Noosa The Light Tackle Utopia

The coastal town of Noosa Heads approximately 2 hours drive north of Brisbane has one of the most picturesque rivers in south east Queensland. It is also the busiest river in Queensland with thousands of tourists and locals chasing the wide variety of species that abound there on a daily basis. I have lived in Noosa for over 22 years and have an intense relationship with its tributaries through my job as a fishing guide running Phippsy’s Smooth Water Charters. To successfully fish the Noosa River you have to understand the structures and tidal flows to fully take advantage of the species available. It is also imperative to hit the water early as on most days by 9 o’clock the river is full of tinnies, hire boats and all sorts of flotsam and jetsom and can be frustrating to say the least.


A dawn raid in some of the larger bays in the river like the Woods Bay near the river mouth the back of Noosa Sound and upstream past Tewantin, will quite often reward the angler with several of the trevally species. Surface popping with small poppers like Rapalas, Halco rooster poppers or some of the Yo Zuris in the 4-5 inch range will often see you attached to a G,T or Golden. Casting and retrieving with a walk the dog style of retrieval will see spectacular surface strikes with the bonus of a Tailor or the acrobatic Tarpon. Diamond and Tea Leaf Trevally are also on the menu with Big Eye and even the wily Oyster Cracker good options for this style of fishing. Of course these fish will move up river as the morning progresses and it is possible to be casting to the same school of fish a kilometre upstream if that’s where the bait is heading. TIP.. find the bait and you will find the trevally.

Of course all these fish can be taken on small soft plastics that are well presented on a light jig head and can provide some of the hottest fishing action you will ever experience as I have seen sometimes a hundred trevally in a school, with fish to 2 kilos smashing the bait. Eco gear small crank baits and blades, and micro mullets are good hard bodied lures to cast and retrieve as are the small halcos and manns stretch 5s.


It has been often said if you can’t catch a Flathead in the Noosa River give up fishing… well yes there are a lot of flatties in the river but some days no matter what you throw at them they won’t even look at it. So it is no different from any other place, unless you know how to work the tides. The flatties will invariably start to chew as the water slowly runs off the banks. As they are a lazy fish they will bury themselves in the sand and wait for an easy feed to come along.

Slowly hopping Berkley Gulps or Eco Gear power minnows in front of them will certainly entice a strike. Light gear is the answer with my charter running 8 lb braid and 8-10 pound fluero carbon leader. I like the Fireline and Code Red braids and the new Berkley Sensei fluero carbon leader. I use high visibility colours so I can see the line sinking as this gives me a better indication where the jig head is so I can better instruct my clients on the art of plastic fishing. Make sure you let the jig get right to the bottom before the retrieve and keep your rod between 30 and 60 degrees as the high sticking ‘’rod above 90 degrees’’ gives the fish a ton of slack line and the opportunity to throw the hook more easily.

I also like a slow deliberate retrieve with soft hands to impart the best action on the plastic. Flathead love soft plastics but a trolled hard body that bangs into the bottom will also get a spectacular strike. Many people who have bait fished think that flatties are lazy when hooked but if they take a plastic or hard body lure they are already on the move and will fight quite hard all the way to the boat.


The Mangrove Jack are the gold medal species in the Noosa River but they are hard to catch and more are hooked than boated. I like to head up in between the lakes and cast the snags and rock bars on the first of the run out tide. Overhangs and mangrove roots in over 1 metre of water can hold a jack with the bonus of an estuary cod just for laughs. We target them on light 2-4 kilo spin rods with 12-14 lb braid and up to 20 pound leaders. This is quite light for some anglers but I have found you get more hook ups with the lighter offering and I worry about getting them out of the snag after I've hooked them. The softly softly approach has been successful as the more you try to skull drag them the harder they will go. Jacks are already on their way back to their snaggy lair when they hit the lure so therefore they are harder to keep out of the snag.

By leading rather than dragging, we boat most fish we hook and definitely get more hits on the lighter gear. Good plastics are 4-5 inch gulps in pumpkinseed, banana and pepper prawn, new penny or rainbow. The 4 and 6 inch jigging grub is also successful in pumpkinseed, pink shine and barbecue chicken colours. Good hard bodied lures on the bait casters are b52s, gold bombers, mad mullets and reidys in the black and gold along with RMgs and Rapalas in the small to medium size range. Of course the best lure is the one that is wiggling right in the fishes face and everyone has their favourites these are just a few of mine.

The Noosa River has abundant bird life, multi million dollar houses great restaurants and friendly people. Add to this an intricate and extensive lake system and even a great freshwater tributary where wild bass can be caught and you are looking at the perfect holiday destination. I run a light tackle estuary operation and would love to show you what Noosa has to offer.