Large Mouth Nannygai
Throughout my fishing career I have been fortunate enough to catch a huge variety of species in many different locations. Some areas and species give fonder memories than others but one species I really enjoy catching is Large Mouth Nannygai. This is mostly due to the fact we don’t get consistent large numbers off the Fraser coast and they can be challenging to find and catch which is something I’m always up for.
This beautifully coloured fish fights hard and eats well so there isn’t much to not like about them. Being a tropical species they are plentiful in the north and central QLD areas but thin out around the Fraser coast regions and further south. They can be caught as far south as the QLD border but normally these fish are generally juvenile’s although I have seen and caught legal ones in Moreton Bay and offshore waters but certainly not consistently. Double Island Point is about the most southern area that these fish can be found confidently but it’s no walk in park.
What I have noticed is that these fish are found in different areas depending on their location on the coastline. For example in north QLD these fish are widely spread out and can be found on close in shallow reefs extending out very wide to the continental shelf. Central QLD see’s similar habitats but as you head further south of the Great Barrier Reef around the bunker group region you start to see these fish located on the inside of the outer reefs and Fraser Island.
It’s at this point that the Breaksea Spit region extending further south along Fraser Island down to Double Island Point has a change in habitat as they are very rarely caught more than 15km from land. It’s hard to understand why but I can only put it down to that these locations experience the east Australian currents and so possibly current strength, water temps combined with reef type and food source cause these fish to stay in much closer than the north and central QLD regions.
Known for being a schooling fish they can found in massive schools and adapt to various depths and bottom structure. It’s no secret that these fish love wrecks and just about any wreck in water under 60 mtrs off the QLD coastline has these fish on them. This is another question I often think about but clearly it’s a perfect habitat for these fish. Some say it’s the cover and protection they like but I personally think it’s the consistent food sources these wrecks hold that strongly attract great numbers of these fish. These fish are also more commonly found on almost flat featureless bottom consisting of either rubble, wonky holes or very small rocks holding bait fish. This type of bottom is where most Nannygai are caught from so it’s clearly the bait fish which is the major attraction and it’s not uncommon to find a moving bait school followed by nannygai feeding on them as well.
Another interesting habitat feature of large mouth nannygai is where they roam and feed in the water column. I have caught them from both the bottom and also up higher the water column and since dropping the underwater camera down and viewing these fish I have learnt they will happily roam between the bottom and up to 20mtrs off the bottom depending on the structure and bait. Wrecks hold bait high in the water column so you tend to find the nannygai roaming up high as well as around the base of the wrecks. On the smaller isolated rubble reefs, wonky holes and rocks the bait may not be as high in the water column and at times may very well be on the bottom. In this case the nannygai will be situated in similar positions but there is no set rule and I have watched them roam from the bottom too high in the water column and back in a very short period of time.
Where to Fish:
As mentioned the areas off Double Island Point and Fraser Island hold Nannygai reasonably close to the shoreline and I often fish small isolated rubble patches or rock 5 to 15 km out. If the bait schools aren’t there I won’t bother dropping baits on it so it’s vital to sound around looking for the bait schools. You can either drift or anchor up on these spots but I have noticed in most cases that anchoring up and keeping the baits in the strike zone can tempt these fish into biting where drifting baits past them just doesn’t work at times. These techniques are very much the same for the areas on the western side of Fraser Island/ Hervey Bay extending northwards up into the Bunker group but the fish are a lot more spread out and found over a very large area including wide of the shoreline.
Around the bunker group nannygai are commonly found in close to the shoreline all the way out towards the outer reefs. These areas hold lots of flat rubble country and wonky holes which is ideal for these fish but this area is so large and trying to find said structure can be very frustrating. It’s important to fish the bait schools and eventually you will find a spot holding nannygai.
The areas around central and north QLD are very much the same but the nannygai are even more spread out and well past the outer reefs and islands. Fishing isolated areas away from the main reefs is the key in these locations but the same techniques apply. Flat gravel bottom, wonky holes or tiny rocks is ideal but what might look like big bait schools on these spots can sometimes turn out to be big schools of nannygai. These spots can often have red emperor under the nannygai as well and commercial fisherman can pull large volumes of fish in a very short period of time.
Seeing nannygai roam the water column in various depths, different rigs can be used to target these fish. Paternoster rigs are commonly used which consists of one or two dropper loops for the hook/s and a dropper sinker on the bottom. This rig will get to the bottom fast and is used to target fish that feed close to the bottom. Although a lot of nannygai roam high in the water column I have seen nannygai swim down 10 or so mtrs to eat baits off the bottom so they can adapt to various rigs to suit themselves. Interesting enough all the big ones over 13kg we have caught have come from the bottom using paternoster rigs but this is from small structure where bait isn’t high in the water column. I particularly like to use this rig when fishing with live baits on the anchor or when current and wind conditions are strong while drift fishing.
Seeing that nannygai roam in various depths of the water column you can’t dismiss the fact that baits should be floated down more naturally to target these fish accordingly. Floating rigs become the answer and can be super effective when fish are feeding high or become finicky. These rigs consist of a small sinker sliding down onto the hook/s or a length of about half to 1 mtr of trace with the sinker behind a swivel. Numerous times we have experienced these fish to be very shy and almost totally un-interested. By offering a more natural looking bait that sinks slowly past can be too good to resist at times but be careful not to strike at the fish to early as these fish are the masters of mouthing baits and can be difficult to hook.
Although these fish aren’t dirty fighters and are often targeted on flat country they do fight extremely well and a big fish will put in a very solid battle even on 80lb tackle. Don’t be afraid to step back to 30 or 50lb line if need be and if you are using braid be sure to use 8mtrs or more of mono leader to take some shock out of the rig as these fish have reasonably soft mouth and the hooks can be easily torn out.
A large variety of baits can be used for these fish including artificial baits such as soft plastics. Live baits are by far the most successful baits to chase Nannygai with. In the past some spots I have fished won’t produce them if you don’t use live bait and this can make all the difference of some trips. Baits such as squid and large squid heads are commonly used also and can be easily eaten by a tentative fish with no fuss. The humble pilchard is another great offering but I tend to push the pilchard into the squid tube as this has accounted for many trophy fish in the past. We have also caught them on hussar and mullet fillets so they happy to eat a variety of baits depending on their mood.
Slow pitch jigs and other artificial baits can be really effective on nannygai. As nannygai are bottom feeders, it only makes sense that slow pitch jigs worked with a slower speed and action closer to the bottom is a preferred method. Soft plastics and vibes are also another great option and my preferred weapon of choice is a prawn imitation like the Zerek live shrimp or Zerek Cherrabin and for vibes the Zerek fish traps are deadly.
I hope this gives an in site to large mouth nannygai and helps those who target or want to target these fantastic fish.