Chasing Summer Speedsters

Another winter is well and truly behind us in South East Queensland with the warm northerly winds and hot, humid days setting in. As things heat up on land, the same happens to our offshore waters with current lines of warm water making their way down the Queensland coast; bringing with them a large number of pelagic species, as Chris Raimondi passes on his techniques in chasing these Summer speedsters

Blue and black marlin, wahoo, mahi mahi (dolphin fish) and the many mackerel and tuna species are prolific of the South East Queensland throughout the warmer months. Warm water brings schools of bait with it and the pelagic predators aren’t far away. It’s an annual migration that David Attenborough would be proud of and one that most anglers appreciate. Let’s get down to the business of catching a few. wahoo-love-a-trolled-lure

Marlin

We may as well start at the top. There is no more iconic sportfish than the marlin; blue, black or striped. In South East Qld, we’re fortunate to encounter all three marlin species but the focus for most anglers centres around chasing blues on heavy tackle, or blacks on light tackle.

The black marlin we see down here are nowhere near the size of their North Queensland counterparts caught off Cairns. Funnily enough, any ‘grander’ or 1000 pound fish caught down here is likely to be a blue marlin, although they are extremely rare.

Blues are typically caught on the shelf in deep water in excess of 80-100 metres. That kind of depth really is the place to start and then work wider looking for high bait schools, flying fish or birds working the surface. On the other hand, blacks can be caught in really close proximity to the mainland. In fact, at this time of year, many anglers flock to Fraser Island where on the western side, inside the top of Hervey Bay, juvenile black marlin can be caught in little more than 5-10m of crystal blue water on the sand flats of Platypus Bay, Wathumba and Rooney’s Point. marlin-5

It really is an incredible fishery; a sportfisher’s dream. Up there, black marlin between 30 – 150kgs are regularly caught trolling skirts, switch baiting live baits and even sight casting with plastics or flies. The method for catching blues and blacks is relatively similar, the only difference being the line class and gear you’re using.

Slow trolling a teaser and a spread of skirted lures or live baits is probably the most popular method. Target current lines or areas of high bait concentration and cover ground, keeping an eye on the sounder.

Marlin are inquisitive and will often rise in the water column to check out all the commotion as a boat steams past so ensure you’ve got a good teaser working and eyes like a hawk on your lures. If you entice a strike, accelerate the boat accordingly to set the hook and quickly retrieve other lines to allow the angler the best chance to land the fish. Once hooked up, settle in and enjoy the show!

chasin

Mahi Mahi (Dolphin Fish)

Dollies are a common by catch when chasing blue marlin out wide but can also be caught in shallower water. Smaller skirted lures work well on these fish, as do soft plastics and lures sight casted in their direction. They’re an incredibly beautiful fish and are superb eating.

They really are the ultimate pelagic, spending their time on the surface, congregating towards anything laying on the surface. FADs (fish attracting devices) typically hold a lot of dolphin fish, often smaller juveniles but if you’re ever out wide and see something floating on the surface, it pays to check out whether a few dolphin fish are hanging around it. the-amazing-colours-of-a-dolphin-fish

Because they love seeking cover on the surface, they can show up next to the boat at any time so it always pays to have a lightly weighted soft plastic rigged and ready to pitch a cast if you get a chance. Nine times out of ten they’ll turn on the plastic and nail it.

Try throwing a hooked pilchard or bait and them and it’s often a different story. Like marlin, they’ll put on a pretty impressive aerial display and go just as crazy in the boat. If you’re going to release a dolphin fish, try to keep it in the water as they can do a lot of damage to themselves on the floor of the boat.

Mackerel

Spanish, spotted and school mackerel all make SEQ home during the warmer months. Areas like Palm Beach Reef, Flat Rock, Cape Moreton and Tweed Reef will all be stacked with mackerel, and boats chasing them during the summer school holidays.

Mackerel are an interesting species in that some days they can be incredibly easy to catch, and some days they just won’t touch a bait. Often school and spotted mackerel in particular will school up in large numbers, smashing bait on the surface or midway through the water column.

When you come across that situation, use a small metal lure or soft plastic and retrieve it at speed through the bait school. If you successfully match your lure to the size of the bait on which they’re feeding, you’ll just about hook up every time. If you’re out with your lure size, it can be extremely frustrating as they’ll often pay it no attention whatsoever. mackerel-tuna-at-the-double-great-fun-1

Bigger Spanish mackerel can also be caught this way but are probably more effectively targeted trolling large deep diving (or shallow diving for that matter) lures. Halco Laser Pros and Rapala Magnums are typically the go to lures for most mackerel fisherman. Wahoo can be targeted the same way.

Slow trolling live yakka or slimey mackerel is also extremely effective as is rigging dead gar or wolf herring and towing them through bait schools or around rocky headlands and reef. If any of the mackerel species are proving hard to entice, cubing pilchards and creating a berley trail is a good way of turning them on. Anchor up or use the electric motor to position your boat on top of a school of bait and start a berley trail.

Rig lightly weighted pilchards on two or three gang hooks and float line it down the berley trail. Use wire to start and again, if you can’t entice a bite, get rid of the wire and take your chances with fluorocarbon leader. Mackerel have extremely sharp teeth so it’s fairly common to lose them when running anything other than wire to your hooks.

Tuna

Similar to mackerel, tuna can be an extremely easy fish to target or a downright frustrating one. Again, ‘matching the hatch’ is so important, particularly when casting metal or plastic lures to feeding fish.

Quietly approaching a school from upwind of them, cutting the motor on approach and casting at them is an extremely fun way of targeting them. Longtail and yellowfin tuna in particular will take screaming runs and won’t tire easily; great fun on light gear. longtail-tuna-will-be-out-in-force-over-summer

Mackerel tuna are probably the most common tuna species and aren’t good for much else than sport but are a lot of fun to catch. Longtails and yellowfin on the other hand are great eating, either raw (sashimi) or seared. Creating a berley trail and floating lightly weighted baits or setting a live bait under a balloon is also a great way of targeting longtail tuna in particular.

Well it’s heating up and that means the pelagic speedsters are on our doorstep. Grab the skirts, plastics and metal lures, rig up the spin gear and get amongst it. Catch ya!

Chris Raimondi

About Chris Raimondi

Chris Raimondi is a Brisbane based angler who's passion for fishing began in the estuaries chasing bream and whiting with his dad and grandfather. These days, Chris spends the majority of his spare time fishing offshore of South East Queensland anywhere from Cape Moreton to 1770 chasing snapper, red emperor and other reef species. Despite getting offshore at any opportunity, Chris also loves nothing more than chasing snapper on plastics in the shallows of Moreton Bay and prides himself on being an 'all rounder'.

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