Fishing tips for March

Published 12:00pm 15 March 2024

Fishing tips for March
Words by Dr Dazza

March is the start of a transition period between the summer and winter species and is a time of the year where local anglers can expect mixed bags.

Inshore Reefs

The inshore reefs around Redcliffe have been producing snapper and quite a few solid fish have also been caught land based. I prefer to target them locally with lightly weighted baits. Don’t overlook the humble pilchard as a bait for them. Mixed in with the snapper have been both grass sweetlip and the occasional spangled emperor. Grass sweetlip have a minimum legal size of 30cm and a bag limit of 10 fish and the spangled emperor a minimum legal size of 45cm and a bag limit of 5. The trap for many an angler is that they are frequently confused. I have seen more than one angler display a dead undersized spangled emperor on social media thinking that what they had kept was a legal grass sweetlip.

While grass sweetlip tend to be shades of tan or brown and spangled emperor shades of olive, these general colourations may differ. Grass sweetlip often have a large dark spot on their flanks when first caught but the prominence can vary. Thus, general overall colouration is not the most reliable method for differentiating between the two species.

To identify which species you have, first look at the scales. The individual scales of spangled emperor have blue flecks on their edges which form the blue streaks along their flanks, while the individual scales of grass sweetlip have black markings.

Second, spangled emperor have three relatively long blue streaks or series of dots that extend from the eye across their snout, while grass sweetlip have a series of much shorter and narrower blue lines that radiate from their eye.

Third, there are subtle differences in body shape that become clearer if you put the two fish side by side or see enough of both over time. Spangled emperor tend to have narrower bodies and a slightly more elongate snout area compared to grass sweetlip.

Rivers and Estuaries

Yellowfin bream will become more active in the rivers and estuaries and around the reefs at Redcliffe during March. A great land-based option for them is the fishing platforms on the Ted Smout bridge. Boat-based anglers will find plenty in the Pine and Caboolture River. Yellowfin bream are not the fussiest of eaters but, if you do target them, it often pays to have a couple of baits on hand such as good quality fresh prawns and fresh mullet strips.

March also generally sees an increase in dusky flathead in local waters. Dusky flathead spawn around surfs bars during summer and then spread out during the cooler months in their inshore feeding grounds. Hays Inlet has always been one of my favourite places to chase them on bait and lures. Mixed in with the dusky flathead can be bar tailed flathead and flounder.

A few yellowfin whiting will be nosing around Hays Inlet and the Pine and Caboolture Rivers but this is not the time of the year that excites the avid whiting fisher.

Beaches

Generally, March does not have the best surf fishing conditions, but if you want to catch a fish with the sand between your toes, the northern beaches of Moreton from Comboyuro Point to Yellowpatch will hold plenty of swallowtail dart with a few sand whiting, bream and tarwhine mixed in. It is also a good month to chase a few chopper tailor there around dawn and dusk.

Prawns and Crabs

March is a great month for tasty crustaceans. Expect to see a lot of boats out cast netting for banana prawns in both Bramble and Deception Bays and in the Pine and Caboolture Rivers. Remember there is a limit of 10 litres of prawns per person or 20 litres per boat with two or more people on board. This limit is more than enough for immediate needs. Exactly where the banana prawns will be on any given day will be influenced by any recent rainfall and river flow.

Both mud and blue swimmer crabs will be active and a welcome addition to the table. The Caboolture and Pine Rivers are my pick for mud crabbing, while deploying some pots in Deception and Bramble Bays should see you with a feed of blue swimmer crabs. Those fishing land based should be able to get a crab or two at places such as Woody Point and Redcliffe jetties.

Offshore

March can be dominated by south easterly winds and this can make safe and comfortable offshore fishing difficult. If you do head out during a weather window expect the usual snapper, pearl perch and teraglin. An option for those wanting to chase a few reef fish but not head all the way offshore is the coffee rock ledge that runs along the inside of Moreton Island. This type of habitat holds snapper, grass sweetlip, morwong and grass tuskfish. For the dedicated angler with the right gear and live “rock” crabs for bait, black spotted tuskfish or “blueys” can be caught. These fish are brutes so hook up and hang on! The current can run fast through this area so fishing either the neap tides or the around the turn of the tide can be an easier option.

Fishing tips for March
Spangled Emperor
Fishing tips for March
Grass sweetlip

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