy river has not changed one bit. The tide still comes in and the tide still goes out every day and its inhabitants flourish as best they can.

The run of summer whiting has pretty much drawn to an end as we move into the cross-over of seasons. The month of February produced more whiting for me than any other month over the summer period, due to the huge volume of rain we recorded at the time. The muddy conditions and the fresh state of the water forced them down to the bar mouth and produced some of the best whiting fishing for me that I have ever experienced on the river. The river is now crystal clear and you can see the bottom in the deepest parts of the lower reaches, even on the top of the tide. It is still a little too early for the annual run of yellow fin bream, but the winter cycle of gar fish has begun in earnest and these delicious silver specimens are congregating in all parts of the lower reaches. Recently on the April new moon I bagged out (50) on gar in a couple of hours fishing. There were a lot of smaller fish among them (no size limit) which I kept as they are ideal baits for both surf and outside fishing when packed properly and frozen down immediately after catching.

For those of you who have not tried fishing for gar, they are a lot of fun on light tackle and can keep the kids (and the big kids) entertained for hours. The best rig I have found to use is a luderick style float with adjustable leader for hook and sinker. The gar sometimes vary the depth they are feeding at, so you must be able to adjust your bait to suit. Absolutely critical for gar fishing is to have a burley bucket over the side full of your homemade or commercial burley to attract them up to your boat. A Mustad Blood Worm Long Shank No 10 is a perfect size hook, baited with a small piece of prawn, squid or yabby. The trick is to drift your float away from the back of the boat on the current in the burley stream. Your float should be perfectly balanced so that as soon as a gar starts to swim off with the bait in its mouth the float slowly sinks under the surface. This is the signal to lift your rod tip, set the hook and enjoy the battle as the gar tries every trick in the book to throw the hook.

Gar love clean, clear water and work the channels on the incoming tide moving over the weed and sand banks as they cover with the rising water. The water was so clear the other day I could almost select the fish I wanted to hook as they worked the burley trail behind the boat. They are best fished on the run-in tide, but you will hold them on the run out for an hour or so with burley before they head back out to the bar mouth to await the return tide. Although they are very finicky fish to fillet because of their size, with a good sharp knife and a bit of practice you will reap bountiful rewards of sweet eating flesh to rival any other species.

In the next month yellow fin bream will begin to show up in better numbers and size as the cooler winter waters fill the river. On my return to the Picnic Point ramp last trip, I was quite surprised to see a lot quality whiting around the 30cm mark still hanging around the shallow banks. For those of you who like to fish for flathead with lure or live bait you should do well over the next few weeks.

If you would like to share a little knowledge of your fishing experiences contact me on malcolmmckinlay0@gmail.com.  Good luck!

March 6, 2020

Just as the river was starting to clear up after the early Feb downpour the heavens opened up once more with another 150mL of rain on Feb 24/25 and the river went to chocolate colour overnight. I knew straight away that the whiting would be forced back down stream around the lower reaches because the water was just too fresh for them to survive anywhere else.

On Feb 26, with a low tide prediction of 5.45pm, I launched at Picnic Point ramp at 2pm, pumped a few yabbies plus a few small soldier crabs that came up in the yabby pump and headed for spot X. I had landed some quality fish here on my last trip and I was hopeful. The tide was really tearing out, so I went up to the next size sinker (No 4) to try and keep the bait down in the Strike Zone. It is important that your bait is not floating too high if the current is running strong.

I soon landed a nice whiting @ 34cm on a yabby and using a soldier crab bait, I threw out into the middle of a series of washouts or undulations that I have mentioned in previous reports. I immediately locked into a 37cm ripper whiting which joined it’s mate in my esky. I never had another bite for 20mins, so headed to spot Y where I gathered more soldier crabs and moved to a position where the water runs over a sand spit at about 2 feet deep, then runs into the main channel. With only an hour and a half to low tide I knew I was running out of time to find a good school of whiting in the thick muddy water. Little did I know that I was about to enjoy the best hour of fishing that I have ever had on the Maroochy River.

When I first set up, I usually use 3 rods spread across the back of the boat covering a line of 180 degrees. If I get more interest on one rod compared to the others, I concentrate in that area. In this case the starboard rod had first enquiry and I was soon locked into a quality fish. This was quickly followed by the middle rod and at the same time the portside rod. I dropped a 35cm whiting on the floor of my boat and began playing the middle rod which was another 35cm whiting which joined its mate on the floor while I grabbed the other rod and landed another 35cm whiting (all gut hooked). That’s when you know you are definitely in fishing heaven, when you have 3 monster whiting jumping around the floor of your boat and you haven’t had time to take a hook out. I rebaited with crabs as quick as I could and before I could throw the second bait out, I was on again with the first rod. Another whiting over 30cm was soon in my boat and as I threw the next bait out, Bang! I was on again with a another big fish. And so on and so on it went…for an hour. I landed 19 whiting in an hour and only 5 were under 30cm. By now I knew I would be cleaning fish till 8pm so I upped anchor and left just before dead low tide with the whiting still on the bight. Wow! what a session (see esky photo). One of my contacts Troy, took advantage of the fresh conditions in the river to score an exceptional catch of whiting on the Feb neap tides (see sink photo).

The river is already starting to clear and the big whiting will soon disperse throughout the river once again, but if you work the big tides on the March 10 full moon you may be handsomely rewarded. There are also some good sized grunter bream working among the schools of whiting. How quickly your luck can change on the Maroochy river. You just have to keep on doing what works best for you and the rewards will come.

If you would like to share a little knowledge of your fishing experiences, contact me on malcolmmckinlay0@gmail.com.  Good luck!

February 19, 2020

The lower reaches of the Maroochy River are teaming with way above average sized whiting. This has all been brought about by the fact that a year’s supply of rain has fallen in the catchment area over the past fortnight. The upper levels of the river are so fresh that it is impossible for most saltwater species to survive, so they all head down to the river mouth seeking clean saltwater from the ocean. Whiting congregate in the channels surrounding Goat, Chambers Island and the Cotton Tree at this time, working the tides as the clean water pushes the dirty water back up the river on the run-in. And believe me, they are seriously hungry, searching for yabbies, soldier crabs, prawns and anything else that whiting eat.

One of my readers Troy, who swaps info with me on a regular basis, fished the river on the Saturday night in the middle of the neap tides between the last Feb full moon and the Feb24 new moon with blood worms. He fished all night and caught a good haul of quality whiting to 37cm. Like me, he rarely fishes the neaps, but when the river is in flood conditions as it is now, exceptions are the rule. Armed with the knowledge of his achievement, I set out on Tuesday Feb 18, still within the moon’s neap tide cycle,  confident of a good session. With 40 yabbies that I pumped in quick time at the 6 knots sign on western side of Goat island I moved to spot X where I had success on my previous trip. In very dirty water, I was soon locked into a mystery fish that remains a mystery as it broke me off at the boat when I leaned on it to hard on the drag. A couple of minutes later I landed a 35cm whiting which proved to be my only fish at spot X for the next 45mins, so I moved to spot Y and gathered some soldier crabs which were relishing the newly deposited mud from the flood waters. I fished spot Y for 30 mins or so without a bite so headed back to spot X where I landed my biggest whiting for a couple of years at 42cms. It was so big that in the murky water I was almost convinced that it was a good-sized flathead. It was however a loner, so I headed back to spot Y to fish the last of the runback where the water was the colour and consistency of thick treacle.

With only half an hour to go before the advertised low tide mark I was kept active with a school of whiting that you only ever dream about. I caught 5 fish ranging in size from 32cms to 35cms and dropped just as many on the retrieve or at the boat. There was hardly any run and the water was swirling with mud, but they just bit their heads off…amazing! I really had to pinch myself, was it a dream? Was I fishing in the twilight zone?

Even more amazing was the fact that all my early whiting I caught were gut hooked as they had just gulped the bait down like there was no tomorrow, but all the latter fish were mouth or lip hooked…amazing. I waited for the tide to turn and caught another 2 elbow slappers around 35cms and dropped another 2 at the boat. All the whiting I caught except for 1 were caught using soldier crabs.

Just to add something else into the mix, 50% of the fish I caught at spot Y were a clean, silvery gold colour like when you pull them from the surf and the rest were very dark  skinned indicating they were from up-river…amazing! I know I’ve repeated that word 4 times, but it truly was an amazing session. With the new moon coming up very shortly on Feb 24, if you are ever going to experience the shear exhilaration of a session on ELBOW SLAPPER WHITING…NOW IS THE TIME TO DO IT!

If you would like to share a little knowledge of your fishing experiences contact me on malcolmmckinlay0@gmail.com. Good luck!

February 12, 2020

Finally! I have something to write about.

This summer has been my leanest whiting season since I started fishing the Maroochy 12 years ago. Apart from the holiday traffic that has besieged the river for the last 2 months the continuous hot dry weather since October has contributed greatly to this event. My theory is…when the river becomes crystal clear the whiting in the lower reaches spread throughout the full length of the river, ranging right up into the creeks and deeper channels, up past Bli Bli, seeking food and shelter. It takes one hell of a downpour to wash them back down around Goat Island, Picnic Point and the Cotton Tree reaches. I got excited in mid-January when we had 200mls over 4 days, but the land was so parched only half of it reached the river, so it barely changed colour. Then came Feb 4 to Feb 7 when the skies opened in the Maroochy upper catchment and Yandina received 350mls overnight. This made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck…this meant my beloved whiting were about to be washed back down stream to home base.

February 10, the day after the full moon…the stars have aligned, and the signs are indicating a perfect storm (of whiting) is building on the Maroochy lower reaches. As I launch my boat at Picnic point ramp, there is a billion litres of Coca Cola coloured water flowing down the river on the out-going tide, today is the day.

I pumped 40 yabbies near the 6 knots sign on the western side of Goat and hoped that I could keep them alive long enough (because the water was so fresh) for the soldier crabs to come out. Poking around in a couple of places where I have had success before, I only attracted the interest of a few juvenile whiting and bream. As the tide started to come off the bank I slipped over to spot X which hasn’t been working for me all this summer. I tried hard up against the bank first without success, then decided to move over to some undulations that were working in mid-stream. First the tell-tale inquiry on one rod, a quick lift to set the hook and I’ve just gone to heaven. I can tell straight away I’m into a solid whiting and play it diligently back to the boat. I drop my first whiting on to the floor and my other rod goes off. I play it back to the boat and a pigeon pair of 36cm elbow slappers are tucked safely into my esky. Over the next hour I land another 4 whiting @ 32cm and 4 smaller ones just keeper size at 25cms. Also in the mix were bream and tarwhine all released except for one that was bleeding from the gills and would probably have died, had I thrown it back. All fish were caught on live yabbies as the soldier crabs did not venture out for a feed, for reasons known only to them.

Old mate, who pulled up just as I landed the first of my whiting, told me he had not had a bite on his previous trip. He took one look at the size of my first fish and couldn’t get to his favourite spot around the corner quick enough. I never saw him again, so I can only assume he was doing well where he was. It is so different, catching big whiting in very dirty water compared to crystal clear. Once they are hooked they are quite content for you to lead them in like a dog on a leash until they are right beside the boat, then all hell breaks loose.

My faith (in my ability) is now restored…it’s amazing how your confidence dips when you have a couple of poor trips on the river but how quickly it all comes back when things go to plan. While the river maintains its run-off colour from the recent rains, I am confident these big whiting will hang around in the lower reaches. So here is your chance to get a nice feed of elbow slappers in the next week or so.  If you would like to share a little knowledge of your fishing experiences contact me on malcolmmckinlay0@gmail.com any time.  Good luck!    Mal McKinlay

January 8, 2020

It has been a month now since my last report and unfortunately there has been no significant change to the dry, hot weather or conditions on the river. The river is just about the clearest I have seen it and there is so much traffic on the water it is almost impossible to find a place to fish. Every nook and cranny has all conceivable types of water craft invented by mankind floating upon it.

On the December new moon using yabbies for bait, I fished the run up for a mixed bag of bream, grunter and flathead all released and managed one keeper whiting at 30cms. I dropped 2 very big whiting in the elbow slapper range (35cms plus) right at the boat. They do perform once hooked, head shakes, ducking and diving, twisting and turning, all manner of tricks to throw that hook. When the hook pulls out on a good fish I always have a flash of disappointment but I appreciate and respect those fish who have escaped my clutches and lived to fight another day.

These 2 good fish encouraged me to try again 4 days before the January Full moon. Fishing the run back, I used yabbies while waiting for the soldier crabs to come out and caught a couple of very good bream to 30cms and a small flathead to 45cms all released. The soldier crabs were late coming out to feed so I only had a couple of hours to have a good crack at the whiting before dead low tide. I tried at least 6 different places that usually produce fish without losing a bait. With barely an hour left till the tide bottomed out, I moved back upstream to the western side of goat island to a spot I hadn’t fished for over 12 months. This spot produced a school of whiting that kept me busy for 30 mins or so. I dropped a few on the point of attachment but ended up with 4 quality fish around the 30cms mark. I also landed a grunter @ 30cm and 3 legal bream and a blue swimmer crab all released. As always on the bottom of the tide the whiting went completely off the bight. Working on the theory that they would come on again when the tide turned, I hung in for the young flood but did not get another whiting bite all day…the wonders of fishing.

The sand crabs were a nuisance robbing my soldier crab baits on several occasions and if I had been set up with crab pots I’m sure I could have caught a good feed of the buggers (food for thought?). Although I only took home 4 whiting (number 1 priority on my dinner plate), if I had kept all the legal species I caught on the day I would have had a very good mixed bag for my efforts.

When I was launching my boat at the Picnic Point ramp I couldn’t help but notice the flathead lays in the sand beside the ramp. There was at least a dozen or so all congregated right where the night light from the ramp shines into the water. I could only hazard a guess, but I reckon they have been ambushing prawns and bait fish attracted to the light of a night time…might be worth a try?

There are whiting in the lower reaches but they are very hit and miss and I really can’t see things improving that much until we get a calamitous weather event with at least 300mls of rain. I have been quite surprised by the number and quality of bream I have caught for this time of the year. Certainly things will settle down in a couple of weeks when the school holidays finish and all the holiday visitors head home. So unless you have broken out into a rash from lack of fishing like I do after a fortnight off the river, save your energy.  

 If you would like to share a little knowledge of your fishing experiences contact me on malcolmmckinlay0@gmail.com.  Good luck!

December 10, 2019

Where have they gone?

I’m talking about those elbow slapper whiting that showed up for the start of the whiting season in October. To say that my last 3 trips on the Maroochy have disappointing would be the understatement of the year. I fished twice around the November New moon for one keeper whiting @ 30cm. I must admit, on my last trip 4 days before the December Full moon I was never confident that I would get onto a good patch of whiting. The signs were all against it, going by my experiences over the last 12 years. It has now been almost 8 weeks since our last substantial rainfall. Just like on the land, the farmers do it tough when there is no rain and the same situation applies to those who ply their trade in the fishing industry…no rain no fish. I know it’s hard to believe but whenever we have had long dry spells the whiting just seem to disappear. I tried all my usual productive spots but did not raise one whiting of any description, big or small. My total for my last trip was 1 flathead, 1 bream and 1 grunter, all released. It’s times like these that I do relate to the knockers of the Maroochy River and its lack of fish. I believe we need a significant rain system to park itself right on top of us before there will be any improvement, particularly with the whiting.

Anyway, enough doom and gloom…just keep in mind that the worst days fishing is far better than the best day at work and if you are lucky enough to catch a feed it’s a bonus. For you fair dinkum fishos who just can’t help yourselves and you must wet a line no matter what, I would be giving the pelagics (silver trevally) a shot with lures and live baits between the motorway bridge and Chambers Island. I also reckon that if you concentrated on fishing for flathead with fresh dead baits and live herring around the deeper channels of Chambers Island and Goat Island you might just pick up the odd good fish. For those of you who are coming to the Sunny Coast for the Christmas break and you are looking for other options than the river, there are plenty of good gutters on the beach between Point Cartwright and Caloundra which might be holding a few dart and whiting. This is where you will find me until the new year, unless of course we get a deluge.

With the school holidays starting next week the river is not going to be a great place to be looking for a feed anyway. There will be countless jet skis, boats, stand up paddle boards, kayakers, and holiday makers all out on the water having fun. So for the next 6 weeks its time get the outboard serviced, do the trailer wheels and bearings and buy yourself lots of new fishing rods and tackle to put under the Christmas tree. If the hot weather continues as predicted find yourself a spot under the air con, kick back with a beer or wine in hand and chillout.

To all my readers who have followed me once again for this year, I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Bountiful New year. If you would like to share a little knowledge of your fishing experiences, contact me on malcolmmckinlay0@gmail.com.  Good luck!

November 4, 2019

Here we are at that time of the calendar where the tides are more influenced by the moon than at any other time of the year. November, December and January, but particularly around Christmas we have the king tides occurring. These bigger than normal tides create greater volumes of water that pour in and out of the river reshaping the riverbed with each tidal activity. This increased water movement also affects the summer species that frequent the river at this time of the year making them more active. Although I primarily target whiting, I know that from fishing media reports, all the other species which are predominate at this time of the year also become very keen. In the creeks, fishos chase mangrove jack and huge flathead, the cod hole fires up with king size jewfish and tailor and large schools of trevally both golden and silver come in from the ocean gobbling up anything edible in their path. On my last trip on the river the seagulls were working frantically over a massive school of trevally in the middle of the river. This was all in only 2 feet of water as the tide poured off the sand bank out the front of the Picnic Point boat ramp. Only 2 days later I watched in amazement,  from the new billion-dollar bike bridge that crosses one of the Mooloolaba canal entries, as a school of trevally to 2 kilos were herding the bait fish up into the shallows in the Mooloolah river.  

I fished 2 trips around the October New moon. The first trip, just before the New moon, was by far the best with some nice whiting to 36cm. During the day I latched on to a fish that peeled the line off furiously and circled slowly out wide from the boat. I would have bet my house on it that it was a stinkeray, but I decided to persist with it until I could ID it. When it was close to the boat a big silver flash in the murky water told me another story. I soon hauled aboard a nice grunter bream @ 37cm (see photo). If I had have acted prematurely and busted the fish off thinking it was a stingray it would have cost me dearly. I also released a magnificent 35cm yellow fin bream and a flathead @ 45cm. On the 2nd trip  I was fishing into the teeth of a 30kms southerly which wasn’t really predicted for the day  and the wind gusts made fishing with soldier crabs nigh impossible (the whiting kept stealing my bait without my knowledge). It ended up a day of quality not quantity as I finished the afternoon with only 3 fish 30 to 35cm.

My favourite part of the tide has become the last 4 hours of the run back. Once the sandbanks are uncovered and the soldier crabs start to work, the fish have no other option but to fall back into the deeper channels and washout outs. Look for fast flowing water not much more than a metre deep. With a good pair of spotter sunglasses you can seek the deeper water or undulations, anchor well upstream and cast back into the greener sections. You may have to search for a bit, trying different parts of the river but you will soon find your favourite places that produce big whiting time after time. There are days though when they are just not there, and you go home with little reward for your efforts. That’s what keeps us coming back…trying to prove that we are, indeed, smarter than a fish. My next favourite part of the tide is the first 2 to 3 hours of the run up, just as the tide starts to cover the sand banks. Look for places along the channel where the water is covering the sand bank edge to about 9 inches deep. The water you are fishing will get deep very quickly, so you must up anchor and move across the sand bank with the flow. You are always looking for fast flowing water no more than a foot deep. The only problem I have on the incoming tide is that once the sand banks are covered, the fish have a lot more options for places to hide…so they can prove to you, that they are indeed smarter than humans.  While I think of it, you will find that with the size of the tides increasing towards Christmas you may have to go up a size or two with your sinker to allow your bait to stay in the strike zone as the power of the incoming and outgoing water increases.

The next November 12 Full moon will be your last chance to enjoy the solitude of the river before the school holidays begin in earnest and our population doubles for the holiday period…so you had better get to it.

If you would like to share a little knowledge of your fishing experiences contact me on malcolmmckinlay0@gmail.com.  Good luck!

22/10/19

I regularly espouse the benefits of night fishing vs day fishing to you in my reports. I’m a bit long in the tooth to be worried about fishing of a night-time anymore, but there are plenty of fishos who fish for “elbow slapper” whiting in the Maroochy at no other time. Since I started this column, I have been in frequent contact with a regular night-time whiting fisho named Troy Schumacher who consistently catches whiting in the 35cm plus category. Troy agreed to graciously share his knowledge and tips with all of us and I know that you fair dinkum fishos out there are in for a real treat…so read on.

“G’day Mal, this is how I fish at night for large slapper whiting.

I really like shallow water at night. If I’m sitting in 2 ft or even less – great. As you say, with daytime clear water, the whiting will see you and your boat. I say, that at night-time in shallow water they will hear you. I try to be as quiet as possible…no music, empty beer bottles are stowed away, no yahooing…just quiet. Most of my fishing is solo, so it’s quiet time, observing.

I seek fast running, shallow water. Sometimes this is hard to find, because generally, shallow water can be sand banks that are very flat, and the water doesn’t necessarily funnel through to create the fast flow, like channels do. You can find it in certain places though…look for places where fast water is flowing across the shallows. These are my ‘go to’ places on the incoming tide but with the outgoing I move onto the edges of the channels.

I run two 9ft rods out the back and 1 on the side in a rod holder aiming it away from the boat (the rod length helps separate the lines). To a lot of fishos this may sound like too many rods to handle but because I’m in shallow water most of the time I don’t have many tangles, even if the water is fast. A lot of Aussies swear by Alvey reels which are solid and almost indestructible, but I prefer eggbeaters. I use Shimano, Daiwa and Okuma generally between size 2500 and 4000. All my lines are 6lb braid with 6lb fluorocarbon leaders. I use a light pea sinker and about 2ft of leader to the hook. My favourite hook is the Mustad Carlisle…a box of 50 and you can’t go wrong. I don’t use any red bead or tubing.

Bloodworm is Dynamite! And you don’t need much of it. With a few part worms in the fast-flowing water, any random whiting stranger lurking by will get a sniff of it. To strike or not to strike when a whiting takes the bait? It depends how they are biting on the night…they do change their behaviours. Sometimes in a whole nights fishing there is no need to strike, the rod just doubles over and the fish is on. There are times when I might have 3 rods go off at once (when a “wave” of whiting comes through) and I am still confident I will round every one of them up in due course. Other nights they are very picky, and I need to pay more attention and strike regularly just to get my catch.  The other thing I will say is this, that I have noticed in some of your photos that the red hook is through the mouth and facing down. I rarely mouth hook them…9 times out of 10 they are gut hooked.

Because I like fast running water, I like big tides, which you and I agree upon. I have had great bites outside of the premium times but some of these successes have been due to other factors like heavy rainfall. I do my best to keep my headlight off the area I am fishing. Plenty of tailor fishing on Fraser Island has engrained a paranoia in me of not having a light on the water whilst fishing. In my boat I have under gunnel LED light strips that go around the entire boat so I can minimize my headlamp use.

When I’m fishing, I move around a bit till I can work it out. I’ll have nights when I feel that I didn’t work it out and just scratched a feed together, but I learn a little bit from every place I go. I’m okay to try a place again that failed me in the past…if it looks good. Other nights I’m just waiting patiently for the next “wave” of whiting schools. These waves of whiting I find more common in the deeper water on the outgoing tide. I think that’s about it mate…Cheers! Troy.”

I thank Troy very much for his informative piece on night fishing for whiting in the Maroochy, and I know you will have enjoyed it as much as I have. Coming on to the October New moon after some good storms dropped more than 80mls of rain in the Maroochy catchment in the last couple of days, expect the river to be firing on all cylinders with every summer species “GOING OFF!”.

If you would like to share a little knowledge of your fishing experiences contact me on malcolmmckinlay0@gmail.com.  Good luck!    Mal McKinlay

23/9/19

It’s amazing how those big whiting disappear come the cooler months, then just like someone flicked a switch…They’re Back!

With 3 days in a row of perfect spring weather on the September Full moon, I decided to target whiting specifically with soldier crabs. This was my first foray for the new season, and I thought it might still be a bit early in the crossover from winter into summer season. The river is crystal clear as we have not had significant rain for over 2 months. This was another reason I was not confident…those big whiting are very shy in clear water. I chose the run-out tide for 2 reasons…firstly to gather soldier crabs and because the runoff tide stirs the sand and mud into the clear water giving the big whiting a bit more camouflage.

Fishing with yabbies for a few minutes waiting for the soldier crabs to come out, I landed a small whiting at 25cm. The crabs soon revealed themselves at my favourite spot and before too long I was locked into my first big whiting for the season. Oh what a feeling! Tail thumps, head pulls, big runs when it reached the boat and all the time staying deep trying to throw the hook. The beauty of fishing with braid is you can feel every movement the fish makes. Pound for pound, these big whiting are the best sport you will ever get, on light tackle. Although I only landed 4 fish for this session they were excellent fish at 2 x 35cms and 2 around 30cms. I also dropped a couple of big fish after initial hook-up, which is quite common when using soldier crabs. Most hook-ups with crabs are in the mouth of the fish and they are experts in throwing that hook.

I went back for another session just after the Full moon, but the dreaded northerly came in at 40kms making it impossible to fish my normal spots. I fished some new whiting water that had formed nicely through winter and wasn’t so badly affected by the strong wind. I was pleasantly surprised with a pigeon pair of whiting at 34cms. One of my readers Troy, fished the night of the Full moon with blood worms and came away with a substantial catch of big fat whiting to 35cms. So there you have it, the whiting season is well and truly underway. All you need is the right moon phase, the right bait, an ounce of luck and you’re in business.

I guess by now most of you serious fishos would know about the new Queensland Govt. fishing regulations that came in on September 1. There are quite a few changes to offshore rec fishos and a few tweaks to estuary rules and regs. But overall I think they are close to the money in providing sustainable fishing for the future. You can download the Qld Recreation Fishing Guide App for free and everything you need to know is there. From what Fisheries have indicated, there will be a short transition period, then ignorance to the new rules will not be accepted.

On my last outing the birds were working furiously over a big school of pelagics down near the river mouth, possibly silver trevally. Now is prime time for flathead and I was talking to one of the workers from the dredge which has been cleaning the channels out around Picnic Point who said that he saw a school of elbow slapper whiting recently when he was snorkelling in the vicinity. This is my favourite time on the river and even though it is also the period when those howling northerlies make life very difficult in a small boat…I can’t wait for the next trip!

3/9/19

And so we move into the time of the year when the Maroochy River suffers the fishing doldrums. For those of you who are not sure what I am talking about, Google’s interpretation of ‘doldrums’ is…Noun, a state or period of stagnation or depression. Of course I’m talking about the crossing over of seasons, from winter into our summer species, WHITING!

The garfish have well and truly finished their winter run and although I managed a few reasonable sessions on them this season, they didn’t seem to come on in their usual numbers. Hopefully it’s just a one-off season and not a sign of things to come. I was very impressed with the number and quality of yellow fin bream in the river this winter. Although I don’t normally target them, I caught quite a lot while fishing for gar using the float and burley trail system. I must admit they provided me with a lot of extra enjoyment as they are good scrappers on light gear and of course they are pretty good chewing when you get them big enough for a decent fillet. My last 2 trips at the end of August and early September produced only a few undersized bream, which would indicate to me that except for a few stragglers, the bream have also headed to their summer retreat till next winter.

By all predictions, it looks like we are in for a long, hot dry summer which does not necessarily mean a river full of elbow slapper whiting, in fact it could mean quite the opposite. For the whiting to congregate in numbers in the lower reaches of the river we are going to need a good flush out of rain. The river now is crystal clear after many weeks of clear sunny days and you can see the bottom in just about all parts of the river. This means of course that the whiting can see you from the moment you put your boat in at the boat ramp giving them a distinct advantage in the stealth and guile stakes.

One good thing I have noticed on my last 2 trips (particularly with the water clarity) is the many new ‘whiting water’ places forming in the river. There are a lot of new shallow banks and gutters around towards the river mouth and along different parts of Goat Island which will be ideal for whiting on the incoming tide. The channels and sand banks around Chambers Island and Picnic Point are also looking good and I have seen a few good size flathead scuttle away as I passed over them recently on the high tide. Remember to look for places where the water is running with force over the shallow banks causing undulations and washouts. This is where the better sized whiting hole up waiting to ambush an unsuspecting yabby or soldier crab.

There are plenty of places around Goat Island to pump yabbies just go for a sortie on the falling tide and look for the trillions of holes where they live. There are good yabbies to be found also along the Picnic Point foreshore up near the boat ramp, if you are land based.
Okay, so I know all you whiting fishos are like me now, chaffing at the bit, but you will still have to wait for a month or so of the doldrums, till you can start to chase some serious fish. Top bait for whiting will be mud or blood worms for those lucky enough to be able to get them. Poor old pensioners like myself will just have to settle for yabbies or soldier crabs and believe me soldier crabs run a very close second to worms when it comes to elbow slapper whiting.

Report 31/7/19

In my last report I mentioned that my favourite fishing times are around the Full moon and New moon phases. There are times however when I’ve fish half-moon tides (neaps) and experienced very good results. This happened to me only last week when I had occasion to be on the river the day after the half-moon in the middle of the neap tides.

After consultation with my outboard mechanic and a local business in Maroochydore called Oz Propellers I replaced the original battered 13-inch pitch prop on my 18-year-old, 40 hp Mariner with a new 11-inch pitch prop. Oz Propellers were very helpful and within an hour of contacting them the new prop was fitted. So of course I had a perfect reason to get on the river and try it out. The improvement was remarkable, with better take off torque and less propeller cavitation on sharp turns. Cruising speed revs have hardly changed at all.

So back to the fishing. Even though it was a neap tide, the weather was perfect, the tide was making and there was no way I was going home without wetting a line. At my favourite gar spot, using yabbies for bait, I was soon entertained by quality gar and big fat bream that were grabbing the gar float like there was no tomorrow (for a few of them there was no tomorrow). The gar were very finnicky on the bight but held on the burley trail for an hour or so, allowing me to catch a good feed of 15, plus 2 big fat bream to 30cms and a tarwhine to 34cms. It goes to show, that there is no written law in fishing that determines what part of the moon phase the fish are going to be biting. Full moon or no moon at all, if you make the effort sometimes you will reap the reward.

On the New moon at the end of July I teamed up with a couple of my Kawana surf club mates, Thorpy and Rosco. We fished the run back tide, targeting bream without a lot of success. I moved to my favourite gar spot to fish the run-in tide, set my burley bucket and as soon as the water started to run with a bit of gusto the gar came on the bight. Mixed in with the gar were some very good bream and tarwhine. Thorpy and I were kept busy for an hour and a half, finally boating 21 gar, 4 bream and a tarwhine to 33cms (we threw back heaps of bream that were legal size but did not reach my personal requirement of 28cms). Rosco was anchored only a few metres away but only managed 1 gar and 1 bream.

One of the lessons to be taken away from here is how important your set up is when you target a specific species (in this case gar). He did not have a burley bucket to attract the fish to the back of his boat and he was using the wrong float system. Rosco was using a fixed pencil float that floated flat on the surface and he could not weight his bait sufficiently to reach the fish at the desired depth they were feeding (about 5 feet). The bream also need the bait to be presented at a depth within their strike zone. The best rig to use is a vertical running float rig with a line stopper on the top of the float so that your hook / bait can be adjusted to any depth you require. If you are not sure what I’m talking about, just do a You Tube on luderick fishing, there is a myriad of fishing videos on this subject.

As I am a fervent summer whiting fisherman I must say that this winter has been a pleasant diversion with the quantity and quality of bream and tarwhine that I have been fortunate enough to catch. I am sure that all the keen bream fishos are enjoying their best season for years.

Report 22/7/19

My favourite part of the month to fish (anytime of the year) is the 4 days leading into the Full moon and 2 days after. My next best time is the 4 days leading into the New moon and 2 days after. So in a month of 31 days that leaves 19 days that I consider ‘off peak fishing times’. I have proved this time and again over my life’s fishing but of course the weather and just surviving the daily grind doesn’t always allow us to fish when we want to. July was a perfect example, where we had over 200mls of rain over the 6 day period of the New moon that I have mentioned above. This unseasonable event made the river the last place you would want to be in a 4.2 metre tinny. Then the weather Gods smiled leading into the July Full moon, with very cold nights clear days and light westerlies making fishing a pleasure on the river and on the beach.

On the afternoon of July 16 (Full moon) I had the decadence of fishing the front beach at Kawana with a dying westerly glassing the ocean off to a mirror sheen. I pulled enough worms for a good session and started to fish a deep hole left by the big seas a couple of weeks ago. There are some beautiful holes and gutters right along the beach at the moment. My first fish (a superb yellow fin bream @ 30cm) nearly pulled the rod out of my hands it hit so hard. For an hour I was kept busy by bream, tarwhine and a myriad of small dart. The icing on the cake was watching the rise of the huge Full moon over the horizon while I was playing a 30cm tarwhine. I reckon I could see Neil Armstrong’s footprints. For perfect fishing memories, there are few moments in life that even come close to this.

Next day Gilligan and Ginger came up from Brisvegas and joined the Skipper (me) on a very pleasant afternoon on the Maroochy. We fished the run back tide targeting gar and bream, using yabbies for bait. There is still a fair bit of colour in the river from the recent rain so I knew we might be hard pressed to find any gar, but I was happy to give the bream a go anyway. With a burley bucket over both sides of the boat I selected a spot round near the mouth of the river with a bold bank tapering off into the main channel. This is a long stretch of the river allowing the bream to fall back into deeper water as the tide drops. The burley started to do its thing and we soon had a good school of bream working 15 to 20 metres behind the boat. Gilligan and myself were using the gar floats and Ginger was floating an unweighted yabby back on a bream hook attached straight to a 6lb fluro carbon leader. The 3 of us were full on for a good hour or so, boating at least 30 quality bream to 30cms. Anything under 27cms went back in unless it was gut hooked. We moved downstream a couple of times as the school moved into deeper water on the falling tide. Our final count was a dozen quality bream all in fabulous winter condition plus 1 nice whiting. Next morning we fished the run up tide for gar but ended up with only a handful of good sized gar for our efforts.

Old mate who fishes the river regularly for whiting in summer, pulled up for a chat and said he had been getting some nice bream and trevally also. In fact, we passed him as we were heading back to the ramp and he held up a silver trevally around the 2 kilo mark that he had just landed on a yabby. Going by the photos in the local paper there are plenty of big trevally and tailor being caught around the motorway bridge. I spoke to 2 old regulars at the boat ramp who fish specifically for luderick and they said that this has been their best winter for quality luderick for 2 seasons. So there you have it…plenty of fish in the Maroochy, just got to make the effort on the right Moon phase.

Report 26/6/19

What happened? Here we were near the end of June enjoying some beautiful cold winter nights and calm, sunny winter days when the weather Gods decided to dump over a 100mls of rain in just 3 days. Now I know the sceptics will say it is quite normal to get this much rain in the middle of our supposedly driest time of the year but it does seem to me that our planet is getting a little bit Topsy Turvy…Global Warming?

Gilligan came up for a couple of days so we headed out on the river in the middle of the June neap tides targeting gar and bream. The river waters were very clear except for a very fine weed, like cornflakes, that made fishing almost impossible on the incoming tide. There were vast deposits of this weed littered all over the river bed, in the washouts and deeper sections. Hopefully this rain we are experiencing will flush it out to sea. We fished 2 mornings on the run in tide but ended up with only a handful of bream to 28cms and gar for our efforts. A forty knot south westerly didn’t allow me to fish my normal spots but the difference between fishing around the Full Moon tides and the half moon tides is like chalk and cheese. The influence the Moon has on all fishes feeding and breeding habits has been recorded by man since time began and if you need to be convinced just go and fish the Maroochy on half moon or neap tides. The tidal movement between low and high tides is so slow on neap tides and I have proved it time and again…Slow Tides Slow Bite.

While we were trying to find to find a spot out of the wind on 2 different occasions, I was very surprised to come across a couple of quality whiting (mid-thirties) lazing around the sand flats near Picnic Point. When this rain finally finishes, it might just be worthwhile having a crack at them with soldier crabs or mud worms even though it is in the middle of winter.

With the July 3 New Moon only a few days away fishing should improve all round as the tidal flow increases between high and low water. The obvious species to target right now is yellow fin bream and there are plenty in the river, but during daylight hours you will be lucky to get them up to 30cms in length. For the bigger fish, night time will prove a winner. If you haven’t become old and lazy like myself and you can still thread your 6lb line through the eye of your hook without using a magnifying glass, then night fishing will definitely improve the quality of your catch. I am quite sure there are bream in the mid-thirty centimetre range in the river, for the taking. Other species to target are silver trevally on metal slugs and soft plastics during the day…look for them working the bait schools on the river surface. There should also be tailor down near the river mouth. When I used to target tailor in the last century I found that the best time for them was after dark on the young flood tide or a couple of hours before the high tide. Easiest bait is pilchards or small whole gar with a 3 gang rig of 4/0’s and a 20lb trace.

There are plenty of worms on the beach at Kawana and after the sea settles down following this rain system there will be some good holes and gutters form in the stretch from Point Cartwright to Currimundi. There might just be some oversize dart waiting here for a well presented bait, but you’ll never know unless you go.

Report 14/6/19

The last week of glorious cold nights and balmy sunny days has set the Sunshine Coast up for an absolute bumper winter on all species both offshore and in the rivers. The Maroochy has finally started to clear after persistent rain showers continued right into May.

The annual run of Eastern Australian sea gar is well and truly under way and I have been rewarded with some big fat gar to 35cm on my last couple of trips leading up to the June full moon. While I wouldn’t say that they are anywhere near their peak yet, with a good burley stream behind the boat you will be almost guaranteed a great feed of these delectable delicacies. I am not joking; this species must be the most underrated eating fish in Australia. I just cant believe that I am one of the few fisho’s on the Maroochy who target them as an eating fish. Preparation is everything. Because they usually come on the bite and then disappear with a rush I have a 20-litre bucket with a lid on that I fill with clean saltwater. As I land one, I drop it in to the bucket, rebait my hook and get it back into the burley stream as quickly as possible. When I have 10 or so in the bucket I transfer them to an ice-cold saltwater slurry in my esky. Sure, they are finnicky fish to fillet and bone out, but practice makes perfect and after you clean a couple of thousand they are easier to fillet and bone than any other species. From 35 gar, I recently filled a 2-litre ice cream container with sweet, white completely bone free fillets.

Try this recipe for 2 people…12 good sized, boned out gar fillets…dust them with self-raising flour…dip them in a tempura style batter (I cup self-raising flour salt and pepper to taste, add your favourite beer until it is a runny consistency) drop the battered fillets into hot virgin olive oil…shallow or deep fry for a couple of minutes until golden brown…place on a bed of fluffy white rice…cover with a good brand of sweet and sour mix ( Kan Tong is excellent)…sprinkle heaps of sesame seeds over the whole lot and you just won the Grand Final of MKR.

Okay…so much for the gar, what else is happening in the Maroochy? Well let me tell you. Just a few days before the June full moon while travelling from Picnic Point boat ramp towards Goat Island I saw more yellow fin bream in the main channel at half tide than I have ever seen in the river before. I’m talking about serious numbers of bream from small tackers up to quality 30cm plus. I have honestly never seen so many fish congregated in such a small area before in my life. I personally don’t target bream but for those of you who don’t mind a feed of these finny fish there are some exceptional specimens in the Maroochy right now. Some good spots to try are the deeper channels and drop offs around Goat Island and the pontoons and structures along the high-rise section from Cotton Tree to Picnic Point. The pylons of the Motorway bridge are also home to very big bream and a host of other species including big tailor on live baits. Top baits for bream are fresh flesh baits such as gar or herrings, pilchards or the best all- rounder, live yabbies. There were quite a few boats targeting bream during the day but best results for big bream will be achieved fishing after dark.

One thing that I did notice this week was the absence of sea mullet in the river. They normally have started their annual migration up the East Coast by now and the river is usually full of them in June. Hopefully they haven’t been cleaned up by the pro netters on the beaches south of us.

Report 22/5/19

I’m back! After a month overseas touring Spain (amazing place) Morocco, Portugal and Ireland I really do believe THERE IS NO PLACE LIKE HOME. My wallet was pinched in Portugal, with credit card, drivers licence etc. etc. which created a ripple effect for the whole trip. I’m going to write a travel guide for idiots called, ‘What NOT to do when travelling overseas.’

Any way back to the Maroochy. It sure felt good as my boat slid off the rollers at the Picnic Point boat ramp even though it was pouring with rain. Gilligan and I were targeting Eastern Sea Gar the day after the May full moon using yabbies and prawns for bait. With raincoats on and a Bunnings umbrella we hunkered down while the pouring rain filled up every bucket, tackle box, and crevice on the boat. Finally a break in the weather gave us hope and when Gilligan’s gar float disappeared under the choppy surface he lifted his rod tip and caught our first gar for the winter of 2019.

After a good session of about 30 minutes or so we had 18 nice sized gar in the bucket. As they quite often do, the gar moved off, so we had to search around Goat Island to find them again. We were looking for water about 2 metres in depth where the tide is running in over a sand bank and rippling back into the deep water. This is where gar love to congregate and using a burley bucket over the side you can bring them right up to the back of the boat. For my burley I use the pellets that you can buy in all the tackle shops. However these pellets dissolve very quickly in the burley cage and you have to keep filling the cage up so the gar stay on the trail. I used to make my own burley using pilchards, bran, bread and old bait crunched up in a food processor but got lazy when the new generation burleys came out in the shops a few years ago. However they have become so expensive I think I might have to go back to my old ways and make my own burley once again.

We persisted and found another patch of gar giving us 30 reasonable fish all up. When we could see another massive weather front heading our way, we upped anchor and hightailed it home. I went straight to BCF and bought a brand new raincoat and put it to very good use the next day when it rained for the first hour we were on the river. The river is carrying a lot of fresh from the last month of spasmodic showers. Gar do not like too much fresh in the water so and they hang outside the mouth of the river until the clean water pushes in from the ocean. As soon as the clean water reached my boat we were kept busy for an hour until the main school of garfish moved further upstream.

We moved around a bit trying different spots where I know the gar congregate without much luck. I decided to try one of my favourite bream spots and we were besieged by countless small yellow fin bream and butter bream working the burley trail. Some of the bream were just under keeper size and I reckon that in another month there will be some cracker jack bream to be caught in this river. Finally we went back to where we had started near the river mouth and were kept busy for an hour on some quality garfish. We finished up with 47 gar and 1 bream to 26cm which was gill hooked. The most encouraging aspect of the day was that the sun finally came out after weeks of miserable wet weather. In the May edition of Qld Fishing Monthly magazine there was an article about the QBFP Fisheries Officers intercepting 5 fishers with 150 undersize fish on Chambers Island. The local magistrate threw the book at them fining each $800. Great to see our local Fisheries Boys doing such a fantastic job.

Report 25/3/19

I have been whiting fishing 3 times since my last report for not very many fish. First trip was during the neap tides between March New and Full moon. The soldier crabs couldn’t be bothered getting out of bed so I went home without wetting a line. A few days before the March Full Moon I fished the run out tide with yabbies, soldier crabs and live surf worms. I really had to work hard for 4 good whiting from 29cm to 35cm. I tried all my usual spots for 3 hours without a bite. The water was full of foul floating weed which made it almost impossible to fish. When I finally found a few good ones an hour from the bottom of the tide I was chased off the water by a storm that built up in the south west. I would like to know if anyone out there has had any success in the Maroochy river with live surf worms. Please contact me if you have and share your secret, as I have now tried them on numerous occasions without success.

Next day, in almost perfect conditions, I once again fished the run out but could only manage 2 whiting to 30cms. This was very disappointing, as the water was just showing a little colour from the 150mls of rain run off we had in early March. I was confident of doing well but went home with my tail between my legs. Worth noting was the fact, that only one of the 6 whiting I caught over the 2 days was a female (in half roe) and the rest were boys. I did manage 2 nice bream around 28cm which I released. This could be an indicator of an early showing on this year’s bream run.

While I was out and about there were schools of herring being smashed by predators all over the lower reaches. The water was alive with silver showers of escaping baitfish. Also on two occasions large prawns (5 inch) leapt from the water almost beside my boat being pursued by something toothy. I saw several small gar, indicating that the annual run of these delectable little fish is just around the corner.

My 20 year old hull recently started to take a lot of water on board each trip (about 100 litres). I didn’t realize it was so bad until I dropped the bungs out at the ramp and it took 10 minutes to drain. When I took the floor out I found quite a few pin holes had developed in different places. I stripped the floor out (first time in 20 years) what a bugger of a job. I decided to try and patch it internally and externally with a Selleys product called KNEAD it (metal). It’s a polymer repair compound that sticks to aluminium like the proverbial s**t to a blanket. After 3 trips on the water the product is still hanging on well and my hull is water tight…has not leaked a drop. So far it has proved to be a very economical solution (about $17 at Bunnings) to my leaking problem. I’ll keep you posted.

Okay, so soon we will be moving into the cross over of summer and winter species. The whiting should hang in for another month or so but you will really have to be prepared to use all your guile and local knowledge to bring home a decent feed. Maybe night fishing will produce better results? Local reports indicate that the bream I caught were not just a fluke and there are a few about. They will improve over the next month. Regional newspapers report quality flathead are still being caught around Chambers island and the motorway bridge on live baits and lures. By the April full moon the first real run of eastern sea gar should have started if they are up to their usual habits.

Report 19/2/19

The headlines of the Sunday Mail Feb 17 read OMA God, a Category 3 cyclone OMA, situated in the Coral Sea is bearing down on Brisbane. Within one week there will be gale force winds, killer waves and coastal flooding. Save your women and children…head for higher ground. The wind was already blowing from the south east at 40kms because an eastern high was jammed up against the cyclone which was situated 1500kms off-shore. With a Full moon coming up in a couple of days it was looking like my planned trip was going to be a wash out. Without thought for life or limb I sprang into action…I would have to take on the dreaded Sunday jet skiers and weekend family boaters. Low tide was at 3pm so I hit the water at 11.30am.

Fishing the run off from the centre bank near Picnic Point I landed a nice whiting at 30cm, but had my work cut out because the wind was gusting to 35kms. I headed for spot Y to wait for the soldier crabs to come out and I was besieged by endless jet skis weekend fishing boats and had the crap frightened out of me when a 16 foot Hobie cat decided to use me for tacking practice. But persistence has its just rewards and soon the wind began easing back to 30kms an hour. With enough crabs for the session, I had to throw out a stern anchor because the wind was stronger than the current. Stern anchors can be a real pain in the butt because those big whiting spook when they catch sight of the boat and they always seem to head for that anchor rope. While I wouldn’t say that the whiting were biting their heads off, they were fairly consistent. The strong wind into my face, pushed a big belly into my 6lb braid main line making it very difficult to see a whiting bite on the rod tip. I still ended up with 6 quality fish to 36cms (see photo) for the session but dropped just as many on the retrieve when they spat the hook, because it wasn’t set right. I lost one very big fish on the rear anchor rope and I had a years’ worth of tangles on my braid lines caused by the strong wind. All in all, considering the conditions, I went home satisfied with my afternoon on the water.

Next day the wind had dropped back to 15kms (HUH! where’s the cyclone gone that made page 5 headlines 2 days ago?). In company with one of the boys from Kawana surf club I hit the river just after lunch, to once again fish the run-back tide. What a difference a day makes! (that was a good song way back). We had the whole river to ourselves and saw only 3 jet skis all afternoon. My mate persisted with yabbies and landed a nice whiting at 28cms. He soon switched to crabs though, when I hauled a pigeon pair of whiting aboard at 35cm each. We still had to use a stern anchor, but conditions were so much easier to handle. The wind dropped away to 10kms and a beautiful afternoon’s fishing produced 8 whiting in top condition (see photo).

There are definitely some quality whiting in the lower reaches, you just have to keep moving until you find them. Give them a few minutes to settle (especially after you’ve just hurled a stern anchor at them) then move to the next spot. I saw quite a few trevally (I think they were) working the lower reaches and on one occasion half a dozen 5 inch prawns burst from the water near my boat, being pursued by something hungry. Unfortunately most of the big whiting were females all in early stages of roe so I don’t begrudge losing a few after hook up, at all. I will be away in the van for a couple of weeks but should be back for the March New moon. On the back of the Full moon give the trevally a go on lures and I reckon there are plenty of big flathead around waiting for a lure or live bait. Of course, there are some elbow slapper whiting just waiting with your name on them.

Report 6/2/19

Sometimes spur of the moment fishing trips can be the most rewarding. On Monday Feb 4, the exact day of the New Moon I succumbed to the Maroochy River itch and decided to give the whiting a go on the run back tide. With a low tide of 4.20pm at Picnic Point I hit the boat ramp at 12.30 (not one trailer in the car park) giving me 4 hours of the run back. There was a stiff easterly about 15kms which was fishable, but a nasty little front came through about 40kms an hour for 20 mins, so I sheltered on the west side of Goat Island waiting for it to pass. I pumped a few yabbies and flicked a 70mm Bassday Sugapen lure around the shallows as the tide came off the bank. So far, I have a perfect record on whiting with lures…Nil!

When the front passed, the wind died to nothing, the sun came out and river completely glassed off, conditions were perfect, how quickly that river can change. I moved to spot Y and managed 4 just keeper- whiting at 25cm on yabbies. As soon as the soldier crabs came out, I grabbed enough for a session (about 160, i.e. 4 crabs each bait X 40 baits). I only moved 10 metres from where I got the crabs and dropped anchor in 5 feet of water. I was fishing back to a couple of undulations and a small inlet on the side of the sand bank. I sat there for 20 mins without even a touch and was about to move when finally, a tell-tale whiting nibble. I set the hook on a lovely fish about 32cm and for the next hour or so, I was kept busy on 2 rods with whiting to 37cm and grunter bream to 35cm. In fact, the grunter were becoming a nuisance there was so many of them. For the session I finished with 13 whiting (9 were over 30cm) and 8 grunter bream, all released. I release my grunter bream because the last one I took home curled up in the pan and tasted like boot leather, anyone know what I’m doing wrong?

I had plenty of double hook-ups on whiting and grunter at the same time and the fish were biting right down to slack water. It was one of those sessions that keep you coming back time after time. One of my readers who is a regular whiting fisho on the Maroochy suggested that I may have come across a school of spawning whiting, so I did a Google and guess what? I think he’s right. Some of Mrs Google’s information stated that sand whiting spawn twice a year on the New moon and Monday Feb 4 was the exact day of the New moon (Na-Na-Na-Na-Na-almost Twilight Zone stuff isn’t it?) Anyhow, all I know is I’ve been putting in the hours in recent trips and coming up with all sorts of excuses for catching bugger all, then suddenly, bingo! Who can argue with such logic?

We place a lot of emphasis on the presentation of our bait, that it should look as natural as possible to fool a fish into swallowing it or at least attempting to. I have taken a photo of what my hook looks like when I am fishing for whiting with soldier crabs. It is the most unnatural looking thing you have ever seen. A big blob of soldier crab bodies and legs suspended under an inch-long piece of red plastic. If this doesn’t ring alarm bells if you are a whiting, then what does? Any way it works well for me. My good mate Gilligan sent me this lovely little Quote from Dixon Lanier Merritt which I would like to share with you. ‘A wonderful bird is the Pelican – His beak can hold more than his belly can – He can hold in his beak – Enough food for a week – But I’ll be darned if I know how the hellican.’

OK! There is obviously some good whiting in the river for you to target right now. Set some pots in the lower reaches for sand crabs and for muddies on the west side of the bridge. Saw some monster flathead lies on the sand bank on my last trip and there are still pelagics working the bait fish from the motorway bridge to the bar mouth.

Report 24/1/19

My last trip on the Maroochy was Jan 20-21, right on the full moon. At about 2.30 with a 4pm low tide, Gilligan and I grabbed a bucket of perfect sized, small soldier crabs on the bold bank right beside the Picnic Point boat ramp. They bury in to the sand so quick you’ve got to chase them into a pool of water to give you enough time to scoop them up. I pulled a hamstring not long ago whilst chasing the little buggers… Ouch!

The main problem with fishing anywhere in the river now is that the water is just too clear. One of the benefits of fishing the run-out tide is, the water loses it clarity a lot as it pours off the sandbanks. The amount of water that moves in and out of the river on these king tides at this time of the year is unbelievable. We only managed 4 whiting in the afternoon but 2 of them went 37cm and 35cm respectively. I had a bit of fun for a short time when something grabbed my hook as I was retrieving my bait. We sat there stunned, watching a 2-foot-long Queen fish leap and somersault around the boat with my hook attached to its gob. Finally, it decided to take out the anchor rope so that was the end of that. There was a school of Queenies working among the herrings and bait fish the 2 days we were on the water. Next morning, we were on the river at sparrows, fishing the run-in tide along the 6-knot section of the river near the high rises. Gilligan landed a big fat whiting at 36cm very early and another good fish at 32cm later while we were working the sand banks around Goat Is. We kept 5 whiting for the morning, all quality fish.

As mentioned in my last report, I was going to give the lures a go for whiting this year. We flicked some poppers and walkers (lure talk) around the shallows on the top of the tide without doing any damage at all to the Maroochy fish stocks. It was good though to get out of the boat, stretch the legs and get some exercise. Hopefully once I get the hang of it I might catch a whiting using this method of fishing. A couple of my readers have been working the river hard for whiting with mud worms and although they have been putting in lengthy sessions, both day and night, have only been catching a dozen or so fish for their efforts. If you are prepared to put the hours in you will still catch some good fish in the lower reaches but we desperately need a heap of rain, to flush those big arm-slappers back downstream again. The holiday makers and heavy boat traffic that has plagued the river for the past 6 weeks have now gone home, this should give our fish and crustaceans a chance to recover.

All recreational fishos should be aware that the Qld Govt has a Sustainable Fisheries Strategy 2017 – 2027 in place which will affect bag and size limits to a lot of current fish species. It will be interesting to see what unfolds in the near future. I went on the Govt website to see what the changes might be, but you’d have to be a university graduate to understand what the hell they propose to do. If anybody out there has any info they can share, please contact me by email.

For anyone from out of town planning a trip to the Maroochy soon, throw in some lures because there are plenty of pelagics and some big flathead working the lower reaches from the motorway bridge to the bar mouth. If you want a feed of whiting you’ll have to work hard for them with mud worms the stand out bait, closely followed by soldier crabs and yabbies.

Report 2/1/19

You just don’t realize how busy the Maroochy River gets during the Christmas holiday period until you wet a line. I tried for whiting a couple of times before Christmas but was driven off the water by strong northerlies, 38-degree heat, and humans. On my first trip I dropped my first 4 fish after hooking up because of the belly in my line caused by the wind. They all felt like reasonable sized fish. On my second attempt I was so desperate for a fish I went in the middle of the December neap tides. With a low tide at 9am the soldier crabs came out at 7am so that gave me 2 hours to the bottom of the tide – time enough to catch a couple of good ones if they were there.

After boating a few small whiting at 24cm (returned to the water) we finally managed our first keeper at 30cms, all seemed well. And then it happened – the low but unmistakeable drone of an incoming squadron of Jet Ski Zombies who had been let out of their cages at 8 o’clock to wreak havoc and destruction on anything and everything floating on the Maroochy river. Soon the river was a vast arena of donuts, flip flops, circles, manoeuvres and drag racing idiots. Then there was an armada of kayakers, stand up paddle boarders and happy holiday makers – more people than soldier crabs – it was enough to make a grown fisho cry. Ah well! In a month’s time they will all be gone but I can tell you – no fish in it’s right mind would be within a cooee of that river right now.

The good news is that the Jan 21 Full moon is also a Super moon. Tides occurring at that time will be just about the biggest of the year. This will all come about because of a thing called the Perigee – when the point of the moon’s orbit is closest to earth. This should give those big whiting a boost and hopefully increase their appetite. On these huge tides whiting range up over the high sand banks foraging in places that they normally can’t reach. During the day you can target them with yabbies or soldier crabs fishing right up into water as shallow as 6 inches. Of a night you should do well with mud worms or yabbies, once again working in shallow water with the tide as it covers the sand banks. The bad news apart from the influx of humanity we are currently experiencing, is that the Maroochy river is crystal clear and until we get a good drenching of rain from Mother Nature, fishing is going to be hard work, trying to put a feed together.

One of my New Year resolutions for 2019 is to try and target different species in the river and have a crack at some lures for species like whiting and flathead. The boys on UTube make those whiting lures work so well I think I would like to give it a go myself – just for something different. One thing that really stood out on my last trip was the number of small flathead just under legal size we caught and released. They were taking both yabbies and soldier crabs. Anybody who is serious about fishing for flatties with lures or baits would do well once the river settles down after the holiday rush.

So basically, I think you might be betting my gist by now, that no matter what species you are going to target the volume of traffic on the Maroochy river is going to make it almost impossible to achieve a good result. There have been some reasonable gutters form on the Kawana beach over the past few weeks, chewed out by consistent 4 to 5-foot surf. There are also plenty of user-friendly beach worms to be pulled around low tide, so I think I’ll be trying for a few dart around the Jan 6 new moon.

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Mal McKinlay
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