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Fisho’s Weekly Fishing Report – 14th July, 2023

Starkly contrasted jig head and plastic triggered a bite from this nice snapper for Dan.

 

Mild Winter Continues with Onshore Breeze

 

We enjoyed a few more calm days early this week prior to the breeze swinging back onshore and picking up a little. As the latest stream of high-pressure systems dip a little more south over the continent, the breeze will remain onshore for the week ahead.

Today’s weather is a repeat of yesterday’s, with around 15 knots of mostly south-easterly breeze that has dragged a few loosely scattered showers onshore. The weekend is quite a bit better, where we can expect around 10 knots of southeast-easterly Saturday, that will tend more south-southeasterly Sunday and stiffen late in the day.

The southeaster is then likely to strengthen further overnight, to blow around 20 knots Monday. From there on into the working week, it will be more of the same, with the breeze fluctuating around 15-20 knots and prevailing onshore. We can expect a few more showers as the breeze strengthens but they should be mostly coastal.

Not the ideal forecast beyond the weekend by any means, but still not one that would stop a keen fisho from hitting the water somewhere. The protected inshore waters, our rivers and the Great Sandy Straits will be popular this week. 

The moon continues to wane and get smaller each day. It will do so until the new moon phase passes on Tuesday. Not huge tides over the darks this time of year, but plenty of run all the same.

Dan hauled a decent bar cod up from the depths over the shelf recently.

Dan with a solid jobbie from the shelf.


Snapper & Pearl Perch Off Limits for the next Month


The annual snapper and pearl perch closure comes into effect as of midnight tonight. Essentially, neither species can be taken or targeted until after the 15th August. 

The timing of this closure might seem a bit cruel for local snapper fans as the spawning migration has only just begun in much of the bay. However, if you take a moment to ponder the recent decline in the fishery, particularly closer inshore here in the bay, then you will soon realise why such a drastic measure was deemed necessary.

Slow-growing fish need time to recover when their stocks are reduced, and there is ample evidence of the need for protective measures here in Qld. Where once we enjoyed quality fishing for snapper of all sizes (many years ago now), numbers are very low and of great concern. The larger mature breeders that are arriving in the northern and central bay as you read this need to be left to spawn in peace if we are to see our local snapper fishery recover.

Taking these two species off the hit list really puts the dampener on potential offshore fishing trips. Pearlies are hard to avoid along the shelf line, and snapper too are regularly encountered. Both species also move closer to the coast offshore this time of year for spawning purposes and could be hard to avoid in as little as 50 metres for the pearlies or even 30 metres or less for the snapper.

Luckily for us, our offshore waters teem with a huge variety of alternative target species. Any offshore forays over the coming month should be customised to avoid the no-take temperate species and seek out the tasty tropical varieties. Regular offshore fishos will know exactly how and where to do this, as many grounds are home to sweetlips, emperors, cods, tuskfish and others that have little history of snapper or pearl perch spawning aggregations.

Ray Green's great snapper shot tells the story. Oily calm and cloudy with the sun on the horizon - snapper time.
A couple of 5kg+ snapper from a recent session in Platypus Bay. Plastics dominate over bait during daylight up that way.

 

Offshore Grounds Will be Rested this Week


Good weather has blessed our boaties every week for quite some time now, and many have taken advantage of the light winds and headed out wide. Offshore trips over the Breaksea Spit resulted in mixed catches for some crews, some of which were happy to mix up the techniques and target various depths in a given day.

Deep droppers continue to ply the deep stuff beyond 200 metres and fare quite well at times. A variety of jobfish species, pearlies, snapper and bar cod being the mainstays of late. Sharks have not been a problem in the depths “locally” as far as we know, which is better than what we hear from other stretches of nearby coastline. 

Switching to jigs in 200 metres or more can seem exhausting to us older fishos, but the younger and more energetic troops take on the task with gusto. Pearlies, snapper, jobbies and pretty much any other large deep-water ooglie is a chance on a slow-pitch jig in those depths. Today’s tackle, in the form of lighter and more responsive purpose-built rods and smaller yet super-strong reels and metered braid makes the task much more efficient for the modern fisho.

Very large amberjack call our offshore waters home and these brutes can be a real handful on even the best jigging outfits. Some skippers will be well-practiced in avoiding the familiar banana-shaped arches that announce their presence, whilst others keen to shape up to them might learn what they look like on a sounder screen and seek them out. Yellowtail kingies are also possible this time of year, particularly around shipwrecks or pinnacles in deep water.

Unfortunately, fishos with trailered vessels are unlikely to be heading offshore this week. The wind will be a bit too much for periods, and even when it drops back to 10 knots there is enough rising swell to make bar crossings less appealing. Large offshore charter boats will handle it though, so hitch a ride if you are not prone to mal-de-mer.

Kyle picked up a nice pearlie on a Vexed Dhu Drop jig over the shelf.

Kyle shifted focus from deepwater jigging to topwater and landed this ripper kingy.

Kyle also scored this GT on a 190mm Nashy's stickbait offshore last week.

 

Migrating Baitfish Draw in the Winter Predators

 

The northern bay is giving up a better class of fish of late, courtesy in part to the cooler waters slowing the attack of the dreaded noahs arks, but more significantly, due to the ever-growing aggregations of migrating baitfish moving through those waters. “Local” fish such as coral trout and cod feast on the abundance of easily-digested baitfish species and respond very well to live baits.

Roaming species such as red emperor and scarlet sea perch (nannygai) also predate on the very same baitfish and can be drawn in numbers to a given site by the temporary residence of schools of bait. Genetic memory and a history of past feasts draw progeny of previous fish back at just the right time, often dictated by water temperature as much as moon and tide. Head beyond the Gutters if you wish to catch fish of this quality these days.

Snapper just started to show up in better numbers at grounds such as the Gutters and off Rooneys to join the smaller squire that were more prevalent previously. Day trippers to such grounds rarely encounter proper knobbies unless they are there for the dawn or dusk period. That is, unless such a day tripper is armed with a range of jigs and soft plastics attached to leaders and tackle somewhat lighter than what might be used to jig trout. 

Cocky parrot (venus tuskfish) are more common captures in the northern bay in winter than at other times. The bigger tides favour the cocky fans as these foraging fish scrounge the fringes of the reefs looking for their next meal. They have always been suckers for squid and mullet fillet baits, and will devour large prawns if you can justify dropping such soft baits into deeper waters.

Cockies are bottom feeders, so keep your baits on the bottom. You will catch more grassies than cockies most of the time as they share the same terrain, as do the less desirable yet quite hard-pulling spangled emperor and blackall. You won’t catch any cockies at night, yet the sweetlip species will be even more active.

The trevally clan are starting to gather in the northern bay. Still only small numbers apparently, most likely due to the consistently higher water temperature. Long-nosed trevally (tea leaf) are certainly the most common of the clan up that way, and supposedly the best eating. However, on a given day you could also tangle with giants, goldies, bludgers, diamonds, turrum and brassies, just to name a few.

Some readers will have encountered the swirling “tornadoes” of trevally that occasionally appear beneath your boat in the depths of winter. Such an event is a sportsfishos dream, as many differing species can join the same event and fish after fish can be jigged within clear sight, often barely beneath the surface. Events such as these occur when the baitfish have amassed and the trevally clans converge on the feast.

As mentioned recently, big cobia are a regular capture from various sectors of the northern bay. As larger aggregations of baitfish migrate south into the bay, some cobia will follow. We may not see the schools of cobes we once did in the southern bay itself anymore, but you never know. It will need to get a lot colder for any such migratory movements this year.

Snapper and various trevally species have started to show up in Platypus Bay. No huge numbers as yet, but hopefully many more will arrive and the season’s spawning events are a success. The lack of a local wet season and the lack of resultant nutrient-rich waters combined with a remarkably warm winter suggest otherwise. For this reason, responsible fishos must leave the spawning snapper in peace – this year more than ever before!

Father and son team, Tony and Riley Kruger with the spoils of a recent trip out wide.

Hot Reels charter clients with a couple of recent coral trout captures.
A happy Hot Reels charter client with a northern bay trout.
Hot Reels skipper, Pauly, with a nice bar cheek from the northern bay.

 

Inshore Pelagic Fun and a Feed

 

Reports of mack and longtail tuna prowling the waters of the Great Sandy Straits suggest keen sportsfishos might want to have a spin outfit rigged and ready. Bust-ups might be very few most days, but occasionally the longtails in particular can be quite sizeable.

A lot of the local queenfish population has been on the move. Apart from the ones that chilled their way down the Bruce, the more sought-after large queenies can be found terrorising the baitfish down the straits. They will smash schools of pike, herring, hardy heads and garfish, will actively seek out squid, and are also partial to a feed of mullet or whiting. 

Sight-fishing for queenies is a ton of fun, made all the better when doing so in the skinny water of the flats. Don’t get too excited about the biggest broadest flats and focus on the channels that dissect the other flats and the verges thereof. Of course, stick baits get them excited and offer perhaps the most fun, but you can often tempt them much easier with softies twitched erratically or cranked at speed.

The last wave of school mackerel seems to have dissipated in some areas – but there will be more. Many more! The making tides this week will move more water and baitfish into the southern bay and the mackerel are bound to follow. Exactly where though is yet to be determined. Look for the herring. Recent reports of active schoolies gorging themselves in the shallow margins at dawn are notable.

Jigging for golden trevally around our inshore shipwrecks is a popular pastime for some fishos. Admittedly, many only catch the goldies by accident when targeting snapper, but that situation will have to be reversed for the coming month. The trevally are easy to spot on the sounder. Smaller numbers of thicker arches are likely to be snapper and should be avoided if you can. Down scan technology draws an even clearer picture that leaves no doubt.

Chasing broad-barred mackerel is a potentially worthy pursuit for those keen to wander the verges of the bay islands, spin rod in hand. Bust-ups of hardy heads are often the result of attacks from broadies, though occasionally blue salmon, tailor and queenies can be the culprits. To be honest, just finding hardy heads can be laborious around the islands these days, so shift your focus to the channels that feed water through the mudflats if you must.

You can still catch a modest feed of grassy sweetlip from the deeper inshore reefs, just not in very big numbers. The average size will be much better than the warmer months though, and night sessions will produce the best fishing. Avoiding snapper and catching sweeties is challenging, but by offering smaller baits and keeping them hugging the bottom your chances of more sweeties and less snapper is vastly improved.

Otherwise, a reef fisho can tangle with blackall doing the same thing, or if familiar with their haunts, then mix it with the local scarlets after dark. Cod and trout are pretty lethargic during the depths of winter, so live baiting will be more successful than lures. All the same, dance that jig or softy in their face at just the right time and you might contravene that statement.

Jessie was happy with this Hervey Bay golden trevally caught during a recent glass out.
Ben continues to have fun with the goldies hanging around the inshore shipwrecks.
Dorzy was happy with a spaniard she picked up recently. Slender-looking fish such as this are very often males.

 

Green Zones are Still Green at Night

 

That old joke that green zones are only green in the daylight is pretty worn out. One hearing such a comment might occasionally even wonder if a joke was indeed intended. Marine Parks have been actively educating fishos and boaties alike at local boat ramps recently, handing out brochures so that all and sundry are aware of the rules.

Unbelievably, at the very same time, there are boats actively fishing within our green zones! The remarkable consistency of which you will see blatant rule-breakers fishing, trolling or spearing within local green zones in broad daylight is absolutely astounding! Spend enough time down near Little Woody Island and you will get the picture.

Concerned locals have also raised the issue of poachers fishing the old “snapper grounds” out near the banks. In both cases, and very likely many others, it isn’t necessarily just uninformed visitors that are poaching from these waters. Obviously, there are folks out there that have no respect for the law. Bragging rights for captures from such waters are null and void of course.

Hefty fines have been issued by Marine Parks many times in the past. Their patrols, along with Fisheries and the Water Police that are in direct communication cover a lot of ground, but they cannot be everywhere. Their task is about to be exacerbated – dramatically. 

A review of the Great Sandy Marine Park has been undertaken by the Qld government and apparently there will be proposals for new zoning etc made public this week. There is likely to be substantial new green zones that will impact us all, and there are bound to be many unhappy locals. The trade-offs for lost grounds, never to be fished again, must be considerable if our ever-increasing population of fishos is to have their efforts constricted to a smaller paddock.

A Cast Apex 4.1in softie in casper colour was too tempting for Dane's best snapper of 83cm from a recent session.
Dan with another quality Platypus Bay snapper. A Zman 5in Curly Tail in Electric Chicken got the bite.

 

Dark Moon Favours the Flats Fisho

 

The wind might be up a little and the cloud cover won’t appeal to those that solely rely on sight fishing this week, but the flats will be popular all the same. If it's not broadies, blues and queenies that you seek, then you will be armed with your favourite light finesse tackle and much smaller lures with our bread-and-butter species on your mind.

The annual bream spawn continues and many local flats are hosting bream in large numbers. They can be there one day and gone the next due to the usual harvest, so have plans B and C at the ready. Fraser’s western flats are many folks’ plan A, whilst the bay islands and fringing shallow reefs appeal to others. 

Indeed, the fringing foreshores of Pt Vernon and Gatakers Bay are prime bream spawning grounds that offer exciting opportunities for both boaties and shore-based fishos. Lure fishos beware though, such shallow reef terrain is not only home to bream but many pike as well. These pesky lure munchers can be very hard to avoid.

The River Heads district, South Head and the nearby flats are also prime bream territory. Many other sites down the straits offer similar opportunities too, so bream fans have many options. Topwater early, twitching softies, rolling cranks or hopping vibes through the day - it's all possible - just find the bream and the fun begins.

Local whiting fishos will be more likely to give the early morning rises a miss in favour of late afternoon - early evening sessions chasing their beloved ‘ting. Fishing the late flood tide after pumping yabbies on the afternoon low is standard practice. The new moon tides trigger bite periods, yet the larger full moon tides in a fortnight will see the whiting fishos out in force.

Flathead fans can pick up a few fish wandering the local flats too, so long as they focus on suitable ambush points. Draining flats soon funnel forage species into the feeder channels and this is where the flatties will eventually hold station. Prior to this low tide event, they can be widespread, right into nearby creeks and along the mangrove-lined fringes, so a stealthy fisho has many options. 

Fraser Island’s western flats and creeks will be very popular, as will the meandering waterways of the Great Sandy Straits delta. Those making the effort to get away from heavily-fished waters have many options in the seemingly endless variety of flathead hotspots that the straits have to offer.

Kane with an estuary queenie, and his son with a pike. Queenies love to eat pike, as do all large predators.
Kane's young bloke is proud of his Moses Perch on a plastic. Well done son.

 

Salmon, Jew and Grunter in the Rivers


The increased boat traffic on the Mary has been documented recently, and as expected, such activity has had its impact. Threadfin salmon are still very viable targets, just in less numbers, and a little more spooked. Like all fisheries, boat traffic and condensed angler effort never improve the scene.

Having said this, there is still a very good fishery on offer, where a fisho assisted by the latest in technology can track down schools of sambos willing to pounce on a vibe or plastic. A water temperature drop of a couple of degrees last week made them a bit less enthusiastic, yet you could still tempt quite a few when your timing was right.

The barra were downright frustrating for many of us last week. As most will know, they get temperamental during a cold snap, but don’t seem to mind parading around in clear view of your sounder whilst you throw smaller and smaller lures their way hoping for a bite. Half-hearted follows, sideswipes and poor hookups just adding to the frustration. Of course, some might simply resort to live bait and succeed if not up to the wintertime challenge.

Jewfish on the other hand have been increasingly active. There does appear to be less fish than in recent winters as far as most reports go, but over the past week there were fish caught in the river and at River Heads. Deep rock bars or prominent structure breaking the current continue to produce. The upcoming darks will offer prime opportunities for jewie fans to get their game on.

The lack of grunter in areas they frequented a matter of weeks and months ago is a sure indication that they have largely headed back upstream in our rivers and creeks. Quality grunter are readily available for both bait fishos and lure lovers alike. Seek them out over the gravelly stuff and do so with softies hopped tight to the bottom. Vibes will catch them too, but nothing beats small plastics, particularly GULP.

Young Keaton with a beaut jewfish caught after dark. Well done young fella.

 

Action Continues on Urangan Pier


With the school holidays in the rear vision mirror, the scene out along the Urangan Pier is back to “normal”. Local bream fans continue to spend many hours bent over the rails working baits or lures between the pylons. 

Numbers of the pier’s larger bream still appear quite low this season, with the exception of the odd 40cm fish. Plenty of scrappy fish in the mid-thirties keep light line anglers on their toes (literally) and enough stories of bust-offs beneath suggest that perhaps some fish are just too good for their pursuers.

Undersized tailor are proving to be a real nuisance at times. Snipping off bait jigs or otherwise intercepting baits meant for better quarry. As with all regulated species, using undersized tailor for bait is a no-no, both day and night.

There are very large herring out there at present, the very type that many reef fishos like to catch for upcoming forays. Interestingly, there has also been decent winter whiting scrounging around on the bottom out towards the deep end, and, as they do elsewhere, they have been taking bait jigs on the bottom. Spice said jigs with a couple of skinny strips of squid or worm and one might even consider a feed on the cards – if they hang around that is.

Flatties are still a chance out along the pier, particularly for those that go to the effort to deploy a live pike. That very same livie swimming around at night would also be very tempting for any jewfish that swim by. There has been the odd decent jew caught recently, so the dark moon might see a few hopefuls try their luck.

In recent days, schools of longtail tuna have turned up out at the deep end. Bonito continue to make the odd raid but in nowhere near the numbers enjoyed by the kids during the recent holidays. Schoolies are still a chance on a daily basis too, particularly during making tides such as these. 

Good luck out there y’all …… Jase

Night time is jewie time on the Urangan Pier. Jesse with a recent capture.
A mammoth GT caught on board Double Island Point Fishing Charters recently. Struth. That would knock the wind out of you.
A cocky parrot (venus tuskfish) delighted this Hot Reels charter customer recently.

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