There’s no substitute for live bait for big mulloway. Sure the under 10kg fish will readily take pillies, fillets and lures, even the bigger fish will at times but your chances of catching a fish over 10kg greatly increases if you use live bait.
Mullet is great, so are tailor, luderick, whiting, bream – yes that’s right, mulloway are opportunistic, they’ll eat anything that is put in front of them, especially if it looks injured.
I remember pulling a small bream in once and just before I lifted it out of the water a big mulloway had a swipe at it on the surface. That drove home the message, they are excited by injured or panicking fish. A fish held on the bottom by a sinker panics, which attracts larger predators.
I often start fishing for mulloway by putting a small bait out, the first legal fish I get goes on the heavier outfit with two 8/0 hooks in it – regardless of what species it is.
Banana prawns are also a great mulloway bait, thread one on your hook then slide it up your line, add another, then another – the end bait should be 30cm long.
Two hooks – every time. Mulloway can be hard to hook because of the way they eat. Unlike cod and other large predators that inhale, sucking up the bait and gallons of water, mulloway grab the bait in their mouth and roll it around. This serves two purposes, it removes the scales and turns it so it is facing the right way to slide down their mouth.
Striking too early just pulls it out of their mouth but waiting too long allows them to feel the hook and spit it out. It’s a fine line, I use the metre rule, sometimes called the down of the rod. The way it works is you let them take a metre of line, if you’re using a rod you allow it to go from vertical to pointing at them which equates to about a metre as well, however it gives you the advantage of having the rod in the right position pointed low, to raise hard for the strike.
The old way was to let the fish run until it stopped, then as it took off for the second time you strike. I used to fish this way but found the hookup rate was pretty ordinary. Using two chemically sharpened hooks and striking after a metre has improved the hook up rate for me – but you are going to miss some fish, it’s a fact of life when chasing mulloway.
Choose the size of hook and distance between them to suit the bait. You want one hook through the jaw, the second around it’s bum hole. For small baits this might be 10cm, for larger baits it might be 30cm.
You don’t need XXX strength hooks, they are not going to snap them.
Again the size of the hook should match the bait – two 8/0s in a 20cm live bait looks ridiculous.
I like Mustad Penetrators, a 6/0 – 8/0 depending on the bait size – you can mix it up as well – a 6/0 in the nose, a 8/0 in the bum.
The idea is to try and hide the hooks to they are not immediately obvious.
Use fluorocarbon leader – its tougher and harder for the fish to see. The amount of lead you use depends on how you’re fishing – at anchor, use enough lead to hold bottom and a long trace to allow the livie to swim around – a three metre trace is not too long in fact at places like Kalinga Bank on a slow tide or tide change, I use a 10/10 rig – a 10 ball sinker and 10 feet of trace.
You don’t need super heavy line – 60lb leader and 40lb mainline is what I use.
In areas where you are not anchored, you drifting through a hole or deep channel, I use a paternoster rig, sinker on the bottom with a long a trace on a dropper about a metre above the sinker. As you drift the sinker drags on the bottom, the baitfish swims around on the trace.
The tide rips through the southern end of North Stradbroke Island and has carved out a steep ledge from the trees around into the Pin Bar. Mulloway use this ledge to herd fish up against, herding schools of baitfish against a vertical wall – be it a break-wall, sand ledge or underwater drop off, cuts the escape route of the baitfish in half – they have nowhere to run and are easier to catch.
Have you ever tried to catch a cook in a paddock – it’s not easy unless you can get them against a fence, cutting off half their escape route.
You only have half an hour to fish this area – on the tide change.
The eastern tip of Short Island at the Pin is another mulloway hotspot. There used to be an island there – Rat Island, long gone now from above the water but there is still a ledge underwater that mulloway hand behind sheltering from the current. The technique here is the same as Kalinga Bank – anchor up very close and fish the edge of the drop off. (The mangrove root bottom eats anchors – be careful)
It’s no secret the Seaway is the top spot, there’s two main locations that consistently produce fish.
The submerged pipeline and the end of the north wall. The south wall is the only option for land based anglers – pick a run out tide and use a float with your bait set and about 20 – 30 feet below the stopper. Let the tide carry your bait out, but not to far, most of the mulloway are at your feet.
To fish the pipeline you need a boat. There are several vertical concrete blocks holding the pipeline off the bottom, you can pick them out with a good sounder. Baitfish hang around these, sheltering behind them to get out of the current.
The northern end of the pipeline is all but buried under sand, most of the action is the southern half of the pipe from just west of the Seaway Tower at the pipe’s base to the middle of the Seaway.
Position yourself up current aligned with a concrete block, so when you put a live bait down there, it will be close to the pipe. But… make sure you’re not going to hook the pipe when fighting a fish – you need to put some thought into the way the current is running and what you’ll do when you hook a fish. You can really only fish the pipe on the slowest tides or during a tide change.
There is a deep hole off the end of the north wall and a ledge running along the wall in the Seaway.
This spot holds a lot of sharks which can make it hard to fish. Fish as close as you can to wall but do it safely – a wave whips up running around the wall which has top many a boat on the bottom. I fish this spot with the motor running – knocking it in and out of gear to stay clear of the rocks while holding your bait close to the base of the rocks – not a spot for the inexperienced. It is actually possible to sit on the northern side of the wall in some winds – it’s like a little mill pool at times. The spot you’re trying to fish is where the rocks end and the sand starts which is about 20 feet or so off the wall.
The two hotspots over the past few weeks in Moreton Bay are Goat Island and the West Peel Artificial Reef.
Off the southern tip of Goat Island there’s a yellow special marker that the ferries to Stradbroke skirt around. To be safe stay on the northern side of the that marker – there’s pelnty of water there and the big boats won’t run over you.
The seafloor from Goat slops down to the deeper water at the Special Marker, I like to sit well inside the beacon, and fish the slopping bottom to the beacon. This spot fishes best at night.
West Peel is the opposite, it fishes best during the day. Big issue here is current, you need to position yourself depending of wind and tide to get your bait close to the Reef. Tide changes and slow tides are the best times here.
Another spot that produces good size mulloway is the gravel bottom east of the Grazier wreck.
There’s noting special at this spot but it is a consistent producer. Look for 10m of water with a rough looking bottom, anchor up and use berley – this is another spot that fishes best at night.
A consistent producer of mulloway, the base of the big lead beacons is one spot, the other is the edge of the sunken wall 20 – 100 metres up River from the pipeline block end.
Sit on the edge of the channel where you sounder shows the rock wall stops and the River bed starts. Both these are night spots. Any location that is lit up at night on the River is a mulloway magnet, also threadies and a few barra. Places like the River Cat terminals, bridges, jetties wharves, waterside restaurants.