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Fisho’s Weekly Fishing Report – 16th February, 2024

Many reef fish are suckers for the Nomad Squid Trex. Here's Big Cat Reality charter boat deckie, Kealan, with a very nice coronation trout.

Easing Onshore Winds and Scattered Showers this Week

The past week was quite pleasant, if not a little too breezy for most boaties. Brief spells in the persistent trade wind enabled access to the middle eastern reaches of the bay for some, whilst the majority stayed close inshore or tried their luck in our estuaries.

Today’s 15 knot easterly will likely turn more south-easterly and freshen to 20 knots as the day goes on. Showers are the order of the day, and will probably be the most significant rainfall for the coming week. It will be more of the same come Saturday, but with less precipitation, then a similar scenario for Sunday, persisting from the south-east. Not the best weekend forecast, but manageable inshore and in protected waters for the super keen.

The wind looks like dropping back to 10-15 knots for Monday, and continuing that general strength right through the working week. South-easters initially, tending more easterly mid-week. Expect a few scattered showers, as is typical of direct onshore air flows. It is likely to become more humid, but nothing like it was a fortnight ago.

After the massive spring tides of the new moon last week, the neaps around Saturday’s first quarter moon phase will mean minimal tidal flow and easier fishing (and boating) conditions in many waters. Once the tides start to make again, the fish will be on the move and their appetites will be re-invigorated.

A Hot Reels client with a pretty little spangled emperor. These are one of the harder fighting sweeties and avid lure munchers too.

Spotties Move on as Bigger Tuna Arrive

It is fair to say that we have seen the last of our summer run of spotted mackerel. Sure, there will always be stragglers, and occasionally half decent schools of them, but for the most part, spotty season is kaput. Their annual southern migration can be intercepted south of here, as many folks down the coast will do. The fish will grow larger and larger the further south they migrate, and will even alter their diets to feast on larger prey as they head south.

Don’t despair though, as you can spend a day out on the bay chasing tuna in the absence of spotties and can entertain the whole crew with their wild surface takes and hard-pulling antics. You can even pursue them on the very same tackle, with the very same metal slugs that you’ve been slaying the spotties. Should you trip over a random school of wayward spotties, you will be well and truly ready to take advantage.

Larger longtail tuna are arriving with each moon this time of year and some of the bay’s best will be swimming in our waters this autumn. Until then, there are ample good-sized school fish and a few barrels out there just waiting for you to turn up when the weather improves. For some, that might be early next week. The protection afforded by Fraser Island from onshore breezes ensures a comfy day out in Platypus Bay for tuna fans.

Whilst metal slugs will work just fine (at times), you should consider adding an array of other lures to your tuna fishing arsenal. Soft plastic jerkshads attached to heavy jig heads are well proven tuna takers and will always be. They are quite cost effective if the sharks are an issue. Throw them at the bigger bust-ups and perhaps save your expensive stick baits for tempting solo barrels or smaller pods of larger longtails that attract less sharks. 

There are quite a few large spanish mackerel in the bay at present; each and every one of them enjoying full protection under the new closed seasons. You can have a crack at them during the ‘gap’ between closures from the 22nd February until the subsequent closed period commences 1st March. Stick baiting for these larger spaniards is a hoot, and just one of many techniques you can employ to tempt them.

In the meantime, if it is large pelagics and an exhausting battle against a tough adversary that you seek, then why not challenge our local summertime GTs to a bout of hand-to-hand combat. Perhaps your best chance was last week over the spring tides in some waters, but elsewhere, in deeper waters, there are still many contenders willing to take you on.

The shipwrecks of the artificial reef near Woody Island are temporary residences for many big GTs this time of year. They have been there for the whole of summer. Elsewhere, ledges and gnarlier reef systems hosting plenty of baitfish, mackerel or other small demersals are also worth prospecting. You can do so with topwater lures, or troll larger deep divers, or simply send a live bait their way and see how they react. There is a flogging in the offing, and these brutes are just the sort of fish to hand it out!

Deej with one of our premier sport fish, the ladyfish or giant herring. You need some sunnies mate. We sell all the best by the way. 

Inshore Reef Fishos Will Get Their Chance This Week

If you got the chance to fish certain inshore rubble patches and reefy outcrops last week, then perhaps you enjoyed a good bite from our summer run of grunter. We know some did, and the big tides made for particularly good fishing at the right times. Trying deeper waters, or fishing after dark will continue the fun this week.

The neap tides will make for easier fishing in deeper waters this week, enabling those lucky folks that don’t have to work a crack at a few prime summertime reefies. High on many folks’ wish list will be the good old bar-cheeked coral trout. You probably won’t find too many quality fish left in our shallows right now, so head deeper and try your luck. 

Trollers can still troll, if they like, but will need to rethink the usual shallow water lures and opt for models that will plunge to the depths. RMG Poltergeists will get down to nearly 6 metres, but it is the Dr Evils that have a huge fan base due to their super deep diving capabilities. Expect to hit bottom in up to 11 metres when trolling with the tide on braided line, and be prepared for plenty of estuary cod bycatch. Otherwise, a Nomad DTX Minnow will get down and dirty, and so will the Crazy Deep RMG Scorpions. 

Most would opt not to troll however, and simply knock off a trout or two whilst jigging softies, vibes or slow-pitch jigs. I say ‘simply’ without taking into account the very likelihood of the sharks beating you to your prize all too often. If there is one particularly appealing and successful trait of this style of reef fishing, it is the inherent mobility and improved chances as you scout out reef after reef for fish.

Of course, you can always opt to live bait for your coral trout. Catching livies can be a challenge for those that aren’t in the know right at the moment. That issue will lessen in the near future however, as the annual run of pike is due to arrive any time and will start to filter through many of our shallow and deeper inshore reef systems. It won’t be long and the morning pike-gathering ritual will begin in earnest. In the meantime, some will gather their livies with cast nets, or seek herring from reefs and other structures.

Apart from the standard estuary cod bycatch, there is every chance you might snare a scarlet sea perch or two whilst fishing our deeper inshore reefs at present. Their numbers have been notable on some reefs, pleasing their captors no end. These handsome and very tasty fish are always a welcome addition to a reef fishos esky. Livies will tempt them, as will dead baits including squid, large prawns and even pilchards, but there is no better way to get into the scarlets than on your favourite jigs, softies or vibes. Trolling for them hasn’t been a thing to date, but perhaps, just like snapper, it just needs someone to have a go.

Soak dead baits around any of our deeper inshore reefs and chances are you will soon be connecting to grass sweetlip one after the other. They are abundant out there and outnumber all other reefies in summer. Expect a better class of sweetlip after dark or at dawn over the neaps, or fish the deeper waters in areas of high current flow during daylight. 

Get your baits close to heavy structure or over better sponge-type country and you might find yourself battling with a blackall or two. These things grow big, and fight hard, but still bring a sigh to your lips when they emerge instead of more preferred reef fish.

The trout are all small in the shallows these days. Persist amongst the rats and you might score a keeper or two as Deej did.


Bar-cheeked trout are very inquisitive, and aggressive predators. This makes them suckers for many lures, regardless of the fish's size.


Rivers Still Dirty but Improving

The Mary River system is still filthy dirty, but the water quality is improving. The massive push-back from the incoming tides over the recent new moon period, coupled with the extra out-flows during the ebb tide stages, has resulted in improved salinity a bit further upstream. It is still largely a high tide option if it is cleaner water that you seek though, and the lower reaches are still your happy hunting grounds.

Barra are the primary target of many river fishos, and many have enjoyed success. The big tides made the river scene nigh on unfishable for lure fishos however, so smarter folks plied the straits instead. The River Heads area remains popular and rightly so. You can catch very large fish this time of year, that have hopefully finished their spawn and are feeding up to recoup their energy. 

Many post-spawn barra will make, or have already made, their way back upstream; even though the river is filthy. Now is their chance to feast and feast they will. Don’t think for a minute that dirty water makes them uncatchable on lures. Perhaps harder in many instances, but never uncatchable. These fish rely on their lateral lines (as many do) to feed in dirty or dark waters and they are masters at discerning food from all the other ‘noise’ in the water. If your lure isn’t creating those snack-like sounds or vibrations, then it is just part of the other noise.

So too, the threadfin salmon. Just like the barra, they are probably an easier target down the straits at present, but river fishos can expect to catch them too. They will become increasingly visible in coming weeks and months, as they gorge themselves on the jelly prawn amassing in the muddy shallows. Many locals know the frustrations that can come from encounters with jelly-prawn-fixated threadies, yet many have worked out a few tricks over the years too.

Scaling down your lure size is necessary if you want to tempt these threadies. Tiny prawn-profiled softies are potentially the best in the toughest scenarios, but many shallow-diving jerk baits work a treat too in the right hands. Smaller vibes are deadly weapons for flats-feeding threadies, particularly when their proponent is willing to retrieve them in a variety of ways. Hopping is but one string to this bow, and certain vibes work even better slow-rolled or jiggled constantly just barely beneath the surface. Strikes are explosive in such shallows and the blistering runs should not be hindered on the light leaders required to work the smaller lures successfully.

Bycatch of blue salmon is likely in the lower reaches of the Mary, and down the straits as well. Targeting grunter is a very worthy exercise, whether with baits or lures. GULP Shrimp and other GULP alternatives have always been the go-to for grunter and are perhaps even more-so in the current dirty waters. Heavily-scented lures such as these need not be over-worked by the way; staying in contact with the bottom and exposing the lure with subtle hops and draws being standard practice for those in the know.

You might prefer a session chasing mangrove jacks, and should do so if you get the chance. Increased humidity this week, cloudy skies and warm nights will have them on the chew. It has been a good summer for jacks so far, and the fun will continue for some time to come. Choose your creek, or try the waters beyond, and offer them a mix of prawn-profiled or mullet look-a-like lures and you are in the game. Dare to take on the mozzies for a dawn, dusk or evening session, and you can add topwater to your arsenal.

Burrum River fishos are catching a few barra and some very nice mangrove jack. Some fish have already made moves back upstream since the subtle fresh flushed them down over summer, yet the lower-mid reaches are still perhaps the best areas to concentrate your efforts. There have been quality barra getting about at Burrum Heads itself, delighting the odd accidental captor, whilst others have targeted them. Tales of big breeders being butchered can be hard to hear, so best we don’t relay any of those stories.

The big tides really got the Burrum’s fish moving, and new hotspots are having their moments each week. Grunter have been caught from the lower reaches, and from grounds outside the river when the wind eases enough. Resorting to baits has been the key for some locals, with flathead falling for the same approach. Jack fishos can swing either way. Bait fishos will always out-do the lure brigade when it comes to numbers on the jack front, yet there is no denying the extra adrenalin-rush and cred that comes from lure caught jacks.

There are still good quality mud crabs on the move in both major river systems, as well as down the straits. Many crabs are potting further back upstream now than they were a couple of weeks ago. The neaps won’t see them march as far, but at least they are out of the backwaters and on the hunt. The flats beyond the Mary are still worth prospecting, particularly for the mud skippers that walk their pots out onto the mud flat.

Prawns-wise, it is still a waiting game for the majority, whilst the odd mad-keen prawn fan has the occasional cast. It is encouraging to hear of jelly prawn amassing down the straits and in the rivers. Their fast-growing nature will have them on our dinner plates in 6 weeks or so. In the meantime, scope out the back reaches of feeder creeks, or smaller creeks themselves, and you will likely find enough for a feed. If you want a true banana prawn bonanza as we’ve enjoyed so many times in the past, then cross your fingers and hope for serious rains and minor flooding very soon.

Grunter are on the chew inshore at present, and will be for some time yet.

Locals Having Fun Over on Fraser Island

Talking to an island local just yesterday, it sounds like a few fishos are enjoying a spot of surf fishing when the surf isn’t too boisterous. Really good catches of dart are keeping them entertained, and good-sized fish too. Comments about the dart being so thick they are unavoidable are doing the rounds, but the sources are keeping the exact whereabouts close to their chests (as they should). Heading north seems a better bet than heading south at present, if that helps.

There is no shortage of low tide gutters on Fraser right now, and some of these gutters are hosting schools of whiting too. A feed has been possible from the right gutters, so long as the weed can be avoided. Weed has been a major issue this summer, destroying hopes for a surf fish for many at times. The weed has been coming and going with the different weather patterns. Being mobile has been necessary often enough, to enable a fisho to drive beyond weed-affected gutters in search of better water. 

Driving conditions have been very good on the island. Parks have been actively grading and improving the access tracks and travel times are good. Constant wet weather has helped too of course, hardening the sand, as has a lack of extra tourist traffic (especially those clowns that refuse to drop tyre pressures or use 4WD).

The weed in the gutters and on the beach hasn’t just impacted on potential fishing options, but it has also adversely effected bait gathering exercises too. Word is, that right now, pippies are fairly scarce and beach wormers are struggling too. Excess freshwater outflows from creeks crossing the beach can have localised impacts as well, so keep an eye out for ‘push-ups’ from the pippies whilst traveling and pull up and get some if you find them. Be warned though, this is one time that you might want to consider back up bait if heading to fish Fraser’s surf beaches.

The wind and swell have kept them onshore this week, but during spells of better weather recently, the local reef fishos launching from the gutter at Waddy Point have been having a ball. Quality reef fish, from stonker reds and fat pearlies, to ripper red throats and tasty tuskies have been chilling on the ride back to terra firma. True mixed bags have added even more variety to the ice boxes of those fishos willing to wander beyond the closer grounds, especially to the shelf.

Steve enjoyed a day out with Bobby on a Hot Reels Charter and scored this nice grunter amongst others.


Giant Trevally are the Main Drawcard at the Pier

Back on the mainland, those shore-based fishos keen to tangle with larger quarry have had a few options. The most obvious has been the ubiquitous Urangan Pier. The fishing has been a bit tough on the broader scale though, with GTs being the only truly consistent pelagic of late. Night sessions have been popular otherwise, for reasons you will see if you head out there after dark.

River Heads itself is a potentially productive, yet challenging fishery for landlubbers at present. The big tides roared through, carrying baitfish and predators, but fishing such fast-moving waters can be daunting for the unfamiliar. The next major hook-up might be a barra, a threadie or a jewie, or it might be a big angry bull shark. Interesting times for those fishing that rocky peninsula that juts out into the mouth of the mighty Mary.

Those preferring sand between their toes have had fun entertaining the kids with small whiting and dart along our town beaches. The big tides had the beach species on the chew alright, but a feed was hard to manage. That was, unless you targeted the run of grunter that came and went with the bigger tides. Schools of smaller grunter made their presence felt, particularly for bait fishos, yet there were enough quality fish over the 50cm mark caught to warrant a wander on the sand.

Choosing to fish closer to where rocks meet sand or over the flats outside the local creeks increased your chances of grunter encounters, and will do again when the tides get bigger. In the meantime, you might chance a grunter or two after dark, or could try the creek mouths and adjacent verges for a flathead or queenfish. The Toogoom stretch of beach or the Booral Flats are worth a look if it is whiting that you seek, but once again, that is a pursuit best left until the tides build and the current flow increases.

Good luck out there y’all …… Jase


Local regular, Paul Mostert, was the lucky cash-back winner for pre-ordering a spanky new 2024 Daiwa Certate. Congrats Paul.


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