Tips for Fishing in the Whitsundays - Whitsunday Rent a Yacht

Check availability and get a price

You are here

Tips for Fishing in the Whitsundays

The Whitsundays waters are teeming with a huge variety of fish making the Whitsunday Islands and coastlines one of the most popular fishing destinations in Australia.

Fishing in the Whitsundays is one of the must-do activities while chartering a yacht. With 74 islands and the coastline providing the perfect environment for a huge variety of pelagic and reef fish, you're guaranteed to catch dinner. Add to that, an average daily year 'round temperature of 27 degrees and spectacular surrounding scenery - magic!

In this post, we will give you an overview of the local knowledge you need to fish in the Whitsundays. The information here is suited for people who are chartering a boat, however, it is also relevant to anyone with a keen interest in fishing the Whitsundays.

Fishing in the Whitsundays

Tips for Fishing in the Whitsundays

  • No recreational fishing licence is required for fishing in the Whitsundays
  • Avoid anchoring on coral – find sand
  • For best results, drop your line in an hour before or after high tide (neap tides are best). Fishing in the early morning or evening is ideal. Use a 25kg line to avoid snaps and snags from the coral.
  • Popular bait for fishing in the Whitsundays includes prawns, squid, pilchards, herring and garfish. Never feed processed food, cooked seafood or bread to fish.
  • Take only what you need and abide by size limits
  • Do not use pest or non-native fish for bait.
  • If you’re unsure of the fish identity or size, release the fish immediately and return all undersized and unwanted fish to the water quickly to minimize injury.
  • Use a depth sounder to find a bottom with lots of structure, including rocks and corals, around the islands such as South or North Molle.
  • When reef fishing, exercise extra caution when mooring your vessel, as you want to be careful not to damage these beautiful and fragile reefs.
  • Spearfishing is only permitted in very limited areas of the Whitsundays.
  • Paddle tail, Chinaman fish and Red Bass are a few of the poisonous (but strikingly beautiful) fish you may encounter. Generally, the larger the fish the less safe it is to consume, so aim for a catch less than 4kg. For more assistance in identifying fish, visit the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries website.
  • Always watch the birds and keep your eyes peels for flocks of birds swooping
  • For a sure thing, go after some Coral trout. They are plentiful around the fringing reefs of Whitsunday Island and they bite for most of the year.

How to fish in the Whitsundays

We found this bucket of wisdom from an article in Fishing World called “Spot with the lot: Whitsundays”:

“When it comes to actually catching the fish, make long, wind-assisted casts and land your lure right on the edge of the structure you’re fishing, whether it be a large rocky headland, some broken reef or a patch of shallow bommies. Work the lure back with a mixture of sharp pulses, long draws as well as a few pauses. Keep repeating this and working new water until finally – crunch! – you find success!

Trolling lures is another fun technique and a great way to catch a range of pelagics around the islands. Queenfish, Golden Trevally, GTs, Mackerel and various Tuna species are all available. Fish attracting structure such as coral drop-offs, reefy headlands and isolated rocks are prime trolling areas”.

fishing in the Whitsundays

The Shute Harbour Jetty, one of the best fishing spots in the Whitsundays

We couldn’t have a blog post on fishing without giving special attention to Whitsunday Rent a Yacht’s home, Shute Harbour.

Accessible to day fisherman and of course anyone on a boat, Shute Harbour offers amazing fishing opportunities. The Shute Harbour Jetty and harbour itself have plenty of fish, with great opportunities to catch larger species such as Spanish Mackerel and GT’s.

The pristine nature of Shute and its zoning makes it a fishing spot you must try, even before you head out to the islands. Many of our charterers who have opted for a sleep aboard have enjoyed an exciting evening fishing off the back of their yacht, or right off our private jetty.

Trolling in the passage as you leave Shute is another fishing activity that often results in landing a huge Spanish Mackerel, giving you plenty of fish for your first few nights amongst the islands. The Mackerel are especially present around the Whitsundays from May to October. Spaniards are best caught while trolling with live bait or using larger lures.

Game Fishing in the Whitsundays

The Whitsundays is famous for game fishing. During the spring and summer months, game fishermen come from around the world in hopes of catching a Sailfish, Black or Blue Marlin or Bluefin Tuna. The video below will show you some great game catches.

If you are not on a charter, there are some amazing local fishing charter companies which go specifically after game fish in the season.

Catching Mackerel and Tuna on a bareboat charter

Check out this happy snap of Justin from Trip in A Van who snagged a Mackerel just out of Shute recently.

Fishing Whitsundays Mackeral


Justin talks more about the rig he used to catch Mackerel among other catches in this video.

Specifically, you can see fishing tips and footage at:
4:04 - Catching fish during a sleep aboard at Shute Harbour
10:45 - Bringing in a Mackeral after leaving Shute
17:25 - Cooking and filleting Mackeral
29:26 - Gear for Mackeral trolling
31:57 - Catching tuna and whacking it on the BBQ!

Fishing Rigs for the Whitsundays

The below tips have been taken from the must-have book for sailing the Whitsundays "100 Magic Miles". You will get a copy of this book on board your vessel, however, if you are really keen to read up on the Whitsundays before you arrive you can purchase your own copy here.

For fishing over sand and mud:

Line, runner ball sinker (thread but not attached), swivel, wire trace and hook. Good over sand and mud, where some movement helps to attract fish such as flathead. Bean-shaped sinkers are sometimes preferred when line must be kept in place.

For fishing in reef areas:

Recommended by pros for working reef areas. A line threaded through a ball sinker and attached to the hook runs freely and maximises sensitivity to bites, minimises snagging, and does not deter timid fish that might baulk at the sinker's dead weight.

For deepwater drifting:
The snapper rig is useful for deep channels where currents may be swift. Pass a loop through the eye of the hook and back over the shank (or use a three-way swivel). Attach a heavy sinker (perhaps as much as 225 grams)

For trolling:

The "floater" is simply a gang of hooks at the end of a long wire trace which in turn is attached to the line with a swivel. The hooks are embedded in a garfish (or other bait) and made to look as natural as possible. A single live fish may also be used, hooked through the back above the spine. Size, number of hooks and bai depend upon the quarry sought/ Use shock cord or rubber rube as a shock absorber where the line is fixed to the boat.

FIshing Whitsundays

Whitsundays Fishing Spots

For people who do not have a boat, the most popular fishing locations on the mainland include the Shute Harbour public jetty, the VMR Rockwall (Whisper Bay) and Cannonvale Beach. If you have a boat or are lucky enough to charter a yacht, the best fishing is around the islands.

Generally speaking, the headlands or the passages between the islands are excellent places to throw a line in. We’ve been told that you can catch big Giant Trevally around any island or rocky feature.

Nara Inlet

Try the rock edges around Nara Inlet, a popular spot for catching Giant Trevally.

Daydream Island

The rocky headlands located around the Daydream Island resort are also great places to try for Giant Trevally and Mackeral.

Haselwood Island

One of our staff members who is a keen fisherman says he loves fishing at Windy Bay on the northwest of Haselwood Island.

Hook Island

Mackerel Bay, on the north-east side of Hook Island, is another favourite fishing spot amongst locals. The edges of Hook Passage is one of the best fishing spots in the Whitsundays.

South Molle

Try the reef off the southwestern tip of South Molle for Mackerel.

Whitsunday Island

Around the southern end of Whitsunday Island’s fringing reefs, you can catch many Sweetlip, Cod, Spangled Emperor, and Coral Trout. Try the north-eastern edge of and Apostle Bay’s fringing reefs.

Hayman Island

You’ll find Coral Trout in the reef holes and underwater structure around Hayman Island. Try the small channel which separates Hayman and Hook Island on the turning tides, Trevally is also often in the area.

Long Island Resort

The rocky edges around Long Island are hot spots for Giant Trevally, Queenfish, Cod and Coral Trout.

Double Cone Islands

Double Cone Island is a bit out of the way so it’s a great spot to try.  Follow the shallow reefs and try to get your lure up near the bommies.

Harold Island

A popular spot for on-shore fishing, with plenty of catches available right off the beach


Fishing on a charter yacht whitsundays

Understanding the fishing zones in the Whitsundays

Before you wet a line, it’s important to know where you can fish and where the protected zones are within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

There are three zones charterers fishing by line (rod and reel, or handline) can fish within the marine park. These are the General Use Zone, the Habitat Protection Zone and the Conservation Park Zone.

Zones are subject to specific terms, enforced by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

General Use and Habitat Protection zones are limited to a maximum of three lines per person, with a combined six hooks per person.

The Conservation Park Zone is limited to one line and hook per person. 

Check the zoning maps inside your copy of 100 Magic Miles, by David Colfelt (onboard your vessel). Or view fishing areas through the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s website.

Giving coral reef fish a break with fishing closures

Please note, if you're planning your bareboat charter around fishing opportunities, there are two nine-day periods which ban the taking of coral fish in the spawning period. Bans occur in October, November and December each year around the ‘new moon” period.

The future closure dates will be held on:
October 14-18 and November 12-16, 2020
October 3-7 and November 2-6, 2021
October 22-26 and November 21-25, 2022
October 12-16 and November 10-14, 2023

Handy Resources for Fishing in the Whitsundays

Guide to identifying fish from Endless Oceans 

Up to date info on what's biting Airlie Beach Fishing Report

Whitsundays fishing report with The Whitsunday Times

For a Whitsundays fishing map, you can download a zoning map from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.  We also provide the latest up to date zoning map on your charter vessel.

For more details on the three types of Whitsundays fishing: reef, estuary and game -  this is a very comprehensive article from 100magicmiles

Hire Fishing Gear for your Charter

You can arrange to hire fishing gear from Airlie Bait & Tackle (07) 4946 6632. These guys offer great service and they can deliver your order to our base at Shute Harbour so it's ready when you check-in.  





Go fishing in the Whitsundays on your bareboat charter and enjoy the freedom to explore.

Contact us on 1800 075 000 or