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By Anthony Cass - Pelagic Hunter

Even though, technically, Winter has ended, the winter fishing season will continue well into Spring. The whale migration is all but complete, with just the last few stragglers to be seen as they swim south. With some great opportunities in the weather over recent weeks there’s been a lot happening offshore! The excellent weather coincided with good moon phases, the peak of the winter Spanish Mackerel run and also, the lifting of the temporary Snapper closure. All this meant there have been a lot of great fish caught this month.

The winter Spanish Mackerel run this year was the best we've seen in a while. I've spoken at length about them in previous months as the season progressed and it built to quite an incredible peak this month with many boats quite easily getting their bag limit of 2 per person (or 5 per boat with more than 2 people). It was such an incredible season that I wouldn't be surprised at all if a few hang around throughout Spring, which is known to happen some years.

With the Snapper closure lifted, now is the time to get out and target those big knobby Snapper. At the moment they're schooled up on the inshore and offshore reefs and are hungry after spawning through winter. Without a doubt, the most successful means of targeting these fish is “float lining”. Lightly weighted or unweighted whole baits such as pilchards or fresh squid rigged on a set of 3 5/0 gang hooks or a big pair of snelled octopus hooks are your best bet. Often, Snapper will naturally swim quite high in the water column, for a demersal species anyway, but having a bait sitting higher in the water is a good way to entice the bite from the bigger fish in the school. It's quite often the bigger one that has the extra hunger and aggression to push that little bit higher through the water column to hit a bait. Float lining can be done at anchor with a berley trail or while drifting. If drifting, try to set your drift line to intercept as many bits of structure or points of interest, such as bait schools, that you may identify on your plotter and sounder. You should always keep a keen eye peeled on your sounder and be aware of the bottom you’re passing over. Of course, as mentioned in previous months, there are a lot of Snapper being caught on soft plastics also. Or if you like the more technical aspect of lure fishing then enticing the bite from a Snapper on a “slow pitch” jig can be a very rewarding challenge. Slow pitch is a great way to pass the time as you wait for the drag on those float lines to start singing. As the water warms over the coming months the Snapper will gradually disperse so get amongst them now.

Spring in Moreton Bay and the adjacent reefs usually means Kingies are on the cards. Right on cue this year, the Yellowtail King have turned up in good numbers and good sizes. A prized sport fish and to some, a prized table fish, Yellowtail Kingfish are an excellent target for many anglers during this time of year. Like most pelagic species they have a very aggressive nature and will readily hit a large livebait or surface lure. These fish certainly aren't “boat shy” either; I've often seen them swim up to inspect the boat when I pull up on a reef or wreck. That inquisitive nature coupled with their high aggression is what makes them such a great target from a sporting standpoint. They will usually stalk a livebait for several seconds, or a popper for several meters, before deciding whether or not to eat it. When a 10kg+ King decides to explode on a large surface lure or eat a livebait literally right next to the boat, right at your feet, right in front of your eyes... needless to say, it can be a very adrenaline-filled moment for both angler and fish! I use the same method to target Kingfish as I've mentioned for Spanish Mackerel with Extra Large surface lures. This method proves time and again to be very successful. While it certainly is possible to catch them on livebaits, I’ve watched them circle a livebait at the back of the boat for hours on some occasions without eating it, which gets very frustrating.

For those willing and capable of pushing out to the shelf, this is the time of year when the big Yellowfin Tuna are passing our part of the coast as they head north into the Coral Sea. There have been a few nice Yellowfin caught already in recent weeks.

Tight lines folks,

Pelagic Hunter


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