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Living on the south side of Brisbane, I am perhaps not the most qualified person to write this, but Noosa is certainly one of my fairly regular haunts and has become a favourite spot of mine when I’m feeling capable of making the two hour drive in the wee hours of the morning. With that in mind and the Noosa Starlight Challenge approaching at what seems to me like a rather rapid pace, here’s a quick rundown of the area with some very basic, but hopefully helpful information on how to go about finding a fish or two if you haven’t visited or had much success here before.
Tim Nixon with a lovely Noosa spaniard!
Photo credits to Kev Long (one of the many aforementioned people much more qualified than myself to write this!)
Laguna Bay refers to the broad area out from the river mouth in the lee of the headland. In the bay, there are three main reefs which kayakers tend to head to and focus on: Little Halls Reef (LHR), Halls Reef (HR) and out closer to the headland, Jew Shoal (JS).
Launching from the nicely sheltered Middle Groyne as we will for the comp, these reefs are all a fair paddle away (approx. 45 mins). The Halls Reefs lie almost directly north across the river mouth while Jew Shoal sits in a much more easterly direction, quite a fair distance away, so when you start paddling out in the morning keep this in mind as it’s usually much more productive to sit in one area and fish it right rather than swap between the Halls Reefs and Jew Shoal as it can take around an hour to paddle between them, often with not much of interest happening in between. Head to http://noosayakkers.blogspot.com/2012/01/local-reference-marks-gps.html for a map with marks to get you started and be sure to keep reading around on the Noosa Yakkers blog as it truly is a fantastic resource with plenty of good tips and advice on locations, conditions and species specific to the area.
The usual fishing techniques for pelagics (namely trolling deabaits of garfish, slimy mackerel and pillies) and reefies will all work well in each of these areas, but one thing that is very worth noting for beginners to Noosa is the quantity of small, annoying sharks that hang around in close. The area in front of the river mouth in particular is known for harbouring swarms of them, but they’re a regular pain when heading east as well. They are quite expert at mangling a carefully rigged bait or swallowing and biting off an expensive lure, so do keep that in mind before you go trolling all the way from your launch to the spot and consider maybe trolling a shallow diver or a plastic until you hit some cleaner water out near the fishing spots to try and avoid losing time and gear.
Little Halls Reef
Little Halls is a fairly shallow (15ish metres deep from my memory. Which is poor. Someone please feel free to correct me!) coffee rock reef with honestly not a huge amount of visible structure on the sounder. That said, there are a few larger patches of rock lying around but the main focus in this area is finding schools of bait which bigger predators will hang around and pick off. Although, as is the case with all of these spots, just about anything can turn up, the primary fish that turn up here depending on the time of year and conditions are the various mackerel species, cobia and tuna, as well as a few squire and grass sweetlip hanging around a bit lower in the water column.
I would describe LHR, like most shallow coffee rock reefs, as being very hit and miss. As there is very little raised structure and the area doesn’t get a huge amount of current flow, bait comes and goes quite freely and the predators follow suit. If you rock up on a day when baitfish aren’t hanging around then you can bet that there won’t be many decent fish around either. Always keep an eye out on the water and on your sounder for any signs of baitfish activity to give yourself an idea of what to expect on a given day. In saying that however, when it’s firing the fishing can be red hot with packs of spotties or tuna carving through bait schools so it’s certainly not a reef to ignore.
Some typical Little Halls quarry!
Just a bit more paddling past LHR will see you arriving at Halls, which in most aspects is pretty similar to Little Halls (still a very bait-dependant coffee rock reef) but it has a little bit more depth about it lying in closer to 18-20m of water as well as being a little bit more extensive structure-wise compared to the couple of isolated bits of raised reef at LHR.
Although there’s still not much to be done if the area isn’t holding bait at the time, Halls Reef’s extra depth means that the fish can often stay on the bite for just a little bit more time than they do in shallower. This means it’s a great spot to move straight onto after LHR if you haven’t had much luck early on or if the fish have just shut down. The other good news is that it’s not uncommon to come across patches of bait and fish between the two so staying fairly mobile in the halls area can often be quite a productive way to get stuck into some fish.
When Halls is on, it's ON.
Out on the eastern side of the bay lies Jew Shoal. It’s quite an impressive reef structure surrounded by fairly deep water (20ish m) and fishes a bit differently to halls as a result. The reef itself comes up to around 8m deep at its shallowest point, but the majority of what you will fish sits in around 12-14m and I like to focus my efforts around these depth edges first up in the morning before the sun gets too high. I have found Jew Shoal to be a bit more consistent at holding bait due to these hard edges trapping bait in the current, but being so shallow it can also shut right down predator-wise very quickly and comprehensively which can get a bit frustrating. The usual pelagic suspects are all found here, as well as some decent fishing on the reefy front. Yellowtail kingfish have also been known to patrol the edges from time to time but I daresay they can be quite tricky customers to hook and land!
An early morning Jew Shoal Spaniard and not nearly enough hair!
The last area which I’ll cover is Sunshine Reef which lies outside of Laguna Bay, about 2-3kms directly east of the Noosa Headland. I must stress that this spot is not for the faint of heart and when paddling from middle groyne it’s a very, very long slog so if you do decide to make the pilgrimage out here on comp day please make sure that your fitness is up to scratch and that you will be able to handle being in a very exposed spot should conditions worsen.
Sunshine Reef is an extensive system which sits in around 25-30m of water and continues south for quite a long way. There are also plenty of productive patches between the headland and the main reef, so it pays to keep your eyes peeled and your baits swimming on the way out.
Being such a large reef, the challenge here lies in finding where the bait and predators are sitting. They’re usually there somewhere but there’s not always enough time in the day to find them and catch a few before having to head back in, so it pays to keep your eyes very well peeled on your sounder as well as on the water for flickering bait, current lines or active birds to focus your efforts on for pelagics. There are also plenty of reefies to be caught out here and the variety is increased with the depth so be prepared to hook and lose a few monsters should you choose to fish deep.
The current can absolutely crank out here so be careful and know your limits, but this current also brings with it good fishing for pelagics and unlike the shallower spots, the Spaniards here can stay on the bite for a bit longer during the day so if a few laps over Jew Shoal aren’t producing it’s often worth biting the bullet, burning the weet-bix and heading east!
Sunshine Reef is a looooooong paddle and will probably leave you shattered on comp day, but it can be rewarding!
Like I said, this information is mainly based on my experiences fishing in the area and there are many, many people who have much more of that but for anyone not too sure where to start hopefully this gives you a bit of direction for when you come up for the comp. Noosa is always one of my favourite competitions to fish thanks to the plentiful options listed above and good fishing in general. Add to that the fact that late March should be prime time for the big fish and it’s game on!