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Fisho’s Weekly Fishing Report – 19th April, 2024

Tony picked up this nice 58cm grunter near Pt Vernon this week.

Wind and Rain Hamper Future Fishing Efforts

The past week has been much better than the weather bureau predicted. Yes, we had some breeze, but not nearly as bad as forecast, and on some days, it was very light indeed. We trust most of you got out and enjoyed the lovely autumn conditions, as they are about to turn sour.

If you are out on the water today, then lucky you! Flat seas and barely a zephyr is the current status, whilst a mild onshore sea breeze of 10 knots is expected by nightfall. Some might consider an early session Saturday as the weather builds, but it could be a short-lived sojourn. The south-easter is building and will be blowing around 20 knots by lunchtime, bringing showers onshore as it strengthens.

Sunday is even worse. The 25 knot south-easter that strengthened overnight might ease a little during the day, but the showers will become more frequent. It is likely to be very wet. Storms are possible each day and into early next week, and they say that some might be severe (but they always say that these days don’t they). The weekend isn’t looking too flash at all, but it gets worse ….

Come Monday, the south-easter is really going to crank, maintaining a solid 30 knots at times, and maybe even more. Showers and storms will be regular, if not tending to rain at times. Tuesday won’t be much better, with at least 25 knot trade winds and a few more showers. If the lawn isn’t mowed now, it isn’t getting mowed for a while.

The wind is supposed to tend more southerly or south-west mid-week. Weather sites changed their predictions from 20 knots all week to possibly good weather for Anzac Day. Who knows – they don’t. We will be closed Anzac Day by the way, so get in beforehand if you need stuff for a day on the water. 

At the time of writing, the Gympie Radar is out of action, so you may not be able to rely on that service once again. It was out just recently when rain was expected (that didn’t eventuate), and it was sorely missed. So, don’t rely on radar data being available and stay safe if you hit the water.

This latest blow is an untimely one. Once again, blowing our chances of fishing the highly productive pre-full moon tides. The moon is full next Wednesday, and the tides are making nicely, but our opportunities to capitalise are very limited. You might not get a chance to get into the action out on the bay this week, so kick back and have a read about what transpired over the past week. 

Manny was chuffed with his best land-based coral trout to date. It took many dustings to get a fish like this to shore over rough terrain.
Little Frankee dolled-up just right to catch quality Hervey Bay whiting from our local beach.

Hervey Bay is Tuna Central Once Again

Hervey Bay is hosting longtail and mack tuna schools in huge numbers right now. They have been abundant right up along the inside of the island from Coongul north, and they are also tearing baitfish to pieces in the western bay too. This week’s making tides have many tuna schools riding the flood tide into the southern bay and straits, feeding ravenously on the ebb tide when they round up the bait.

Tuna have been prolific, but also capable of pulling a mass disappearing act if you are unlucky enough to be on the water at the “wrong” time. They rarely ever stay on the surface feeding all day, so always have a plan B or C to fall back on if the tuna are temporarily absent. They will re-surface and continue feeding at some time.

The tunas’ tendency to munch on a large range of lures is satisfying for those that like to experiment and mix it up. Stick baits are brought out to target larger fish away from the masses where hopefully the sharks can be avoided. Otherwise, casting metal slugs and jerkshads into the melees is a less daunting task for those tuna fans without unlimited budgets.

Trolling for Hervey Bay tuna isn’t a popular pastime, though it can be achieved successfully at this time of year. Many tuna are feeding on larger baitfish and can be tempted by smaller high-speed minnows. One such lure that has been catching them for eons is the 11cm Rapala Countdown or CD11. Keeping mackerel away from these lures is impossible, so a nice mix of pelagics can come your way if you decide to troll lures such as these in the right waters. Doing laps of the stretch of water from Rooneys to Sandy Cape was a tactic of some larger charter vessels back in the day when the southerly howled and denied access to open waters. 

 A blow such as this one coming might see even more tuna enter Hervey Bay. The sharks are having a field day of course, but they are avoidable to some extent if you follow the tactics mentioned in past reports. 

Keets and Joey with a brace of Hervey Bay longtails. Great fun for the family fisho.
Young Kingy is an absolute machine on the pelagics. He had a ball out fishing with his dad, catching tuna galore.
Kingy's dad, Brocky, got to catch a few longtails himself too. There is stacks in bay right now.
Stuart got into the longtails too. Make the most of this run while they are peaking.

You Wouldn’t Want to Be a Hervey Bay Baitfish

If the baitfish amassing in the bay are able to avoid the tuna, then they have to evade the members of the razor gang as well. There are ample schools of mackerel of various kinds gorging on the bait schools as they migrate into the bay. The spaniards are still favouring grounds off Arch Cliffs, and further north. A few spotties linger too it seems, but their numbers continue to dwindle.

Schoolies on the other hand, are seemingly getting thicker, and becoming more widespread throughout the southern bay. The reefs across the banks, that include the Simpson artificials, are hosting many school mackerel, and the odd broadie as well. The bay’s western reefs are also home to solid schoolies quite happy to lighten you of a few lures or other terminal tackle. There is bound to be some up the island too, but it is the southern and western bay waters that have rated a mention this week.

Bonito, of the Watson’s Leaping variety, are becoming more and more prevalent throughout the bay. They can be obvious when feeding on the surface; their comparatively smaller size and diminished white-water commotion readily discernible from tuna to the trained eye. Otherwise, bonnies can just appear behind lures spun for mackerel over reef systems, or as crazy tangles and slipping drags on bait jigs meant for herring etc. Some folks eat them apparently, but for the vast majority of us, they are just a source of fun for the kids or fresh bait.

Add queenies over the flats, including some action right here in town just wide of our beaches, and a few golden trevally in both deep and shallow water, and your inshore pelagic options are many and varied. If only you had the weather, eh! You might chance a close inshore run before the worst of the weather arrives. Queenies, tuna, mackerel and trevally are all possible, so give it a go if it is safe to do so and you are keen enough.

Seven year old Charli is a very capable young fisho. He caught the bait, rigged it, and caught this fine broadie all by himself. Well done champ!
Young Jo had a ball casting into schools of tuna last weekend. He caught one last mack tuna on their return to the harbour.
There is plenty of school mackerel in the southern bay right now.

Cooling Waters Mean a Change of Guard on Our Inshore Reefs

Everyone knows that our winter snapper season is just around the corner, whilst many are already keen to try their luck a little prematurely. There is nothing wrong with that, and since the dark of the moon there has already been snapper caught in the southern bay. Not many, but some. Avoiding sharks is the real challenge at this time of year, so hopefully not too many large long-lived slow-growing snapper are wasted to sharks whilst they are so prevalent.

As squire numbers continue to increase in our cooling waters, the hunt for snapper and squire will commence in earnest. The cool change following this latest blow will be on some fisho’s minds, and big blows such as the one coming, often see fish translocate and feed on new grounds. The bay’s southern artificial reefs, mainly the Simpson and Roy Rufus will be the most popular snapper-hunting zones for many folks, then ledges such as Moon and Mickeys and the like as the baitfish move in and disperse. 

Our shallower reefs can get a little quiet, and are unlikely to host too many squire or snapper this early, but they will have their moments later in winter when our water temperature bottoms-out. Having said this, if you were to catch a shallow water snapper this time of year, then immediately after a big southerly blow would be the time.

There are many isolated little lumps and bumps out in the central bay (some natural, many artificial) that will receive a visit from migratory schools of snapper at some stage soon. A few folks know them well, and have been catching scarlets from some such grounds of late. Slightly later in the season, the western bay reefs such as those off the Burrum will have their moments to shine (after dark) and the waters off Wathumba will come alive with snapper later again.

It won’t be until the masses of yakkas arrive off Wathumba and elsewhere in Platypus Bay that the snapper schools will be drawn that way, and the same goes for places such as the 25 Fathom Hole. In the meantime, transient fish coming through the Gutters or off Rooneys are possible, but only for folks fishing the low light periods such as dawn, dusk or into the evening.

In the meantime, the status quo largely remains on our deeper inshore reefs. There are still nice scarlets to be caught if you can find them. The sweeties are still out there in good numbers, and so are plenty of blackall that get in on the act if using squid, prawn or flesh baits. The trout are as hungry and willing to bite inshore as they will be for several months to come, whilst estuary cod remain hyperactive as they fatten up pre-winter.

Trollers will drag out their favourite Classic Dr Evil lures and commence the search for an early season snapper soon. At this time of year, their chances of connecting to a coral trout and any number of estuary cod are greater than they will be when our waters get colder. Mackerel will take their toll, so don’t get too attached to your deep divers, and hopefully you can avoid the noahs when you hook a quality fish.

Braith Bartlett picked up a solid sweetie last week. Make the most of the better weather and you could catch a few too.

Catching blackall whilst targeting grunter and sweeties is quite common. Here's Tony with a scrappy model from close inshore.

Offshore Grounds Get Another Spell

When the wind dropped out last week there were a few boats that headed east of Breaksea Spit. Deep dropping was the favoured technique and the rewards came for those that did the miles. The current was manageable in the slight breeze and a mix of deep water ooglies were hauled over the gunwales.

There was pretty much no issue with sharks so long as you went deep enough. The 100m line is till sharky and very frustrating, even though it is full of life. From 200m or deeper, there were many nice flamies hauled up, along with the usual mix of pearl perch, snapper and deep-water cods. There were the usual smaller odd-balls hooked, which often demand a reference to the Coral Reef Fin Fish Field Guide or Grant’s for identification. The jobfish clan is well-represented in our deep offshore waters, and they will be major targets when the weather settles again.

Issues with sharks up at the Gutters in the far northern bay continue. There are a few reefies there, along with plenty of mackerel, but those grounds are challenging. Wasteful practices of sitting on a spot or running multiple drifts over shark-laden country should be avoided. What you might catch includes a few or the red or orange-coloured reefies we all love so much, but be prepared to settle for less appealing colours from the sweetlip and cod clans if the sharks persist.

Heading further north and east at this time of year is a better idea. Reds are a major target species and a very viable one. So too, the larger reefies such as scarlets, trout, cod and so on that inhabit reef systems and isolated outcrops right up to and beyond Lady Elliot. Making tides before they get too strong can be ideal for that part of the world, so perhaps anyone up that way at present is enjoying the spoils.

Deej dragged this Eyebrow Perch from the depths last week. There is some weird and wonderful ooglies out there.
Not all flamies are huge, but they are all tasty. Lovely fish Nathan.
Tim headed wide last week and fished over the shelf for some tasty flamies.

Quality Barra and Jacks Thrive in the Burrum

There is a cold snap coming next week, so some fishos will turn their attention to the Burrum River system beforehand in pursuit of barramundi and/or mangrove jacks. There have been quality specimens from both species caught in recent days, and the inclement weather is only likely to spur them on (for now). 

Larger jacks preparing to exit the estuarine environment to see out their days offshore can be found schooling in the lower reaches of the rivers as far down as Burrum Heads. They are easy targets if you can track them down, and will readily fall foul of the usual softies and smaller hardbodies, as well as weedless frogs and topwater lures. Trolling for jacks is potentially more doable now than it is at other times of year. Few do it, though maybe more should (?).

Kicking back and “relaxing” whilst soaking a bait for jacks is rather contradictory. Anyone who has enjoyed success bait fishing for the red dawgs is fully aware of just how tense and in-no-way relaxing those endeavours can be. Nevertheless, a great tactic for anyone keen to tangle with a jack and do so before the cooling conditions cool their urge to feed as regularly.

Large barra are possible from many stretches of water up that way, and that goes for waters within all four rivers. The mid reaches are still a prime zone to focus on, though the barras’ movements over the makes can be substantial. An evening or two on the river at this time of year can be very enlightening (and some of the boofs almost frightening).

The full moon tides mean whiting and grunter once again. You might get a wet butt over the bigger tide phases by the look of things, so the locals that reside on the river have a definite advantage there. Out when the tide is right and the skies are clear, then back home before the next fall of rain. Shallow flats fished under a flood tide after dark will produce for those willing to try. Both species can be found in the lower reaches potentially.

Cheers Scotty. A solid salty from local waters.
Nick caught this solid shovelly on a live garfish near the Burrum River mouth recently. A tough adversary that was released unharmed.

Great Sandy Straits Favoured Over the Mary

Persistent dirty freshwater run-off from the Mary River’s catchment continues to flow right downstream. It has most lure fishos spooked and they are sticking to the lower reaches. Working the tides and better water quality with lures can see hook-ups to barra and salmon. Prawn movements, both small and tiny play a large part in the feeding habits of both species at this time.

Drain-bashing with small lures will be the option chosen by some fishos familiar with autumn thready-hunting tactics, whilst trollers stand an even chance of hooking mobile threadies cruising the main flow or the larger gutters in the lower reaches. Work the drains as the tide fully ebbs, then switch to adjacent banks, rock bars or trolling as the tide floods. The water will be filthy at low tide, but remember that threadies can feed in water just a tad too thin to plough.

The Great Sandy Straits offers potentially even better options for threadfin salmon pursuers, and many more again for those seeking barra. The run of large blue salmon continues down that way, and those critters offer tremendous sport for those keen to tangle with them.

Queenies are cruising many of the interconnecting channels and spend time ambushing baitfish forced off the flats by the ebb tides. They return to the flats when the tide starts to top out and target the likes of garfish and herring with much vigour. A lot of fun can be had chasing queenies this time of year, and the dirtier water can actually make them easier to tempt with topwater lures.

Grunter tend to make their way into some cleaner creeks briefly, then return to the deeper waters of the feeder channels or ledges. Small plastics, particularly prawn imitations are their undoing, as are many baits such as prawn, yabby, herring and fresh squid. You might experience some red-hot flat fishing for grunter over these bigger tides if you can make your way down there safely. It will be blind-casting as opposed to sight fishing, but fun nonetheless.

Barra have made an appearance in certain creeks along Fraser’s western shores. Joining the mangrove jacks and salmon to feast on the abundance of baitfish and small prawns no doubt. Jewfish are also becoming more active, and will continue to do so as the waters cool. These big tides will have them fired up, even if only during the slower stages of the tide. Look for them along deeper ledges and rocky reefs within the main channels of the strait.

Winter whiting fans aren’t left out down the straits at present either. There is a good feed in the central straits for those living down that way or those willing to do the miles. When we hear of action on the local winter whiting grounds off Gatakers Bay etc, we will let you know. For now, all we know is that they are still quite scarce and scattered at best.

Jimmy Muldoon can be justifiably proud of this night-caught local jewfish.

The Crabs Just Keep on Coming

Apparently, the best of the sand crabbing off Coongul Point is a thing of the past. Inshore movements of sandies over recent weeks have been dramatic and a real bonanza for crab fans. Heading further up the island into Platypus Bay is now required to keep in touch with the sand crabs over that way, whilst these bigger making tides see many creep into shallower waters closer inshore.

You won’t need to drive far to find sandies this week (if you can get our there at all). A few metres of water in the vicinity of the bay islands is worth prospecting, as are the waters not far from Gatakers Bay or Toogoom. There were no pots to be seen a fortnight ago off sections of the Burrum Coast and Woodgate, yet since then, excellent sand crabs have been climbing into pots on overnight soaks. Remember that there is a large green zone out of Woodgate if you wish to try out that way in the future.

On the mud crabbing front, the good times appear to be continuing. If you have experienced crabbing so good that you have had to return legal crabs to the water, then you are not alone this autumn. Issues with empty crab in some areas are not reflected everywhere apparently, yet it will still pay to check your crabs’ fullness (let’s call it goodness) as always.

The full moon tides and some rain just spells mud crabs for dinner really, so if you are so inclined, get your pots in the drink and hopefully you will be feasting again soon. Perhaps spend a bit of time rechecking pots that you recently set in lieu of dumping them at the first opportunity for an overnight soak. There are a lot of large jennies in some waters that can fill a pot and demolish your baits in no time. Never reset them where you dumped the jennies as they will undoubtedly be back for dessert. Take extra bait – you might need it.

Abigail and her brother getting up close and personal with some sandies from the bay.
Wayne scored a great feed of quality sand crabs east of Woodgate recently.

Woodgate Fires as Our Prawn Season Kicks Up a Gear

There was a very subtle hint in last week’s fishing report that was aimed at informing the thinking fisho that can read between the lines of the burgeoning prawn fishery at Woodgate. I might as well have just stated it outright as it turned out, as throughout the next day, word spread like wildfire and it was game-on on the Woodgate prawning grounds.

Many rushed to the waters just off Woodgate Beach to cast their nets in 3-5 metres of water over large banana prawns showing clearly on their sounders. The pros beat them to it of course, as they do, but there was plenty to go around and many fishos returned home with their bucket quota or a boat limit (of two buckets if two of more people on board).

Interesting things these boat limits. You can only have two 10 litre buckets of prawn if you are in a boat with five others, but if you same six folks were on the bank, you could have a 10-litre bucket each. 

Anyway, Woodgate fired. Then it went quiet. Then it fired again. The cycle repeated itself pretty much daily for much of the past week or so. Be there at the wrong time and the prawns are buried back in the silty substrate. Be there when they decide to get up and move and it’s a bonanza once again. A light offshore breeze today will mean boats galore off Woodgate no doubt.

Serious prawners keen to get the best of Woodgate’s bananas should be investing in top pocket only, chain bottomed cast nets, as big as they can handle. These proper open-water nets are much more efficient than top and bottom pocket varieties, as bycatch can be largely avoided that would otherwise be trapped in the bottom pocket. For the sake of the few prawns that would otherwise be caught in the bottom pocket, the diminished downtime sorting bycatch is worth avoiding. 

Use your top and bottom pockets, or perhaps a drawstring in other creek and river waters where you aren’t prawning as deep. The drawstrings are unbeatable in the shallowest waters, if you can handle using them, whilst the standard 10’ or 12’ top and bottom pockets remain most popular elsewhere. 

You have ample opportunity to use either this week if you decide to hit the creeks or rivers. There are better and better prawns emerging all the time, though it is fair to say that most are still small (or medium at best) in the rivers and the straits, with better-sized prawn coming from local mainland creeks.

The caption says it all. Woodgate prawn are thick when they are on and it takes no time at all to score your quota.
Harry and Cass smashed the Woodgate prawn like so many others last week.

Plenty of Pelagics at the Pier

If you are fan of pelagics and don’t mind a heathy walk, then head for the deep end of the Urangan Pier. There has been plenty of action from passing pelagic species over the past week, and some of that action is bound to continue. There have been good school mackerel spun up on spoons or tricked into eating gang-hook-rigged herring. The pier’s herring are of the larger greenback variety at present too by the way, which many local regulars will tell you is a major drawcard for predators.

There have been irregular schools of mack tuna marauding the herring sheltering beneath the pier. Low tide raids can be particularly exhilarating as the shiny green bullets rush the hapless herring in waves. Get an unweighted herring in front of them and it is game on. Golden trevally have also been caught this week, and broadies have been attracted to the hardy heads hovering above the herring. 

The making tides should keep the flow continuing, bringing schools of longtail tuna within casting distance at times too. School longtail have been caught in recent days, and there might be even bigger fish caught before this moon passes. Throw in the odd large flathead, a few scrappy little bream and the chance at a few whiting near the beach end, and Urangan Pier’s function as a fishing platform is very much realised.

Whiting fans can wander the town beaches over these full moon tides and stand a very real chance of catching a modest feed. There’s been nice whiting caught in daylight this week already. Some from the Urangan end, some from the Pialba end. Most are quite small, whilst they are all mobile, and can be anywhere from the Eli Creek Flats to the Booral Flats. Hit the flatter sections of beach or the local mudflats when it isn’t too windy, and topwater is certainly an option. 

Good luck out there y’all …… Jase

Kody Ezzy headed for the deep end of the Urangan Pier and caught this fine longtail tuna. It won't be the last tuna caught out there this week.

Max hauled this solid mack tuna over the Urangan Pier rails this week. Action aplenty most days of late.

Dane and Logan hosted this year’s annual Fisho’s Big Cat Reality charter trip to the Swains Reefs. All aboard enjoyed a great week, regardless of wet and sometimes windy weather. Many great fish were caught, many laughs had, many beverages enjoyed and all will be feasting on prime reef fish fillets for some time to come.

These trips have developed into a very appealing option for keen like-minded fishos that want to head to the Swains and learn how to fish those waters from the get-go, not stumbling their way through a week without tuition. If you think you would like to get involved for a future charter, then contact Dane or Logan here at Fishos. Trips for the next two years are already booked out, so consider putting your name down for subsequent trips if you are keen. Here is just a few happy snaps from this latest trip …..

A rowdy bunch of likely lads if ever you've seen one. The Fisho's Big Cat Reality charter crew headed to the Swains.
Not the best weather for the Fisho's Big Cat Reality trip to the Swains, but the fishing was still good. Dane with a brace of trout and RTE. Quality seafood.
Now that's a good-looking fish. Andrew scored this beaut chinese footballer on the Fisho's Swains Reef Trip aboard Big Cat Reality.
Stick baits are must-have arsenal for Swains trips and easier on big blokes than poppers - eh Logan. Fish of the trip by far that triggered a few quiet ales.
A jigged-up jobby is always fun. Logan's green jobfish ate a 90gm Oceans Legacy Hybrid Contact.
Dane with just shy of 30 kilos of spanish mackerel caught at the Swains on a Cast Downunder floating stickbait.
It was laughs all round when the lads distracted Dane and gathered with their special Fishos Tackle World shirts. Cheeky buggers!


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