The Pumicestone Passage is a long channel that runs between Bribie Island and the mainland. The winding and shallow waterways offer excellent fishing for flathead, bream, snapper, tusk-fish, flounder, mackerel and whiting, to name a few. It is fairly shallow, with sand and mud floor and a few structures favoured by fish. There are some patches of coffee rock, some mud-flats and as well as jetties, oyster banks and what’s left of the Avon wreck.
Pumicestone Passage has good protection from all but south-easterly winds. The south-easterlies can also be avoided by going into one of the creeks. To successfully fish the Passage, you need to know how to make the strong tidal currents work in your favour. Eddies on the edges of banks and ripples where a strong current changes depth are always worth investigating. You might also see fish jumping or splashing when no birds are around. The message is to keep a sharp lookout at all times (you might even get a bonus sighting of one of the resident dolphins, dugongs or sea turtles!)
Mulloway can be caught around the Bribie Island bridge, and grassy sweetlip in the deeper sections near the bridge. The bridge is a hot spot, although it is very hard to fish on a full flowing tide. Fish closer to the island or mainland when the tide is running fast and move into the middle of the bridge as it slows, adjusting the weight as needed. The pylons are covered in oysters, so be careful with your casts and use strong leader. Always be aware of the underwater cables that cross the Passage a little north and south of the bridge. They are signposted and also marked on the Bribie Island Boat Charters’ chart – avoid anchoring there or you will catch your anchor on the cable.
Fish are often attracted to the tidal eddies that form behind and in front of the bridge pylons and navigation markers, because they attract bait and offer shelter from the currents. Position the boat up current within a few metres of the structure, then drop lures from the rod to the bottom and wind them back to the surface or use weighted bait in short lobs.
Watching for birds is a great way to find schools of larger fish, like tailor, feeding on baitfish. Look for flocks of terns hovering over the water and frequently looking down or diving into the water. The birds are feeding on the baitfish, which have been forced to the surface, usually by tailor. You can often see the flash of tailor feeding under the surface.
Like most fishing spots, the Passage certainly has times of the year that fish better than others for different species. During the winter months the Passage harbours bream and winter whiting around the estuaries and shallows, tailor and some good snapper. Mangrove jack are also found in the creeks off the main passage. You will pick up a few flounder in the cooler months of the year as well, which should not be ignored, as they are an excellent eating fish.
The real snapper season in the Passage is from June to October. A lot of mainly undersize snapper live in the Passage all year round but in winter the bigger snapper move in and can make life much more interesting. One of the most popular snapper spots is just outside the Pacific Harbour canals, which sits on the Bribie side of the Passage, 4km north of Spinnaker Sound Marina. Situated at the mouth of Pacific Harbour is the famous area called The Ripples. Early in the morning, especially over the top of the tide, it is common to see locals anchor up around the Ripples. It is very easy to find when the tide is moving as the water takes on a rough surface appearance – look for the area of “corrugated” water, hence its name. It is here that snapper congregate over winter. Throwing a lure or bait in where you see them chasing baitfish up to the surface often results in a good hook-up.
Early spring sees good numbers of big flathead arrive to take up residence in the shallow sand flats. Look for the usual haunts of weed beds over sandy bottoms dropping into deeper moving water. Targeting whiting with worms or yabbies on the drift along the sand banks can yield a nice pile of these smaller fish. The Sylvan banks, on the Bribie side of the Passage just north of the bridge, are popular for whiting as well as flathead. With both of these species, it is a good idea to check the Bribie Island Boat Charters’ fish i.d. chart, because there are commonly two species of whiting and three of flathead in the Passage and they have different legal size limits. Drifting yabbies across the banks and gutters during the second half of the rising tide will often give you a few flathead and the odd bream.
Next month we’ll have a look at more fishing opportunities as the weather warms up.