With the school holidays over and the kids back to school - it is time to assess the damage that Christmas and the festive season has done to your wallet. What better way to help your own bank balance, and then start to source out some free bait for a change? And as I mentioned earlier on in the month the scorching summer sun and surging forces of king tides have enticed schools of baitfish and prawns into the rivers.
All live and fresh bait available for purchase in local bait and tackle stores would have been caught by a licensed professional in the immediate area or not too far away. Catching bait takes skills and a lot of hard work if you are planning on making it your livelihood. However, with a small investment in the tools of the trade, plenty of practice and perseverance - you too can catch enough bait for your recreational fishing needs.
The easiest and cost-free option is to seek out Soldier crabs along the mud flats and sand bars on low tide in local creeks and rivers. The distinctive blue body on the 1.5cm wide crustacean is the best way to identify them. They are named Soldier crabs as you will rarely see one on its lonesome - but in an army of at least 500. The best clue to look for is the blue masses close to the waters edge, along a sand or mud bank. Unlike most other crabs, they can run forwards or backwards instead of just side to side, and they will do so when approached. So be quick to scoop up some before they burrow into the sand. You can still dig them out of the sand, just look for hundreds of little holes in the sand - but who really likes getting down on their hands and knees! If the sand is fairly wet, these holes will have filled in with sand again and all that you will see is a slight dent in the sand.
Soldier crabs are a tried and tested favourite bait for whiting, but they are also a scrumptious snack to bream, grunter, flathead, trevally and even dart if used on in the surf. The key is to use more than one on a long shank hook - I usually place at least three on at once, straight through the middle of their body. Bear in mind that they can easily be picked off though, so have your wits about you when using this bait.
Another free option is pippies-requiring little more effort than some bending over and a casual stroll along the beach. Pippies as we call them in Queensland are also known as Cockles, Surf Clams, Eugaries and Surf Clams. They are thick fleshy bait encased by two shells - meaning you need a knife to pry apart the shells to actually get to the bait. Pippies used to be found on all the beaches along the Queensland coastline and I remember digging up hundreds of them as a child, some twenty years ago on Maroochydore beach. You can still find them, but very scarcely along the highly populated surf beaches. The best places these days for Pippies include the NE tip of Bribie, Yaroomba, the more secluded beaches in Noosa National Park and North Shore to Double Island. Pippies are mainly used in surf gutters, by placing a whole Pippy on the hook to target whiting, dart, bream and occasionally tailor.
For a small investment of less than $50 you can start targeting Yabbies with your own yabbie pump. Pumps come in two sizes: regular and king-size. Anyone who is approaching 6foot should take the king-size. Not only will the pump facilitate the collection of one of the best all round live baits, but you will save money on purchasing prawns and worms as the yabbie is an excellent substitute. All you need to look for is groups of small yabby holes in the sand on the around 1hr either side of the low tide. Pump the sand pumped from the wholes up onto the river bank and keep your yabbies live in a bucket of water. Yabbies can generally be found in canal systems of most rivers. Also try North Shore of the Maroochy River and either side of McKenzie's bridge on low tide. Pumping yabbies on the sand flats at low tide can be as much fun as fishing itself. Yabbies (like fresh prawn or worm) present well on a size 4 long shank or bait holder style hook, with size 0-3 sinker depending on the tide. Keep running sinkers set up with 60cm of leader between the hook and swivel and light line on a whippy rod also helps to target the bread and butter species such as whiting, bream, flathead and trevally.
If you have a bit more money to your name post Christmas, then I suggest shelling out from $50 to $100 for a cast net. Cast nets, provided they are rinsed after use and stored well, will last for many years. They are the essential element for the angler who likes to use live herring or prawns. Both herring and prawns move up and down the river systems on a high tide in large schools. These bait schools are not easily visible from the bank. Keep your eyes peeled for birds circling and the water bubbling as though it was on the boil. Usually where there's bait, it is certain to be a hungry fish in tow. Huge schools of prawns and herring to 50mm have been moving along the beaches and into the rivers either side of Christmas, as well as during the king tides. Noosa Rivers and beaches have also had the bonus of small 20-50mm juvenile frog mouth pilchards and baby sardine-like bait.
Cast netting is a skill you learn which will stick with you a lifetime. The best option is to have a fellow angler or someone in the industry demonstrate for you. All the staff at Swan Boat Hire will happily give you pointers and a demo to get you started. Once you have the knack and start catching prawns, herring and even little poddy mullet, you can target the predator fish such as jew, mangrove jack and tailor. With these species; the livelier the bait, the better your chance.So if you can get free bait - make the most of it! Start off in the rivers and move your way onto the beaches and rocky outcrops with live bait - and don't turn back.
NOOSA: Small dart and a few whiting from the start of the camp grounds along north shore. Mangrove jack up to 2.1kg from the Tewantin Reach and between the lakes. A few quality whiting the top end of the drying pan and from Munna Point.
MAROOCHYDORE: Whiting on the flats and bream around the drop offs between Chambers Island and the river mouth. Mangrove jack in Petrie creek and the Coolum Creek reach. Quality mud crabs around the bli bli Islands.
KAWANA: Whiting and dart between the surf club and point Cartwright with cutting 8 producing excellent catches on the making tide. Trevally, queenfish, mangrove jacks in Kawana Waters. Bream and sand crabs along La Balsa park. Good sized jacks from McKenzies Bridge at dawn and dusk.
CALOUNDRA: Tailor to 4.5kg from the rocks at Kings Beach over night. Flathead and bream opposite the power boat club. Trevally, queenfish and mangrove jacks in the canals around dawn and dusk. A few jacks in Coochin Creek. Jew 5-8kg from Shelly Beach overnight. Quality grunter throughout the passage.
Jon Cara used live herring to attract the attention of this feisty 2.1kg mangrove jack and big eyed trevally in the middle reaches of the Maroochy River over the weekend.
Ray from Yandina fishing Club put in the hard yards in the mosquito riddled Bli Bli reach using live poddy mullet collected with his cast net for these fine mangrove jacks.
The mud crabs are on the move around the Bli Bli Islands with a quality family effort from the Engle family, with 6 mud crabs with the biggest weighing 1.8kg.
Darrin Hamilton is at it again for another week with a quality haul of whiting and a 48cm dusky flathead from the middle reaches of the river.