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Fisho’s Weekly Fishing Report – 18th August, 2023

A spectacular shot of a big tiger shark caught from Fraser Island's surf beach recently. This one made the TV news. No wonder very few ever swim on Fraser's east coast

 

Better Weather on the Way

 

Last week didn’t offer too many opportunities for boaties to venture beyond the estuaries. It’s fairly ugly out there right now too, wind-wise, with a stiff north-western howling through the tree tops. Things will improve dramatically from Sunday onwards though, so prep your gear in the downtime and get ready to make whoopee when the breeze drops out.

Today’s 25 knots of north-wester will swing south-west overnight and blow just as hard on Saturday. Once the trough and its tag-along cold front causing all the ruckus move off the coastline, things will settle quickly. The wind should be light southerly by just after dawn Sunday, leaving boaties the option to hit the bay. Waters out wide will still be lumpy due to residual seas from the night before.

The weather only gets better over the first days of the working week. A very fast-moving high-pressure system crossing the southern extremities of our continent will soon have the breeze tending back onshore, but remaining light, right through Wednesday. A moderate south-easter is likely thereafter.

The moon has been waxing since the new moon phase last Wednesday. That means diminishing tidal flow daily until the passing of the first quarter phase next Thursday. This will create mixed feelings amongst daytime reef fishos, but should have the nocturnal angler and surf fishos chafing at the bit for the evening bite under an early-setting moon.

Given the fact that we will be running our massive once-a-year mega clearance sale over three days next Friday to Sunday, this will be the only fishing report you will get from us for the next couple of weeks. Combine that with a lack of fishing effort last week due to weather constraints, and this week we will offer a broad-brushed wrap-up of what you might expect from our fisheries over the coming fortnight or so.

Alex Francis displayed exceptional skills recently, catching this ripper flatty by hand from our local beach. That's a unique capture young fella. Well done.


Local Beaches Set to Feed the Family


As alluded to last week, the recent spate of northerly winds has been a game-changer for our local beaches. Onshore swells and wind-chop stirred-up our previously gin clear beach waters and that has triggered the first of this season’s whiting run to commence, albeit only in modest fashion – so far.

It is only early days yet really, but as those that made the effort this week will tell you, a good feed of average “summer” whiting has been on offer along the town foreshores. It is not a free-for-all as yet, but it will be soon. Enough effort and a willingness to wander has seen a couple of local whiting fans head home with close to a bag limit of whiting around the 25-28cm mark. Better fish will come, and in numbers.

There is still just enough flow in the tide for some effort after this blow passes. Hervey Bay Amateur Fishing Club’s annual Junior Whiting Fishing Comp is on this Sunday, and hopefully the preceding blow will have plenty of plump whiting scouring the shallow margins of Pialba beach looking for a feed. Register the kids and turn up on the day and you are bound to have a great family day out in good company. You might even score a fresh feed for dinner.

It's on this Sunday. Grab the kids and join the fun. After the big westerly blow, the whiting should be on the move.

Over coming weeks, the annual whiting run will get more dynamic and will draw crowds to traditional hotspots like the beach end of the Urangan Pier and the stretches of beach from Urangan to Torquay. Time spent fishing the latter stages of the making tides closer to and around the full and new moons will typically see the best catches.

Most will make the effort to pump yabbies and will be rewarded for that effort. Using cured beach worms is still a very handy option for those not so keen or time-poor, and will still tempt plenty of quality whiting when they are on the chew. 

You can even experiment with lures for the town beach ‘ting, and might do quite well with 2” GULP Nereis Sandworms matched to tiny size 6 jig heads, as have many a fisho in the past. New offerings in recent times, from Daiwa with their Bait Junkies and Rapala with their Crush City plastics, mean you have even more choices and are only limited by your imagination (and attention to detail). 

Topwater offers the next level of fun for beach whiting, but you must remember that the gradient of our town beaches is a tad too steep throughout the highest stage of the tide, so topwater sessions might be best restricted to the lower tide phase. Better still, head for the fringes of town and seek them on the flats.

The recent northerly winds triggered a little out-of-season action from the local grunter population. Yes, they are very active this time of year within our streams, but not so much out the front. Random grunter bycatch has been reported this week, from Pialba to Urangan, so imagine what you might discover if you spent a little time actively targeting them. Once again, this filthy blow can be a true bite trigger for all the ghosts of the flats, not just the ‘ting.

Walking the local creeks can turn up a few surprises, along with the usual suspects this time of year. Anything from queenfish to grunter, small sharks to barra are possible, so its not just the whiting, bream and flatties. Having said this, the flathead fishery is without doubt the most productive for the mobile lure tosser, and quality lizards will be a feature of catches for some time to come.

Bull sharks tend to get fairly active in the shallow margins this time of year. Someone’s queenfish had a dance with a bully just recently at the pier, creating quite a spectacle for those there to witness the event. Take a little extra care when wading the shallow mud flats, such as the Booral Flats, as dirtier waters could lead a roaming little bull to sample that strange creature (you) with its teeth. A rare event, sure, but only because experienced mudflat fishos are wary.

Here's Jasper with a nice queenie caught wandering the banks of one of our local creeks. Good fun on the light gear, and only one of potentially several species.

 

Expect a Changing Scene on Urangan Pier

 

There will always be pier regulars wandering the boards looking to tangle with the passing parade of pelagics, but a different scene will unfold in coming weeks. For now, bream fans will continue to fish day and night between the pylons out the end, and will probably see a peak then a decline in their activity with the passing of the next super moon at month’s end.

A few queenfish came perilously close to the pier this week, and given their tendency to chase schools of whiting on the flats elsewhere, these high-flyers are a potential target in coming weeks. They will be even more likely from our creeks and the adjacent flats/beaches, so keep an eye out for bust-ups.

School and broad-barred mackerel are a chance when the water conditions and tides combine, as are passing schools of mack tuna and the odd golden trevally. Longtails have been known to frequent the waters out the end at low tide, but seem to have been scarce of late. Tailor make their presence felt this time of year, being more of a nuisance than anything, as undersized or barely legal fish snip off bait jigs and fall foul of spoon lures.

The big change that is coming, is the sheer number of fishos that will line the planks at the beach end of the pier vying for a feed of whiting. When they are on, it is often shoulder to shoulder, particularly during the early morning flood tides or the evening highs. This scene is quite likely to unfold in coming weeks, so don’t wait for the next report from us to suss it out. Go for a look when the super moon approaches.

A good feed of Urangan Pier bream is still possible, so make the most of the super moon at the end of the month.

Koban had his hands full with this solid cobia from the northern bay. The lads on Hot Reels Charters pick them up regularly - and so can you.


It’s All About Snapper Out on the Bay


With the season recently re-opened, and most boaties kept off the bay due to weather since then, the main target species for many will be snapper. The tides won’t be anything to get excited about, but the weather will be early next week. Consider the position of the moon as it crosses the sky and concentrate your efforts on key bite periods. Early evening sessions will be a special next week.

The weather looks good enough to venture out wider, so the effort should be scattered across the bay and beyond. The 25 Fathom Hole will be popular. If there is yakkas there, then the snapper won’t be far away. Many other isolated patches of reef, rubble and weed draw baitfish and snapper in the central bay as well, so many locals will avoid the traffic and try to sneak a few fish over the side unseen by others.

Evening sessions soaking live or dead baitfish jigged from the area will see snapper caught from many sites within Platypus Bay. The darker period of the moon, as in recent days, being most favourable. There will be lots of humpbacks to avoid, and travel in the night will be somewhat treacherous, so take that into consideration. Many crews have fished on into the night off Wathumba in the past, then run over to the island and taken the long way back to Urangan in the shallows to avoid any risk of collision. 

Daytime sessions up that way will certainly be more productive for lure fishos than bait fishos. Snapper are still a viable target on bait, but they are not nearly as easily tempted during bankers’ hours as they are with a well-presented soft plastic. You won’t need a lot of jig head weight in Platypus Bay either. A 1/4 or 3/8 ounce weight will be ample in the minimal current up that way, though 1/2 ounce will come in handy in wind-assisted drifts in the deepest waters.

Scotty had a fun day on the bay this week. Snapper and a few pelagics add up to a cool day out.

Many will head for the Gutters country in the northern bay next week. Snapper will be there to greet those fishing the sunrise and for those hanging in beyond sunset. Baits will catch them then, but during the middle of the day, they will roam and are a much easier target with lures. You will need 3/4 ounce and 1-ounce jig heads for those waters at times, as is the case back south at the 25 Fathom Hole.

Bycatch of trevally will be intense. They are hard to avoid over any of the bait-rich ledge country and soon pounce on any softy or jig that comes within range. The species list of trevors can be expansive, but they all fight hard, if not quite cleanly. Expect encounters with cobia up that way too, and over in Platypus Bay or the central bay for that matter.

Fish the bottom and you will pick up a feed of sweeties, tuskies and other mixed reef fish at the Gutters. The sharks are as “good” as they are ever going to be right now, so you might even try for a few coral trout or even a red or scarlet without the usual dreaded taxation. Make the effort to gather live baits if you really want to mix it with the better class of reefies up that way.

Jigging in deep water resulted in this beaut gold band snapper for Jason. The variety is substantial as you vary your target depths, so carry a range of jig weights.

Birthday boy Chedda had a ball on the nannies up north. This one fell victim to a Nomad Squidtrex (as so many do).


Snapper and Mackerel are the Main Targets Inshore


You won’t have to drive all the way to the northern bay just to catch snapper this week. Many of the inshore reef sites will host a few proper knobbies and hopefully plenty of tasty squire to boot. There hasn’t been a lot of traffic since the season opener, so common grounds such as the Arch Cliffs 6 Mile, Simpson arti, Outer Banks and the Roy Rufus will be worth a look. 

It won’t take long for the more cunning, larger snapper to spook once the traffic returns though, so do yourself and your fellow fishos a favour and try to avoid constantly running back along your same drift lines or over the reefs proper, and swing wide and re-align your next approach.

Trollers don’t have this luxury, but they typically score best when trolling the outskirts of known reefs or tracking along the channels or ledges that lead to such sites. We will sell a lot more Classic Dr Evils for this task than any other lure, as usual, but you can mix it up now and troll longer-profiled deep divers when skirting grounds laden with pike and yakkas.

That's a quality longtail for Mr Photogenic, Joey (Showy) Hoy. Well done son.
Scotty doesn't mind a spot of goldie fishing in the bay. He is working a couple of days in the shop for us nowadays, so drop in and he can give you a few tips.

We cannot pin-point the whereabouts of the school mackerel at present, due to a lack of effort and reports recently. Needless to say, they will be out there, and very likely in numbers. Those first to return to the Fairway Buoy after this blow might discover numbers if the baitfish are gathered en-masse, but the mackerel are highly mobile and possible from anywhere the herring are gathered in the southern bay.

The waters off the Burrum coastline will be popular for mackerel-hunters, and rightly so. Look for the herring, and seek them out anywhere from Woodgate to Toogoom. The Burrum 8 Mile will be visited by many mackerel fans during daylight hours, and a few snapper fishos dawn, dusk or during the evening.

Trolling the local shipping channels has merit if it is mackerel you seek. Inshore movements of herring will dictate their whereabouts, once again, which could be anywhere from Coongul Point to River Heads. The deep waters that flow past Kingfisher Bay carry a lot of herring schools too, with schoolies and tailor often in hot pursuit. A few spins with spoons over near the jetty will be quite telling. 

Urangan Channel is often overlooked by the masses, whilst a few intrepid locals pick up quality fish on the troll quite frequently. It isn’t just mackerel either, with numbers of estuary cod and the occasional quality coral trout often snatching lures swam close to the bottom. To lock your drag up for the reef brawlers, or keep it light for the clean fighting macks - now, there is a quandry. Tighten up I reckon, as losing a mackerel won’t hurt like losing your lure to a big reefy.

There will still be schools of golden trevally swimming in circles around inshore shipwrecks and other artificial reefs. Even the ledge country off Moon or Coongul can produce if the yakkas or herring are gathered. You can hopefully have your fun and let them go unharmed at present, as shark activity should be at an all-too-rare and all-to-brief minimum.

Chedda certainly enjoyed the birthday trip with Matty and Dan. A soft vibe was too tempting for this black jewfish.

Matty and Chedda with just some of the spoils of a hot bite a few hours up the Bruce Highway last weekend. Ripper weather up there. Not so good down here.

 

Shifting Focus to Estuary Predators

 

Warmer weather and northernly winds have triggered more than just enhanced whiting action, as the big predators that call our estuaries home prematurely stir from their winter slumber. Well, if you could call the past three months a “winter” that is. Certainly, no complaints from me I can assure you – perhaps the best winter I have experienced!

Sure enough, many barra, threadies and higher than usual numbers of jacks bit when conditions were right in recent months. That bite will improve dramatically in coming weeks and many will be focussed on the building action and opportunities our streams provide.

Choose to fish the Mary system and you could be tangling with barra, king threadfin, blue salmon and grunter, all in a decent day out. Or you could just opt to have your way with the whiting, bream and flatties on offer in the lower reaches. Jewies might be your preferred target, or could just be bycatch as they so often are.

Any other year there would be tailor and mackerel being spun-up from the stones at River Heads about now. This year is a weird one (warm and dry), and there is still way less baitfish than there should be in that district, so only time will tell as to how that land-based fishery unfolds. When the water is clean, have a spin from the eastern side of the peninsula and you will find out for yourself.

Coxy has been on a road trip to the cape. Queenies from the beaches are commonplace and a ton of fun.

Those that favour time spent in the Burrum will need to be fairly mobile to mix it with any variety of species. The baitfish etc appear to be more centralised in the lower-mid reaches than right upstream. Having said this, there is always small mullet and other small fodder in the upper reaches that draw a few roaming predators.

Barra will be the main focus of many fishos, whilst a few try their hand at an early season mangrove jack. This spring season should kick off with more vigour than some in the past that saw low night-time temperatures linger (if recent weeks are anything to go by at least). Snags, rock bars, deep holes and even gutters in the sandbanks will host barra at times. Focussing on low tide will be key to success in most (but not all) areas.

Queenfish and river GT numbers are negligible. They have been prolific in years gone by at this time, so something is wrong. It has been a couple of years since they have been in any form of abundance in the Burrum system. It’s like someone has put a gate across their path and denied them access. 

You can find a few threadies in the Burrum’s four rivers, just not in anything like the numbers the Mary or the Straits can host. So too, their average size is more modest, with sub-metre fish more likely than metre-beaters – again, unlike the Mary. 

You might trip over a ravenous school of blue salmon in your travels, but are probably more likely to encounter schools of tailor if you fish the lower reaches. There is quality grunter in the river, and time spent up on the shallow flats after dark soaking yabbies, or prawns etc is just as likely if not more likely to produce better specimens in those rivers. Bream could become a “pest” in some stretches as they make their way back upstream post-spawn.

Expect quality whiting, some bettering the 40cm mark, over the bigger tides. The next super moon will have the whiting fans out in force if the weather is kind. That will be the case down the straits and over on Fraser’s western flats too. It is a special event, a super moon, and one not to miss if you get the opportunity.

Billy has been having fun with the flatties lately. Another fine winter example from local waters.

Scotty with a nice salty caught locally. There's an app you can get to remove the smudgy background mate. The sluth's will still see through that fog.


Surf Fishing on Fraser Island Just Got Serious


We promised you a feature report on the developing surf fishery over on Fraser Island recently - so here it is. I must thank our regulars who share their observations to enable a report this comprehensive, and in particular, Wayne, who has gone to a lot of effort to share his experiences over the past week. Read on …

Firstly, the track conditions and access around the rocky outcrops: Due to unseasonal rains in recent times, the tracks are in good shape. The bypass around Poyungan Rocks is in good condition, but you won’t need to take it at low tide. Trying to pass Yidney at low tide isn’t as kind to your vehicle, so take the bypass track if feeling a bit precious. The commercial vehicle drivers won’t, but rust is a part of their lives.

North of the headlands (which are closed to fishing until the end of September by the way), the Ngkala Rocks bypass is in a deteriorating state. Some found the passage easy one morning, then vastly more challenging later the same day due to inexperienced drivers getting bogged one after the other.

Do yourselves a favour people, let the air out of your tyres and you won’t be the one with the embarrassed look on your face as you hold up a line of traffic waiting for your recovery. It is very easy to avoid bogging, and just as easy to get bogged – preparation and driving skills being the major differences. There will be plenty more of this scene in coming weeks and months as the island’s emerging tailor fishery draws bigger crowds. Give yourself extra time too, just in case you get caught behind a pile up in the soft sand.

Spectacular views to seaward of Ngkala Rocks on Fraser. The seas were dead flat, but the surf fishing was tough at times. Many thanks to local lad, Wayne for this shot

This shot depicts the minimal swell and calm conditions over on Fraser's east coast this week. Low tide gutters out-number high tide gutters by a big margin.

Tragically, due to too much interaction with the island’s dingoes recently, camp zones 3,4 and 5 are closed to campers. These areas will not be re-opened until after the September school holidays. This will stuff a lot of people up, and cause congestion elsewhere, but apparently it is required to protect the people from the rambunctious dingoes (or should that be the other way around?)

Unfortunately, high tide gutters aren’t as well formed as we might hope for this time of year. There is currently a number of gutters that are only fishable mid-tide, and very few that could be fished comfortably over the bigger night tides of the recent new moon. There are better-formed low tide gutters that those seeking the likes of tarwhine, whiting and flathead would prefer.

The recent spate of north-westerly winds flattened the surf right out, and even the stretches from Orchid Beach north faired reasonably well. South of Indian Head, it has been flat calm, and somewhat resembling the placid waters of the west coast. Thankfully, the weed is minimal and very isolated again, and very much avoidable. 

Apparently, the boaties have been revelling in the offshore breeze, launching from the deep beach gutter near Waddy Point in numbers. Snapper and pearlies were hard to avoid offshore during the closure, so they will be eagerly sought after now, along with the reds, red throats, tuskies and so on that regular Fraser Island reef fishos seek.

Shark activity has been very high. There are plenty available for anyone keen to pursue them. Typically the domain of drone fishos, slide-baiters or intrepid dudes with big game gear and a board or kayak to swim baits out, these very same sharks can be encountered occasionally by beach fishos fighting tailor in the surf at night.

A four metre, protected, great white washed up headless on Sandy Cape beach only a kilometre south of where Wayne and others discovered a baby humpback stranded from the previous night high tide. Massive efforts from those on scene were unable to save the poor baby whale and rangers ended up having to euthanise it. A better result that more time painfully gasping for breath.

Clive and Juan wrangled this shark from Fraser's surf beach just a week ago. It took a tailor head sent wide on slide baiting gear.

That big Fraser Island tiger was a real spectacle for onlookers, and a mighty catch from the surf.

A truly sad sight on Fraser's surf beach this week. Stranding events have been more common this season.

Apparently, the pod that the baby whale likely belonged to were doing laps just out wide of the beach, adding another level of sadness to the scene. That is the 8th whale stranding for this season so far, and effectively the most any of the rangers etc have witnessed. Have these distressing scenes got anything to do with predation from our massive and ever-increasing large shark population? Surely somebody knows!

Fishing-wise, it was fairly quiet for many, but the scene is improving. The size of the whiting has diminished, as expected, so tarwhine and dart are the main distractions for those waiting for the right time and tides for the tailor. 

An ever-changing beach fishery, with tides falling later and changing heights day by day, demands some forethought to be on the fish constantly. Several days ago, there was a modest tailor bite in the fishable gutters during the daytime, as the evening highs were too high for the gutters formed. That is changing, and a better night bite is now being experienced. 

Sandy Cape and Orchid Beach have been quite lack-lustre tailor-wise - almost tailor-free a week ago - but now there is a modest feed to be caught there after dark. That scene will likely change for the better later in the season as the fish continue their way north. Gutters at Happy Valley, the Cathedrals and Dundaburra are fishing better after dark at present.

It’s the big rocky outcrops such as Yidney and Poyungan that can offer a mixed bag of tarwhine, flathead and whiting etc, whilst gutters south of Eurong nearer to Dilli Village are giving up more tarwhine and better whiting. Bream will feature soon, having now spawned, those oriented towards the surf will follow the migrating tailor up the beach.

The tailor have been favouring baits over lures at present, for most at least. Lures-wise they do tend to be biting on smaller profiles for the time being. Again, this is a scene that will change with time as the big tailor hordes arrive and competition for food increases. 

We will put together a few pics another time to give you some tips on the right sort of rods, reels and lures to use in Fraser’s surf.

Good luck out there y’all …… Jase

Sunrise over a low tide beach-scape not far from the Maheno shipwreck. Worth getting out of the swag early to get the whole Fraser Island experience.

You can trust the Fisho's crew to put together a special bag of goodies for someone's birthday. Riley McLeod was stoked with this impressive gift pack.

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