Swallowtail dart can be caught year round in SE QLD waters and are definitely a key bread and butter species for amateur surf fishing anglers. These fish are built for surf beaches with their flattened streamline body and large swallow tail allowing them to maneuver through the waves with ease. When on their side they can even swim out of about 5cm of water at times. The deep narrow shape of the dart also allows them to put up a large amount of resistance against the angler who is fighting them. As they turn side on in the surf it can be a quality game of tug of war, in between waves washing the fish forwards. This is when anglers need to wind rapidly when the fish is just in front of a wave and use the white wash and surge to your advantage. When the fish is behind a wave just play it a bit until the next wave pushes in.
What to use:
Dart are gutsy and will consume almost any bait that is thrown in front of them, but live sand worms and pipis are the best bet and these can be collect for free from the beach. I have found pipis are too soft when the dart are in big schools and the baits are ripped off the hook too easily. To increase their durability try rubbing sea salt onto them and after a couple of hours they will hold on nicely. Cut up pilchards, peeled prawns, whitebait and small strips of mullet also work well on dart. Soft plastics are a handy product to keep in your tackle box for when the worms and pipis are playing hard to get. We often use the Gulp Sand Worm and mimic a live worm on a long shank hook with a running sinker rig; they wash around like the real thing in the surf, producing good hook up rates. Metal slugs are another good thing to use on dart. When dart are feeding on the same bait that tailor are the surf, it is well worth retrieving a small metal slug through the surf at a medium pace. River2sea Sea Rock 14-25 or Surecatch Knight 20-40g have produce quality dart on recent trips.
You can literally use any rod and reel combo that has the capability to cast into the bite zone of the surf for dart. This zone can vary from a hole in close, sand banks or a gutter out the back line. On a very recent trip up the beach, we were using 13ft 6inch Wilson Seacoaster rods paired with an Alvey 650B for bigger baits. However, the dart were on in good numbers so we pulled out the 10ft 6inch Heritage rod with an Alvey from the 500 - 625 range.
When to go:
There are plenty of small dart in the surf gutters on any given day and all day long, but the better quality fish show up at dawn and dusk, shortly after beer o'clock normally! The best bet is to hit the beach between 7am - 10:30am and after 3pm through to sundown over the coming months until Winter.
Where to go:
Dart love to feed in the whitewater so try to find a good sand bank, if you find a deeper gutter or hole in close, cast over the bank and then allow the waves to push it into the deep water - exactly where the fish should be!
It pays to bleed and ice the dart soon after capture if you plan to eat them. I love fresh fish caught that day, dart especially. I just fillet them straight up and throw them onto the barbeque that night!
NOOSA: Coral trout to 4kg, spanish mackerel, quality snapper and parrot on Sunshine Reef. Northern Blue fin and Yellow fin tuna just out from the Noosa bar. Plenty of spotty mackerel on metal lures on Jew shoal and Little Hauls. Flathead in the 1st lake on whitebait and in between the lakes on deep divers. Mangrove jack overnight in Woods Bay.
MAROOCHYDORE: Whiting around the 26cm mark from the bli bli channel markers. Grunter bream to 42cm from the wetland stretch. Mangrove jack in Twin waters Canals and up Petrie Creek. Tailor in the bar at dusk. Mud crabs throughout the middle reaches.
KAWANA: Plenty of good spotty mackerel around Currimundi Reef. Long tail tuna to 10kg from Point Cartwright to Currimundi. Flathead and whiting in the sand basin. Big mangrove jack in Kawana Waters Weir.
CALOUNDRA: Spanish and spotty mackerel on the 12 mile. Mangrove jacks in Currimundi Lake and Pelican waters Canals.
On a recent trip to Teewah my father in law Kevin, my brother in law Ross and myself caught a feed of dart in a nice gutter with plenty of white water late one afternoon using live sand worms.
This week the Laguna Bay and the stretch south of Mooloolaba have come alive with schools of tuna feeding on small baitfish. Jon Heales was trolling a halco laser pro when this 4.5kg yellow fin tuna smashed it on Sunshine Reef.
Emily Armstrong is at it again fishing in the middle reaches of the Maroochy River for this pan sized flathead.