Hot Reels clients with a brace of decent bar cheeks from the northern bay.
Perfect Winter Weather Continues
The weather over the past week has been fantastic … and so has the fishing! The good times aren’t over yet either, as the week ahead looks every bit as good as the last.
Even this morning’s extra nip in the air will only be short-lived, as milder conditions return again hereafter. Those on the water today might see the breeze peak around 10 knots or so from the south-southwest early before dropping right out, prior to the arrival of a subtle south-easterly sea breeze late in the day.
Saturday is the “worst” of the weekend (if you can call it that), with 10 or 12 knots of southerly early tending more onshore from the southeast around midday. Sunday looks absolutely spectacular! Light and variable is the call, starting with a little southerly early and rounding out a glorious day with an evening sea breeze from the northeast.
Heading back to work Monday will be a struggle for many, as the glamourous weather continues. The breeze will be quite variable, potentially swinging from every point of the compass at some stage, yet still very light, as yet another of the stream of weak high-pressure systems rides across the Aussie landmass to our south - the “typical” winter pattern we Queenslanders cherish so much. This pattern may deteriorate at week’s end, or may continue unabated. We won’t know for sure, as an accurate weather report a week out seems nigh on impossible.
The fishing this week has been very productive. That larger neap tide we highlighted in last week’s report certainly spurred on the fish’s activity, and excellent catches were reported from all manner of local fisheries. This Sunday’s new moon brings the waning cycle to an end, but not necessarily the bite. The period immediately after the new moon this time of year is favoured by many of us locals due to past successes. Check your Almanac …. it is jet black, and many of our winter species will respond very positively indeed.
Young Kingy can handle himself well offshore. That's a ripper bludger trevally for a young bloke. Well done mate.
Young Kingy photo bombing his dad's mate Chris with a cool sailfish they picked up offshore this week.
Offshore is On Fire!
They must be having a fat time down at Rainbow, with the fantastic weather pretty much extending right throughout the whole of their Rainbow Beach Family Fishing Classic & Expo. We’ve seen plenty of pictures and heard a few tales of sensational offshore fishing down there and expect to hear more as the week wears on.
Given that the competition doesn’t conclude until Saturday, we will leave the updates be for now and bring you a wrap-up in next week’s report. Suffice to say, the score board will be hotly monitored until the final whistle blows due to such perfect conditions and the huge gathering of skilled entrants. The results from offshore, the estuaries and surf will all be very telling as to the quality of fishing on offer in that neck of the woods.
Dicko from L Wilson & Co showing how it’s done during the Rainbow Beach Classic.
Many local crews roared up the bay and crossed the bar to fish the productive grounds east of the Breaksea Spit and beyond. A seemingly endless variety of reef fish have been on the chew out there, from various depths, as well as plenty of large pelagic species.
Deep-dropping over the shelf has been dynamic. Plying various depths from 200-500 metres has enabled crews to mix it up with many species, the most common being pearl perch, bar cod, flame snapper and other jobfishes. Tasty additions like comet cod and alfonsinos, whilst not typically caught in numbers, add excellent table fare and variety all the same.
The popularity of this form of deep-water fishing is ever-expanding it seems and many fishos are looking for the extra edge so they can plumb the depths and bring home better fish each time. Investments in up-market electric reels with greater pulling power and resilience, more efficient bent butt rods and custom-crafted pre-made rigs all equate to better deep-dropping and more fish in the esky for the long run home.
Just when you believe you have the ultimate set-up, then along comes another potential addition to your arsenal that will leave you wanting. Just recently, purpose-built portable lithium batteries that are connected directly to your fishing rod have changed the game forever. No longer do you need to run power leads to batteries, carry extra (very heavy) deep cycle batteries and have the restrictions in mobility around the vessel you’ve had in the past.
These incredibly powerful, yet very light-weight little batteries come with their own lithium charger and all accessories ready to plug into your electric reel. Manoeuvre around the boat with ease in the future and avoid frustrating tangles with your mates.
Being lithium batteries, these units offer extended use and are more than enough for a big day in the deepest water, or a couple of days if only dropping a couple of hundred metres. We just received more stock and they are selling fast. Secure yours as soon as you can and you won’t look back.
A great addition to your deep dropping arsenal - the ripper new portable lithium battery set-ups are a true game changer.
Flame Snapper certainly look good. They would offer a great battle too if they didn't hang out so deep. Skipper Callum putting the lads on the fish.
Callum's mates are spoilt and certainly eat well after an offshore trip. Quality pearlies abound over the shelf.
It hasn’t just been the super deep waters that have been fishing so well this week, as the 100-metre line on the cusp of the shelf continues to fire for the usual species. Snapper, pearlies and rosy jobfish are the big three generally and can be found in vast schools in some spots. Wire weed country is very much favoured by these schools, so get used to identifying the “weed” on your sounder.
The sharks have been an issue in some waters, but not everywhere as yet – thankfully! Being prepared and willing to leave a bad scene and search for fish in alternative depths some distance away is important. The shoal country east of the bar is expansive and offers vast reef systems, ledges, pinnacles and rubbly country. Great catches of tasty venus tuskfish are pretty much assured if you drift the flatter stretches of such terrain, with red throat emperor, green jobbies, snapper, maori cod and coronation trout being common captures around the gnarlier lumps.
There have been hordes of hussar offshore, as expected, and whilst well known as great strip baits for reefies, they are sensational eating as well. The larger hussar found offshore are well worth bringing home (if you haven’t otherwise filled your bag limit that is).
Red emperor have been on the chew offshore and have been taken from various waters this week. The Rainbow comp results will reflect the fantastic red country down that way, that many will say is even better than north of the island. Fraser’s reef fishos launching out of the gutter north of Waddy Point might argue that point, as might those that have found the right grounds up towards Lady Elliot.
Indeed, the mix of reefies brought home by some crews that plied the water up Lady Elliot way this week was quite impressive. Reds, large scarlets, quality trout, big cod and plenty of sweeties and tuskies were on offer and some scored multiple fish from this list of who’s who on those reefs. The reef jacks have been willing to parlay up that way too, and have been partial to a little late-night terrorism back closer to home as well.
Add the potential of encounters with cobia of all sizes, spaniards and mahi mahi, and your offshore forays could be very exciting indeed this week. And that’s not to mention the option to tangle with the cape’s little black marlin or even a stray sailfish as one crew discovered last week.
Once again, big numbers of small black marlin have been caught east of Sandy Cape in recent days. Crossing the 4 Mile and heading south will put you in the zone and you can track the baitfish as you troll. Relatively shallow waters less than 20 metres deep are their typical hunting grounds out there this time of year. The new moon is prime marlin time in our waters, so get your gear and get out there if that is your scene.
Clayton Beer needed a hand to hold up another deep-drop victim.
Glassed out seas whilst pulling flamies from the depths. It's a tough life eh Clayton.
Chris Bowe put the Daiwa Seaborg and bent butt rod to good use wide of 1770. Bigger rosy jobfish are but one of a mixed bag on offer from the depths.
The Northern Bay is More Popular Than Ever
The Southern and Northern Gutters have been very popular this week, and undoubtedly will be again next week. The fact that so many vessels are visiting the same old spots one after the other, and the quandary as a skipper as to not knowing who or how many boats have been there before you, has certainly changed the game out there.
Being mobile and willing to spot-hop whilst sussing out likely terrain is paramount to success. We have tools available to us now that enable quicker and much more efficient prospecting than ever before. Spot-locking electric motors are absolute game changers and are almost cheating. Heavily-weighted softies or slow-pitch jigs enable you to scope out potential grounds quickly and with great confidence. No response – move on. Sharks – move even further!
This week’s effort produced a few nice coral trout for some crews, and a mix of cod, scarlets, sweeties, tuskies and the odd red were reported as well. There was certainly more squire about than snapper for those working the fringes, but you might expect that scenario to change this weekend. The new moon is a great trigger for the bigger snapper to heighten their activity.
A belated run of spanish mackerel continues to entertain fans of the toothy brigade, so if you are one, then consider an early morning troll over the more prominent grounds showing plenty of life. The water temperature is still higher than expected in the northern bay and it will take a major cold snap to change the status quo.
Expect more cobia captures this week, not only from the Gutters area, but from other sites over towards Rooneys as well as further south into the bay. The vast schools of baitfish that draw in so many fish such as trevally, snapper and cobes are on their way, and are somewhat obvious throughout the northern bay waters.
As baitfish gather in Platypus Bay over the coming month, so will hordes of trevally of all types and sizes. The snapper run should kick into gear properly in a few weeks too. In the meantime, the general lack of snapper in the central and southern bay is very notable.
So long as the sharks don’t find you, there is a feed of scarlets, squire and grunter on offer around some of Platypus Bay’s wider reefs at present. The darks fish well up there, so give an evening session a good crack before you have to worry about the humpbacks.
Snapper Bite Improves Over the New Moon
As already intimated, the inshore snapper scene has been a bit depressing so far this season. The future of these slow-growing fish is certainly of concern, particularly here in Hervey Bay. Hence the government’s decision to implement seasonal spawning closures that will impact our area, and all of Qld, next month. We can do our bit in the meantime, whilst still taking home a decent feed of these ever-popular fish.
Shark depredation is undoubtedly a key factor in diminished snapper numbers, and we simply MUST stop wasting precious fish when the shark issue is so obvious. Admittedly, the climate hasn’t really helped much this season so far either. A poor wet season locally means less fodder, and warmer than average temperatures (whilst most enjoyable) tend to defer if not deter the spawning snapper and see more fish stay offshore.
Having said all this, the new moon tides will see enhanced feeding activity from any snapper that have graced us with their presence. The usual grounds will get plenty of attention this week. There have been a few fish caught in recent days, with the Burrum 8 Mile doing its thing after dark on baits, whilst Moon Ledge, the Simpson arti and a few random sites in southern Platypus Bay all gave up the odd snapper and a few nice squire.
Oh, and by the way, there is actually a reason that we/I use the referencessnapper andsquire when referring to exactly the same species. It stems from many years in the game, where the necessity to differentiate between larger and smaller snapper was spawned. In essence, a “snapper” could be classed as a 70cm+ fish, a “squirey snapper” as a fish of a few kilos, and a “squire” as the smaller yet legal version of the same fish.
Many will agree that this differentiation was quite necessary when filtering stories of bag-outs or multiple captures of “snapper” that were all barely 40cm or so. Yes indeed, such a story is no lie, but leaves the listener with a false perception. Be aware - bag limits (including the restriction of only one fish allowed of 70cm or more), size limits, boat limits and seasonal closures affect snapper, as “squire” don’t exist when it comes to the law.
Given a snapper’s migratory habits and their very nomadic nature, fish will likely turn up over grounds devoid of such fish only days early. Keep this in mind if you failed to score in recent trips this week or in the past. We keep harping on about finding the bait to find the fish, and the fact that the food sources themselves can be highly nomadic also should make sense to all.
The very fact that a snapper, or school of snapper, might travel significant distances in just a tide or a day/night - let alone a week - is worth noting. Dawn and dusk are not just prime bite times because of the change of light. Many baitfish and other critters scatter and feed during the evening, and then return to shelter for the day. Such prey is at its most vulnerable when its “safety in numbers” strategy unravels and as it re-assembles. Food for thought perhaps?
Mackerel Galore Inshore
The first substantial wave of school mackerel has arrived and is making its presence felt across the southern bay. From the reefs off the Burrum coast through the whiting grounds west of Gatakers Bay and right through Urangan Channel, there are plenty of schoolies on offer. Beacons such as the Fairway and NU2 are worth a visit, as are other beacons to a lesser extent.
The mackerel will continue to filter down into the straits in coming weeks, and will most certainly be scorned by many a snapper fisho who just had yet another softie trimmed or expensive jig bitten off. You can see them quite clearly on a decent sounder. They are the quite shallow, stretched-out arches so common throughout the water column. Avoid them if you wish, or hunt them down and score an easy feed.
The new moon tides will favour those seeking a bit of fun from our queenfish population. The bay islands will be worth a look, as will Fraser’s western ledges and the flats either side of the bay. Look for them on your sounder when they aren’t tearing into the hardyheads and garfish on the surface.
There hasn’t been as much tuna reported this week, yet they are still here. Expect a few schools to bust up in the southern bay and within the local shipping channels wherever small herring might try to pass. Many of the larger longtails have changed their diet and are actively hunting herring and yakkas deeper in the water column this time of year. As much an incidental capture as they are targeted, they still offer great sport/pain for those that get connected.
Golden trevally are very active at the moment. Schools lurk around shipwrecks and other large artificial structures, as well as along the more dramatic reefy ledges of the southern bay and northern straits. Smaller models are frequently found on the flats and occasionally in the rips around the Picnics or Little Woody.
Watsons Leaping Bonito have arrived in the bay (or at least made themselves obvious just recently). Vast schools of these scrappy little tuna-wannabes can be seen frothing on the surface all over the bay. They are often encountered when trying to jig baitfish on local reefs and can be quite entertaining, if not a little destructive, when you get a full string on a 6-hook bait jig.
Bonnies are great fun for the kids, and make for sensational bait for many reef species. They are also a highly sought after bait for spaniards and cobia. The bonito will be with us for the remainder of the winter and will still be around when the baby blacks return to our bay waters in spring. The are absolute suckers for small metals, plastics and jigs and appear almost suicidal when hungry.
Matty Keyworth got amongst the spaniards this week. This young bloke can fish.
Bread ‘N’ Butter Anyone?
Many opted to wander our creeks, rivers and the straits this week regardless of the flat seas out the front. This option paid dividends big time for many too, with all the bread-and-butter species hyperactive in the unseasonably warm winter weather. You can expect more of the same this week, though the bigger new moon tides should see you shifting your focus somewhat.
Whiting fans will be losing a little sleep whilst they chase their beloved ‘ting in our local creeks, along some beaches and over the flats. Clear water this time of year demands night-time sorties for best results, and quality summer whiting are certainly on offer. Local lads and families have scored bags of whiting in the mid-thirties recently, with a few bettering the 40cm mark also gracing their eskies for the ride home. The new moon tides should see another peak in this action, so get out and enjoy.
Bream are schooling in readiness for their annual spawn. Rocky outcrops and gravelly flats are great features over which to seek them out. More and more will gather over our shallow reefs from now on. Anchoring and berleying whilst deploying lightly-weighted baits down a constant berley trail can see big numbers coming over the side.
The same reefs can be lure-fished for bream, though you will find the pike a significant nuisance in many areas. Trying to work any form of small lure with ravenous pike about is rather annoying, so look for less structure or move to the fringes where rock meets sand. The new moon tides up on the flats under a clear sky will be bream fishing heaven for many this week.
The Great Sandy Straits is home to very good numbers of flathead right now. The resurgence in flathead numbers is encouraging. Doing your bit for the future of the species and the fishery is easy enough – just let the big girls go so they can spawn this spring. Sight-fishing to flatties in our shallow creeks or up on the flats is a true joy that many fail to experience. Too bad, so sad, more for the rest of us eh!
For those eager for a feed of winter whiting, you should have little trouble. Gatakers Bay boat ramp remains the main launching point for wintery fans locally, as the schools from Pt Vernon to Toogoom have been the most consistent. The grounds west of Woody Island (south of Round Island) may come online soon, but we are unaware of any success enjoyed there as yet.
The waters of the central straits continue to give up a great feed of whiting, and plenty of pencil squid too. Indeed, time spent chasing pencillies will see you with a good feed and would be worth the effort. The further south you go the better. Otherwise, word is there are winteries showing up east of River Heads.
Big River Predators on the Chew
Warmer weather this week and favourable conditions triggered a significant feeding response from our larger estuarine predators. Barra, threadfin salmon, blue salmon, jewies and grunter all bit very well, as did the bycatch flatties and river GTs.
The best of the blue salmon can be found up on the flats and within the creeks down the straits. There are schools of smaller models in the Mary and Susan Rivers but many are very small compared with their brethren down the straits. New moon tides offer the perfect opportunity to tangle with large blues in skinny water. What they lack in the eating stakes, they certainly make up for in the sports department.
King threadfin have been hyperactive this week and many river regulars have had a ball. Even your daggy old scribe took a wander over old stomping grounds and came up trumps during fish-a-cast sessions on the threadies. Average size was as expected, around the 90-95cm mark, with enough bigger models mixed in to keep it interesting.
Soft vibes did the damage. Both 20gm and 30gm models were inhaled with gusto, the heavier models proving worthwhile when fishing tight to structure. Big numbers were easy out in open waters but lacked the challenge that a fight around the snags can offer.
Interestingly, there was plenty of 100mm bananas skipping out of their way during the ebb tide, which could be a good sign for the mid-winter prawning – or am I just clutching at straws after such a dismal prawn season? The option of topwater for the threadies presented itself too, though guess who forgot to put a topwater box in that day, while large sambos smashed garfish relentlessly within metres of the boat early in the ebb!
A quick change of tactics put a couple of winter barra in the boat each day too. Others caught barra on vibes and plastics, though it was the standard twitch and stall of the favourite hardbodies that brought a few fish undone for me. Being blessed with a milder winter so far and waters that are trying to get back to 20C while the sun shines gives us hope of more of the same to come. Enjoy while you can, as the chill must come at some stage.
It was fish-a-cast hopping vibes for threadies this week. The author gave Mondy a miss and scored well in the river.
A foray down the straits has merit this week. Big tides draining the flats encourages the big predators to take advantage of the easier feeding opportunities. Clearer waters make their job harder unless they are a stealth specialist or a speedster. Threadies and barra will seek alternatives.
Grunter will feed well over coming days and will be a good target within the creeks and also the feeder channels. Look out for the tailor whilst seeking other fish. They are turning up in the larger creeks and through the shipping channels and will be on the hunt over the bigger tides. Many fishos are fans of course, though those of us tossing expensive lures are not!
River Heads and Fraser’s western ledges are prime to give up the odd jewfish, albeit most likely after dark. Turn of tide periods will increase your chances and bring these lazy fish up from the depths in some areas. There are decent jewies (and smaller models) upriver for those keen to seek them out. Concentrate on rock bars in deeper water.
Exciting Moments on Urangan Pier
Whilst bream are the main stay for many pier fishos this time of year - and they are faring quite well too - there has been plenty of pelagic action this week as well. A few golden trevally likely regretted their decision to seek out an easy meal amongst the pier’s abundant baitfish, whilst even the odd spaniard made a visit.
The more exciting news for many pier fishos this week was the arrival of the school mackerel. Flasha spoon sales are spiking again as regulars and visitors alike flock to the pier while the mackerel hang around. It may be a brief visit only, or it may be prolonged. Time will tell.
Targeting flathead with live baits has also been popular this week. Sight-fishing to flatties below is one of the fun features of a day on the pier. Night sessions chasing a jewfish are worth considering this time of year. Securing live baits pre-sunset or working out how to catch then after dark can be a challenge. Of course, you could always opt to work a well-proven lure in the right spots at the right time and save all the hassle.