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Fisho’s Weekly Fishing Report – 17th May, 2024

It was a family affair and a great Mother's Day when the Whittle crew got amongst the longtails.

Cooler and Breezy for the Week Ahead

Mother’s Day was celebrated on the water for many mums, and it was a glorious day indeed. Light winds and clear skies remained with us for a couple of days thereafter, then turned a little sour Wednesday. 

The Super Boats put on a show just off our town foreshores last weekend, much to the delight of onlookers. We would have warned you of the impending chaos at our boat ramps due to the partial closure at Urangan Harbour – if only we knew a little in advance. Seems this major event snuck in under the radar amongst the local fishing fraternity (once again). Sorry about that. 

Moderate southerlies in the mornings tending south-easterly for the afternoon looks like the trend for today and into the weekend. Today has turned out better than forecast, with less than 15 knots inshore, though the south-easter is still set to crank a little come nightfall. 

Sleeping in Saturday morning and heading out around midday will suit those that aren’t eager to get bashed by the cold early morning chop. Expect 15 knots or better early, then somewhere around the 10-knot mark for the arvo as the breeze swings back onshore. Around 15 knots seems likely all day Sunday inshore and more like 20 knots out wider. The weekend looks fine and clear and should be particularly pleasant here onshore.

Monday and much of Tuesday look like repeats of the weekend, and then the breeze is scheduled to pick up. Expect at least 20 knots by mid-week and perhaps even more before next weekend. Indeed, it might get quite windy as the slow-moving high currently parked in the bight heads for the Tasman.

Our tides are making nicely as this week unfolds and we approach next Thursday’s full moon. The tides won’t be overly large in the scheme of things with this particular moon, but they will be highly productive for a wide range of species and inshore fisheries all the same.

Mother's Day was sensational on the water, and a great day out was enjoyed by many.
Stewart scored a bag limit of tasty squire last week.

Urangan Pier Has Been a Hive of Activity

The elevated platform that is the Urangan Pier was a well-chosen spot for many folks to enjoy the comings and goings of the super boats last weekend, and catch a few fish while they were there. The pelagics turned it on at times again this past week, with schools of mac tuna making their usual raids on the herring and longtails coming within range as well. 

School mackerel made an appearance and were fatally attracted to either a Flasha Spoon or a gang-rigged live bait. Golden trevally also made their way up and over the guard rail rather unceremoniously when they ventured a little too close. A yarn doing the rounds of a visiting fisho out-fishing the locals catching jewfish and trevally on the less-fancied dead herring in lieu of live ones proved once again that sheer unadulterated luck can trump skill and local knowledge any old time.

Nocturnal sessions actively targeting jewfish have had quite a number of fishos rugging up and fishing into the wee hours. Fewer succeed than fail in these endeavours, though all learn a little more each time they try. Jewies have also been pursued relentlessly from other nearby man-made structures with varying levels of success. There are often more under-sized jewies caught than legal fish, and even the better fish rarely exceed the metre mark, however, all give a great account of themselves and will find a weakness in your tackle if they can. Live baits are favoured by some jewie-hunters, whilst others have mastered or are learning the art of catching jewies with lures.

The approaching full moon should herald the start of the annual bream run at the pier. The word “should” was snuck into that sentence on purpose, as even though the time is nigh, our waters are still relatively warm for this close to winter. Coming weeks should fix that perhaps. To date, bream captures have mostly consisted of smaller fish in the barely legal to 30cm class. Much bigger fish are on their way and will test many a fisho’s light tackle amongst the pier’s pylons in weeks and months to come.

Flathead should start to gather in increasing numbers over the neap tide phases after the passing of this moon. Monitoring the first channel with the aid of polarised sunnies as you take the long walk is worth the effort as the pier waters get clearer heading into winter. Carrying larger squid jigs in sizes 2.5 or larger is also suggested from now on, as stray tigers might turn up at any time. Their destiny is assured if they are unfortunate enough to approach the pier, so you need to be the first to spot them should they appear.

Mac tuna often rush the pier's herring population and readily accept a free swimming livie.
Learn to handle your squid properly or your boat's carpet will have forever stains. Inking is inevitable and at times unavoidable so be prepared.

Plenty of Shore-based Options When It’s Windy

Beach-goers might chance a feed of whiting from our local beaches and mudflats this week. There has been a surprisingly good run of whiting about lately, on all manner of tides, so enough effort over the peak period around the full moon should produce a feed. 

Bream could be a nuisance or a bonus for some beach fishos, as they follow their migratory paths towards their favoured spawning grounds. Focussing around the rocky foreshores will put your lure or bait in front of bream more consistently of course, and a little berley will help to maintain the rage too.

Recent captures of blue salmon, the odd grunter and a few giant trevally could be repeated with the better tides this week. Fishing from the rocks from Pialba to Gatakers Bay is popular these days, and rightly so, with the occasional trophy fish and plenty of bust-ups keeping the keen rock fishos coming back for more. Skinny water coral trout might be encountered, as well as other reef-dwelling bycatch, so that terrain is no place for light drags and finesse fishing.

Our little local creeks are worth a look for those keen to mix it with a flathead or a few bream and whiting. Queenies are often encountered over the nearby flats, and smaller specimens make raids into creeks such as Eli and Beelbi with the tide. The jack fishing is about to take a back seat to winter pursuits, and the barra will slow down week by week now too. Both are still catchable, and barra are very much so in winter, but your chances aren’t improving as our waters cool further.

Switching your focus to jewfish is well worth considering this time of year. The mouths of our major rivers host a few jewies for varying periods of time. They don’t seem to hang around Burrum Heads like they do River Heads, but you would expect that should they linger out there then a live pike extracted from near the boat ramps would be just the bait to entice one. Pike aren’t just a fun distraction for the kids; they are a fantastic live bait for many major estuarine predators, including jacks, barra, flatties, cod, queenfish and the aforementioned jewfish.

The River Heads pontoon is probably already quite crowded after dark these days, as hopefuls line up for their crack at the jewfish they hear about on the grapevine. Jewies from barely legal to better than a metre are possible on live baits, and occasionally even a well-presented dead bait. 

Jewies move around more than people might suspect, and can be caught from many stretches of rock in the vicinity. Bait fishos might as well stick to the pontoon and ramps, as the snaggy terrain elsewhere is more the domain of the active lure fisho. Shallow-diving hardbodies always worked a treat in years gone by (and still do), but it is the more popular soft plastics that the new generation of fishos use to great effect from rocky shores such as River Heads these days.

Logan landed this solid flatty from the boat ramp at Toogoom. Great fish mate.
Feeding under the cover of darkness is a major trait of barramundi, such as this fine specimen caught by Simon.
Flathead will be more prevalent as our waters cool. Spend some hours in the shallow margins and you should score.

Live Bait Readily Available Inshore

Whilst many fishos will happily gather their bait for their upcoming reef fishing trips from the freezers of very appreciative tackle stores such as ours, there are those that do their bait gathering on-water as the starting ritual of their day on the bay. Baitfish can be hard to come by for many months of the year - but not now. There are ample spots to catch plenty of pike and herring close inshore, and yakkas gathering in better numbers out wider week by week.

Places such as the Bait Grounds are (obviously) a good place to start your bait gathering efforts. Attempting to do so pre-dawn can be quite fruitless though, as many will find out the hard way. The pike in particular, scatter to feed under cover of darkness, only retreating to reefs when the rising sun forces them to do so. Head out prematurely, and it is a waiting game (and a frustrating one at that).

The Outer Banks and many inshore artificial reefs also house plenty of baitfish, as do some beacons at times and stretches of shallow reef. Pack a suitable selection of bait jigs to ensure you are not left short when pike snip off one hook after the other and mackerel etc swoop on your baits mid-retrieve and polish of yet another rig. We offer the best range of bait jigs this side of the black stump by the way, and do so at very sharp prices that get even better if you buy a few.

You will notice schools of mobile baitfish such as herring and yakkas whilst scanning likely grounds for snapper in coming months. Semi-resident schools of pike also hug countless forms of structure too, as do many other small demersals of various kinds. Learning to differentiate between the target baitfish and the unwanted demersals is a skill only learned over time via trial and error. Your sounder tells the story very clearly – you just need the practice to interpret what it sees.

Put your live baits, or the recently-deceased versions thereof to good use inshore and your chances of connecting to a better class of fish are improved. Some fish simply reject all offerings other than livies, and the effort to procure primo baits and keep them alive is warranted when these fish are encountered. Many locals could tell you yarns of monster snapper that would only eat live baits, and bigger trout and cod that refused all lures and dead baits then snaffled every livie they saw.

Even your class of sweetlip improves when you offer up butterflied locally-caught baitfish, and snapper and scarlets are fond of such morsels too. The past week saw quite a few of each species caught inshore. Some may have taken well-presented squid baits, others large prawns, yet often the better class of fish is tempted by the very baitfish that are swimming about in their habitat, and that is what they really want.

There were some handy squire caught from local artificial reef sites last week. This week and the period closer to the full moon, should see some proper knobbies showing up amongst the squire. The May moon is synonymous with the kick-off of the inshore snapper season, and those that have read my ramblings in the past will know just where to start looking. The weather is actually spot-on for a good snapper bite this week – cooler, with offshore wind early tending onshore later in the day. Night sessions under a growing moon may appeal to some, even though the jiggly seas may not.

Kade showing the family how it’s done, with a couple of tasty squire for dinner.
C'mon Kade, now you are just showing off. Haha. Good fish young fella. Good to see someone feeding the family.
Prawn imitations tempt scarlets just as readily as any other prime reef fish. Fatties like this are always welcome in the ice box.
A couple of fine bar-cheeked trout from a recent Hot Reels charter.

Fantastic Fishing Offshore

Without much feedback to go on from those that went reef fishing north of the bay last week, it was great to hear from Greg of Double Island Point Fishing Charters fame, and how well the grounds east of the Wide Bay bar fished. When asked about the current, Greg said there was none! None in close and none out wide to the shelf. He had heard that even up Waddy Point way, the current was so minimal that an 8-ball got to the bottom along the 100m shelf line with no hassle at all.

Conditions such as these offer champagne fishing, and that is exactly what transpired. When Greg decided to head wide - but still well inside the shelf line - there were plagues of squirey-snapper there to greet he and his punters, and plenty of quality pearlies, tuskies, wrasse, moses perch and hussar, and few red emperor too.

Regular clientele that booked back-to-back trips were chuffed with their day out wide and opted to fish closer the next day to mix it up, and they certainly weren’t disappointed. More snapper, more pearlies, some solid grassies, cod and spanish mackerel were all caught in a bite that seemed endless. Like I said – champagne fishing.

Greg offers an excellent charter operation for those keen to sample the best fishing on offer east of D.I. and southern Fraser. That part of the world really comes into its own this time of year and right into winter too, (particularly when the south-westers unsettle Hervey Bay). Greg catches some excellent jewfish offshore down that way later in winter when the time is right, but for now will focus on the best of the reef fish and work around the snapper/pearly closures when they eventuate.

A Double Island Point Fishing Charter client with a sample of what is on the chew east of Wide Bay bar right now.
A gold-spot wrasse and a solid red for a regular Double Island Point Fishing Charter client. This crew absolutely brained it and had a ball.
A quick troll or a bait out the back is all it takes for Double Island Point Fishing Charters to secure a feed of spaniards in close at present.
The taxman took his cut from this spaniard on a recent Double Island Point Fishing Charter.

Hervey Bay Tuna Appeal to the Sportsfishos

You can eat longtail tuna (apparently), but they are primarily a sports fish destined for release for the vast majority of folks chasing them on the bay. The waters of Platypus Bay came alive with boats roaring around from tuna school to tuna school last weekend, and Mother’s Day in particular saw many happy mums out enjoying their special day on the water with their kids catching tuna.

You can go repeat your recent tuna-chasing exploits whenever the weather permits and expect to do very well. There are masses of longtails, and plenty of mac tuna keeping them company. The true giants of the longtail clan aren’t well-represented just yet, but they will be soon, so stock up on stickbaits and get ready for the early winter onslaught. 

There are sometimes elusive schools of golden trevally doing laps around a small number of reef sites in southern Platypus Bay, and also around the odd artificial reef site closer inshore. Some schools are of juveniles, whilst others are quite large fish. Jigs, softies and live baits are best to tempt them, and they handle release quite well. They certainly aren’t deemed a great food fish, but there might be some genius chefs out there that could make them palatable.

A handful cobia have been reported from last weekend’s efforts, and spaniards are still on the cards from the northern bay. School mackerel are best sought closer inshore, and shouldn’t be too hard to find off the Burrum Coast, around the Outer Banks area, or over bait-laden reefs in southern Platypus Bay.

There has been enough squire and scarlets found on or near Platypus Bay reefs to keep a few families fed this week. Random reefies such as sweetlip, tuskies and cod also graced the odd esky. The sharks are bad in many locations, but thankfully, not everywhere this season. Perhaps the sheer biomass of tuna and the ever-increasing number of boats pursuing them has them distracted from a few reefs. Perhaps it is just the relatively breezy season keeping us off the water and the sharks’ dinner bell rings silent.

That is an absolute stonker tuna there Kade. You are a machine mate. Drop in for a Fisho's Cap buddy.
Ella caught this fine mac tuna whilst out enjoying Mother's Day with her mum and the fam.
Don't go tuna fishing in the bay without Zman Jerkshads. Cost-effective and a consistent producer.
Longtail tuna can be converted into a fine meal if treated properly. Bled, brain-spiked and straight into a saltwater ice slurry is the go.

Focus Shifts to Winter Species Down the Straits

Whilst there is still plenty of freshwater still making its way down the Mary and Susan, the Great Sandy Straits is starting to clean up in many stretches and is very appealing right now. Clean water in the deeper shipping channel that skirts the western side of Fraser past Kingfisher Bay heading south has been hosting schools of mac tuna and the tiny baitfish are in good numbers. A few longtails might find their way down that way on the making tides this week.

There are still large queenies on offer for those willing to seek them out. The bay islands may be worth a look, but it is the vast flats of the straits further south that gain extra appeal this time of year. Those flats are shared with a run of very large blue salmon at present, and plenty of school fish as well. The school blues make their way in and out of the creeks with the tides, whilst many of the larger blues linger beyond the creeks and hunt the channels when not on the flats.

Grunter-hunters are in their element down the straits at this time. The tides are good this week too, even if the weather isn’t so flash. Quite do-able in the right craft, with the right skipper of course, particularly when rough open-water crossings are left in your wake as you enter the calm of any number of creeks. You might trip over a few threadies whilst chasing a grunter, or even a barra or two. Flatties are on the cards more and more each week at present, and will be a very popular target in coming months.

Shifting focus to the deeper ledges and rocky outcrops of the straits is a worthy proposition that could see you tangling with jewfish schooling for the winter. Hopping soft vibes past them is deadly, as is sinking larger prawn imitations to jewies clearly visible on your sounder screen. Live baits are equally effective for those that make the effort to gather them, and occasionally a humble whole squid or large banana prawn will tempt the less wary jewfish.

Jewies have very strict bag and size limits for good reason. Their numbers simply could not sustain an all-out unlimited assault, as when they come on the chew, it is fish after fish. Barotrauma issues on heavy tackle can be a thing from the deepest of waters, but generally-speaking, Great Sandy Straits jewies should release well if handled appropriately.

Big blue salmon are terrorising baitfish and prawns throughout the straits and pulling plenty of drag when hooked too.
Pete was happy with this nice grunter.
Rick had some fun with the local blue salmon population. These fish are hyperactive this time of year.

Whiting in the Burrum and Elsewhere

Burrum river fishos reported a few grunter, flathead and tailor from their exploits over the past week. If the grunter and tailor bit so well over the neaps, then they should be easy targets over the making tides closer to the full moon. Look for either species in the lower reaches, day or night (particularly at night). 

Those chasing barra in the Burrum system might start to struggle now that the weather is tending much cooler. The water temp is still okay for now though, so go make the most of this period of transition if you wish. Remember that dirty water absorbs sunlight and can be slightly warmer than cooler water and consider that when you seek your next barra. Schooling prawn is another major consideration that might pinpoint the whereabouts of several barra. 

Locals will spend some time chasing their beloved whiting in the rivers this week (weather permitting). Should it be good enough to actually get out the front, then a few might even head up along Woodgate Beach looking for early signs of winter whiting schools. 

Reports from the Gatakers Bay area suggest it has been very much hit and miss, but that should all change this week. The full moon tides and southerly weather – just the ticket for a better run of whiting off Gatakers in May. They might be up Toogoom way; they might be out the front of Point Vernon – you will need to suss them out on the day. The protection afforded by that headland and adjacent mainland will enable small vessels access to a large stretch of prime winter whiting territory in breezes such as those forecast this weekend.

Whilst considering the whiting fisheries on offer, Fraser Island is at its best right now, as its surf gutters are inundated with large schools of whiting. The great run of fish south of Eurong we reported on a couple of weeks ago continues, whilst further up the island, the stretch around Poyungan Rocks is whiting central too. Word is that you couldn’t cast a pipi or worm bait into the gutters along there without catching a keeper. Not all fish are extra-large, but all are keepers, apparently.

When you don't want the queenies to recognise you from the last time you tormented them ....
Estuary cod catches will slow down soon, but they are still very active for now.
Luke went for a run with Hot Reels Charters and caught this trout on a live yakka.

How Much Prawn or Crab Can You Eat?

The wind dropped off and tended light southerly, so Woodgate was on the radar for banana prawn fans once again. How they fared Mother’s Day is unknown, but surely, they did well. A lone prawner Monday morning filled his limit in no time and then headed off sand crabbing. You can imagine the level of satisfaction of heading home that day with a bag limit of each.

That is the scene at the moment. Crustaceans galore! The muddies are yet to give up this season, and will be eagerly sought over this full moon period. The sandies are as thick out off the Burrum and across the southern bay into Platypus as they have ever been, and the prawns are just getting better, week by week.

You can catch prawn in good numbers in the Burrum with enough effort. By the “Burrum” we mean all four rivers of course, so take your pick and seek them out. The Burnett is still producing big time to the north too, so bring on more light southerly or westerly weather and we can look forward to a true banana prawn bonanza. Woodgate is showing signs of an extended season at this time, so don’t write it off until the flag falls.

Opt to go prawning in the lower Mary or Susan and you should do better than you might have in recent weeks. Those rivers are due to produce, and the big gutters of the lower reaches near the heads, or the drain-strewn banks a little further upstream are the target areas for now. Indeed, if you have history of prawning in Bengston’s Creek (like I have), then you only have a few days to repeat your efforts before that waterway is closed off to all forms of fishing forever.

A bag limit of muddies is still possible. This season has been the best for some time and they are still coming.
A quick 10 litre limit of banana prawn, then off to pull the sand crab pots. Add your quota of sandies and it's a happy trip home, eh Matty.

Only 4 Days to Go

Come Tuesday the 21st May, the new regime of the Great Sandy Marine Park comes into effect. New green zones and new rules within yellow zones will impact us all, and many of us will lament the loss of prime country that we can never fish again. At the same time, many will rejoice and welcome the restrictions on commercial netting activity that will undoubtedly enhance the future of many of our fisheries.

Just how will you be impacted? You will have to investigate via the state government’s websitehttps://www.qld.gov.au/environment/coasts-waterways/marine-parks/zoning/great-sandy-marine-park. At first glance, the legislation is hard to navigate and what should be very obvious and easy to clarify issues are far from that. Perhaps I am missing something, but it simply shouldn’t be so challenging to understand the impact of the new rules. They have a FAQs section, and I for one am sure this section will blow up in the near future.

Anyway, take more time than I have had the chance to, and hopefully you can make sense of it all and understand what you can and cannot do. I wish I could say that we have brochures instore to hand to you that explain all, but sadly, with time running, no such document has been made available. Comments that the information will only be available in digital format are beyond disappointing.

They are developing a Great Sandy Marine Park app that sounds like it will tell all – but it won’t be available until after the 21st. Okay, fair call perhaps, if that is to alleviate potential confusion over existing and new regs, but when? The 21st or 22nd? Here’s hoping sooner rather than later.

The next question will be; when are our GPS chart plotters going to be updated? Hopefully, we will be able to clarify a few of the above issues and direct you to the right resources to simplify things in the next fishing report. Until then, take the time to suss out what you can and hopefully it all becomes clear.

Good luck out there y’all …… Jase

There are some large mac tuna out in the bay right now.
Tuna, tuna and more tuna ....


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