Report supplied by Mal McKinlay
Rain, rain, and more rain. On my rain gauge at home for January we had 700mls and in the first 2 weeks of February we have had another 200mls with no sign that it is going to let up. I have never seen the Maroochy and the Mooloolah rivers run so fresh for so long since I have lived here for the past 17 years. I paddle the Mooloolah River 4 or 5 times a week on my Ocean Ski and the sour smell of the water towards low tide is very noticeable. Imagine if you were a whiting or even a scavenger bream trying to survive in this stinking brown mess, particularly at low water. On my most recent trip in Magoo’s boat 2 weeks ago, the tide was 2.2 metres, which is one of the biggest of the year, and the clean water from the ocean only reached as far upstream as Picnic Point, about 3 kms from the Maroochy River mouth. There was a distinctly visible dividing line between the fresh water and the clean salt water right across the river. We tried all our usual places for whiting in the hope that they may have been following the clean water in on the rising tide but came home without a fish. There have been reports of schools of small whiting in the shallow gutters on the front surf beach at Kawana…perhaps trying to escape the fresh in the rivers. My theory is that most species, particularly the big whiting that normally live in the river at this time of the year have headed offshore and are waiting for the weather to break…just like us humans.
One consolation to come out of our last trip was, that on the top of the tide while we were anchored in clean water out the front of Goat Island, Magoo decided to hang a burley bucket over the side full of bread scraps. You could have knocked me down with a feather when I spotted gar lined up on the burley trail. They were mostly little ones in close to the boat, but I could see better gar working the burley further out. Unfortunately, we didn’t have any floats with us, so we possibly missed out on catching a few early season gar. As soon as the dirty water caught up to us on the run-back they were gone. Gar don’t like dirty water. I have never seen them arrive so early in February before, so we might be in for a bumper season if the rain ever stops.
For the first time in 55 years I am without a boat…but it is only temporary. I sold my 4.2 Quinny and must admit to a tear in the corner of my eye as the new owner drove of with my boat of 24 years. That boat and I saw more sea adventures than the Pirates of The Caribbean. I have downsized my rig to a 3.7 Sea Jay Nomad with a 20hp Honda on the back. I have been waiting almost 2 months for my boat to come down from the factory in Bundaberg, so hopefully I’ll see you all back on the water the end of February.
We still have a couple of months of realistic whiting fishing before we get into change over of seasons from summer species to winter. However, a lot depends on how long this rain is going to last. If we can get a break in the weather there will be some big whiting to be caught before the change over of seasons begins. An early bonus over the coming months will be the as mentioned garfish, which are quite a delicacy on the dinner plate. From my past experiences on the Maroochy when we have had big rain events early in the year, the winter fishing for all species goes off the Richter scale. So here is hoping.
I have included a photo of Magoo with a nice grunter bream from the Maroochy recently and another photo of an unusual angel/trevally shaped fish which I caught on my last trip and I haven’t been able to identify.
My last report was in late November and I have to admit that I struggled throughout December to put any decent trips together on the Maroochy. December and January are always hard for various reasons, not the least being the amount of human traffic on the river during the holiday period. The river also tends to run very clear at this time making the whiting very shy and cautious of all activity around them. The big whiting disperse from the lower reaches and spread throughout the length and breadth of the river. So you can imagine my delight when the weather gods decided to dump nearly 300mls of rain in the catchment areas of the Maroochy, over 2 days in the first week of January. For most people, this is time to avoid the river like the plague, when it is running the colour of coffee. For those of us who have been fishing its water for years, it is the perfect storm for catching ‘elbow slapper’ whiting. As the rain waters pour into the river from the creeks and runoffs upstream most species move downstream to try and find food and relief from the fresh muddy waters, near the river mouth.
Two days after the deluge, my mate Magoo and myself pulled some worms from Kawana beach and fished the run-back tide at a spot adjacent to Goat Island. This is my ‘go to’ place for big whiting when the river is in flood, run-off mode. The water is a metre or so deep on top of the bank dropping off into the main channel to the river mouth. Because the river is so dirty with muddy water it is hard to pick where the sandbanks and channels start and finish. You have to move around sometimes until you can find a spot where there might be a school of whiting holed-up. Our first stop didn’t feel quite right, too far out from the main sand bank…perhaps too deep with very fast current. We moved about 20 metres closer to the bank where the water flattened out a bit. We were fishing with big sinkers to keep the baits down in the strong current and lovely big fat beach worms for bait. On first cast at the new spot we both immediately locked into a good fish. I played mine back to the boat and dropped a nice whiting around 32cm into the boat. Magoo meanwhile landed his fish and you had to see it to believe it…a horse of a whiting at 39cm, I thought at first glance it was a big sea mullet. Every cast after that was a fish landed, a lot measuring in the mid 30cms. There was a mix of tarwhine to 28cm and grunter bream to 35cm. These fish were starving and grabbing our baits as if there was no tomorrow (of course for some, there was no tomorrow).
We were flat out for an hour and a half and then the bite eased as it got near low tide and the school of fish we were on moved away. Magoo had just experienced his first Maroochy River flood, whiting session. I have been fortunate enough to have experienced this special event quite a few times in the past 17 years but I always look forward to the excitement and the adrenaline rush every time the Maroochy goes into flood mode. While we were fishing, a couple of fishos drifting by, lifted a massive flathead into their boat which they informed us went 80cm…which they duly released. This was the first time I had used beach worms during a flood event for whiting and they were absolute dynamite. I am now fully converted to beach worms when fishing the Maroochy for whiting. Don’t get me wrong, soldier crabs will always catch big ‘elbow slappers’ but the benefits of using beach worms is a story worth telling another time. Magoo and the Whiting Queen hit the river 3 days after the trip discussed above, and were rewarded with a solid catch of whiting to 32cm and a flathead to 65cm, all on worms. A reliable source told me of a huge mangrove jack that was caught off the entrance wall to the Mooloolah river. As soon as the rivers starts to clear, all the species that have sought relief at the river mouths from the fresh will return back upstream…so you better get to it, if you want to encounter the big whiting experience.
Finally we get some respite from the wind and the weed that has been plaguing the Maroochy River for the past 2 months. Mind you the breeze has still been getting up from the north in the afternoons to around 30kms, but nowhere near gale force. The weed that I have been moaning about for weeks has eased to a point that you could call ‘fishable.’ All my fishing takes place in the vicinity of Picnic Point and Goat Island surrounds. Goat Island splits the river physically into 2 streams or navigation channels that meet downstream at Cotton Tree and then empty into the ocean. At the moment the northern channel is still carrying a lot of weed but the southern or Cotton Tree channel is nowhere near as bad. I usually like to fish the northern channel on the run-out tide which has much wider reaches than the southern channel. Here there are many places in the middle and edges of the river where the sand banks and gutters lend themselves to whiting fishing. I prefer to fish along the edge of the Cotton Tree channel on the incoming tide as it is much narrower and gives the increasing water volume a lot more force as it spills out over the sand banks. These are the places whiting love to forage for food. Once the tide starts to cover the sand banks I will move to the eastern or ocean side of Goat Island where there is a kilometre or more of shallow channels and gutters that only work on extremely high tides, which are prevalent at this time of the year.
On all my trips this summer I have been using beach worms as my primary bait and I have not missed a good feed of whiting yet. For the last 17 years however, my primary bait for whiting has always been soldier crabs. I have caught some excessively big ‘elbow slapper’ whiting during this time on soldiers, up around the 40cm plus mark. On my last trip during November neap tides, I was fishing the run out tide with worms. I had tried various places in the northern channel, and I was picking up the odd whiting here and there. While whiting fishing, I am on the move all the time until I find some activity. Once the action stops, I move on again. The tide was getting down to the last 2 hours of the run-out and I had not had an enquiry for an hour or so on worms, no matter where I tried. As I sat idly at one of my favourite spots wishing some activity, I watched Old Mate and another fisho gathering soldiers at the usual spot. ‘Bugger it,’ I thought. ‘Nothing happening, and I haven’t used crabs all season… time to give them a go.’ So armed with some soldier crabs I returned to my spot.
I was fishing with 2 mono rods and a braid. I left 1 of the mono rods baited with worm and baited the other 2 rods with crabs. The braid rod immediately had an enquiry and I locked into the fish of the day…a 35cm whiting. I was getting a bit of action on the braid line but nothing on the mono. Every time I wound the mono line in, the crabs were gone, without any indication. I replaced that mono rod with another braid rod, baited with crabs. In a fleeting time I was into another whiting on the new braid line that went 33cm and then another at 32cm. Eventually a whiting self-hooked on the worm bait that I had out on the other mono line, which seems to be the hook up pattern of mono fishing. Just let them catch themselves. Okay, so after fishing for about an hour with soldiers, I concluded with some confidence that braid line is by far superior to mono when fishing with soldier crabs for whiting. Mono tends to get a belly in the line compared to braid which is more direct to the hook, especially in strong current. The difference in feel through the line, between mono and braid, while retrieving a large whiting is chalk and cheese. With braid you can feel every tail kick, twist, turn and lunge that a fish makes as it tries to escape your hook. With mono it is almost a comfortable, cushioned ride back, until all hell breaks loose when it reaches the side of the boat. Both styles of fishing are most enjoyable, and I must admit I am really enjoying my fishing now.
And still the strong winds continue to lash the Queensland coastline continuously. It may be blowing 40 kms southeast one day, then 40 kms northeast the next. Occasionally there is a small window of a day or two when it is calm enough to launch your boat. I used to plan my trips specifically around the full moon and new moon phases but lately I’ve been waiting for a lull in the wind and going regardless. The seaweed contamination in the river (fouling hook, line, and sinker) has been around for over 2 months. In the 17 years I have been fishing the Maroochy I have seen many occasions when the chopped-up weed comes in from the ocean making it almost unfishable, but I have never seen it last this long. On my last trip I decided to fish the incoming tide, right after the early November full moon. I like to fish the deeper, fast running places in the river in the first few hours of the run-in, but the dreaded weed soon laid waste to that plan. From half tide up, particularly on the big full moon tides that occur at this time of the year, the water slows down as it spreads over the top of the sand banks. I reckoned that the only chance I had of catching a feed because of the weed problem was to wait until 2 hours from the top of the tide and fish the shallow gutters and banks that abound at the eastern side of Goat/Channel Islands. My plan worked well, as the weed was much more manageable in the slower paced water, and I caught 6 whiting on the last of the run-up. I normally like to anchor out, so I can cast right back almost to dry land or on the mangrove line where possible. It is amazing how many big whiting are foraging in the mangroves or working in water 6 inches or less. After full tide slack water, a bit of movement started on the run-back. I moved in to about a metre or so deep and I managed another 7 whiting much better in size around the 30cm mark. Unfortunately on the day, half of my whiting were just keepers around 25cms, but kept because they were all gill or gut hooked. All fish were caught on beach worms.
I guess most of you watch the fishing videos on U Tube. After watching a couple of whiting programs I decided to respool 2 of my braid lines with good old fashioned 6lb mono. I had a thousand metres of Wasabi brand that I bought on the cheap, years ago. I spooled 2 reels and put them onto my Ugly Stick rods which are a foot longer than my 7ft graphite rods. The Ugly Sticks are a graphite, fibreglass combo and are much softer rods on retrieve and casting. They lend themselves well to mono line and I found that most of the whiting I landed on them had caught themselves by swallowing the hook and worm bait right down to the gills. I still think that my full graphite rods and braid lines are better suited for fishing with soldier crabs where you need more direct contact at point of setting the hooks. As it has turned out, on my last 2 trips all but 2 fish have been caught on the mono. It will be interesting to see how the stats pan out (good pun) in the future.
An interesting fact. When I was catching worms for my last trip I went over to the beach at Kawana at my usual 2 hours after the top of the tide and did not get a worm until at least 3 and a half hours from the top. The reason being, that the tide was 1.9m, due to the full moon that night. So when you have big tides like this, you must allow a bit more time for the area where the worms live, to be exposed. It is remarkable, as soon as it is the right time of the tide, they stick their heads out and become very user friendly. Hopefully the weed will disappear from the river soon, before the summer school holidays begin. I have seen plenty of half-grown prawns in both the Maroochy and Mooloolah rivers which should be ready to net in December. Now is the time to target big lizards and pelagics. The silver trevally have been working the lower reaches hard. My mate Magoo had some fun and games on his whiting rod recently using beach worms for bait (see photo).
The river has finally settled down from the human invasion during the school holidays but unfortunately Mother nature has done her best to frustrate every whiting trip on the river I have had, since. There has been a plague of shredded seaweed which has probably been caused by the strong, never ending northerly and southerly winds that have been battering the Sunshine Coast for the past month. The weed has made the river almost unfishable. It drifts past your boat in massive swirling clouds of fine, almost hair like strands to huge chunks as big as cabbage leaves. If you leave your line sit for even a couple of minutes, when you wind in you have a tossed salad of weed weighing over a kilo attached to the braid join, sinker and baited hook. It can take over 5 minutes to pull it all off your line ready for the next cast. On 2 trips I didn’t even last an hours fishing before I upped anchor and went home. On my last trip mid-October, I fished the run up and the weed had eased a bit, allowing me to catch a reasonable feed of decent sized whiting around the 30cm plus mark. I have also been hitting the river on very early morning tides and fishing for a couple of hours before the wind has had a chance to blow a dog off its chain. Fair dinkum, some days it has been 50kms per hour by lunch time.
Anyhow, all of that aside, there are still some nice whiting to taken in the river now. Because I have been using beach worms which I catch the day before I can choose the tide I wish to fish the next day. I gather my worms from the Kawana beach between Point Cartwright and the surf club. I have found the best time for worming this beach is on the falling tide about 2 hours after the top. If you wait to long for the tide to drop, you find yourself below the worm line where they live in the sand. This makes them really shy and they are hard to entice out to the hand bait. The worms on this beach are not long like in other places but they are quite thick, and you get a couple of baits out of each worm. Get there at the right time of the tide and you will pull enough worms for a good whiting session in under an hour. If I am fishing the run back tide on the Maroochy I will still gather some soldier crabs as soon as they make an appearance. The only problem I have found using beach worms versus soldier crabs is that the whiting tend to swallow the worms right down and if they are undersize they have no chance to be released alive. Very few are lip hooked. Another interesting thing I have found since I have been converted to beach worms is that overall, my catch of whiting in the 35cm class has reduced dramatically. This could be a periodic thing because I have only been comparing my catches this year, so it may even out as time goes on. But who is complaining? Give me a feed of 30cm whiting every time. They are easier to whack the sides off and they taste even better. It looks like it is going to be a long, hot, and dry summer which is going to influence greatly the performance of the fish species in the river. I know that in previous dry years the whiting spread throughout the river and become increasingly difficult to find in the clear water conditions, but at the moment there is still a few to be taken in the lower reaches. If you can believe what you read in local fishing reports, mangrove jack have started their summer run in the river and adjoining creeks, trevally and mulloway jew are being taken around the motorway bridge pylons and there are good flathead to be had on live baits and lures.
It has been an exceptional start to this summer’s whiting season for me. My first real sortie was around the late August Blue moon and I have not missed out on a good feed on every trip since. For the past 15 years that I have fished the Maroochy River for whiting, I have predominantly used small soldier crabs as my ‘go to bait’ for elbow slapper whiting. Last year, after many previous failed attempts on beach worms, I decided to give worms another crack, and was immediately rewarded with some real ‘elbow slappers’ for my efforts. Beach worms have now become an important part of my whiting weaponry and so far this season I have caught all my fish on worms. I will still use soldier crabs of course, but how I have never managed more success with worms in the past is beyond me. They have now become my ‘go to bait’ for whiting, in the Maroochy river.
The beauty of beach worms is that you can catch them the day before your fishing trip and you don’t even have to launch your boat. You then have the option of fishing the run-in or run-out tides. With soldier crabs you have to wait for half tide or less before they emerge and forage on the sand banks, so you can gather them. This means you either have to fish the last of the run-out or waste an hour and half of slack water time at low tide and then fish the run-in. Another great thing about soldier crabs versus worms is that you can use worms at night time. Because of the finnicky nature of the whiting bite on crabs you have to observe your rod tip all the time to know when to strike to set your hook. This style of fishing is almost impossible after dark. With worms, most times the fish swallow the bait and a hook up is just about a certainty…making them a perfect choice for night fishing. The absolute best thing about beach worms is that they are free (provided you can catch them), and quite plentiful at the moment on the surf beaches north and south of the Maroochy river. In fact, I have to admit that half the fun of my fishing trips now is, gathering the bait. Trying to outwit the smallest of adversaries who can pull their heads under the sand quicker than you can blink an eye, takes patience and skill. Once you have mastered the art of catching them, there are numerous benefits, both psychologically and financially. Of course you can buy them readily on the Sunshine Coast…but I hate buying bait!
The areas in the Maroochy river that I fish are all contained in in a spread from Chambers Island across to the North Shore then downstream taking in Goat and Channel Islands and the 6 knot section from Cotton tree up past the high-rise units to Picnic Point. Unfortunately the Scourge of the Earth, (Jet Skis) are making it impossible to fish in the unrestricted speed zones of the river during weekends and public holidays. The other day my mate Magoo and myself were in separate boats anchored well away from the main shipping channel, less than 10 metres from a bold sand bank catching a few fish. Next minute a jet ski with 3 young, testosterone fuelled, yahooing riders aboard, doing 60kms an hour, cut between us and the sand bank giving us a gob full as they went passed. They have absolutely no clue of boating etiquette or water safety. Mark my words, these jet skis are an accident waiting to happen. It is only a matter of time before they’ll be holding a vigil in the Maroochy mangroves for some idiot who held no respect for their own life or for others who use the Maroochy river.
So the good news is that there are quality whiting to be taken on either the run-in or run-out tides, provided you can find a quiet place to fish. Best baits are worms, soldier crabs and yabbies. On every trip I have seen big Flathead scuttling away as my passing boat disturbed them and there are some good bream around the 30cm mark still hanging around from the winter season. Have fun!
July 26, 2023
The Maroochy River is fishing remarkably well at the moment depending what species you are targeting. On my last trip which fell 4 days after the July New moon I decided to target some yellowfin bream using my gar float system which I have explained in detail in previous reports. I was also testing to see if the garfish were still about, because in previous years I had caught them right up to the end of August. Once again I had soaked my burley overnight in tuna oil. I went to the same spot that I had great success on bream 2 weeks previous. Fishing the run-up tide, I drifted my float behind the boat in a good burley stream for 30 minutes using half yabbies for bait, without an enquiry. I moved into the shallows from the deeper water as the pace of the tide picked up and I was rewarded with a nice bream around 30cm… but nothing else. It would appear that the garfish have finished for this winter as I have only hooked one in my last 2 trips. I have noticed a lot of garfish activity in the open sea around Point Cartwright while paddling my surf ski in recent weeks. It looks to me like they have moved out of the river already as they prepare to head back to Hervey Bay. I know they migrate back into Hervey Bay every year because I lived there for 15 years and used to target them there each summer. That makes 2 years in a row that the gar have started early May and finished late June.
After about an hour I still only had 1 bream and absolutely no other inquiries. Just 300 metres downstream from where I was fishing there is a large tree that got washed up during the flood rains we had a couple of years ago. At low tide the tree has less than a metre of water around it but on a making tide it is a perfect place for bream to congregate as it sits only a couple of metres off the main channel. I set my boat up down-stream from the snag at an angle so that my burley would drift past it on the tidal run. I had a bream on the first drift of my float and then every drift thereafter for the next 40 minutes or so. It was a real mix, juveniles…right up to 30 cm fish. The water was crystal clear, and I could see the bream lined up behind the boat in squadrons, chasing the small pieces of burley as it drifted away from the boat. It was like a huge bream aquarium. The smaller fish were in close to the back of the boat and the better ones hung near to the snag or ranged much further away from the boat. Every one of the bigger fish would grab the bait and head straight back into the tree. I had to put maximum pressure on the braid line and steer them back out, to avoid getting hooked up. Whilst there were no huge bream like I had hooked into on my previous trip, I took home a nice feed, ranging from 28cm to 30cms. They really are a lot of fun when you are fishing for them on light tackle.
Back at the boat ramp when I was cleaning my fish, a fisho was telling me that he had caught several good size flathead over the past few days drifting baits in and around the channels of Chambers and Goat Islands. Around the Motorway bridge pylons and the Cod Hole, local information indicates there are plenty of big Tailor, Flathead and Jew being taken on baits and soft plastics. The boats working a bit downstream from the bridge have been having a ball on Trevally on lures, working the bait schools right across the river. The river’s waters are extremely clear at the moment but if you plan your trip working the Full and New moon phases in conjunction with the incoming tide, you should be successful no matter what species you are targeting.
July 10, 2023
Four days after the July Full moon I decided to see if the garfish were still around and perhaps latch on to some decent yellow fin bream which had eluded me so far this winter. Around 40mls of rain had fallen a couple of days before hand which I thought might just give the river a little bit of colour compared to the crystal-clear qualities of the past 2 months. I pumped 50 yabbies over on the western side of Goat Island next to the 6 knots speed sign (my favourite spot for yabbs). The yabbies here are huge and when I’m fishing for gar, one of these yabbies provides 2 baits. I dock the head and large pincer claw and tail end bit and cut the remaining yabby in half with a sharp knife. This provides 2 baits which fit nicely on a small, number 10 long shank Mustad blood worm hook. This is my standard rig for gar fishing and indeed bream fishing in winter. The beauty of fishing for gar and bream with a float versus an anchored bait rig such as a running sinker set up, is the area that the float covers as it is drifting around in the current behind the boat. As you would know by now my float fishing is backed up by having 2 burley buckets over the side of my boat. This works wonders in bringing the target fish from way down stream up into your proximity.
I arrived just as the tide had started to move in from dead low. Anchoring up in the main channel right on the edge of a major sand bank drop off, I knew that I would have to move out of the main channel to less turbulent water once the current started to pick up pace. The funny thing is that this particular area is where I catch 90% of my fish species, summer or winter. I just rearrange where I fish. For example, with whiting I work the shallow gutters into the deeper channels as the tide drops in summer and in winter it’s the reverse, working the deeper channels into shallower water as the tide makes, for bream and gar. This winter I have been soaking my burley in tuna oil overnight and I think that this trip I really did notice the better affect it had on attracting bream into the burley stream. As soon as the speed of the current picked up, the float started to do its thing. Every drift of the float, I was locked into a bream. At first the fish were juveniles and undersize but then as the current started pushing in hard, the size improved markedly to 26cms plus. Then I locked into a monster fish that felt like I had hooked onto a snag. Through poor fishing on my part I put too much pressure on the line and the 6lb braid snapped like cotton and I lost the whole shooting match including my float. I always carry a spare rod (or two) fully rigged in case of an emergency which saves a lot of time re-rigging. I was soon into another enormous fish. Working it back to the boat, I could see it flashing in the morning sun, a huge bream. Then the hook let go…Ahh yes! The one that got away.
Over the next hour I was kept busy with quality bream between 26cms and 30cms all in absolute prime condition. Finally, I landed the fish of the day, a beautiful big yellow fin bream that went 36cms, which brought my tally for the morning close to 30 bream and 1 lonely gar. Even though I am using such a small hook and a very small piece of bait, as against the more conventional size bream hook i.e. a 1/0 or 2/0, every hook up except for one, was in the bony corner of the mouth. I believe this is because the bait is floating only a couple of feet below the surface and the bream darts up, gulps at the bait and darts back down to deep water. I took enough fish for a feed and kept only fish in the size range of 28cms plus. Throughout the morning, big pelagics were surging past on the incoming tide, working bait schools that were congregating towards the north shore bank. It was great to see the number of families and young teens in their tinnies, out and about enjoying a magnificent, sunny winters day. If you are looking for a feed and a bit of fun on yellow fin bream, now is the time to hit the river.
June 26, 2023
We are well and truly into a legendary Queensland winter, with cold nights, sunny days and clear blue skies. Unfortunately this does not always mean that the river is going to be brimming (pardon the pun) with winter species. I have had a couple of trips in June and have not realized the potential that I was expecting. I fished early June for gar just after the full moon and although I took home average catches of 20 fish each session I was surprised by the lack of quality yellowfin bream that I caught. Last winter I was catching bream well over 30cms on the burley trail and more fat bream around the 27 to 28cm mark than I could count, but his year so far I have been lucky if I have got a half a dozen bream each session. My mate Magoo and his Queen went recently for gar and bream and although the Queen landed a nice bream at 32cm (see photo) they ended up with a handful of bream and not one garfish. You never know what you might catch on a gar float as is indicated by the 40cm flathead shown in the attached photo. So it’s a bit of a mixed bag at the moment but there is still plenty of time for the big yellowfin bream to come good.
One of the problems without doubt is the fact that we have had less than 50mls of rain for the whole of June. The river is crystal clear right down to the last of the run-out tide and I firmly believe that, just like the farmers on the land need rain for their crops, so we need rain on the water to energise all the fish species. Another problem during winter is tidal flow. During a normal day (24 hours) we have 2 highs and 2 low tides. In winter the daytime tides always seem to be smaller than the nighttime tides by a large margin. For example the day tide may be 1.3m high and the night tide high is close to 2 metres. This is a difference of almost a metre of water on the run in which makes a huge difference to the speed of the water on the incoming tide. I have always been a great believer in the fact that slow water produces a slow bite on fish species, summer or winter. So I guess what I’m saying is that if I was fishing the night tides for bream I would experience better results. Anyhow I’m too long in the tooth to be out on the river in a boat in the middle of winter…so it is what it is.
For those of you who are coming to Maroochydore for the school holidays and wish to take the family out on the river there are plenty of options. If you have a boat, a good place to start is in the main channel out the front of Goat Island from the bar mouth up to Maroochy north shore. On the south arm of the river the main channel from Cotton Tree up past the high rises also has lots of structure in the way of jetties and pontoons which are suitable places for bream to congregate. The motorway bridge pylons are very accessible from the Bradman Avenue boat ramp and are home to bream, mulloway, trevally, and big tailor. For best results use live bait such as yabbies, soldier crabs, herring, or hardy heads. Fresh flesh baits such as herring slabs or gar and mullet fillets will work fairly good as well. For land based fishos looking for somewhere to wet a line for a bream or flathead, there are a couple of jetties at Cotton Tree or nice deep water down past the caravan park which you can access from the swimming pool car park. There are nice sandy beaches also accessible from Picnic Point Esplanade and Chambers Island which lend themselves well to land based fishos especially if you want to keep the kids occupied (just do a Google for directions).
We still have another 2 months of winter species, and the bream season should be coming into its absolute peak over the next month.
May 10, 2023
I am amazed at the huge schools of pelagic fish that I have encountered in the last month on my daily surf ski paddles from the Mooloolah river across to the Maroochy river mouth, around Point Cartwright and in the direction of Old Woman Island. I’m talking about thousands of Yellow Fin, Bluefin, and Mack Tunas in schools covering hectares of water at any given time. On one particular paddle a mate and myself sat in the middle of a massive school of Yellow Fin Tuna that were gorging themselves on a huge bait ball. These fish were over a metre in length and upwards of 10 kilos each, in such a feeding frenzy they completely ignored the fact that we were there, slashing and crashing through the water around us so that you could have reached out and grabbed them by the tail as they sped by. On another occasion, a 2 metre long Spanish Mackerel hurtled 8 feet into the air only 200 metres directly in front of us, hung in the air for a second like a glistening, silver sentinel in the morning sun, then fell back into the water with a huge splash. It was followed soon after by another 2 Spaniards half the size, turning summersaults in the air as they too tore the bait ball to pieces…absolutely mind boggling and definitely no place to dangle your legs over the side.
The good news is that this frantic fish activity has transferred into the mighty Maroochy river. Although the species I’m talking about is a lot smaller than the afore mentioned, they are bountiful, providing some delicious feeds for those fishos who pursue them. Of course I am referring to Eastern Sea Gar which have arrived in big numbers and good size. I’ve had a couple of trips since my last report and could have maxed out each time if I had so chosen. My last foray just after the May Full moon produced a 2 litre ice cream container full to the top with beautiful boned out fillets in only 3 hours of fishing.
Okay, so where do you start if you want to give the Garfish a go? Just about anywhere in the river on the run-in tide will do. My favourite places are all situated around Goat/ Channel Islands down near the mouth of the river. In fact, this is the area where I do all my fishing for summer or winter species. Look for water about 2 metres in depth where the tide is running in over a sand bank and rippling back into the deep water. Gar love to congregate here, 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 fairly quickly in the burley cage and you have to keep filling the cage up so the gar stay on the trail. When I was cleaning my fish on the last trip, I took specific note of the stomach contents of the fish as I cleaned them and they all had burley in their stomach cavity. A good brand is Wilson standard berley bucket pellet 2kg, that is reasonably priced at Big W. As a rule Gar don’t like a lot of fresh in the river, they like to follow the clean water in from the ocean as it pushes up the river. That’s why they bite best on the run-in tide.
Some of my gar have been 35cm from tip of the beak to the end of the tail and produce a fillet as good as a 30cm whiting would. In the mix with the gar you will nearly always encounter bream working on the burley as well. My last trip produced 3 fat bream all legal size at 26cm and a couple of juvenile Tarwhine (all released). If the cool weather persists as it is at the moment there will be an influx of big Yellowfin Bream as we move towards their annual spawning migration into the river which occurs every June. Another winter species that will start to put in an appearance soon is Luderick which are also fun to catch on floats and light tackle and are very good on the dinner plate when processed in the correct manner.
April 25, 2023
Another whiting season has come and gone. For me personally it was possibly the worst summer on whiting I have had since I began fishing the river 16 years ago. One reason is because I’m not fishing the river as much as I used to, as I now spend a lot of my time on the ocean catching the swell and wind runners on my ocean surf ski. However, when I did make an effort that fitted into my criteria for the best times to catch whiting on the river i.e. Moon phases, tide patterns etc I came home empty handed more times than I can remember. As I mentioned in my previous report I have no doubt in my mind that the increased volume of human traffic on the river (particularly jet skis) in the last couple of years has contributed greatly to this…to the point that the whiting in the river are “super shy”. Next summer I will have to rethink my strategies and change the way I approach my whiting fishing e.g. switch to night fishing using worms for bait instead of daytime fishing with soldier crabs, if I hope to take a feed home.
Anyhow, enough about gloom and doom…there are still some good things happening on the river now, if you are prepared to try something different. I’m talking about the annual run of Eastern Australian Sea gar which are now on in earnest in the river. True to form they didn’t arrive in numbers until the April full moon which was over Easter. I snuck out early on Easter Monday morning with my mate Maggoo before the multitudes got out of bed and we ended up with 50 quality gar, fishing the run-up tide, using yabbies for bait. By 9am we were surrounded by a thousand jet skis, tinnies, house boats, stand up paddle boards, kayaks and anything else that could be floated by a human. We ended up with 2 ice cream containers of beautiful boned out, sweet eating, garfish fillets. I went back by myself the next Wednesday and arrived early so I could get a park at the Picnic Point boat ramp. I was pleasantly surprised to get 25 big fat gar on the last of the run back which is unusual as they mostly like to feed on the run-in tide.
If you like a feed of fresh fish fillets straight out of the river I cannot speak highly enough of the humble garfish that abound in the river from now to September. 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. The burley trail always attracts other species such as bream and tarwhine which can add to a nice mixed bag.
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 fish 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. There is a fisheries limit of 50 per person with no restriction on size. Already I have been landing some nice bream to 27cm working the burley trail, and these will only improve as we move towards winter. There have been some big trevally working the bait schools around the lower reaches and there were quite a few good-sized flathead lies in the sand under the streetlight where I anchor up next to the Picnic Point boat ramp.
February 23, 2023
It has been 3 months since my last report and that’s basically because I’ve had bugger all to report on. I didn’t put my boat in during the holiday period because the river traffic was so intense it was a complete waste of time. Since the holidays finished I have had 3 trips on the Maroochy after whiting and you can count the number of fish I caught on one hand. It becomes very depressing when you make the effort to get the freshest bait possible, fish all your old favourite haunts, try every trick in the book, and you still come up empty handed. Many times in the past I’ve heard people say, “There’s no fish in that bloody Maroochy River.” Well I have to admit, that after the past month or so, I’ve been ready to join the ‘Nay Sayers’ club myself.
I’ve told you before of my theory, how I think the fish disperse throughout the river system when the river’s waters become crystal clear after months of no rain. It is over 4 months since we have had a substantial rain event, so this is definitely part of the reason they are so hard to come by at the moment during daylight hours. Also the huge volume of traffic on the river at holiday times and weekends must spook the schools of whiting, affecting the way they feed and graze over the sand banks and in the channels. I believe they have become “super shy”, especially at daytime. I bumped into ‘old mate’ who has been fishing the river for a lot longer than I have and he said he had also struggled to put a feed together in the past month.
So how do we overcome this problem? I have been thinking about trying a night sortie for a while now. Out of the blue I get a text from one of my readers, who hasn’t been fishing for almost a year and he tells me that he has just caught 20 very reasonable whiting up to 30cms in the Maroochy on the February New moon. I know that he fishes mostly the lower reach areas of the river that I do for his fish, and he fishes of a night time…could this be the answer? I am loathe to put the boat in at night principally because I am an old fart whose eyes are flat out threading the eye of a hook in daylight let alone under torchlight, however it looks like I am about to give it a go. I will keep you posted.
Beach worms have been impossible to catch on the Kawana beaches because of the erosion caused by cyclone Gabriel’s swell so I’m going to have to try some other beaches like Mudjimba or down at Currimundi. For those of you who don’t live local and you are trailing your boat here, the Bradman Street or ‘cod hole’ boat ramp is closed for renovations for a couple of months so you will need to seek alternative ramps to launch your boat. The ramp in Fishermans road is a good alternative with reasonable trailer parking and a double ramp opening into a creek then a short run to the river.
On my last trip I did catch a couple of small dusky flathead on yabbies, so perhaps the flathead fishos have been having more luck than I have. Although I have had a lean summer for whiting I have included a photo of my mate Magoo with a 42cm specimen caught in January on beach worms and a couple of nice fish that I landed on soldier crabs, on a previous trip. I guess perseverance is the key, all I can do is keep on trying and hope my luck will change soon.