Cool water barra, young Kingy holding up his prized catch.
Breezy With Showers this Week
Now that we have all recovered from the shock of the record-breaking mid-autumn cold snap earlier this week, we can look forward to milder temperatures for the week ahead. Unfortunately, it is going to be a bit breezy and showers will feature some days – fairly standard fare for autumn really.
Looking ahead, the southeasterly trade wind is going to dominate the foreseeable future. Winds are peaking around 20 knots at present, and will continue at similar strength. 25 knots is possible Saturday, before easing back to 15-20 knots again Sunday.
At least 15 knots of the same southeaster are forecast for the first days of the working week, potentially increasing again mid-week. Scattered showers look quite likely, riding the onshore air stream across our coastline and even pushing a little inland. Fairly frustrating weather all-in-all, which will see boaties restricted to sheltered inshore waters, estuaries and impoundments this week.
The moon is waning since the passing of the full. Tidal variation has been diminishing daily as we approach Saturday’s last quarter phase. This means neap tides once again, with less current flow.
Golden trevally have been in great numbers over many of our inshore wrecks, structures & reefs. Staff member Dane fooled this one whilst in search of a Snapper.
Recent Action from the Pier
Urangan Pier fishos have been catching quality flathead of late. Live baiting with pike or herring is the popular local technique - which is hard to beat. Sight-fishing for flatties spotted near pylons in both the first channel and along the slope into deeper water out the end is possible with quality polaroid sunnies.
An interesting conundrum can occur quite often when flatty fishing from the pier – particularly in the first channel. Often enough, you can spot the flatties lurking below, but struggle to catch a pike for live bait. Herring only flood into the first channel when the tide is highest, but the flatties are ready and willing early in the flood tide. Pike are without peer (pardon the pun) when it comes to tempting pier flatties.
Catching pike on bait jigs is easy enough when the tide is full, or out the end in deeper water. In the shallows, during the lower stages of the tide however, you will need to resort to alternative methods. Pike-catching techniques proven over the years include; hopping tiny jerkshad-style plastics on heavy little jigheads; jerking minnows on short 40cm leaders behind a 3-ball sinker riding the swivel; replacing that minnow with a longshank hook pinned through the end of a herring belly strip bait and jerking it instead; or on occasion, twitching and shuddering small metal blades. Many of these techniques are mastered whilst leaning over the rails, watching the reaction of the pike or otherwise prospecting between the pylons and back under the pier.
Pike also make great live baits for any estuary cod lurking under the pier out in the deeper water, passing queenies or golden trevally, and of course, jewfish. Mackerel will have a crack at them too, but most would simply opt for a herring for them.
Whilst searching for flatties and pike this time of year, you might get lucky and stumble over a tiger squid or two. They turn up over the gravelly bottom in the first channel, and also occasionally out the end. They are typically caught pretty quickly once spotted, so ensure you have a larger 2.5 – 3.0 sized squid jig with you just in case you are first to see any.
Mack tuna kept the kids busy during the making tides prior to the recent full moon. Their tendency to make multiple raids on the pier’s herring schools makes them very easy to target. Multiple macks can be landed with ease during such raids, with a deadly technique being to have an unweighted live herring at the ready to flick in front of the marauding tuna schools. Great sport, but inedible, these speedsters should be released unharmed (unless you need shark or crab bait).
Bream fishing will be a major focus for many pier regulars and visitors alike in coming weeks. We haven’t heard whether or not the first wave of large male “pilot” bream have arrived as yet. If not, then perhaps this week’s cold snap may have fast-forwarded their spawning migration, which will see them arrive soon. It won’t be long and bream will be regular captures from the pier, day and night.
Lukas with a solid flathead from the Urangan pier. It can be awesome fun sight casting to these fish with live herring or pike as they make their way up onto the flat.
Game is Changing in our Estuaries
We’ve suggested recently to get out and make the most of the last of the warmer weather for those keen to chase barra, jacks and threadies. Some did, and it seems as though a few quality fish were caught during the making tides last week. You are still in with a chance of catching all three of these species for now, but you had best get into them before the water temperature plummets further.
The Burrum still offers perhaps your best chance at catching barra and jacks in the same session. Cloudy, warmer nights will aid this cause this week, though that same cloud cover during the day may cause a lethargic bite at times. Downsize your lures, or resort to live baits if you must, and be prepared to pepper a school of barra or likely jack lair with many casts to tempt these fish if they seem reluctant.
Scan the river as you travel and you can spot other target species that react more favourably to the cooling conditions. Large grunter are one said target, as are jewies and blue salmon. Soft vibes and both prawn imitation or paddle-tailed soft plastics are great options for these fish. Flatties will also fall to the same lures, and are a more viable target in the shallows from now on.
Marg tempted this solid blue salmon cruising the flats with a prawn imitation soft plastic.
Those opting to fish the Mary/Susan system can hunt barra, threadies and jewies with some degree of confidence. There are fish there, even though they may be hard to tempt at times. Trollers often do well this time of year on all three species. Deeper divers probing the depths of the mid reaches of the Mary can occasionally draw the attention of quite large specimens too. Hooking large fish away from structure alleviates the issue of bust-ups yet you cannot relax until the fish is in the boat, as the big bull sharks patrolling the river are rarely far away.
If you want an easy option at present, then it would be the humble blue salmon. They are already widespread throughout many estuaries, including the Mary, the Susan and many creeks down the Great Sandy Straits. Being suckers for so many lures, these acrobatic speedsters will scoff anything from soft vibes, soft plastics and twitched hard bodies to trolled lures at various depths and occasionally, even topwater.
The most fun you can have with the blues has to be up in the skinny water on the flats. The open waters of the straits is where this option presents itself. They can be spooky in the clearest of water, yet are still easy to tempt when they get a look at your lure. Big blues can rasp through leader very efficiently too, so keep this in mind and don’t be tempted to rig too light when chasing the larger models.
Grunter have been a major feature of our estuary systems for a few weeks now. They move upstream this time of year and will forage to and fro with the tides in their favoured waters. Hopping small softies tight to the bottom is the go-to technique for grunter hunters.
Bait fishos will also catch plenty, though they may have a hard time sifting through all the smaller models at times. Yabbies make great grunter baits, as do strip baits of baitfish caught locally, small live herring and of course, prawns. They will also smash fresh squid, and if you have spent any time in our creeks in winter, then you will know why.
Staff member Jackson is a bit of a light tackle specialist when it comes to finesse soft plastic fishing, targeting species like this grunter.
Flathead will become a more common capture from around our river & creek mouths and adjacent flats. Staff member Jackson tempted this one on a soft plastic.
Flathead will feature in catches much more regularly from now on. Already this autumn, quality flatties have been showing up in the creeks and around the creek mouths. They often lurk amongst the prawn schools, as many a prawner will attest, having to remove tangled flatties from their cast nets all too often.
River Heads will be an interesting location in coming weeks. There has been blue salmon caught land-based out there recently, but it will be the annual run of jewfish that will draw the crowds soon. Night-time will see the jewies actively hunting in the area, so live baiters often catch them from the pontoon at the ramp.
More intrepid lure fishos willing to wander the rocky foreshores out there can catch jewies, large and small, and just about every other major predator that swims by. A late season barra or thready would not be unheard of, though flathead, cod, GTs and blue salmon would be more likely jewfish bycatch.
If you are a keen bream fisho, then you should be quite excited at the prospects of the season ahead. The cooler weather aggregates our bream in to large schools that make their way downstream in the rivers and creeks. Right now, it is the rocky features in the mid-reaches that you should focus on, but it won’t be long and these schools will arrive at the heads. This goes for both the Mary and Burrum systems.
If you find bream fishing around the rocks exciting, then you will lose your noodle when you discover the great flats fishery that comes online this time of year. Catching sizeable bream, one after the other, in skinny water on tiny topwater lures, small cranks and softies is the stuff southern bream anglers dream of. We get a bit blasé about it around here, and probably don’t get as excited as we might as we have so many alternative species to target.
Crabbing Better Than Prawning Lately
Those crabbers that plied the waters of the Great Sandy Straits over the full moon period scored sensational catches of mud crabs. The southern straits in particular were alive with active muddies. Some lucky crews even had to grade their crabs and throw back the excess of their limits.
The straits in general have been central to the better mud crabbing for many months now, courtesy in part to the sustained flow of freshwater that poured down the Mary for so many months last year, but also to the excessive rainfall that fell in the Tin Can Bay region last year as well. Muddies can still be potted during the cooler months of year. You will just need to take your pots well into the smaller tributaries as our salinity levels are once again high.
Sand crabbing has been put on hold for now due to the weather denying access to the open bay waters. Last reports suggested there were quality sandies potting in reasonable numbers off the Burrum coast and also up the island. May often sees sand crabs passing through local waters as some migrate to or from the straits. Slipping a few pots into the channels of the straits could be productive over the bigger tides when you cannot get out wider.
Whilst the crabbing has been highly productive for many, the prawning has been quite frustrating. The lack of excess rainfall this summer has left us with less prawn than we might otherwise be enjoying this time of year. We are smack bang in the middle of our prime banana prawn season right now, yet few are catching any. Some are scoring a modest feed, for way too much effort really, as we should be smashing them right now.
For whatever reason, even the mature bananas that have been emerging in small numbers here and there have failed to gather and run in any significant volume. Of course, this situation might change overnight and the next time you read this report, we might be relating stories of a prawning bonanza, so watch this space for updates. In the meantime, do not head out onto our estuaries without an appropriate prawning cast net on board – just in case.
Inshore Sport Fishing Options
Hordes of mack tuna flooded into the lower bay and the Great Sandy Straits during the making tides pre-full moon last week. Acres of these macks were seen from the local shipping channels right down beyond Ungowa. They tended to rise to the surface to smash the schools of small herring during the ebb tide period and were fairly easy to tempt on small metal slugs and jerkshad plastics.
If you’ve got a prawn imitation plastic tied on when a school of tuna busts up nearby, then you can throw that at them as well. They will often smash the smaller models with gusto, and at times will even attack the larger models we use for trout and other reef fish. Some of you may have witnessed schools of tuna tearing into balled up masses of banana prawns trying to traverse the deeper waters in the channels of the straits in the past.
The central bay was also alive with huge schools of mack tuna. Schools of longtails were not as prolific, yet still abundant as expected this time of year. Being willing to drive away from schools of surface-feeding tuna to seek others can be key to finding the better quality longtails, and to avoid the ever-present sharks.
Golden trevally have been consistent around our inshore reefs, wrecks and ledges of late. The reefs from the Arch Cliffs 6 Mile, through the Outer Banks into the Roy Rufus arti have been good grounds to prospect. Easily spotted on your sounder, you can drop jigs, plastics or vibes their way and will soon be connected if they are in the mood.
Whilst numbers of large queenfish have been turning up around the tuna schools in the eastern bay occasionally, the flats of the west coast and the fringes of the bay islands have been the places to be for queenie fans. You can even spread your wings a little and wander down the straits looking for queenies on the flats this time of year. This is a great wintertime activity and quite a special experience in the gin clear waters of the flats.
School size queenfish will become prolific around our bay islands and creek mouths.
School mackerel have been hard to avoid around many reef systems in the southern, eastern and central bay. Head on out when the weather improves and you will soon track them down. Look for aggregations of baitfish such as herring in numbers around reefs and rubble patches in the shipping channels or over in Platypus Bay. If you cannot find them, then tie on your most expensive jig on light leader you might use for snapper and I bet they will find you.
There were spanish mackerel taking trolled lures, live baits and jigged lures in the northern bay prior to the recent blow. They will likely still be there when the weather improves. The southern migration of spaniards can see good numbers pass through offshore grounds such as the Herald Patches up Lady Elliot Island way, the Sandy Cape Shoals, and as witnessed recently, the usual mackerel grounds off the Wide Bay Bar. All worth considering if you get offshore in the near future.
The other mackerel species to feature this time of year is the humble broady (grey or broad-barred mackerel). T
hey are skinny water specialists and turn up in mere feet of water very often from now into winter. They can also haunt the baitfish schools around local reefs and wrecks, and are suckers for smaller lures. Live baits will tempt broadies, but so too will hardyheads or garfish rigged on a set of gangs. Trollers often pick up broadies whilst having an out-of-season troll for trout over our shallow reefs.
Locally referred to as rain bait, this is what the mack & longtail tuna have been feeding on throughout the bay and straits, hence manys frustrations trying to get a bite.
Reef Fishing Restricted by Weather
A good spell of light winds a week or so ago saw crews head to the northern bay, where some scored a few coral trout and mixed reefies for their efforts. The sharks towelled-up a few crews whilst others were lucky to avoid the worst of them. Spaniards and cobia were also reported from the Gutters, along with a few rather large cod. Given the spell such grounds will “enjoy” over the following week, the fishing should be interesting after the wind eases.
Back inshore, you can expect less action from the shallow reefs and more from the deeper reefs as our waters continue to cool. Coral trout and cod will still bite well around tide turns for now, and will respond to jigs and heavily-weighted prawn imitations, but it won’t be long and you will need to resort to live bait to tempt them.
Trollers should be gearing up for the coming better weather. Dragging super-deep divers such as Dr Evils and Nomad DTX Minnows around our reefs and shipping channels whilst searching for snapper will at the very least result in bycatch captures of cod, mackerel and possibly trout.
Bait fishos can still target grass sweetlip with confidence inshore, but not for much longer. As winter arrives, the majority of the inshore sweetlip biomass will move on. There will be a few larger models that will linger all winter, and they will continue to bite well, particularly after dark. Blackall numbers will increase over some reefs and they will also be seen as you scoot across shallow reef country in clearer waters. Large schools often amass over sections of reef fringing the bay islands, offering great sport for the kids.
Snapper fishos can make the most of the bad weather downtime to fine tune their tackle in readiness for the next spell of better weather. If you cannot wait, then pick your moments closer to the next new moon and consider evening forays with baits around our inshore reef systems.
May often sees small schools of quality snapper and a few more squire turn up at sites such as Moon Ledge, the Outer Banks, the Simpson arti, Mickies and the Roy Rufus arti. Where and when will be determined by the movements of their forage species, ie; herring and pike (and later on, yakkas). Some hopefuls have attempted to hunt down early season snapper, yet few have succeeded. The sharks won’t let you win in many of the above mentioned areas as yet, so be patient.
Heading up the west coast of the bay seems beyond the realm of so many fishos, yet for similar distance travelled up the island, you can be tangling with snapper, grunter, trout and other reefies – often without so many sharks. Sure, the protection Fraser Island offers is very tangible, yet the same could be said for the mainland coastline in offshore winds. Worth considering if you are bored or frustrated with the local scene inshore.
Winter Whiting Best Down the Straits
The boys instore reckon the only decent reports they have had of winter whiting over the past fortnight have been from the central Great Sandy Straits. Those accessing the grounds out from Maroom, Poona, Tinanbar etc are having the most success. Good quality whiting are on offer down there too apparently.
Conversely, our local grounds have failed to produce. Those who headed prematurely towards Woody Island found none. Sadly, the grounds off Gatakers Bay that would be the better starting point have also given up very little. This will all change very soon however, so wait for the next making tides and have another crack if you wish. If not willing to do the miles down the straits, then again, Gatakers Bay to Toogoom should be the next best bet.
Southern Lakes in Transition Mode
Crowds of red claw fans have descended on the lakes to our south and west in recent months. Bjelke-Peterson, Boondooma and Borumba have been giving up masses of red claw, and many have been feasting regularly. Those keen to get in on this “action” should act quickly though, as typical of freshwater crustaceans, the red claw will become very lethargic and go to ground when the waters get too cold.
The same lakes have been producing bass and yellowbelly in decent numbers, yet these very same fish are in transition mode at present as well. Fish that were recently targeted along the edge, or banks, are now migrating to deeper waters. Fishos seeking said fish need to transition from the typical spinnerbait and lipless crankbaits of the edge bite to small metal vibes, spoons and heavily-weighted soft plastics for the deeper waters.
Trollers will dominate some waters in coming weeks. Deep divers plunged to the right depths to target fish spotted on the sounder suspended in the water column are the targets. Interestingly, and perhaps somewhat odd, was that members of the local Hervey Bay Amateurs Fishing Club actually caught a handful of saratoga at Boondooma on trolled topwater lures recently – certainly not out of the textbook that one!
Mondy Was Amusing Over the Moon
Making the most of possibly the last “good” full moon of the impoundment barra season, your scribe made his way to Lake Monduran for a week or so. The fishing was good often enough, great at times and yet very frustrating at others. Scoring a 117cm barra for the first fish of the trip was a decent start, and with a couple more in the “teens” to follow, the trip was worth the effort. When you have enough barra under your belt, the fish are almost a bonus to the wonderfully relaxing scene that is Mondy under a growing moon.
I am definitely getting old though, as I opted for the warmth of a campfire every night at just the wrong time and missed the most important moon-above period every night. Content with daytime and early evening captures, a beer by the fire was way too tempting. Even though the weather was cooler than one might hope, the fish were still willing to bite – at times.
A dozen rats around the 60cm mark were easy enough anytime you felt like a recharge, but the temptation of the bigger fish drew me elsewhere often. Finding them wasn’t too hard, though at times they were difficult to tempt. Fish around 85-100cm were abundant and occasionally catchable, yet the monsters bettering the 120cm mark would show up and tease me all too often.
Scenes of true Mondy monsters gathered in glassy calm, shallow, lily-fringed bays out of the wind, erupting and displacing more water than my little tinny at any disturbance will remain with me for some time. You can catch thousands of these fish over the years and still get excited every time such scenes unfold.
For those of you willing to put in the hard yards at a tough time of year, here are a few observations from last week worth noting. Firstly, dropping water levels combined with cooling water has put them off the weedless frogs. This is a crying shame, as what was experienced in recent months was truly mind-blowing.
Secondly, the larger garfish are back (and have been for a few months). Barra, big and small, are once again willing to smash the larger lures such as Keitech 6.8” softies and Reidy’s Big Ass B52s. Intermediates are also working, both hard and soft, with Hollowbellies rigged weedless pulling a few, and the new XRap Deep 11 pulling plenty of fish too.
Small lures also worked this week. Small Jackalls worked on small fish, and the dynamite new mini favourite, the Daiwa Current Master caught little fish as well as better models to 112cm. Few lures offer such action and heavy hardware as this little gem, without any failure or breakages – a true winner in the shallows and amongst the lilies.
So, if you are a Mondy tragic too, then you might be tempted to chase the big fish this winter. It won’t be easy, as for some reason, large fish that were so easy to catch in numbers before the lake rose have been notoriously hard to tempt for many months, even during the peak heat of summer. But hey, there’s nothing like a challenge, eh?