Silly Season is approaching. Between December 21st - January 5th will see heavy traffic in the Seaway and Broadwater. It can be a testing time for boaties with water rage incident's, inexperienced boaties, massive cruisers flying through at top speed and jetski's by the hundreds. That said, the fishing can be excellent if you know what to look for and where to be at what time. I'm not planning on fishing alot during this time, I'll probably only fish on the worst weather days(20-30kts SE or NE with the right tides) so for those of you who have time off and want to get on the water I'm going to make some recommendations. Remember that tides do matter, as does the weather and you should allow for that on the day.
Look for birds and specific bird behaviour - Birds will indicate feeding activity probably 75% of the time.
The early morning is consistently the best time - most fish haven't eaten for 10+ hours so they 'should' be hungry. Afternoon's can yield some good fishing but tend to be very tide dependant. If the tide turns to run-in after 3pm, look for surface feeding by Kings or Tailor.
If there is fish feeding behaviour on surface but they go down, look for the school on the sounder and try dropping metals to the bottom and burning them back to the top.
First light is around 3.45am with sunup at 4.45am. Just before the sun pokes over the horizon is the peak time for the dawn bite, so be on the water ready to fish no later than 4.30am.
Some fish prefer to feed when there is more light(Kingfish especially) so you might see another surface bite after the sun is up from 5am through til 8am.
Look elsewhere, although the top spots in the seaway consistently hold fish, sometimes looking elsewhere away from the crowds can mean you find fish that no-one else knows about.
Fishing after dark is not for everyone, but if the crowds are proving to be too stressful during the day a dusk session into the night can yield some nice fish without the agro. Check the Nocturnal Seaway Fishing article for information on that.
North Wall - Currently only holding Tailor & sometimes Dart - Minnows, poppers, stickbaits, metals - Dawn or Dusk + run-in tides. Fish with surface lures if they are busting up otherwise go for a metal. Minnows still work from first light til sunup. Microjigs can work fished near the bottom during the day.
South Wall - Currently holding Bigeyes, Kingfish, Tailor, Dart. Bigeyes are erratic, use metals or poppers if they come to the surface, at night stick with minnows or poppers/stickbaits. Kingfish can be found anywhere along the wall depending on the day, look for the birds figure out where they are holding and wait for them to come up. 20 gram twisties or stickbaits work on them. Tailor and dart are only found around the end of the wall, metals work the best.
Pipeline - Kingfish, Bigeyes. Wait for the fish to bust up and throw metals or stickbaits at them. Run-in tides or the first couple of hours of the run-out tides only.
Canyon and North Wavebreak - Bigeyes and GT's, Big Kingfish - Erratic, sometimes they show and sometimes they don't. Be there at sunup or the hour after for your best chance, look for bustups.
Remember that things can change by the day, so keep your eyes open and keep changing your techniques if you aren't getting anything.
Fishing the Seaway between Sunset and Sunrise can yield some excellent fishing for those who put in the effort, but just like fishing the seaway during the day, its all about where, when and how. This article will go into detail about the locations, timing, techniques and species that can be encountered fishing the seaway during the hours of darkness.
Firstly, your safety is paramount. While the area west of the pipeline is safe in all conditions, the area east of the pipeline out to the ends of the walls should only be fished at night by those with a long history of fishing the seaway during the day. In this area, tides, swell direction and wind strength all play a part in whether it is safe to fish. Unless you know how each of these factors affect the area's around the ends of the walls, then they should be avoided.
You should also be aware of other boats moving around, some boats are not adequately lit and night and it is easy to run into another boat if you are not paying attention.
All boats moving around after sunset are required to have a red/green forward facing set of lights PLUS an all round white light that cannot be blocked by anything. Water police do check these. If you are anchored then you are required to have an all-round white light. Your night vision is super important at night, if you have LED red/green lights then you should place some white tape over them to dull the output. You can also do this to your allround white if it is too bright. In cabin/gunnel LED lights are not recommended as these will destroy your night vision.
A decent headlight is recommended as this will enable you to see what is going on right in front of you, whether that be tying a knot, changing lures or netting a fish. I have tried most brands and few are capable of handing the constant exposure to salt water. The Black Diamond Storm is the only headlight I recommend at this time.
East of the Pipeline.
The North Wall
The North Wall at night can yield alot of fish if the conditions are right. Species likely to be caught at night off the North Wall include Bigeye Trevally, Mulloway, Hairtail and Tarpon. Edge fishing along the wall yields Bigeye, Hairtail and Tarpon, while letting your lure sink down closer to the bottom will pick up Mulloway. The most important area's for night fishing the North Wall are; the North Wall Flats Dropoff, The Eddy, Hairtail Reach and the Line. See the North Wall map for these.
The North Wall Flats Dropoff usually holds Bigeye Trevally in season(October through March) at night. These fish can usually be caught with poppers, with plastics or by trolling minnows like the Rapala XR10 or Flash 25 but any minnow that dives to 2-3 metres would work. Occasionally Tailor will show up along here as well.
The Eddy holds fish on a run-in tide, Bigeye's, Tarpon, Mulloway and Hairtail are all possible. Plastics on 1/2oz jigheads work the best, as you need to get it deep. As for the plastic anything around the 5-8cm mark is fine. Ecogear Grass Minnows, Squidgy Slick rigs in 65 or 80mm, ZMan Curl Tails or Pearl Sliders are all proven performers. You can cast at the wall, give it a few winds then giving the lure a bit of time to sink down deep in the water column. A slow steady retrieve works best with a few pauses, keep it slow all the way to the boat as the sometimes the fish will grab it within a couple of metres. Getting snagged is common as the entire bottom is covered in rocks.
Hairtail Reach (see map 3)only fishes well on a run-in tide, the way the tide runs in causes an eddy along this stretch of the wall and species that don't like strong tidal flows will sit in here at night. As the name suggests Hairtail like the area alot, as do Tarpon, Bigeyes and Mulloway. The best method of fishing this area is with plastics on 3/8 oz jigheads, you can go to 1/2oz if you are fishing away from the wall. Cast it at the wall and slowly wind it back to the boat with a few pauses. Poppers can also work along here if bigeyes are active. You can also troll minnows like the XRD10 & Bolt Omega along here. Eagle Ray's are also an accidental catch along here, you'll know it if you hook one of those.
The Line only exists on a run-out tide but can hold Bigeye's, Tailor, Mulloway, Tarpon and Hairtail. 3/8oz and 1/2oz jighead rigged plastics work the best at night but shallow running minnows like the Rapala XR10 and Flash 25 can also get a few fish. Cast alongside the wall and let it sink down, working it slowly back to the boat as you drift out with the tide. You can also sink it to the bottom over the dropoff and drift it along bumping it near the bottom.
The Deep Hole
Due to the high tidal flow the Deep Hole only fishes well during the first and last hour of the run in tide or on the run-out tide. Bigeyes and Mulloway will sit in the deep hole at night. Mulloway will be on the bottom but schools of Bigeyes will sit midwater on the edge of the deep hole. These Bigeyes can be trolled with diving minnows like the XRD10 and Bolt Omega, or Plastics on 1/2oz jigheads, or by dropping a heavy metal like a 30gram twistie down into the school and jigging it back up. Mulloway require plastics, livebaits or dead baits fished near the bottom.
The South Wall
The South Wall is an erratic place to fish, sometimes it can yield some excellent catches, most times it's a ghost town. Tarpon, Mulloway, Bigeye's and Hairtail can all be caught along the South Wall. At night I find it fishes the best on a run-out tide and the area from the tip of the wall to 100m in is the most consistent. Casting plastics on 1/2oz jigheads parallel to the wall letting them sink then slowly retrieving them with plenty of pauses seems to work the best as the water along the south wall is quite deep up to 14 metres in some places.. On run-in tides keep an ear out for bigeye trevally feeding along the wall particularly along the stretch from the pipeline to the tree line as sometime large schools can get along there and some excellent fishing with poppers can result.
West of the Pipeline
You can anchor up on the pipeline if you are fishing dead or livebaits but if you prefer a more active way of fishing the Pipeline you can drift over it with the tide. Plastics like the Gulp 7" Jerk Shad will pick up Mulloway near the top and bottom of the tides as the tide is slowing much the same as they will during the day. Bigeye Trevally can be found around the Pipeline feeding on the surface, sometimes on a run-in tide but more often about an hour after the tide turns to run-out. You can also troll around the Pipeline with deep diving lures like the XRD10 or Bolt Omega. If they are busting up on the surface you can use poppers like the Rapala Skitter Pop 9 or Flash Pop 8, accuracy matters so try and get that popper into the bustups as soon as possible. Shallow running minnows like the Flash 15, 25 or Rapala XR10 will also work cast near the bustups. Over to either side of the pipeline in the shallower slower moving areas, Hairtail and Tarpon are possible on 3/8th oz rigged plastics. If you anchor in these areas you can also pick up some Hairtail on dead baits.
The Canyon and North Wavebreak Rock Wall
Mulloway can be picked up in the Canyon on Plastics, livebaits or dead baits when the tide begins to slow. Other than that it's a hard spot to get a fish during the night. Around the end of the North Wall of Wavebreak, you can catch Bigeyes, Tarpon, Hairtail on plastics fished on 3/8th or 1/2oz jigheads, sometimes the bigeyes can be caught on poppers. The fish here seem to like the runout tide better, they will sit in the eddy just at the end of the wall or the channel leading directly south of it and grab the bait as it gets flushed out past the end of the wall. Other fish that can be caught in this area at night include Barracuda, Sharks, Mangrove Jacks and GT's.
Mulloway have similar behaviour at night that they do during the day, they like slower tidal movements and area's out of the main tidal flow. The hour as the tide is slowing near the top of the tide and hour as the tide is speeding up are both excellent times for Mulloway. You will also find mulloway feeding in much shallower area's during the night as the cover of darkness makes them more confident to move into area's less than 5 metres deep. If you can find area's with lots of bait out of the main tidal flow(Hairtail Reach, the ends of both walls for example) these will usually have jewies simming around under the bait and soft plastics slowly worked underneath the bait will usually pick up a couple. Just remember that you shouldn't jig or flick your soft plastic at night, a slow steady retrieve with plenty of pauses will get you plenty of strikes as the fish will track the lure for a while before hitting it. By jigging or flicking it you can move it out of the fishes view as visibility at night is restricted to a metre or so.
In the Main channel area's (Deep hole, Pipeline, Canyon)wait for the tide to slow and you can fish with vibs or big soft plastics like the 7" Gulp Jerk Shad on 1 oz heads. If you are bait fishing, you can drift with livebaits over these area's or anchor up with deadbaits of Herring, Tailor or Mullet and wait for the fish to come to you.
Mulloway in the seaway can range from 45cm soapies up to 1.8m monsters.
Bigeye Trevally are specialised nocturnal Hunters and those big eyes give them a big advantage over and baitfish in the area. That said Bigeye's are very fussy about when they actually feed. The pipeline Bigeyes love a tide that has just turned to run-out. They will often spread out during a run-out tide sometimes feeding in the Triangle, sometimes on the 3/4 line, sometimes in the middle, sometimes on the southern side of the pipeline right down to the seaway tower. If Bigeyes are feeding quite often you will hear them before you see them. If I expect Bigeyes to be feeding, I will turn off the motor and listen for 5-10 minutes, once you hear them and you have a direction you can figure out the track they are feeding on and get over there wait for them to come up and cast into a bustup. Casting accuracy matters for these feeding fish, getting a lure within a couple of metres almost guarantees a fish.
Bigeyes can also be found along the north wall from Hairtail Reach up to the tip and along the North Wall Flats dropoff. Poppers can work if they are actively feeding on surface but they are usually caught on small plastics like the Squidy Slick Rig 70mm, Ecogear Grass Minnow M fished on 3/8oz heads. When Bigeyes sit along the North Wall Flats Dropoff you can troll them up using Rapala XRD10 & XR10, Flash 25 or any other small minnow that dives 1.5-3m. You can also pick them up on poppers here when they are active. Run-in tides are best for North Wall Bigeye Trevally.
The North Wall of Wavebreak Corner will also hold schools of Bigeyes during the night at times but these tend to be much smaller fish on average around 25-30cm, these fish respond well to small soft plastics, or small poppers. These fish prefer to feed on a run-out tide as well.
Bigeyes in the seaway can range from 20cm babies to 70+ cm fully grown adults but the average size is around 45cm.
Hairtail are a bit of an enigma, sometimes they will show in the seaway in big numbers and can be picked up on soft plastics and trolled minnows. They like slower moving tidal area's like Hairtail Reach(Run-in tide only), The ends of the walls on a run-out tide, the North Wall Eddy on a run-in tide and the end of the North Wall of Wavebreak on a run-out tide. Officially a winter species, sometimes they will show up in the middle of summer. They can also be taken on live-baits and dead baits of Pilchard, Herring and Tailor. They are an unpredictable fish but are a welcome addition to the seaway's nocturnal feeders.
Hairtail range in size from 50cm up to 1.5 metres.
Other fish that can be caught at night in the seaway include GT's, Snapper, Mangrove Jacks, Flathead, Cod, other reef species, Barracuda, Tailor, Shovelnose Sharks, Bull Sharks and Bream. Other than the Bream which can be caught on lightly weighted baits and the Bull Sharks(Large dead baits of fish or Eel), these fish are a random event and cannot be targeted successfully.
Livebaiting in the seaway at night is almost exactly the same as it it is during the day, fish the top and bottom of the tides when they begin to slow. The amount of species likely to be caught decreases and it can pick up a few of the random species like Cod and Mangrove Jacks. Mulloway are the number one species caught on livebaits at night. For more information on livebaiting read Livebaiting the Seaway - the Ultimate Edition
Part of successful fishing the seaway is knowing where to be at what time. Certain species will start feeding according to tidal and other influences and if you are there then some good fishing can result. With the use of basic formulas we can work out the feeding times for certain species in certain area's and predict certain behaviour.
Firstly and most importantly we need to accurately work out the tides. The official tides are laughably inaccurate in terms of actual tidal flow which as fisherman we are most interested in.
Over to the right we have a single days tides, these are the official tides for the Gold Coast Seaway on Wednesday 30th October 2013. The first column represents times of day, the second represents how big or small the tide is.
To get the actual tide we need to apply some basic mathematics to each value. To get the start of the run in you need to add 1.5 - 2 hours to the bottom of the official tide. In this case the official Low tide is at 10.52am so the start of the run in will be between 12.20pm and 12.50pm. It is impossible to get more accurate than a half hour window as it is determined by the amount of tidal flow on the day. The smaller the tide, the sooner after the official Low tide the water will begin to run in. The larger the tide(around the Full and New moons) the later after the offical Low tide the tide will start to run in.
To get the actual end of the run in tide, the tide will start to slow 15-20 minutes after the official top of the tide(17.03pm) so around 17.20pm it will start to slow and the tide won't start to run out until around 1 hour after the official top of the tide....so around 18.00pm.
To summarise... Add 1.5-2 hours to the official bottom of the tide to get the start of the run-in. Add 1 hour to the official top of the tide to get the start of the run-out. Smaller the tide add less time, bigger the tide add more.
The GT Tide
The GT tide was originally formulated as the perfect tide for GT surface feeding, but it can be applied to all surface feeding fish. Basically it is a tide that begins to run-in in the time between first light and the hour after. This is a good tide is because all the baitfish are pushed out of the seaway on the run-out tide and they hang around the dirty/clean water lines waiting to go back in with the tide. When this happens within the dawn timeframe you have two elements coming together, the dawn bite plus masses of baitfish entering the seaway which usually means some excellent surface fishing action during the dawn period and sometimes the hours after. GT's love it, as do bigeyes and kingfish.
To work out the GT tide you need to add 1.5-2 hours to the bottom of the tide to get the start of the run-in as discussed above. The GT tide usually only happens once or twice every two weeks. Over to our right we have three days which would be suitable for GT tide status. Right now(end of October) first light is at 4am sharp so the Monday tide with a forecast Low at 2.56am should have the tide pushing in at approximately 4.30-5am which is just about perfect. As there is only 30 minutes between the tidal differences on consecutive days you could go a day earlier on the sunday, though I suspect Tuesdays may be a bit too late.
Due to the fact that dawn is at a different time in different season's you need to adjust the time that causes that perfect run-in tide. During winter for example as first light isn't until around 6am, a perfect GT tide woul be one that has an official Low around 4 - 4.30am. Over summer first light is around 3.45am so look for tides with official Low's around 2.30 -3am.
When they are around, Giant Trevally are the most predictable fish in the seaway. Earlier this year using a basic formula I was able to predict within a 30 minute window of when GT's would begin to feed on surface if the tides were suitable. Basically, I would add 2 hours to the official bottom of the tide to get the start of the run-in, then add an hour for the clean water to get to the Canyon. Anywhere within the next half hour after that the GT's would begin to feed on surface.
Over to the right we have a selection of tides I would have picked as ideal for GT's earlier on in the year. Using the formula of adding 3 hours to the official bottom of the tide, the GT's would begin to feed around 7am on Thursday, 8am on Friday and 9am on the Saturday.
You can also use basic formula's to predict when GT's would start taking trolled lures as well, but you need tides as well as time of day. Afternoons tend to work a bit better and the top half of the run-in and first half of the run-out worked the best for trolling and by using a formula of 1.5 hours before sunset you can predict within a 30 minute window of when schooled GT's would take trolled lures. Using both of these formula's I was able to predict GT feeding behaviour and have some excellent sessions.
Bigeye Trevally have been very erratic this year but I have worked out some nocturnal feeding patterns for them around the pipeline, daytime is too erratic to predict. At night you are looking for half an hour after the start of the runout tide. Using the tidal formula above we can deduce that on Saturday the 9th the Official Low tide is 19.35pm. To get the start of the run-out tide we add an hour so around 20.35 plus add another half an hour to an hour for the fish to get organised. So they would start to feed anywhere between 21.00pm and 21.30pm.
Tarpon had similar behaviour to the Bigeye Trevally but in different locations and on both the run-in and run-out tides. By adding 30 minutes to an hour to the start of the actual run-in and run-out tides I could predict within a certain time frame of when they would begin to feed. The main difference between the Bigeyes and Tarpon is that the Tarpon moved around alot more so you still had to find them even though you had a fairly accurate window of when they would begin to feed.
Mulloway are a very predictable fish, they mainly feed when the tide is slowing down or speeding up. So using the tidal formula we know that Mulloway will feed around 1.5-2 hours after the official bottom of the tide, just as that tide starts to push in the seaway. They will also feed at the top end of the tide just as the tide starts to slow, so I would start fishing just before the official top of the tide to get the time when the tide begins to slow. The start of the run-out is also a feeding time for them so add 1 hour after the official top of the tide to get the start of the run out and fish for the next hour. Dawn and dusk are also important, if you can coincide Dawn with a slowing or speeding up tide your chances of cathing bigger fish are increased.
Kingfish are very random and it has been hard to work out any patterns or formula's for them. The small ones that have been hanging around the pipe tend to feed best 2 hours after the official top of the tide, but they are easily shut down. The big ones are much too random to get any sort of pattern going.
Obviously if you are constrained by work and family commitments and you can only go fishing on one day out of 7 then you are going to do it tougher than those who can pick and choose the days to fish. By checking the tides and using these formula's on the days you can actually fish, you can make the best of what time you do have on the water. If you do fish a day when none of the tides are right then I recommend just doing a bunch of random stuff in the hope that some odd fish behaviour present's itself. Every now and again you'll come across something worthwhile. Last Decembers 70cm+ GT's feeding well after sunup on the bottom of the run-out for example.
The seaway is made up of 2 major rock walls, 2 minor rock walls, a mostly sandy bottom with a few select areas of heavy rock bottom structure. Each area is different and knowing what the structure is like can put you ahead of the game and give you a better idea on how to fish it effectively without losing too many lures. This article covers 4 area's and includes underwater video footage and screenshots taken when water visibility was around 15 metres. Any areas that are missing I currently don't have footage for, they will be added when conditions permit. If you want to take your seaway fishing to the next level, I highly recommend spending some time watching the video to get an idea of the areas you are fishing.
The following image shows where each section of footage was taken.
1. The South Wall Tip
The South Wall Tip doesn't have any rocky structure once you get away from the wall, though there is a deep sandy hole approximately 50m off the northern end of the tip which is 8 metres deep and sometimes holds fish. The majority of fish hang around the area where the rocks meet the sand so you need to fish fairly close to the wall, within 10 metres in most areas. Use your sounder to locate the area where the rocks meet the sand and fish around there with plastics on the bottom. As the tip area gets alot of wave action the rocks off the tip have cunjevoi and barnacles right down to the sand, this means the chance of snagging is high so use caution if you are casting around the tip.
The south wall tip showing the area where the rocks meet the sand
South Wall Inside edge approximately 10 in from the tip
South Wall Tip Fish Eye View Video
2. North Wall Line to One Tree
The North Wall Line is a sandy dropoff area with a few rocks that holds alot of fish, schools of luderick, trevally, tailor, mulloway and more will hold along this dropoff on both run-in and run-out tides.
The North Wall Line Dropoff showing a school of Luerick, Bream and Trevally holding along the edge.
The Tabletop Edge(the Bottom of the Face) is the North Western edge of the deep hole. It is made up of large boulders and sandy patches. Between these boulders is the occasional stick and weed patch. Fish will hang in the eddies between these boulders so getting as close to them as you can without snagging up will get you more fish.
The front edge of the tabletop
The edge of the deep hole along the face
The Deep Hole is made up of mainly sand patches with a few areas of rubbly coffee rock bottom.
North Wall Tip to One Tree
3. One Tree to Hairtail Reach
One Tree to Hairtail Reach is sandy bottom once you get away from the wall edge with just the very occasional piece of coffee rock, most fish seem to hang along the area where the rocks meet the sand but some schools of Trevally will hang out a bit further. As this area is quite shallow(4-8m) it tends to only fish well at night or when there is a large swell that provides wash cover.
The area where the rocks meet the sand opposite the sign on the north wall.
The area where the rocks meet the sand in Hairtail Reach
One Tree to Hairtail Reach
4. Northern Y North to Canyon Edge
The Northern Y North to the Canyon edge is made up of coffee rock and sand patches, there are large jagged edges, holes and valleys in this rocky bottom making it an ideal fish holding and feeding area. The edge of the Canyon itself is made up of rock which has splintered and has formed some sharp dropoffs. Away from the Canyon edge rubbly patches of rock take over again until mid way along the Canyon where it turns into a sandy bottom.
Mid section of the Northern Y showing the rugged bottom.
Where the Canyon starts to taper down on its eastern most point
The southern most edge of the canyon has a few sharp edged dropoffs.
The Summer Surface Season is my favourite time of year for fishing in the seaway, it begins when large schools of Frogmouth Pilchards enter into the Seaway and Broadwater. These schools can turn up any time from mid September to Late November. We have already seen a few small schools entering so the bulk of the bait can't be too far away. Once these schools of bait enter they are usually followed by large schools of predators like Tailor, Bigeye Trevally, Giant Trevally and Yellowtail Kingfish. Striped, Mack and Yellowfin tuna as well as Spotted and School Mackerel are also possible around the ends of the walls and just offshore.
One species usually dominates the catches but it differs every year, In 2007 we had an exceptional run of Yellowtail Kingfish, in 2008 we had a great run of 60cm+ Bigeyes. Last year we had a run of 70cm+ GT's. Most feeding activity is centred between the walls from the tips down to the Triangle on the morning run in tides but as last year showed us you shouldn't ignore the runout tides either. Birds will show you if there is any surface feeding going on, for a refresh on what to look for reread the Birdwatching article. You should keep an eye out early morning from first light until after sunup and in the late afternoons after 5pm for any signs of bird activity.
For a look at what to look for on these early morning run in tides check out one of my oldest videos below, from the summer of 2008-2009.
Lures to use when this surface feeding is going on is the 20gram twistie, Rapala Skitter Pop 9 or my pick for the best lure this season "The Skitterbait". Cast any of these lures into a bustup and you are very likely to get hit. With the twistie, a medium to fast paced retrieve back to the boat works just fine. With the Skitter Pop a medium paced blooping retrieve works the best, the Skitterbait can be worked a number of ways, either blooping with the rod tip down, twitching with the rod tip up or a flat out skipping retrieve. Other lures will work of course but these are my top 3 for Summer Surface Feeders.
It is also worth keeping an eye on the area just outside the breakers on South Stradbroke Island as this often sees alot of surface feeding by Tailor and Dart. Inside the broadwater there is usually some surface feeding by Tailor, Bigeyes and Queenfish in the channels but these tend to be smaller fish than those that feed in the seaway itself.
It will be interesting to see what the GT's do over summer as the big schools are still hanging around the seaway, if they add into the general mix we could be in for one awesome summer of fishing.
The Southport Seaway holds alot of fish at times.. and I do mean alot. The sounder can be stacked with fish from top to bottom, the only problem is that most of these fish are resting and not feeding. Like us fish do not feed 24 hours a day, they only feed at certain times and then only for short bursts. Feeding times for fish are dictated by a number of factors and once you know these you can start to plan a fishing trip around them. There's never any guarantees with fishing, but you can stack the odds in your favour by being in the right place at the right time.
Lets start with the easy ones.. Dawn and Dusk and thier siblings, the first hour after.
Dawn starts at first light, and I do mean first light.. the instant you see the slightest lightening in the sky at the very edge of the horizon, that is when the big fish start to prowl. The change in light enables bigger fish to hunt more easily for prey, which take longer to adjust to the changing light conditions. From first light until sunup(when the sun breaks the horizon) is the period when you will see alot of surface feeding by Bigeye Trevally and Tailor and is generally when the bigger fish will be taken, the north wall and pipeline are the areas to fish if prospecting but keep an eye out in the middle of the seaway as fish often feed on the surface in this area at dawn.
The first hour after sunup
The first hour after sunup is generally when the tuna's will feed and during this time they will feed hard and hit lures willingly getting progessively more fussy the higher the sun gets in the sky, this is also when the smaller fish will start feeding as well most of these along the front of south straddie or in front of the seaway, stuff like small tailor, bonito and dart.
The exact opposite of dawn, dusk starts as the sun begins to dip below the buildings of southport blocking the sun from view and finishes with complete darkness. Dusk bite times are usually alot shorter around 15-30 minutes. Sometimes with certain fish such as mulloway or tailor the bite can extend well past darkness. I must admit I'm not a big fan of dusk fishing due to too many average trips, but fish can and do feed hard during this time. Livebaiting tends to work better than lures.
The first hour after sundown
The first hour after sundown is when your primarily nocturnal hunters will feed, Mulloway, Hairtail, Tarpon and Bigeye Trevally are the main species that like this time to hunt. In season you will find big schools of each of these species feeding, you still have to find them of course which is more easier said than done. Mulloway are usually found around the pipeline and in the deep hole off the north wall, Hairtail in the deep holes around the broadwater, Tarpon can turn up anywhere and bigeye trevally can be found feeding in the channels south and north of the seaway and in the seaway itself.
Next up is probably the most important triggers for feeding, The Tides..
The last hour of the run in
Many fish are lazy and an important time for them to feed is the hour just before the tide gets to the high as the tidal flow is slowing, this is particularly important for slower fish such as mulloway, once the tide has stopped most feeding seems to cease until the tide starts to go back out again. The tidal flow will slow on the south wall of the seaway about half an hour before it starts to slow on the northern side so you can fish both sides effectively. If the water is very clear and you can see the bottom in 15m of water then you will probably struggle to get a fish in the last hour of the run up during the day.
The first half hour of the run in
The first half hour of the run in is a good time to fish especially if the water is very clear at the top of the tide. Just when the tide starts to move around the front of the north wall is the time to fish, fish like cod and jacks like to hunt around the end of the wall just as the tide starts to move though unless you have decent gear or are very lucky most will make it back to holes in the rock and bust you off. Once the tide is in full swing they will go back to thier rocky homes or find an eddy close to the rocks. Big fish like kingfish and mulloway will also wait just on the dropoff and pick up and food that comes over the edge during this time, there's usually also small jewies, tailor and GT's along the edges of the eddy.
The run in tide
Fish like GT's and Salmon will almost exclusively feed on the surface during run in tides and they like the water to be flowing at full speed which makes it easier to hunt the baitfish they seek. They will only ever hunt like this during the day or at dawn/dusk and seem to prefer the first few hours of the morning(7am-10am) and the late afternoon (3pm-6pm). Tailor will also hunt on surface during these times but are less predictable. You can still effectively livebait in the seaway during a run in tide but you need serious weight and small baits(herring, yellowtail) to get to the bottom depending on the tidal flow, I use up to 5oz if the tidal flow is strong. GT's, Bigeyes and Tailor are the most likely species you will catch with a few school jew in the slower area's.
The first hour of the run out.
The first hour of the runout seems to be an important time for the pipeline, moreso than the north wall. During this time I've seen an increase in fish feeding behaviour quite a few times and sometimes they will feed on the surface during this time. Livebaits tend to work better than lures though, especially if the sun has been up for a while. It seems to affect most species that sit on the pipe but kingfish, GT's and Bigeye Trevally are the main ones. Some of the time on the north wall the fish just seem to shut down after the tide changes to run out, but its still worth a look if the pipe has no fish.
I'm not a big believer in the solunar tables as triggers for fish feeding but the moon does play a part, there's unquestionably a buildup in feeding activity in the week before the full moon and fishing is better at night if there is no moon at all. so its worth keeping those two in mind. You still have to find the fish though.
Fish can't eat without someting to eat and the better catches come when there is lots of bait around. March to July(white pilchards) and November to January(frogmouth pilchards) usually sees big schools of bait entering the seaway and broadwater, find the bait and you can usually find the fish. If you find the bait and there's nothing feeding on it the fish may be waiting until the tide or time of day changes to commence feeding.
So thats it, there's a few feeding triggers for you to consider. Fish can and will ignore these and feed whenever the hell they feel like it but I've found more often than not planning a trip around these elements, especially trips where I can stack some of these in a row are trips that are the most successful.
Wavebreak Island is an artificial island formed to protect the broadwater from large easterly swells that enter the seaway. It has 2 rock walls at the northern and southern ends and a flats area with seagrass beds in the middle. It forms the western side of the seaway zone and yields plenty of fish for those willing to put in the effort.
The North Wall & The Canyon
The north wall of wavebreak island is probably the best fishing spot that wavebreak has to offer, depths range from around 3 metres at the base of the wall to around 13 metres in the canyon. The canyon is a dropoff zone that starts level with the eastern most point of the north rock wall and stretches eastwards for about 100 metres. This zone sometimes holds some large numbers of fish especially Bigeye and Giant trevally, Yellowtail Kingfish, Queenfish, big Flathead and Tailor. The bottom is comprised of sand with a couple of small rocks up closer to the wall.
On a run in tide an eddy and strong current line forms close to the rock wall heading north. This is an ideal place to cast a popper or metal and work the edge of the current line, usually fish holding here will grab it straight away. Hopping a plastic over the dropoff works as well but dont get too close to the rocks or you wont get it back. You can also work a plastic or a vib along the northern side of the wall as it it quite often yeilds surprising catches such as Bluefin Trevally, Diamond Trevally or Mangrove Jacks. On a runout tide the current line is less evident and it heads south from the tip but still worth a working over with plastics or vibs.
Surface action can happen around the wall at any time so keep a lookout for any bustups. During the summer months the frogmouth pilchards quite often hold in the area between the tip of the wall and the eastern beach.
The flats make up the area between the 2 walls, mainly just sand with a small channel that goes abouth half way down and includes a weedbed. This weedbed quite often has flathead in the vicinity. During early morning or late afternoon this is also a good spot for surface feeding by Tailor, Bigeye Trevally, Queenfish and Yellowtail Kingfish. Keep an eye out for any bird action or bustups. At night baitfish hold on the flats and is a good location for popper fishing mainly for Tailor and Bigeye Trevally.
The South Wall
The south wall is not quite as good a fishing spot as the other 2 locations mentioned above but it can still yield a few good fish mainly Flathead , and Bigeye Trevally. The lack of depth in this location is the reason that it doesn't attract more fish but its still worth a look if no other locations are holding fish. Plastics are the main tool for this area due to the lack of well defined eddies and current lines.
The north wall of the Seaway has a wide variety of environments well suited for fish habitat. It also has a large number of pelagic fish visiting on the way past and can hold large amounts of bait. This article will go into detail all the areas that make up the north wall and how fish feed within them.
Some only exist during a certain tide stage. The north wall is generally only fishable in S-SE winds up to 15 knots, any stronger than that and you get pushed into the wall too quick, its fishable in any strength northerlies but these create alot of dirty sandy water. Fish can still be caught in such dirty water but its not ideal.
Firstly lets cover the names of all the zones, these are names I've given them to make it easier.
The Flats are the area north of the north Wall between the beach and the eastern most tip. It is a shallow area mainly around 3 metres dropping off to 10 metres as you get alongside the end of the wall. This dropoff zone holds fish occasionally and is where you will find most of the pelagic species such as Bonito, Mackerel Tuna, School and Frigate Mackerel. It also has Tailor , Bigeye Trevally, Giant Trevally, Longnosed Trevally, Yellowtail Kingfish and very occasionally Amberjack. The Flats themselves usually only hold fish during first light but this can depend on water clarity, the clearer the water the less likely fish will feed on the flats once the sun is up. Sometimes schools of fish will hold just past the dropoff and intercept bait as it comes off the flats on a falling tide.
The Graveyard is a shallow section of rocks located the the north eastern end of the north wall. It is so named because a slight misjudgement in sink time of any sinking lure will have it stuck firmly on the rocks below, I have lost more lures to this section than any other in the seaway hence the name. As to its fishing potential, because of its rocky nature it can hold a wide variety of fish but mainly Tailor and Bigeye Trevally. It is one of the few spots that has a decent wash area next to the wall in most conditions. Sometimes you will have to cast right up to the rocks(within 50cm), as the fish hold under this wash area and wont hit a lure that doesn't come close.
Rock X or Diamond Rock
This area resides just to the south of The Graveyard still right on the end of the north wall, so named because of a particular rock that sits like a diamond ^ and can be seen in all but the highest of tides. This rock provides a casting point of reference when working the edges of the wall. This spot yields Tailor, GT's, Bigeye Trevally and Yellowtail Kingfish occasionally. Fishable in both run-in and run-out tides. Poppers, metals, minnows, plastics and vibs all work here.
The Line (Tidal)
The Line only exists on a runout tide, if you take a line that runs straight along the wall and passes through Rock X then offshore this shows the edge of the current line on a runout tide. Many fish will hang right on the edge of this line darting in and out of the current to grab prey as they drift past. Depths range from about 5 metres at the base of Rock X graduating to 15 metres. Bottom is mainly sand with scattered rocks. Plastics and vibs work well here.
The Dropoff starts along The Line at around 10 metres then drops off sharply within 20-30m to a depth of 20 metres, many fish hunt and school all along the dropoff during all tides. It can yeild anything but holds large numbers of Mulloway, Tailor, Bream, Sharks and all species of trevally. Bottom is mainly sand and small rocks though there are a couple of big rocks ready to grab your lures or baits. Plastics or vibs are the tools of choice for the dropoff.
The Face (Tidal)
The Face only exists during a runin tide and is more prevalent during stronger tidal flows. As the tide moves along the front of the north wall it curves around as it enters the seaway creating an eddy, the eastern most edge of the eddy where the current passes is The Face. You can sit in the eddy and cast right along the face, or drop your lures right down the edge of it. Many fish hold in this area and grab prey as they drift pass in the current. Metals and vibs are the best lures for this area.
The Eddy (Tidal)
As the tide moves along the front of the north wall it curves around as it enters the seaway creating The Eddy. This area is made up with lots of rocks and sand patches and holds most species especially Mulloway, Trevally and Tailor. The best lures for this area is vibs, metals, minnows and plastics. Poppers do account for some big tailor in this area as well.
The Edge covers the edge of the rockwall out to 10 metres from the eastern most tip down to the beacon. This area can hold large numbers of tailor and trevally particularly during the summer months. Due to the high amount of rocks in this area, shallow diving minnows and poppers are the tools of choice, other lures are used at your own peril. Tailor schools do hold in close to the rocks and will usually be in a small area, once found they can give you some action packed fishing.
This area starts level with the front of the wall approximately 20 metres out and goes down as far as the tree line. Depths are around 12-18 metres, bottom is mainly sand with scattered small rocks. Lures of choice are vibs and plastics. Can yield Mulloway, Tailor, Estuary Cod, Bream and Trevally. Very popular area for livebaiters.
The Rest covers the north eastern section of the north wall zone, no significant structure to speak of the bottom is all sand. It is mainly an area where pelagic fish like bonito or mackerel may hold up for a short time. Depth starts at 5m and goes down to about 15 metres. Its always a good idea to sound over this area incase schools of fish are holding here. Surface feeding can occur here at any time so it pays to keep an eye on it. Occasional surprises like yellowtail kingfish and salmon may also turn up.
Click the picture below for a high resolution map showing all the zones.