The gamefishing season for South East Queensland is drawing to a close as I write this report. The couple of large low pressure systems which hit the South East corner the past couple of months have caused the water to cool with the dirty water run-off and with the East Australia Current backing off, blue tropical water has been unable to push in. This has seen many of the glamour pelagic disappear for the year. On the billfish front all we can hope for is a late run of blue marlin which have been very quiet this year or the possibility that the sailfish will turn up on the Sunshine Coast during winter. If anglers are prepared to travel further afield, fishing places like Agnes Waters and the top of Fraser Island can turn up all sorts of surprises the next few months. If I was chasing record size wahoo I would be fishing the shoals and banks areas between Fraser Island and the Capricorn Bunker group of reefs all through winter. Large spanish mackerel and any of the billfish species are probable by-catch in that neck of the woods during this time of the year.
Since I last reported there have been a couple of gamefish tournaments held. Moreton Bay Gamefish Club conducted a very successful “Back to Tangalooma” Tournament over on Moreton Island. These tournaments were legendary back in the “good old days” and it great to see it up and running again due to a keen committee and guys like “Spike” Kirkby who is involved with the club. Unfortunately it was run during one of the periods of time this season when the billfish went on holidays for a week here and there with a single sailfish scooping the pool for the lucky angler and team. A few other “billies” were hooked or seen both light and heavy tackle but no-one was good enough to get a tag in another one and the weather on the second day was very trying with a few boats not fishing.
The Gold Coast Gamefish Club conducted their heavy tackle tournament during this period and also had to put up with some dubious weather. Yvonne, Keith Young’s towered 40’ Black Watch which was the old Ocean Blue charter boat from Vanuatu clung onto a win in this one on count back with a tagged striped marlin from early on the first day. No-one was good enough to tag multiple fish so the one won it for the boys. I took some time out from chartering my own boat to fish on Van Karas’ 33’ Obrien, Nauti Suzzane, not that I would have been getting out on the Sunshine Coast based on the weather forecast that weekend. I was lucky enough to end up in the chair when we hooked a nice tournament sized blue marlin and I got to test Van’s new 60kg breaking strain outfits and chair. With a successful tag shot we ended up the only boat of the fleet tagging a fish on day two to give me the first and last fish of the day trophies as well as putting us in forth place overall as a team.
The week after Gold Coast was the Mooloolaba Gamefish Club’s Billfish Bonanza Tournament held on the ANZAC Day weekend from the Wharf Tavern Mooloolaba. This was a light and heavy tackle event with yet again an early tagged fish hanging on to win on count back. This time it was the crew on Keneka, Wayne Finlay’s 40’ White Cap. The crew and angler David Hinde who was in the chair on that tagged blue marlin from the Noosa Canyons walked away with masses of trophies and prizes. Pauline Harris from the Haines Signature trailer boat Going Off took out all the light tackle and small boat categories with a tagged sailfish from her husband Geoff’s boat. It was a great effort on a big fish on 8kg line that had the two of them tied up for a few hours in the rough condition, especially for a trailer boat. Some boats had chances like Russell Fairey’s 37’ Riviera Hardnup who had a triple hookup of blue marlin on at one stage only to lose all three. Of interest was a 28kg mahi mahi Nathan Douglass bought to the scales from his father’s 35’ Caribbean Luna. Unfortunately it was way short of going line class on the 37kg tackle which was used but it was an impressive fish all the same.
If you had the time and finances, Bribie Island Gamefish Club held their tournament the weekend after Mooloolaba to make it three weekends in a row. Sunshine Coast boat the 35’ Bertram Bangalee, skippered by Adrian “A. J.” Wright took the tournament with a tagged blue marlin from the shelf sneaking ahead on points of a tagged light tackle black marlin tagged by the crew of Blue Black, John Williams’ 34’ Black Watch. AJ was ably assisted by angler Graham Devin (the president of the Queensland Gamefish Association), Andrew Earle (owner of Kevlacat boats) and Steve Dahl (another skipper from the Sunshine Coast Gamefish Club). There were lots of lost chances that weekend with Bangalee alone seeing four heavy tackle marlin over the course of the weekend and many other boats seeing multiples. Blue Black had the chance of putting the tournament away late on the second day hooking up to their second black marlin of the day only to lose it. The fish nearly switched on the second day with around seven light tackle marlin lost from the inshore grounds around Hutchison Shoals and a similar amount of heavy tackle fish seen but no-one could keep hooks in them. That contrasted with the first day where not many were seen. To keep most crews occupied the other gamefish species were out in force with good size mahi mahi on the heavy tackle grounds and inshore loads of tuna and the striped speedsters, wahoo. I was out and fishing the same are but not in the tournament and my customers were certainly kept happy with reels going off hooked up to fish every quarter hour or so. Other boats cleaning up in the area doing this were Jim McKinnon’s 680 Haines Hunter Patriot Aquasition and the towered 40’ Black Watch, In the Black skippered by Shane Steer.
Apart from tournament fishing, not much serious gamefishing has taken place this past period and the rewards have not been there. Most people have been fishing for a feed of pelagic speedsters like wahoo and yellowfin tuna at places like Hutchison Shoal or chasing reef fish for the ice box. On charter I have noticed the change in seasons with the water temperature dropping dramatically and all the bait like yakkas and slimeys moving into all their winter time haunts. Following them will be the snapper so my focus will change in coming months to soft plastics in close as well as demersal fishing short of another good trolling bite occurring. To check out the soft plastics action or to try a jigging trip or a deep sea fishing trip give me a call at South Queensland Charter Services on 0407 574 868 or check out my website, (www.sqcs.com.au).