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Fisho’s Weekly Fishing Report – 12th April, 2024

Will caught this beaut longtail tuna out in the bay during a spell of glamour weather earlier this week.

Winds Tending Onshore Again

The past week was very autumnal here on the Fraser Coast. The weather varied, and we enjoyed warm conditions in light onshore breezes that brought some rain, then a cool and dry change that plunged our air temperature as low as we have seen for 5-6 months. Very pleasant conditions indeed right now, that look set to continue into next week.

Unfortunately, the southerly breeze stiffened early this morning and it will tend more south-easterly at around 15-20 knots throughout the day. Saturday and Sunday could be a lot better according to some weather sites, yet BOM’s official Hervey Bay Waters forecast suggests today’s 15-20 knotter will prevail. 10 to 15 knots would seem more likely than 20 inshore, though offshore waters may feel the extra breeze.

The onshore south-easter will ease right back through Monday and Tuesday with any luck. Barely 10 knots each day and a slight easterly sea breeze late in the day makes for fantastic boating conditions once again potentially. It should be dry under pretty much clear skies until mid-week. Thereafter, an increasing onshore air flow could see the return of scattered showers.

The moon is in the early waxing stage as we approach the first quarter phase next Tuesday. Diminishing tidal flow until then is hard to get excited about, but once the tides start to make thereafter, it will be game on once again. At least the minimal current won’t exaggerate the seas should the wind actually get up this weekend.

Rainbow Beach local, Sonny Bennett caught his holy grail whilst out with Greg Pearce. Ripper red mate! Many adults in these parts haven't achieved that goal yet.

Hervey Bay is a Playground for Tuna Fans

If you like chasing tuna all over the paddock, then you are in for a real treat in Hervey Bay right now. Both longtail and mack tuna are turning up all over the bay in good numbers. Platypus Bay is most popular, and it, along with the waters a little wider thereof, are home to some of the best longtails at present. There is plenty of mack tuna in the central bay and quite a few over in the west as well.

Once the tides make for a few days into next week, we can expect another wave of tuna pushing down into the straits. Quite a few schools have lingered of late, chasing smaller baitfish through the shipping channels, though you might expect even better fish in bigger numbers next week. Some schools have proven to be flighty, whilst others are “staying up” and feeding with reckless abandon.

Avoiding the dreaded noahs arks has been very challenging, particularly around any larger tuna schools in Platypus Bay or further south into the shipping channels. Once again, it can pay to focus your attention on smaller pods of larger longtails away from the major melees. With rare exceptions, you will encounter shark depredation regularly, so don’t get too attached to your tuna lures.

Next week’s making tides might see some skinny water flats action for those fishos cruising Fraser’s western beaches at the right time. Keeping an appropriate distance off the beach, scouring the water for the black barrelled bodies of the longtails is the go, and once spotted, you can approach with stealth and enjoy the extra thrill of line burning runs in the skinniest of water. Of course, this scene will only unfold if there is a lot of bait along the beach. No bait = no tuna, so keep cruising and head wide if that is the case.

Mack tuna are absolutely prolific. Find them across the whole bay and down the straits as well.
Thanh used a stock standard Hervey Bay tuna lolly to tempt this school longtail. Zman jerkshads and heavy jig heads are winners all the time.

Mackerel Mayhem Across the Whole Bay

Its not just tuna tearing into Hervey Bay’s baitfish populations at present, as there are mackerel galore widespread throughout the bay. Spaniard numbers are high in Platypus Bay (where they are no-take) and out wider north of the banks. Grounds well west of Arch Cliffs have been spaniard central at times over the past week. Our governors’ new protective measures limit the take of spanish mackerel, so seeking them out for a feed is a fairly brief affair these days, and your miniscule bag limit is achieved without any real effort.

Trollers haven’t had to drag their lures far if they are in the right water. The abovementioned areas, the reefs through the central and northern bay and grounds to the west, closer to Bundy, are all producing spaniards to some degree. Expect more of the same this week. 

There has even been a few straggler spotties lingering in the bay, but their numbers are minimal and they are but an incidental bycatch at this time. It is a different story down off the Wide Bay bar though, where spotties are just one part of the plethora of pelagics on offer down there right now.

School mackerel are pouncing on anything that moves over many reef systems in the western bay. They are an absolute pain in the proverbial if you are seeking better fish such as grunter or reefies. Lure losses can be as high as your frustration level, and the schoolies can tend to deny you access to the fish you seek beneath them. Resorting to bait is more cost effective, but still doesn’t avoid the seemingly fearless and ever-hungry school mackerel.

Schoolie fans have the opportunity to target them and should do very well. Troll for them, spin them up on spoons, or simply soak gang-rigged baits and your quota shouldn’t take too long to fill. They are generally of quite good size too, so you shouldn’t have to worry about hurting juveniles on the right grounds.

Reports of schoolies over some Platypus Bay reefs have also done the rounds this week. Those seeking an early season snapper in the central southern bay will probably lose a few lures to the pesky buggers too. As baitfish flood in to our inshore shipping channels with the making tides, there will be both mackerel and tuna in pursuit. The schoolies will take up temporary residence over many popular inshore reefs, so seek out those areas hosting better numbers of baitfish and there you will find them.

There has also been broad-barred mackerel lurking around the reef out on the banks. They can also be found along some inshore ledges, and will soon be a regular feature of our inshore flats. Our waters will need to cool a little further for that to transpire perhaps, yet, with bay waters barely 26C right now, it won’t be long.

Sean spun up this spotty from Platypus Bay waters this week. Proof there are a few strays lingering. Nothing like the numbers off Wide Bay bar though.

Sean and his sister Mya with her first mack tuna caught over near Coongul Point.

A Samaki Live Shrimp was the undoing of coral trout and this baby banga for Thanh.

Inshore Reefs Need a Reprieve from the Noahs

Increased tuna numbers inshore spells bad news for our reef dwellers. The already hard to avoid semi-resident bull sharks and their cousins continue to swell in number, and simply securing a feed of reef fish can be a challenging affair. Many resort to the shallows, yet the shallows offer limited opportunities this time of year. The new moon a week ago was productive for some fishos, with grunter, trout, sweeties and cod making their way over the gunwales. This week’s neaps will be less fruitful.

If you can avoid the sharks, then set your sights on trout, cod, sweeties and scarlets, and take some time to see if the squire respond to the cooling temperatures. Snatch a feed from the mouths of the noahs if you get lucky, but give the relentless all-day pursuit some second thought if you have a feed in the esky. We no longer enjoy the luxury of large hauls of reef fish inshore, due to the sharks and extra fishing pressure, so perhaps spending some time enjoying the other fisheries on offer is worth considering.

A spell up on the flats can be a ton of fun, bringing you encounters with anything from queenfish, goldies and GTs to flathead, grunter, whiting and bream. A cruise past the bay islands could see you connecting to any of the above, or a few alternatives to boot. Those waters will see a lot of traffic as our waters clear going into winter.

Hervey Bay local, Bob Goodwin, enjoyed a great day out with Double Island Point Fishing Charters recently and snared some nice squirey snapper.

Fishing with Double Island Point Fishing Charters puts Bob onto the quality. Here he is with a Robinsons Sea Bream and a school red.

Excellent Fishing Offshore of Wide Bay

Bumping into Greg Pearce, the owner and skipper of Double Island Point Fishing Charters the other day was enlightening. He had his eager young son Olly with him, and trust me, that young fella, at a mere 8 years of age can wield a rod and catch a fish as good as, and in some cases, better than many adults. The videos of this young lad at work on all sorts of fish on all sorts of tackle make your average youtuber look pretty boring.

Greg has been enjoying the same great weather that we have of late, and has been absolutely smashing it offshore of the Wide Bay bar. The current has been fairly challenging 20 miles or so out, whilst it’s been quite manageable closer in from there. The sharks are giving fishos hell on the larger, known grounds, but luckily for Greg, and his punters, he knows oodles of tiny isolated hotspots that are shark-free and they give up trophy fish quite regularly. Reds are one of his specialties, and he has them wired better than most.

The pelagic action in closer to the Wide Bay bar has been insane. There is a significant out-flow of dirty water spewing out from the bottom end of the straits, and it has drawn in baitfish and an abundance of pelagic predators. All the mackerel species are represented in the “dirty” inshore water, with spaniards, spotties, schoolies and greys all possible. There are hordes of tuna too, the rival of Hervey Bay’s, and all within a short drive of the coastline.

Greg has been on the right spots to intercept the inshore movements of some early season snapper lately, and they have been responsive to a number of techniques. As winter approaches and the current eases out wider, schools of pearlies will join the snapper in closer, but for now they are hanging wide and deep. There is a huge range of fish species on offer off the southern end of Fraser Island for those keen to venture that way. The westerly winds of winter typically see locals from up here considering a southern sojourn in lieu of the pounding Hervey Bay dishes out when heading wide in offshore winds.

At this time though, many will continue to venture north of the bay or over Breaksea Spit when conditions are favourable. That doesn’t look likely this week. Luckily, some fishos headed up the Bruce and fished out from 1770 last week. The sharks kept many on the move unfortunately, yet they still managed a great feed of coral trout, RTEs and mixed reef fish. Reds were caught out wide of the islands, but again, the sharks were an issue.

Olly Pearce with his first scarlet (nannygai). The rod work from this young lad on a noodle stick is as good as you will see.
Young Ollie Pearce has more quality fish under his belt at 8 years old than many adults. This fine sweetie is just one of many.
Look up Double Island Point Fishing Charters if you want a great day trip offshore. They depart from Carlo and fish the grounds east of Fraser or D.I.

Straits Favoured Over Our Rivers

Dirty water in our major rivers continues to plague our estuary fishos. Good rains fell in the Mary River catchment and the Burrum catchments last week. This continues to maintain the minor flow over weirs etc and flushes fresh water downstream. This is not a bad thing, but can make lure fishing a bit too challenging for many.

Luckily, we have the mighty Great Sandy Straits on our doorstep. This vast delta of creeks and channels disperses the dirty inflows and offers numerous waterways in varying water qualities. Learn to read these waters and you can be catching barra, threadies, jacks and every other estuarine predator you can think of. 

Large blue salmon are rampaging across the flats and challenging the local queenies in the speed stakes. The grunter flushed from creeks too dirty for their liking are easy targets as they wander the channels and flats feasting on the displaced morsels washed out by the fresh. Jewies too, hold station along deeper ledges and around sunken structure ready to pounce when the tide slackens.

The change in the weather this week was notable to us - and the fish too! Bream fans won’t be resting their finesse tackle for much longer, and could indeed enjoy the initial schooling scenarios unfolding in our creeks right now. The bream are gathering to move out to spawn and will be very active and accessible very soon.

Catching flatties may not be as productive as it is in spring, yet you can still be confident of a few encounters around creeks mouths and rock bars down the straits. Many are still holding in deeper waters within the creeks too, feasting on prawn moving with the tide when they get the chance.

Talk of quality winter whiting (diver whiting) showing up down the straits made the grapevine this week. Their shift from deeper waters to the more typical depths will soon have many wintery fans out chasing them on a regular basis. Hervey bay locals typically wait for the first “runs” off Gatakers Bay, but they could jump the gun if they were willing to do the miles. Stay tuned for winter whiting updates as this season unfolds.

Queenies are great fun. Jacko caught this one last weekend on a GULP Turbo Shrimp when it was supposed to be raining.
When your grunter better the 60cm mark, you are onto a good thing. Top fish Luke.
This solid 64cm flattie was a bonus for Sean whilst flicking a prawn imitation near shallow reef.

Crabs Galore and Prawns in the Offing

If you’ve been anywhere near Coongul Point of late, then you will be well aware of the sand crab bonanza on offer in that area. The whole stretch of Fraser’s west coast near there is a minefield of crab pot floats, both commercial and recreational. The sandies are definitely on the march, and they just keep on coming at present, so there are many happy crabbers feasting regularly.

Scoring a bag limit is a relatively easy affair, but only if you’re one step ahead of the crab and the other crabbers. You will be picking up the dregs if you sidle on up behind others that are working the crab, so spend some time to read the scene and get your pots in the right spots. Don’t just dump them and hope for the best. A couple hour soak and a reset might be necessary, but it is the overnight soak that will see the numbers crawl in. Expect less movement over the neaps and the pace to pick up with the tides in a week or so.

There doesn’t appear to be any crabbing effort in the western bay at present. Some are picking up a feed from the shallower terrain locally, but it’s over Coongul way or up the island for the majority of crabbers. There are a few 3-spot crabs in the mix too by the way, that are every bit as sweet-tasting as the sandies.

Mud crabbers continue to bring home a feed, though they have had to shift their pots to stay with the best crabbing. The muddies have been of excellent quality for the past two months; full of meat, with next to no throw-backs. That is until this week, however, as reports of a few empty crabs has seen otherwise solid muddies returned to the water to fatten up. Ensure you check your bucks for meat in coming weeks, as molting crab caught at the wrong time have zero value as seafood.

Things are getting a little more exciting on the prawning front. That significant cold snap this week spells great news for banana prawn fans. Those that read the scene and scouted out potential deeper water bananas in the recent offshore winds are enjoying the spoils. Those that didn’t will have to wait for their next opportunity.

In the meantime, the deeper holes in some of the creeks down the straits are worth a throw. Drain-bashing for shallow-water prawn will give up a feed for the energetic, so long as they do so in the right quality water. The mid reaches of the Burrum system might continue to produce a modest feed, as might the lower reaches of the Mary. Not quite the quality that can be found elsewhere in open water, but a scrumptious feed all the same.

Sand crabs are on the march, and 3 spot crabs are tagging along too. Deano has been eating well lately.
What does an offshore charter skipper do when it is too windy this time of year - go crabbing. Greg Pearce's family is certainly spoilt for fresh seafood.
Mmmmmm ..... open water bananas!! Not big yet, but a good start.

Other Reports from Around the Traps

Word from fishos returning from Fraser Island this week suggest there is an interesting run of small chopper tailor on offer in the surf. Settled seas recently have finally enabled fishos to have more than a passing cast at the surf gutters, and some found themselves amongst schools of ravenous little choppers. Many were undersized, and none were worth boasting about, but fun for those amongst the action nonetheless. Other than that, it has been all about the better-quality dart for surf fishos. Finding the right gutter has been key.

Urangan Pier fishos have been catching mackerel this week. Tuna are bound to turn up again sometime next week. There has been a few small bream there to keep the smaller kids entertained. It won’t be long and the serious bream run will commence at the pier, bringing out all the regular pier bream fans after dark in force. Catching small whiting from the beach end has also entertained a few kids, whilst at least one intrepid fisho was observed catching them one after the other from the nearby mudflats whilst walking along flicking tiny topwater lures.

There has been an improvement in the land-based action for fishos wandering the rocky shores of Pt Vernon. The odd trout has been possible, though fairly rare, but it is the likes of passing queenies, little GTs and some solid grunter that have put a serious bend in some folks’ rock fishing rods.

Lake Lenthalls is producing some fun freshwater barra action for those keen to give them a try. They might only be small fish in the 50-70cm size class for the most part, but they offer plenty of excitement on lighter tackle. Go armed with some weedless frogs, topwater lures, smaller suspending hardbodies and paddle-tailed plastics and you have them covered.

The barra have been possible from all over the lake, from the shallower backwaters to the more open points and banks in the main body of water. Bass have been active too, and they can be targeted with topwater lures and softies, as well as spinnerbaits, hard vibes or trolled hardbodies. Just ensure you tone down your leader size if it is bass that you seek, as they shy away from the heavier barra leaders, even in dirty water.

Oh, and one last point worth mentioning this week. We get asked all the time where you can dispose of your expired Inshore Flares. You cannot leave them with the VMR at the harbour, but you can leave them with Qld Transport’s Maritime office next door, on Buccaneer Drive in Urangan. 

Good luck out there y’all …… Jase

Lucas Ferguson was proud of this chunky little jewfish he caught and released from Fraser Island's surf on a beach worm.

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