By Anthony Cass - Pelagic Hunter
Rain, rain, go away! Not likely. With a La Niña weather cycle in full swing, conditions offshore have been “unstable” to say the least. That being said, the warmer than average currents associated with a La Niña event have brought a good start to the pelagic season. The local reefs have seen a healthy biomass of various small Tuna species move in with many larger predators hot on their heals.
The major influencing factor on our offshore fishery lately has been the development of a La Niña phase of the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO). During a La Niña, the eastern Pacific Ocean experiences cooler than average sea temperatures, while the western Pacific (the Australian east coast) sees warmer than average sea temperatures. This warmer water coupled with stronger than average trade winds increases convection and the formation of clouds which is why we see higher than average rain falls and increased cyclone activity during a La Niña cycle. This is the 2nd year in a row a La Niña has developed. With the ground in many places already saturated from last year’s La Niña, any rain that this year's brings with it has nowhere to go. We can expect the rain to keep coming over the summer and flood events are likely. The last time we were hit with two consecutive La Niña phases was during the 2011 floods.
Summer in SEQ for many offshore anglers means one thing... Marlin! So far this year, despite the weather giving us very limited opportunities to get out and target these prized sport fish, it's shaping up to be another great year. Hervey Bay, now renowned for the accessibility it grants to the annual migration of baby Black Marlin, had an incredible run this year and now it's our turn! They're here right now. While they can be caught anywhere wide of Cape Moreton, 5Nm north of Moreton Island, known simply as the trench, is the best place to start looking. If there's bait or birds at the trench then chances are there will be marlin as well. The trench is quite a large area, easily identified on a chart and is really just a steep drop-off that extends for many miles, creating a wall, it's not really a “trench” as such. Marlin can be caught at the trench using a variety of techniques including live baiting, trolling and even topwater casting. Trolling is the most successful. Troll a spread of 4 or more small skirted lures, no bigger than 8”, at varying distances from the boat, at a speed of 6 - 8 knots. Lures should be set in such a way that they briefly pop above the water to “breathe” every 5 – 8 seconds to ensure a consistent bubble trail and maximum action from the lure. What to look for? The obvious signs of life such as bait on the sounder and birds patrolling the area are certainly good signs, along with presence of dolphins and cleanliness of the water; dirty green water is no good, clean cobalt blue/purple water is a good sign. Identifying and following current lines is also a great technique that produces fish.
The warmer than average currents associated with a La Niña cycle have reached us and the water has warmed up significantly to around the 25°C mark, which isn't usually seen until late December. This early onset of warm current has brought with it an early start to the summer Spanish Mackerel run. It seems as if the big Winter Spano's only just left us and now the Summer fish are here. A smaller class of fish than the Wintery's, the summer Spanish are the perfect eating size, with the larger ones going not much bigger than 10kg. The summer run doesn't usually have the incredible numbers that we see at the peak of the Winter run but they are more dispersed along the entire reef system and can be much easier to catch. They'll hit a bait or a trolled lure more readily than the bigger winter fish which often makes them a welcome by-catch at this time of year when chasing other species.
The smaller Spotted and School Mackerel have turned up right on cue in excellent numbers and can be found throughout the bay. Spotties and Schoolies are a lot of fun on light gear, but if targeting them remember they don't freeze anywhere near as well as their Spanish cousins and must be eaten fresh, so take only what you need for a feed and leave the rest.
There have been reports that our local FAD's have been holding good sized Dolphin Fish and with the currents as warm as they are I would expect the Wahoo to fire up soon too!
Tight lines, folks!