The waters in and around the Gold Coast region offer some of the most accessible and exciting fishing opportunities available in an urban setting anywhere in Australia. Local and visiting anglers alike can mix it with some of Australia’s most sought-after fish species right in the heart of Surfers Paradise. The vast waterways of the Broadwater, Jumpinpin and the Nerang River provide outstanding estuary fishing, endless stretches of surf beaches offer plenty of options, and the offshore action for reef and game fish species is world class.
Eat, sleep, fish, repeat.
For anglers visiting the Gold Coast, NRMA Treasure Island Holiday Resort is the perfect base for your fishing getaway. Set on the banks of Biggera Creek, you can eat, sleep and fish without stepping foot out of the resort. There’s secure parking for boats and trailers on your site or cabin too. And when you’re keen on venturing out, take advantage of the resorts own private boat ramp and be fishing the canals in minutes. Launch your boat, kayak, jetski or SUP and explore the Broadwater, Jumpinpin area and South Stradbroke Island or venture offshore for great blue water fishing.
Consisting of large tidal expanses that are fed by the open ocean at the Gold Coast Seaway, the Broadwater and Jumpinpin feature mainly sandy banks and flats interspersed with deep gutters and channels. These are scattered with patches of weedy structure, plus the odd rubble patch or small coffee rock outcrop.
Another major fishing feature are the man-made canals which create a maze of waterways that all hold large populations of fish amongst the rock walls, jetties and boardwalks. Further into the Jumpinpin and Nerang river sections there’s also myriad mangrove lined creeks, drains and channels that are also home to a wide variety of fish.
Species to catch
Species on offer in this area include bream, flathead, whiting, trevally, tailor, mulloway, mangrove jack, estuary cod and tarpon. By far the most prolific species around the area is bream, with rock walls and bridge/jetty pylons being well populated as they hold plenty of small baitfish and crustaceans for them to feed on. The sandy flats and deeper channels also hold schools of bream along with flathead, whiting and tarpon as they feed on the yabbies, baitfish and crustaceans that move in and out with the tide cycle. Angler’s chasing the iconic mangrove jack can do well targeting deeper, shady edges of the canals and main waterways, particularly where rock walls or mangroves roots create the ideal ambush point for these aggressive fish to hide and hunt for bait.
Those chasing mulloway will increase their chances by fishing deeper channels or drop offs with rubble patches, away from busy boat traffic. Targeting them at night also pays off, particularly through the cooler months.
Gear to use
A light – medium 7’ spin outfit is the most versatile set up for fishing the Broadwater and Gold Coast estuaries. One main point to keep in mind is that the sections close to shore often have the most variety of fish holding structure, so there’s no need to try and cast right out into the middle of the channel to find fish. Many Gold Coast waterways feature sections of man-made rock walls that extend under water, and the base of these areas frequently attract large varieties of bait, and therefore the fish that chase them.
When fishing for smaller species like whiting and bream, main lines of 4lb up to 10lb are ample, with lighter lines being the best option in the shallow sandy areas. Anglers targeting flathead can comfortably use the same, although stepping up to 8lb – 15lb main line offers more reassurance on larger specimens. As always, a quality fluorocarbon leader like Platypus Stealth FC with a higher breaking strain is definitely recommended, providing a near invisible connection and more abrasion resistance.
For those keen to tangle with a Gold Coast mangrove jack, heavier outfits in the 6kg – 10kg range are advised, with main lines of 15lb – 25lb a safer option. Those looking to find a mulloway will find a similar outfit will do the job nicely.
The waterways of the Gold Coast are an ideal place for both experienced lure anglers and those giving it a go for the first time – plenty of active fish, prolific food sources and a wide variety of different fish-holding environments ensure there’s always some active fish to target.
For bream and whiting anglers, small soft plastic lures are very effective. Curl tails such as ZMan 2” and 2.5” GrubZ would have to be the most successful small lures out there, proving themselves again and again for both social and bream tournament anglers. These are closely followed by small baitfish imitations like ZMan 2.5” Slim SwimZ, which have a more realistic baitfish profile and action. Other great options are smaller prawn/crustacean style tails, which are particularly effective if small prawns or yabbies are on the menu for bream and whiting.
Cast toward structure such as bridge and jetty pylons, and allow the lure to slowly sink towards the bottom, before retrieving with a series of hops, twitches and pauses. Another good method is to cast parallel to submerged rock walls and use a slow, steady wind close to the structure. A key point for bream or whiting is to try and use as little weight as possible. Small jigheads in 1/16oz – 1/4oz weights are most common, allowing the lure to sink naturally when paused, mimicking injured or stunned prey. The TT Lures HWS jigheads are ideal for finesse lure fishing such as this.
If you are after flathead, it’s worth up-sizing your presentation to a 3” – 5” soft plastic such as ZMan MinnowZ and DieZel MinnowZ. These life-like paddle tails have an incredible action, can be fished shallow or deep, and stand up to hit after hit. Jerk baits such as ZMan Scented Jerk ShadZ will also catch plenty of flathead, although they require a bit more rod action to get results with aggressive hops, twitches and long pauses. Larger 3.5” – 5” curl tails will also work very well on flathead. It’s a good idea to carry a number of styles, sizes and colours, then mix it up to see what triggers strikes on the day.
Flathead can turn up almost anywhere, being found in knee deep water over the sand flats or hanging deep in the main channels, and just about everywhere in between. A great starting point is to find a shallow flat that quickly drops away to deeper water, and fish the area where the transition happens. As the tide drains from the shallows, flathead often sit in the closest deeper water and ambush prey as it’s forced off the flats. They will also often use the edge of weed beds as camouflage. Keep moving, and fan casts out to cover larger areas. For those true monster flatties, the best chance is to target the deeper channels and use larger lures like the 7” DieZel Minnowz, 6” SwimmerZ and 7” Scented Jerk ShadZ.
With flathead, it’s less critical to use light weights, and in fact a heavy jighead is usually preferred. This ensures the lure is making contact with the bottom when paused, where most flathead lie and wait to ambush prey. The disturbance and thud of a heavier jighead hitting the bottom is also a known strike trigger for flathead. Weights from 1/4oz right up to 1oz are most common, with a 3/8oz being the most versatile.
Increase your leader strength too, as flathead have sharp raspy teeth and gill rakers. A 12lb – 15lb fluorocarbon leader will handle most fish, but go right up to 25lb if you are targeting larger fish in the deep channels.
Fishing the deeper sections with larger lures will also present the possibility of catching a mulloway, particularly during low light periods or night time. Through the winter months many anglers target these fish specifically with larger hard and soft lures fished in the deeper sections, especially near bridge pylons.
The iconic mangrove jack are plentiful throughout the system, but are very cunning and can be frustrating to target. The best times to chase these fish is very early morning, late afternoon and into the night, when they feed more aggressively. Hot, humid weather is also a definite positive when chasing jacks. They are partial to 3” – 4” paddle tail soft plastics, with creature baits like the 4” Turbo CrawZ also doing well. Mangrove jack will hit surface lures such as Finesse FrogZ, poppers and small stickbaits at times. Surface fishing is usually more productive just before sunrise and during the night.
Mangrove Jack like to bury deep into underwater or bank-side structure to ambush prey, which can make them a challenge to catch – it’s very easy to snag up, and when hooked they drive hard back to their lair trying to rub the line off on a rock or branch. To counter this, anglers should choose a ‘weedless’ jighead such as a TT Lures Snakelockz for their soft plastics, which positions the hook point in a way that leads to far fewer snags. It’s also wise to step up main lines to 15lb – 25lb, leaders to 20lb – 35lb, and fish a heavier 6kg – 10kg rated rod to counteract the brutal strength and lightning speed of a jack’s first run. Baitcaster outfits are very popular with mangrove jack anglers, providing more casting accuracy.
When fishing for jacks, it’s common to also find plenty of estuary cod who inhabit the same kind of structure. They will hit the same types of lures, and larger ones will put up a spirited battle.
For holiday anglers, even the classic frozen prawns from the local shop will catch fish if presented right. As with all bait or lure fishing, the key is creating the right presentation for the structure and area being fished. A good rule of thumb for bait fishing in general is to keep sinker weights to the absolute minimum required. Benefits include a more natural looking presentation that gently moves with the current, and far less resistance when a timid fish first attacks the bait, encouraging them to pick it up and move off.
If you are using a frozen bait, it’s essential to thaw them to the same temperature by immersing them in some water from the area being fished. Many anglers will just take a handful of bait from the frozen pack for each session, leaving the rest in the freezer for next time. This saves wasting bait if you only have a short time frame to fish, but plan on doing more later.
Besides prawns, other preserved or frozen baits that do well are beach and blood worms, whitebait, squid, small strips of mullet flesh, mullet gut, and pieces of pilchard. Most of these baits are available from any service station or corner store.
However if possible, fresh baits are always a superior choice. Tackle stores in the area will have a wide selection, often carrying frozen, fresh and live bait options. Live bloodworms are one of the most potent options for catching large numbers of whiting, and will also attract plenty of bream. Many of the local seafood shops also sell fresh baits of prawn, squid and smaller baitfish.
For anglers wanting to target mangrove jack, large flathead or mulloway on bait, it is hard to go past small live fish such as poddy mullet, herring, hardy head or bony bream. These may be available from tackle stores on occasions, or can be caught using a cheap sabiki bait jig and kept alive in a bucket of fresh sea water.
As with lure fishing, find areas that have a submerged feature such as a drop off, ledge, weed bed or rocky area to cast baits around. Fishing under bridges and boardwalks around the pylons is a great starting point, with plenty of fish holding options.
Wading the sandy flats and casting towards a drop off or edge of a weed bed is a great way to find whiting and flathead with baits. Keep the casts long, and walk slowly along to cover more ground. Flats fish are most likely on the move, so it pays to do the same.
When targeting larger fish in the deeper channels, look for an area that has some slack water next to the main current. Once again fish as light as possible, and keep the bait drifting through the strike zone before retrieving and repeating.
Avoid areas where the tidal run is too strong, such as narrow sections during the middle stages of the tide when large volumes of water are moving. During these periods, look for backwaters just out of the main current, where fish and bait will hold up to avoid the faster water. Fishing the slower moving water over broad flats and sand banks can be more productive during these periods as well.
Holiday fishing at its best
For travelling anglers, the estuarine waters of the Gold Coast and surrounding areas present some of the best fishing available so close to a major urban and holiday hub. Within a short distance from the NRMA Treasure Island Holiday Resort lie endless fishing opportunities, with plenty of easy access to the foreshores, canals and creeks, all of which hold large populations of active fish. If you’re an adventurous traveller, it’s definitely worth packing some fishing gear on your next visit to the Gold Coast.