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Fisho’s Weekly Fishing Report – 15th December, 2023

Have you ever seen a happier deckie! Local mackerel guru Kurtis shared a magic moment with his son Tommy recently.


A Warm Week Ahead

It’s hot again, and it’s getting muggier by the day. Showers and the odd storm are likely this weekend, so we may get to enjoy some brief relief from the heat. It will be a bit too breezy on the bay for the next couple of days, so plan your fishing around our estuaries and impoundments until the wind eases.

The north wind is pretty much entrenched for the duration of this weekend. Expect 15-20 knots from the north or north-west, and maybe a little more preceding any storms that come our way. Sunday might be better if we are lucky, so monitor the latest reports for a window. Those that don’t have to work come Monday will be grinning, as the wind looks like dropping right out for the first few days of the working week.

The chance of heavier falls of rain is stronger over the weekend, though don’t write-off brief showers or even a storm mid-week. Light winds from Monday onwards, mostly from the east or north-east, and next to no swell offshore, suggest that a few crews will head wide whilst others are hard at work this week. Good luck to all that do.

The moon is waxing once again, since the passing of the new moon phase on Wednesday. The moon-set period during the evening will be productive for the night owls, whilst the period prior to moon-rise in the morning will favour those fishing the cooler part of the day.

Having been too ill to bring you a fishing report last week, this week’s wrap-up will be a mix of what has happened over the past fortnight, along with what you might expect over the coming week.

Staff member Logan caught this 135cm sambo on a Samaki Vibelicious soft vibe recently. Fish this size are more common than you might think.


The Bay is Alive with Pelagics

Two weeks ago, the northern bay was alive with southbound pelagics pursuing the masses of tiny baitfish seeking shelter in the bay. A week on, and the southern bay came alive with absolute hordes of baitfish, basically from the Urangan Harbour for as far as you could see. Hot on the tails of this influx of baitfish was a plethora of pelagics that created an absolute fishing bonanza that continues even now.

You didn’t have to drive far at all recently, and soon found yourself spinning up spotted mackerel, tuna, broadies, schoolies, spaniards, queenies and/or trevally. The spotties and tuna dominated in many areas, feasting on the tiniest of baitfish, whilst elsewhere it was the queenies and larger mackerel ripping into larger bait. Trevally made their presence known whenever jigs, metals or plastics were sunk below the surface commotion or to fish marking on the sounder.

It wasn’t just the influx of baitfish that drew in so many predators either. The pencil squid run has hit top gear and the larger pelagics are lapping it up. As the baitfish and the squid continue to spread throughout our inshore waters, the pelagics will follow. Here one day, gone the next, is a likely comment in the near future.

For now, though, you can fish the southern bay, the northern straits, and indeed much of Platypus Bay too - and expect plenty of action! A feed of squid won’t be too hard to come by if you are interested, and the mackerel, tuna and queenies will keep you sweating profusely if you keep casting at them.

All this action and such biomasses of prey haven’t gone unnoticed by our apex predators either, so be prepared to take evasive action when the sharks find you. Many folks have enjoyed shark-free fishing sessions, particularly on the spotty mackerel inshore over the past week or so, so chances are they are more mobile than the noahs at present.

The size of the current inshore run of spotties is quite impressive too. Sure enough, there are schools of small spotties terrorising the bait balls in the northern and eastern bay, but a lot of the fish that have swum the extra miles into the southern bay are quite sizeable. Spotties around the 90cm mark are on offer, and are super simple to catch. Unfortunately, the weather is set to stuff the local inshore scene up a bit for the next few days, but come Monday it will be on once again.

Time your efforts around the wind and tide and you could potentially make the most of a 20-knot northerly by venturing down the straits. Those with the smallest craft, or inexperienced skippers need to think twice, but a capable crew aboard the right vessel still has the option. The early flood tide, combining with a lighter northerly wind early will be appealing, but can be somewhat of a trap. 

Plan your day carefully and consider the effect of wind against tide if you need to make the dash back across exposed waters at the wrong time later in the day. The wind will build late, and so will the storms, so take extra care and don’t risk it if it isn’t safe. The relatively sheltered waters of the central straits can be comforting when you are looking to escape the north wind, but you will need to meet it head on to get home. 

There have been some large broadies inshore lately. Go for a spin or a troll around the bait schools in close and you might find them.

Spotties are a major target for clients aboard Fraser Guided Fishing charters. Great fun for the kids and a handy feed to boot.

There is mack tuna out there in abundance and Tri from Fraser Guided Fishing has been all over them.

Tri Ton from Fraser Guided Fishing has been putting his clients onto some big goldies lately.


A Few Classic Catches

Heading for the northern bay and spending the day chasing tuna and spotted mackerel has entertained plenty of crews over the past fortnight. Unfortunately, no-one has reported any juvenile black marlin – at all – either inshore or offshore. It seems they have avoided us this year. We had a blinder last year, and have had slow years in the past, but in all the years your scribe has been monitoring this fishery, none have been so abysmal. 

One highlight from an otherwise bleak fishery was the report of a sailfish captured recently off Rooneys Point. Cleaner water has finally made its way into the north-eastern bay, which may yet prove to carry a few stray marlin our way. Ever-optimistic, we can continue to cross our fingers or whatever and keep a wishful eye on the water for that unmistakable lit-up beakie cruising past. Our marlin season isn’t over until its over (February), but few are making any effort these days.

Saving fuel and heading for the Moon Point – Coongul area has been all many crews have had to do to get their bag limit of spotties recently. Heading further up the island has paid dividends too, but the spotties haven’t been getting bigger further north. So much tiny flying fish inshore is a major drawcard, as is the aforementioned influx of rain fish (tiny baitfish).

Just out from Wathumba has been popular for a few weeks now, not only for the spotties and tuna, but also the trevally lurking deeper. A couple of lucky fishos caught possibly the coolest of all bycatch since our last report, being the enigmatic and highly-sought-after bonefish. One was caught beneath a school of mack tuna, the other on the bottom near Rooneys. 

Bonefish have always been present in our waters. The Calypso crew caught a few as bycatch whilst fishing baits along the fringes of the bay islands this year, and these recent captures further north are not isolated events either. Very rarely over the years, bones get caught in very unconventional manners by fishos out targeting another quarry. One was trolled up on a Rapala CD lure years ago, another caught on a humble pillie, and the odd one has taken baits meant for bottom dwellers over the years. 

Obviously, those that might pursue bonefish ala the way they do it elsewhere will seek them out over the shallow flats. But is that where they reside and feed in Hervey Bay? It seems not. Deeper waters from 4 to even 20 metres seem to be their domain, making them a fairly hard target to track down with any consistency. They turn up as bycatch in nets at times, although rarely, and certainly nowhere near as often as the local permit do.

Riley McCormick can be rightfully proud of this big bonefish he caught out from Wathumba Creek recently. A flutter jig was its undoing.


Inshore Reef Dwellers React to Arrival of Squid

Many folks heading out to fish our inshore reefs buy their bait and often ask what to use. The answer this time of year is quite simple – squid. The recent arrival of the pencil (arrow) squid in our inshore waters creates a tremendous feeding opportunity for many reef dwelling species as well as the pelagics cruising above.

Many reef fish reside amongst our shallowest reefs throughout spring, and still do. However, due to increasing water temperatures and the arrival of squid in big numbers, many retreat to deeper waters during summer. You can still catch sweeties, coral trout and the likes of blackall, cod and squire from our shallows, but the deeper reefs will come alive from now on.

Yes, you will need to contend with the sharks to score a feed, and some will find them impossible to avoid, but the rewards are there for the thoughtful and highly mobile fishos that seek out their dinner from uncommon grounds. Sweetlip will certainly outnumber all other species for the avid bait fisho. Cod and trout will pounce on live baits or lures that come within range of their lairs during periods of low current flow. Scarlets will grace the menu of those that can find them inshore, whilst others will settle for blackall, mackerel and the like.

Trollers have been out in force. The grounds off Gatakers Bay and Point Vernon are so heavily overfished that many have spread their wings a little and are now tracking the ledges surrounding the bay islands. It is a good thing that coral trout are such a fast-growing species, or they would be in serious trouble in these parts. Trolling small deep diving lures is a very simple affair, and a highly productive way of tempting these inquisitive fish. Best done at dawn and thereafter, the bycatch can be interesting, if not a little expensive.

Golden trevally can be found right throughout the bay and even the straits this time of year. Solid ones like this will give you a work out in the heat.

Grassy sweetlip will be increasingly common as summer unfolds. Ryan Sanders was happy with this fatty.

Riley Wilson snared a couple of legal trout flicking Samaki Live Shrimps recently. He was actually happier than he looks.

Trolling or otherwise fishing our shallow reefs can produce a feed of coral trout. Ben Stubbings' better half showed him how it’s done.


Variety Galore Down the Straits

More and more pelagics are pushing deeper into the Great Sandy Straits. Kingfisher Bay has played host to schools of large spotties recently. Boaties have faired best, but those “stranded” on the jetty are in with a shot too. The spotties will go with the flow and follow the bait schools, as will the other predators such as broad-barred and school mackerel. Queenies are in the area also, so pack a range of lures from metal slugs, to softies, jigs and topwater, and go for a look when the winds ease.

Head further south and you might find more of the same, along with a mix of reefies along deeper rocky ledges. Cod of all sizes can be a real pest (or bonus depending on your take) but the quality of the reefies from some sites might surprise. Avoiding the dreaded green toads can be tedious, and expensive, so keep that in mind when fishing down that way.

Heading into the creeks won’t necessarily see you avoid the toads altogether, but your chances are far better. The mangrove jack population within the creeks of both Fraser Island and the mainland are very healthy. This heat will have them charged up, so maybe a trip by car down towards the Cooloola Coast is worth considering – at least whilst it is too windy to go via smaller vessels. There are many launching options within the creeks dotted along the way, and even more land-based options if you look closely.

The worst you could do is catch a few flatties for your day out, but spend the time and make the effort on the jacks during hot spells such as this and your bragging rights increase multi-fold. Kayakers have options to get into waters that neither boaties nor those wandering the banks can access. Many such waters are teeming with cranky jacks of all sizes, indeed proving too much of a handful for many a kayaker in the past.

Jesse Lathem enjoyed a day out at Kingfisher Bay Resort's jetty and scored this beaut little flatty.

Ryan picked up this plump mangrove jack on an MMD Splash Prawn.

Tommy Keys was chuffed with this nice jack. Try the Burrum or the straits this weekend.


Dry Conditions Impacting Our River Fisheries

We need rain in these parts - and bad! Last year’s totally failed wet season did little for the propagation of future fish stocks, and what we are experiencing right now tells the story. There are big king threadfin salmon scattered throughout much of the Mary River, but their numbers are nothing like what they have been in the past. Spawning fish should be cared for and released without fuss these days, if you don’t plan on keeping such fish for the table. 

There are actually hordes of very small kingies milling about in various backwaters, being the progeny of the spawning events during the better wet season the year prior to last. El Nino or El No-no, it will only take one big east coast low or a cyclone to change the fortunes of our estuaries. It would certainly be nice to get back into the prawning so many of us enjoy (and failed to realise last season).

Schools of blue salmon continue to ride the tides in the Mary system, some containing small numbers of quite large fish, others larger numbers of pesky little ones. More often than not, the blues will find you whilst you are vibing for threadfin salmon. As annoying as the little blues can be, they are often within cooee of some of the largest threadies, so suss out the area when you trip over them.

The Mary’s waters are so clean and clear these days that a lot of fish have moved well upstream. Grunter are one such species. Their tendency to feed over gravelly ground is well catered for in the Mary. If anything, the over-abundance of gravelly bottom can be daunting to those looking for grunter. 

Jewies too, are making their presence felt further upstream than usual. Look for these lazy buggers in deeper waters around structures breaking the current. Deep rock bars and adjacent holes are classic jewie terrain. Your very same thready vibes will tempt them, as will many soft plastics and of course, live baits.

Nigel Hoare holds yet another nice threadie aloft. Great targets when barra are off the hit list.

Dane hitched a ride with Logan for a session on the sambos. That's a Garmin putting them on the fish, regardless of the old sticker

It is during marine droughts such as this that mangrove jacks make their way into the Mary. There were a few caught at River Heads this spring, and there may be more caught there this summer. There are a few sites within the vast expanse of the Mary that have given up stonker jacks in the past (even for your old scribe). The effort from locals is minimal due to the (correct) perception that they are rare in that system. If ever you were to catch a Mary River jack - now is the time.

Of course, if it is jack that you seek in numbers, then your time is definitely better spent in the Burrum River system. All four of this system’s rivers are renowned for mangrove jack, and quality fish too. Any jack over 50cm is a beauty, and they get exponentially girthier with every centimetre over that mark. Genuine trophies of 60cm or more are a real chance in the Burrum system – if you are up to the task.

If you get the chance, then get up to the Burrum during this hot spell. Any storms, or even a lively shower, will trigger a positive response from the local jacks, so a bite is nearly guaranteed - so long as you can find them. The mid-upper reaches are worth a look. Low tide will be within a few hours of nightfall in those parts this weekend, which will suit the nocturnal hunters like jacks, as well as those fishos that know how to pursue them. Topwater can be dynamite and definitely worth the extra effort during such periods.

If you prefer something a little less heart-stopping, then you could consider a session chasing grunter or whiting in the lower-mid reaches whilst there is still enough run in the tide. Your chances won’t improve for either species as the tidal flow diminishes over the coming week however. Late evening sessions during a rising tide might boost the odds in your favour.

Luke Waters was happy with this nice jack. The heat and storms will spur them on again this weekend.

A lot of fish have swum well upstream in our estuaries, as Billy Daniel's mate found out with this nice grunter


Urangan Pier Has Been Going Off

The local pier rats came out in force last week, as that influx of baitfish mentioned above brought a plethora of pelagics to its waters. Over the past 15 years, most summers it has been rare to have any spotted mackerel turn up at the pier at all (unlike the years prior) but the great run of spotties over the past week or so has been reminiscent of the “good ol’ days”.

There was already a mass of herring gathered beneath the pier, and plenty of garfish and hardy heads lingering at times too. Add the arrival en-masse of hordes of pencil squid and it is a veritable piscatorial banquet out there.

Just over the past week or so, there has been spotties, mack tuna, giant trevally, queenfish, broadies, schoolies, spanish mackerel and bonito caught. The action continues to this day, but at a lesser level than a week ago. All the same, the crowds are gathered for the onslaught, as many boatless fishos get to experience some of the best land-based sports fishing on offer on the Qld coast.

Many favour live herring or hardy head baits and catch their quarry. Others spin with the ever-faithful Flasha spoons and slay a variety of species. Live squid are deployed to tempt the likes of the queenies and trevally and potentially any reef or estuary fish swimming within range. Proven techniques continue to shine, whilst at the same time, a fisho inclined to think outside of the box can revel in captures he/she might not otherwise achieve without so many fish swimming past the pier.

Each evening you will see lights suspended beneath the pier. This is a sure sign that the annual pencil squid run is well underway. It can be shoulder to shoulder out there at times such as these, as an ever-increasing crowd turns up to harvest the squid. The run of pencillies is quite sizeable for this early in the season too, offering not only prime baits but perfect eating-size squid too.

Bag limits of 50 pencil (arrow) squid are easily achieved. Remembering that the bag limit is a possession limit might ensure you avoid a nasty visit from the local Fisheries squad. It is probably pointless highlighting the fact that possession limits deny you the option to keep more squid until you consume or utilise those already in your possession – but consider this fact highlighted. Those that overdo it will be the ones that raise suspicion. 

The Urangan Pier isn’t necessarily the only land-based platform from which you can catch pencil squid this summer. The other jetties in town - Scarness and Torquay – may not be anywhere near as good as fishing platforms due to the fact they are high and dry at low tide, but both jetties can produce squid over the high tide after dark at times. 

Golden trevally have even been caught from the Torquay jetty recently, and predators such as these actively hunt squid, small whiting and other baitfish along our beaches. Crowds will gather at River Heads after dark when the pencil squid run. The prevailing weather can play a part, yet the protection from the north wind can be a bonus out there. You will not enjoy the sunset period at River Heads. The mossies are something else. Head out later, well doused in Bushmans to maintain your sanity.

Justin Brown caught this ripper queenie from Urangan Pier recently. Note the crab net used to lift release candidates unharmed. More should follow suit.

Justin with a white-spotted shovelnosed shark from Urangan Pier waters. These things pull much harder than their brown cousins.

Do what Lara did and wander the local flats and you could be rewarded with some nice flatties too.


Ever-Changing Scene at Monduran

Lake Monduran continues to draw crowds every weekend, and vastly more hopefuls mid-week than ever before too. That intense main basin bite that had the trollers grinning from ear to ear has been less dynamic over the past two weeks. Yet, any period when the north wind blows has seen a return of the barra schools to the area, and the trollers in their element once again.

Easterlies in between such events have drawn the masses of fish westward into the likes of Bird Bay, Wiggle Bay and elsewhere, yet even in these areas, many of these fish have remained quite deep, amongst the thermocline. The situation that is unfolding right now is a classic rehash of a month ago. Dark moon and a building north wind following a spell of easterlies. This weekend looks set to see mass movements of barra into open waters once again.

Add the chance of a storm or two and some passing showers and the trolling fleet will be happy to be so close to the ramps and other sheltered bays nearby. Will this week see a full-on fearless bite? Or will it be a diminished version? The latter seems possible, as the sheer hunger the big fish displayed after traveling such vast distances a month ago isn’t a factor, and that bite will take some beating.

Are they warier from being caught and/or lost? Almost definitely! Will they eat the very same lures now that they so eagerly scoffed a month ago? Maybe. Captures of big barra on smaller lures this past week - amongst what has been a fairly tough bite overall apparently - is indicative of their selective nature. One bitten, twice shy, as they say.

Is it worth heading to Mondy this weekend to have a crack? Sure is. Awesome weather, big fish schooling and no reason at all for them not to respond to the right lures at the right time. Trollers may not enjoy the fortunes of past weeks, but there is still a strong chance they will. Big impoundment barra are very aggressive this time of year. They are also moody and easily spooked, so if following the crowds round and around in the main basin or beyond isn’t producing, then set Plan B into action.

Head back to the timber, or the shallow open weed banks if you prefer, and target fish you spot cruising past on your scanner. Many fish will seek bait-filled waters in which to feed, whilst others will retreat from the sun and take up station amongst any lilies or beneath the larger laydowns. 

These are great times for lure casters, twitching suspending hardbodies past logs, rolling large weedless plastics between the trees, or cranking frogs over the weedy stuff. All exciting and productive techniques, but not one even comes close to that crazy popper session you can experience first-hand this time of year. 

Good luck out there y’all …… Jase


So close - Brett's Mondy barra went 99.9cm
Sam Cass spent a day out chasing the local bass, and got amongst fish like this chunky model.

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