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Fisho’s Weekly Fishing Report – 13th April 2023

Sid Boshammer with a 10kg black spot tuskfish, caught on rod and reel.

Glass Out This Weekend

Unseasonal westerly winds had a rather negative impact on boating opportunities over the Easter long weekend, but there is no denying how generally-pleasant the overall conditions were. Thankfully, the westerlies eased totally early this week and boaties were once again able to head far and wide.

A stiff westerly has sprung up again today, that will turn southerly overnight and ease dramatically early tomorrow morning. Tomorrow looks great if you can get out there, and is just a precursor for even better conditions this weekend.

Glassed-out seas are likely to greet boaties both Saturday and Sunday. Light winds of barely 5 knots with some hint of easterly tendency will make for glorious boaties conditions. Even the afternoon sea breeze is but a zephyr of around 10 knots from the east or northeast.

Make the most of this weekend’s glamour weather, as the good times won’t last beyond Monday lunchtime. A big blow is forecast to dominate the local weather-scape next week, kicking in late Monday. 25-30 knots of solid south-southeasterly trade wind are forecast for the bay at this stage, and even more offshore. These high winds are bound to blow showers onshore too, so next week ain’t looking too flash at all.

A waning moon and today’s last quarter phase see us smack bang in the middle of the latest set of neap tides. Current flow will pick up fairly quickly day to day from the weekend onwards, so take advantage of the building tides.

Pelagic Pleasure Aplenty

We mentioned the broad array of pelagic options in last week’s report, and this week is much of a repeat. The westerlies denied access to much of the bay and sent a lot of crews up the west coast instead of the east, but generally-speaking, the bay is alive with all manner of pelagic speedsters right now.

Some days the tuna have failed to show themselves until late in the day, though on a whole, it hasn’t been hard at all to track down active schools of both mack and longtail tuna. Spinning with metal slugs or heavily-weighted jerkshads is still the most popular way of tempting tuna, however, many crews favour stickbaits when they trip over larger longtails in smaller pods away from the masses and attending sharks.

Western bay forays are productive from now on into winter, offering a change of scenery from the usual run up the island. Admittedly, the views are hardly as impressive as Frasers white sands and coloured cliffs, but with all eyes on the foaming white water and air-borne tuna it matters less. Expect to see more and more tuna schools make their way down into the lower bay and upper straits as winter approaches. These fish might be flighty, but a lot of fuel can be saved and those in the smallest of boats get a crack at them too.

Longtail tuna are a great target throughout the bay this time of year.

There have been schools of queenfish lurking beneath the tuna schools quite often, so it can pay to let your slug or plastic sink and see if you connect to one of these acrobatic speedsters. Visually, they are certainly more entertaining than tuna and put up a great fight on any gear. Being suckers for topwater presentations, the queenies can add a bit of variety to a stick baiting session as well.

Not all of our queenfish are out in the open waters either, as schools of various sized fish can still be found harassing the hardyheads, gar and herring inshore. The fringes of the bay islands are worth a look, as are the flats and nearby ledges along the western side of Fraser. Westerlies made trips up along the western bay flats more favourable this week, but not everyone was able to track down the queenies.

There's been some nice queenfish around lately, Jackson has been having a great time on them.

School mackerel have been swiping at spoons and many other lures not intended for them. The Arch Cliffs 6 Mile has been central to a lot of the schoolie action this week. They can be found from the banks all the way through Platypus Bay, and over at the Burrum 8 Mile as well. Otherwise, schoolies in our inshore shipping channels are easily found by trolling, then focussing on them with baits or lures when found. Look for schools of herring and often the mackerel won’t be far away.

Spaniards are also still quite abundant and widespread. Isolated patches of reef in the central bay hold a few briefly, but it has been the 25 Fathom Hole, the Gutters and the Rooneys reefs that have seen the lion’s share of late. Trollers are getting their bag limit from a brief trolling session at dawn. Those favouring more active techniques are spinning them up on spoons and larger slugs cranked flat-out vertically from the bottom up later in the day. 

Broad-barred mackerel have been turning up in the vicinity of herring schools sheltering around deeper inshore reefs this week. Broadies are an autumn-early winter special inshore in these parts, and some quite large models can be encountered. They are fans of smaller baitfish and are often seen chasing hardies and garfish in very shallow water up on the flats.

Golden trevally are moving inshore with the baitfish schools. Look for them in southern Platypus Bay around reefs such as the 6 Mile, or further south at the Outer Banks. The Roy Rufus shipwrecks will house schools at times, particularly as winter gets nearer (much to the dismay of snapper fishos fooled by their semi-similar arches on the sounder).

Add giant herring inshore, remnant GTs lurking around shipwrecks and ledges, a few schools of cobia around the northern bay reefs and the chance of yellowfin tuna north from there and you have ample pelagic options at present. Beware the ever-present sharks and do your bit to minimise the carnage.

Double header, a golden trevally and queenfish providing the smiles

Hervey Bay is home to a plethora of trevally species, here's Jackson with a diamond trevally

Better Bite from Reefies This Weekend

The neap tides won’t excite all of our reef fish species, but the bite could be surprisingly good following the recent spell of westerly winds. As many of you know, here in the bay, westerlies tend to put the reefies off inshore, yet out wider, they still bite very well (if you can get there). Calm weather preceding a strong onshore blow can be dynamite, and guess what is coming.

The northern bay reefs will likely cop a hammering this weekend. The sharks up that way have turned many experienced locals away and they will be looking well beyond those waters for their fix. A run to 1770 will suit some, whilst others might head towards Lady Elliot. Small tides and calm seas will make either option pleasurable and relatively easy.

Sounding out isolated patches of rock or ferny country out wide could put you onto red emperor and large scarlet sea perch amongst many other quality reefies. Use your slow-pitch jigs or Nomad Squidtrex jigs in the deeper waters or deploy plastics on heavy jigheads (or the aforementioned jigs) in the shallower sub-40m country and you will soon track down the larger predators. 

Coral trout will be a major target species once again and will fall to the above lures, live baits or a well-presented whole fish bait. Sharks will take far more than their share in many areas, and at some sites – every fish. Keep on the move and try to minimise the wastage.

Matty with a solid nannygai from a recent trip up north
Big Red with a Little Red, nice work Tez

Squire and the odd snapper have featured in catches again this week. Their numbers will continue to swell as our waters cool. Neap tides are hardly ideal for snapper fishing, so consider night sessions to increase your chances. Gather live baits and/or use the recently deceased baitfish you catch nearby to your target area and you will better your chances at tempting the trophy knobbies.

It will be a matter of finding baitfish schools to find the better numbers of snapper inshore for now. Until the bay’s snapper population increases in coming months, focus on the smaller models and you will enjoy more success. Many softies, jigs, vibes and trolled deep divers will tempt snapper, large or small. Time your efforts to pick up the peak run of the tide during the neaps, and be on the spot at dawn and/or dusk if you can.

Plenty of grass sweetlip still abound inshore. The stirred-up waters from today’s westerly wind may draw a few schools into the waters fringing our shallow reefs. The neap tides don’t really equate to prime shallow reef fishing otherwise, so consider fishing pre-dawn of after dark for best results in the skinny water.

Sweeties should bite well in the deeper water inshore. Baits of squid will tempt them easy enough, but then you have to get them past the sharks. Areas such as the Roy Rufus, Channel Hole, Boges and ledge country east and north from those areas all hold numbers of sweeties. These grounds also host many large whaler sharks.

Cod and trout continue to bite well inshore and will do so until our waters get too cold. It is hard to believe that there is any trout still to be found over our shallow reefs with so many new hopefuls hunting them, yet some still exist. The coral trout’s only saving grace is that it is a very fast-growing species. 

The Nomad Squidtrex vibe has been slaying the fingermark up north, Matty with another nice specimen.
Terry and his son Charlie with a couple of nice nannygai

Estuary Brawlers Revel in Recent Warmth

Those chasing mangrove jacks in our local streams have had a great season, and it will soon come to a close. Right now is a prime time to be out chasing jacks, particularly this week, given the recent warm weather and sunny skies. The neap tides will aid lure chuckers immensely too, offering clearer, slower-moving waters and potentially sight fishing opportunities in some waters.

Many jacks have fallen to small topwater presentations recently – surely the best jack attack you could witness. Paddle-tailed plastics, prawn imitations and many smaller hardbodies have also tempted their share of jacks and will continue to do so. Vibing the deeper waters just inside or just outside certain creek systems can bring you into contact with some true monster jacks, schooling up to head offshore soon.

For now, jacks can be found from the upper reaches right through to the mouth of many streams. The Burrum system still holds great numbers of all sizes, with increasing evidence of larger models making their way downstream. Fraser’s western creeks are home to some of the biggest schools, and once again, there are true thugs amongst these fish bettering the 55cm mark.

The Burrum’s barra continue to draw many hopefuls, and quality fish are still being caught. A 90cm barra isn’t all that bragworthy in the Burrum system this season, courtesy of the overflow of fish from Lake Lenthalls a year or so ago. Having said this, fish of that calibre are a ton of fun and potentially quite challenging around the snags. Girthy big barra to in excess of 120cm are quite possible from the Burrum system (and elsewhere locally), so make the most of the remainder of our warm weather to score yourself a trophy.

Al Denham with a 123cm salty barra, impressive fish.

Kyle with a nice barra on the Chasebaits Flick Prawn

There have been a few threadfin salmon caught in the River Heads area this week. Westerly winds likely drew fish from upstream to take advantage of the stirred-up waters in the vicinity. Being dirty water specialists, threadies tend to seek out turbid waters to enhance their feeding opportunities. It might seem a little strange, that in clear water scenarios we look for threadies in the dirty stuff, whilst when the waters are filthy, we look for them in the cleaner waters. There is definitely a happy medium that they prefer.

You can venture further upstream in the Mary or Susan and might find yourself some threadfin salmon. Blues are even easier to find and are widespread at present. Down the straits, it is a similar scenario, with blues outnumbering threadies in many creeks. 

Grunter are quite well-entrenched in some creek systems now, and are also making their way upstream in our rivers. The neap tides don’t excite them or their experienced pursuers much, but they are still worth targeting mid-tide. Softies, particularly from the GULP stable, will soon temp a hungry grunter, as will a soft vibe bounced close to the bottom. Flats down the straits with a slightly greater gradient will be worth a prospect too, as opposed to the vast flats with less incline that get visits over the bigger tides.

Jackson with a grunter, one of the tastiest fish in the estuaries.

Jackson with a school jew from the river

A straits trip might otherwise uncover a few gems in the form of queenies working the flats, the odd school of golden trevally or even a few XOS giant trevally. Again, not standard fare for the neap tides, but great distractions if you trip over them. Otherwise, keep your eye out for flatties around the creek mouths, jewies along the ledges and estuary cod anywhere there is a bit of rock or other structure.

Bream fishos will be rubbing their hands together at the thought of the bream fishery that is about to explode onto our coastline. Bream will be starting to gather upstream in our creeks and rivers with a view to migrating downstream to spawn in winter. By Anzac Day, they are typically a viable option around rock bars in the mid-lower reaches of our major rivers and it won’t be long before they hit the river mouths.

It is taking its sweet time to cool down this autumn (which is great) but the cooler nights recently are notable. The big blow next week will be a gamechanger for not only the impending bream season, but for many inshore species and their migratory movements. An influx of snapper, an exodus of sweetlip and jacks and lateral movements of highly mobile predatory species following their food sources will become evident.

Tarpon can be a tonne of fun on light tackle and small soft plastics
A cracking 80cm flathead caught and released during the Burrum Heads Easter Classic

Sand Crabs Moving and Prawns Emerging

Good catches of sand crabs have once again filtered back from those dropping heavy pots off the Burrum coastline. Heading wide of the Woodgate green zone, south from there or further east are good starting points for those new to the sand crabbing game. Fresh fish baits, particularly whiting frames, mackerel or other sand-dwelling species are ideal for sand crabs, though mullet will suffice if you have to buy your bait. 

Some sand crabbers are avoiding tuna and reef fish frames as the increasing attention these baits draw from passing sharks is detrimental to their crab pots. Regular pot destruction can be a thing in the bay, as can retrieval of pots with surprisingly sizeable little sharks trapped inside. Indeed, pro crabbers have at times lamented the loss of gear due to large whalers smashing pot floats and trip floats as they are retrieved across the surface.

Full mud crabs were potted from within local creeks and the creeks down the straits over Easter. There was a ridiculous number of pots in many waters, so obviously many failed to get a return for effort. Those that plonked their pots on top of or nearby to others probably deserved the poor results, though you have to feel for the poor crabbers that got their gear in first only to be bombed by others.

The neap tides and last quarter moon are likely to see less mud crab movement. The big blow next week however, should see many waters get a spell and crabs aplenty for those getting their gear into fresh terrain thereafter.

Woodgate failed to produce on the banana prawn front over Easter. Even the potentially perfect conditions immediately after Easter returned a big fat zero for those that went for a scout. Funny things these bananas, they will emerge en-masse when conditions are just right, then bury again in the blink of an eye. Woodgate could still produce a banana prawn bonanza yet this month. Perhaps it just isn’t cool enough as yet.

The Burnett prawners are still slaying it up that way. Those prawns might otherwise turn up at Woodgate, but they are still within the river. Similarly, down our way, the biggest prawn numbers of note recently have been well upstream in the Mary River. Indeed, Maryborough prawners are getting fat on prawn that will make its way downstream sometime soon.

Until the prawns begin to migrate, seek them out locally within the smaller creeks running off the Mary/Susan, or head over to Fraser and look for them in the island’s western creeks. Otherwise, do the miles and look for prawn schools upstream in our rivers.

Arthur scored himself a nice feed of prawn recently

Looks like Ben is eating mud crab for dinner

Time for Impoundment Barra to Fatten Up

Lake Monduran was a popular holiday destination over Easter. It wasn’t only barra hopefuls at the lake either, as many were there to water ski. The scene at the boat ramps was challenging (to be polite), with peak periods early and late generally frustrating and hectic. At least the weather was nice, from Saturday onwards anyway.

Smaller barra in the 55-65cm size range are plentiful and quite willing to swipe at all manner of lures. Certainly, the most fun can be had with weedless topwater frogs retrieved at various paces over the abundant lily pads and shallow flooded grasses. Absolute cricket scores of baby barra can be attained when conditions are right, so take many frogs with you as they tear them to bits (even the tough ones).

Suspending hardbodies also tempt these scrappy little guys very often, and at times you can struggle to find a lure of any size or form that they won’t have a crack at. This is a little frustrating when you have a sounder screen alive with barra of all sizes and the littluns beat the big’ns to the lure each and every time. 

One suspending hardbody that has stood out from the pack since its release has been the Daiwa Steez Current Master. Built tough, with capable hardware straight out of the pack, this little dynamo racks up the small barra and hangs onto the metre-beaters when they come along just as well.

Bigger barra have become a tad easier to catch of late, and will be looking to pack on the pounds in readiness for the winter months. There are still no serious numbers being caught by the masses, yet those that live and breathe Mondy barra are having their moments. When you find bigger fish that can be tempted, there is every chance that the odd bite could be from a true monster. Fish bettering the 120cm mark have been caught again recently, often kept on the down low for damn good reasons.

We have had no word from Lake Lenthalls of late. April-May can be a special time out there for both barra and bass. In clearing waters, the fish tend to feed up big going into winter. Anyone keen to test those waters should take a range of topwater offerings, including frogs, and target the low light periods. Evidence of missed strikes, follows and spooking fish are much more obvious on topwater, spurring you on to keep casting.

Good luck out there y’all …… Jase

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