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.