With air and water temperatures on the rise, the prominence of certain fish species will be changing. However, cool weather targets such as tailor, mulloway, luderick, squid and snapper will still be around for anglers to have a crack at.
Throughout September, flathead, mangrove jack, school mackerel, threadfin and numerous other species will be readily available to anglers who target them. With warmer conditions, more anglers will be inclined to venture into the great outdoors. School holidays always provide good opportunity for families to spend quality time together on the water. Now is a good time to target a few of these fish.
A staple species for those working the estuaries, flathead offer anglers plenty of sport and quality table fare. September presents a special opportunity for flathead fishing. Substantial numbers of large breeding females enter the estuaries and rivers, followed by an entourage of smaller males. Flatties to over 90cm can be caught on occasion. Those chasing a feed will prefer a specimen between 40cm to 75cm, as they’re legally allowed up to five.
Large breeding females should be handled carefully and returned to the water quickly after capture. Studies have shown that when stressed, females often re-absorb their eggs and not breed at all that season. This is not in the best interests of the fishery and will affect future fish stocks. It pays to quickly release thelarger specimens.
While flathead can opportunistically be caught anywhere within the estuaries and rivers, specific targeting will greatly increase your chances of scoring a few. Learn their habits and movements throughout the tidal phase. Although some areas will fish different to others, the basic movements of flathead are as follows.
When the tide is high, flathead can be dispersed across the flats, in shallow gutters, drainage channels and almost anywhere with a few inches of water. As the tide begins to fall, they commonly take up ambush spots where baitfish and crustacean species will pass, especially along the edges of banks. The falling waters force these prey species from the flats and shallows and back into deeper water. Flathead take this opportunity for an easy feed and adopt ambush spots where their opportunities are heightened. Smaller channels and gutters where water drains from the flats are one of the key areas. The edges of any prominent banks are well worth trying.
Larger specimens generally take up the best ambush spots, so locating these areas is worthwhile. A visit to an area on a dead low tide will generally allow you to find good flathead spots, to fish when the tide is more suitable. The more intimately you know your waterway, the better your results become. Trolling small, brightly coloured minnow lures along the edges of major banks on a falling tide will offer some of the easiest fishing. Alternatively, these areas can be worked over with offerings like jighead rigged plastics, vibration baits, minnow lures and flies. Drifting baits in these zones, whole pilchards, whitebait, hardiheads or herring will also work a treat.
Once the flats have drained, the only water remaining will be in the channels and creek basins. Flathead are limited to these areas, but they can often be more lethargic and harder to tempt. Drifting the baits in these zones is a reliable way to score. This is also an easy way for kids, inexperienced anglers or those new to an area to get in on the action. Additionally, it can produce species such as bream, whiting, mulloway, trevally, sole and numerous others.
As the tide turns and begins to run-in, flathead gradually proceed up out of the channels and onto the flats again. Smaller specimens will generally go first, and then the larger lizards go, as the water deepens and they feel less conspicuous. Here they hunt the shallows and take up ambush position in the small drains or contours on the flats. The tide begins to fall and the whole daily tidal ritual begins again.
Flatties will respond to a wide array of baits and lures. They can be found in very shallow water, so they’re easy targets for those fishing from the shore or in small craft such as kayaks. Good places to try for land-based anglers includes the mouths of Lota Creek, Kedron Brook Floodway, Hornibrook Bridge area, Pine River, shallows around King Island, Manly Foreshore and Scarborough Foreshore.
Numbers of these tasty cephalopods will be decreasing slightly during September. If water clarity remains clear and reasonably cool, there should still be plenty of opportunity. Cast egi (squid jigs) around likely locations, like rock walls, harbours, canals, jetties and other locations, where clean water flows. While tiger and arrow squid can be caught in these areas, the tigers are generally more common. Many anglers use spotlights at night to locate squid in these shallow areas, however, this can spook them in the heavily worked areas.
The periods around high tide are more rewarding, but providing the water is clean, squid can be located at any time. During daylight hours, a good pair of polarised sunglasses is a must for spotting squid. They’re generally deeper in the water column, further from shore. Blind casting to likely looking areas will reward at any time. Drift a squid skewer baited with a pilchard, large prawn, herring or other baitfish, to tempt a few squid. This is good for fishing around the shallows of the bay islands, the sand hills area or in prominent channels, like the Rous. This is commonly presented unweighted around 15-30m behind the boat. When the tidal flow is slow, you may need to control the depth at which it can suspend by using a float. In addition to squid, you may score a few cuttlefish in deeper areas.
I’ve done quite a few trips chasing luderick over the last few months, catching a few every trip. Some sessions produced more than twenty quality luderick. Most of my effort has been limited to the Boat Passage area, which is one of the old stomping grounds for land-based luderick anglers. This location can be hard to fish when there’s a few people around. The canal walls, rock walls at the mouths of rivers and harbours and a host of other locations can all produce luderick.
The Sunken Wall in the Brisbane River is another historically popular spot, which hardly gets fished these days. Anglers used to access this from the northern side of the river, could walk onto the wall and fish a short while after high tide. I’m not sure whether anglers can still reach this via Shanks Pony, as I know the passage to the sewerage chute has now been blocked.
Although they mainly eat weed, luderick are very tasty. Fillet soon after death and remove the skin and black gut lining. I’ve been gathering weed from around the edges of submerged or floating objects such as pontoon, jetty pylons, navigation buoys and rocks. The green, flat weed has been the best, but the green stringy type has also worked. Once gathered, weed can be kept in the fridge in seawater for a week or more.
Estuarine anglers will have mangrove jack high on their wish list during warmer months. Throughout September, keen jack anglers will begin to probe favoured areas with minnow lures, soft plastics, topwater offerings and live baits. Often larger jacks are caught early in the season, although the better fishing will be in a month or two when the waters really warm up and the jacks becomemore aggressive.
Popular locations for chasing jacks include the canals and most major river and creek systems, both north and south of the city. Jacks like structure in the form of mangroves, bridge pylons, pontoons, jetties, rock walls and submerged structures. They lurk and hunt in ambush mode, preying on any hapless prawn, herring, or mullet that meanders too close. They’ll exit their sanctuary, engulf the morsel and be headed back to their snag in the blink of an eye.
This makes jacks a real challenge for anglers. You have to put your offering close enough to the snag to get their interest, but curtail their passage back to the structure before they can bust you off. Quick reactions, stern drag settings and degrees of skill and luck go into every capture.
September heralds the start of the mackerel season in SEQ. While the spotted mackerel are probably a few months away yet, school mackerel begin to show up around this time. I find deeper channels between the major banks systems to be especially good on the lower stages of the tide. School mackerel often patrol the edges of these channels, preying on baitfish, which are forced from the banks due to lowering water.
On the higher stages of the tide, mackerel often get right up on top the banks. Tangalooma Banks and Middle Bank are two areas where I’ve caught school mackerel during September by trolling minnow lures on the banks. Lures that dive 3-5m and can be trolled in excess of five knots are great. This troll speed is often aided by using lighter line – 10-15lb braid is good – and also by getting the angle of the line flat to the water. Hand hold the rod with the tip pointed almost to the water’s surface as you troll.
In the deeper channels, anglers use paravanes to get their lures down deep. Metal spoons, such as the Halco Barra Drone No.3 are really popular offerings, favoured by the commercial sector when trolled behind paravanes. A paravane trolling rig is ideal tackle for targeting school mackerel.
Drift pilchards on ganged hooks in these channels for another successful approach. The beacons in the northern bay and the Measured Mile are also worth probing with pilchard baits, especially around the top and bottom of the tide. Early mornings are prime times and numerous fish can be taken quickly when schoolies move in. Jig the beacons with metal slugs and slices to produce a few succulent silver streaks.
Although these are now a year round proposition in Southern Queensland, threadfin definitely become more active in the lower reaches of the river systems, during warmer months. The Brisbane River is a happy hunting ground for many, and the reaches below the Gateway Bridge are heavily worked. They continue to produce good numbers of threadfin salmon as well as snapper, mulloway, cod, flathead and numerous other species.
Lures and live bait will both produce consistent results and dead offerings will even work at times. In the lure department, anglers achieve success on vibration baits, jighead rigged plastics, micro-jigs and even trolled minnow lures. Live offerings such as herring, large banana prawns, mullet, gar and pike will all produce the goods.
Threadfin will often be found along the edges of the main channel, underwater contours and ledges, in the deeper dredge holes at the mouth, and anywhere prawn and baitfish concentrations are found. In the coming months, anglers can expect threadfin captures to increase. If you’re not intending to keep a fish, handle it with care and release it quickly. Preferably don’t remove it from the water, to increase its chancesof survival.
September offers anglers plenty of opportunities for a broad array of species. Much of the winter fare will still be available in varied numbers, but many of the classic warm weather species are already abundant. In addition to the various fish, crabs will also become a serious target for those setting pots in the bay, rivers and estuaries. Warmer days and school holidays offer some awesome chances for family outings. For anglers young and old, September has excellent conditions to be in the great outdoors. Swap the XBox for a tackle box, get out chasing piscators instead of Pokémon.
Big female flathead are fun to catch, but should be released quickly to avoid stress, which can limit their breeding potential. Matt scored this one casting a shallow diving hardbody in just a few feet of water.
Josie scored this nice Brisbane River luderick on her first attempt at this unusual form of fishing.
Even as the waters warm, quality snapper, such as the one Naomi scored, will still be on the cards for anglers fishing Moreton Bay.Reads: 599