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

Jacko caught this green jobbie east of Breaksea Spit a little over a week ago. One of very few fish that made it past the sharks in 50 metres.

Enjoy the Calm Before the Storm

Well, the trade wind abated earlier than expected this week; quite contrary to the weather bureau’s suggested forecast. This made for vastly better boating and fishing conditions than initially anticipated, so hopefully you weren’t duped and got out there when you could. It is also much steamier than expected, with humidity levels quite uncomfortable in the lighter onshore breeze.

Looking ahead, today’s light north-easterly breeze should reach little more than 10 knots by nightfall, before easing again and tending more easterly Saturday morning. This onshore breeze will likely stiffen ever so slightly to around 10 knots or so later in the day, bringing a shower or two along for the ride. Sunday looks magnificent, if not a little warm. Expect a very light zephyr through the day with a welcome sea breeze to cool you off later.

There will be a little more breeze offshore, but still within the 10-15 knot range that is comfortable for the larger vessels capable of fishing those waters. Monday could be largely a repeat of Sunday, with the emphasis being on the ‘could be’. There is a storm brewing in the Coral Sea next week, and itmight be headed our way.

It would be foolish to make any predictions, or even bother sharing those being bandied-about online right now, as the possible movements of any potential cyclone or east coast low are incredibly hard to predict. Who knows what will form and where it will head – certainly not the bureau at this time. Weather sites have sprouted forecasts 10 days out in recent days that had anything from 80 knots at Sandy Cape to a full-blown cyclone bearing down on the coast just north of us before next weekend. Their most recent suggestions are less worrying; being strong, but manageable winds mid-week – but again, can we rely on this forecast?!

Best we keep up to date as the days progress and take appropriate action if things indeed go pear-shaped. The closet weather buff in me is more than a tad concerned at how windless our region is right now, and how warm our waters are too. Potentially paving a path for a wayward storm should this purported east coast low get a name.

Anyway, moon-wise, we’ve just slipped past the first quarter phase on our way towards next Friday’s full moon. This week offers great tides for so many fisheries, both inshore and offshore, and in our estuaries as well. Make the most of the best of this week’s weather and keep an eye on developments in the Coral Sea.

Our waters are super-hot right now, leaving the door open for an intense low to wander on by.

The wet weather has the muddies moving downstream. Look for them in the main flow of our rivers and creeks.


Plenty of Surface Action on the Bay

When the trade winds eased, many crews tore up the bay looking for a bit of light tackle sport fishing fun. They didn’t have to drive all that far either, running into random schools of spotted mackerel from Coongul Point north. There are currently schools of spotties scattered throughout much of Platypus Bay, and they are typically good-sized fish too. Spotties averaging 80-100cm are possible, so keep on the move if all you find initially is smaller models.

Casting metal slugs into the obvious schools of surface-feeding fish has been the go, and bag limits have been easy to come by. Once a few meals are secured, a change of tact and spending time seeking tuna instead can keep your crew spinning and their drags screaming. There are swags of small mack tuna in the bay right now, and they are feeding in tandem with pods of much larger longtails. 

Although some schools can prove to be very flighty and hard to approach, they are not all spooked so easily. Catching tuna has been a breeze for many, if not a little exhausting in the extreme heat and humidity. Avoiding mack tuna and getting the bite from their much larger cousins has been somewhat challenging though apparently. Changing up in lure size and offering a larger stick bait can get a response from larger longtails (and deter the macks). Look for those very large individuals seen skirting the fringes of the bait ball fracas, as well as random solo fish hot on the heels of any skipping gar.

The sharks are an issue – of course – so do what you can to minimise the carnage (both on the fish and your lure collection). It is fair to say that a tuna lover shouldn’t get too attached to his/her lures in our waters these days. The biggest and baddest of the bull sharks are particularly aggressive boatside too, so anyone new to this game or yet to experience these beasts at their worst should take extra care when landing and releasing any fish. Do not ‘swim’ the releasees, just spear them into the water head first and wish them well. 

There have been a few large queenies swiping at all manner of lures from surface offerings and jigs to trolled divers and metals lately. Queenies are extra active in the hot water and really put on a show. You can find a few large models inshore if you keep an eye out for nervous or fleeing baitfish whilst you scan over our deeper flats, shallow reefs or along the ledges. They can be a bonus for crews plying Platypus Bay waters too, from the flats to some of the deeper bait-rich reefs and random bait balls.

Hot Reels charter clients have been spinning for tuna and spotties on their way up the bay recently.

Hot Reels clients get to tangle with the bay's golden trevally on a regular basis.

There are spaniards up north and Hot Reels Charter clients have been getting into them.

Take Extra Ice for Your Reef Fish

It really is crazy how little ice some folks take with them on a fishing trip. Experience will teach all and sundry in time, but for now, heed this advice, and pack more ice than you would in cooler times. Not only is the air and water very warm, but the fish you are depositing into your esky are toasty too. Consider how much your ice melts when you add warm sea water to make your slurry, as well as how much impact a few large fish can have too. 

Party ice is okay, and certainly convenient, so long as you have plenty. Many a well-managed reef fishing vessel is equipped with large eskies and reserve party ice that is applied to a growing collection of fish as the trip wears on. Larger esky owners have the added luxury of block ice, such as the 15kg flat slabs that we sell so often these days. Such block ice outlasts the party stuff by a substantial margin and can be your saviour on hot days when you ‘kill the pig’.

On the reef fish front, you generally won’t need a huge esky inshore. A modest box will cater for the usual mix of coral trout, cod and sweeties, and if you’re lucky, the odd scarlet or squire. All these fish are on offer from our inshore reefs at present, along with some quite large blackall (as well as smaller ones), the usual perch clan and others. Mackerel fans can fill up on spotties as mentioned above, or go find the schoolies that are hounding the squid schools in the shipping channels.


Coxy with his hands full, comparing his tatts with Mr Cod's.

Deej managed a solid bluey to add a different flavour to his usual offshore delights at the dinner table.

Ollie used a jig to fool this nice venus tusk fish. As always, he was fishing with his dad aboard Double Island Fishing Charters. 

Chasing pencil squid is ridiculously popular nowadays, and pretty much everyone is into it. Possession limits don’t seem to be a major consideration for some, and given the boom-and-bust nature of a species that appears so abundant, mentioning such limits often just gets a shoulder-shrug or a grin. Nevertheless, there is regular bycatch in the form of juvenile tiger squid and tiny cuttlefish, and the extra effort and take of these juveniles is of major concern. 

There has been plenty of comment about the lack of tiger squid in our waters since the popularity of chasing pencillies took off. Year by year, our tiger squid numbers declined to the point of virtually non-existence last year. Extra effort, over-fishing, nature, environmental disasters (droughts and floods) all have their impacts, but so do our actions at this time of year. 

It might be worth considering that, by taking so many tiny juvenile tiger squid from deeper waters before they get to mature and spawn, the impact on the following season can be very negative. Perhaps you might rethink the retention of all the baby tigers you catch in the future for the benefit of the species and your future squidding seasons. After all, if you take out all the juvenile stocks before they can breed, then the resultant decline is a given. Older local readers might well remember how prolific the squid eggs were along stretches of our rocky foreshores and our shallow reefs back in the day. How long since you have seen any of these?

Those that have ‘been there and done that’ can tell you that small tiger squid don’t rate nearly as well as pencil squid in the bait stakes either, so keep your limit of pencillies and put them to good use on the day or freeze them for future outings. Catch enough cheeky little cuttlefish, and in time you too might decide to avoid the inky little blighters altogether. They are certainly tasty, and some would say way better than squid, but the mess – oh, the mess! Regardless, many of our cuttlies are truly tiny and should be released to ink another day.

Clusters of squid eggs were once quite common just below the low tide mark, and tiger squid were abundant. A rare site indeed nowadays.

Keeping a few larger tiger squid such as these is fine, but you should be letting the tiny ones go so they get to spawn.


Try to Tame a GT if you are Up to It

This is prime time for our inshore run of giant trevally. This summer has all the hallmarks of a bumper GT season, with minimal major run-off so far, yet just enough to stain the rivers and draw the bigger beasts closer inshore. Fish in the 30kg class are quite common, and true brutes to near double than size are possible. Possible that is, if you are up to the task.

The tides are only neap right now, so current flow is at a minimum. All the same, a big boy must eat, so look for your next GT battle in deeper waters and take the fight to them. Live baiting can be a pretty easy approach, where getting bit is the easy part. Extracting the brute that just scoffed your hapless live bait being the challenging bit. Large livies will not be ignored by a hungry GT. A legal mackerel is but a snack for such a fish (but unfortunately so too for any nearby noah’s arks).

Many a fisho will lament the loss of a primo reef fish whilst fishing our deeper inshore reefs this summer, their battle to the surface being interrupted by an overpowering and scorching run followed by slack line. Blaming a shark for the carnage is a fair call, and right 95% of the time – but not always. If you are fishing near any major structure such as shipwrecks, or significant ledges, then the culprit that just stole your fish may well be a GT.

Of course, live baiting a fish doesn’t get the cred (or the ‘likes’ they call it these days) that catching the same fish on a lure does. Nor is the excitement level quite the same, particularly if topwater lure fishing is involved. If it is the explosive strike on a popper or stickie and ensuing battle that you seek, then give the tides a few days to build and go find a significant current line pouring off a reef, a ledge or past a beacon and test your skills. Now is the time.


Even worn-out old codgers like your author can catch a GT inshore in summer. Trying to avoid them was more challenging.

You will need to stretch out further to make a sweetie like that look big Jakey-boy. Cute little hat though.


Lower Reaches of Our Rivers Fishing Well

The same stain in our rivers that is drawing in predators from afar, is washing the river’s own predatory clans downstream as well. The River Heads area has been hosting many good jewfish, threadfin salmon and grunter of late, and the scene out there is likely to continue. Some might try their luck land-based, and are in with a good chance too, but it is the boaties that are having the most joy.

The Mary River’s waters are chocolate brown during the last of the ebb tide, yet the flush of the rising tide is making ground against the run-off in the lower reaches. Demarcation lines between areas of clean and dirty (or salty and fresh) are quite clear and should be noted. These very current lines are havens for many forage species washed out by the fresh waters upstream, and their predators know this. Whilst most would concentrate their efforts through the ebb tide and the first of the flood for major estuarine predators, this present scenario offers the alternative. 


Jacko didn't have to drive far to catch this fine thready. A lot of fish are flushed downstream and on the chew right now.

This is prime time for grunter from the lower reaches of our rivers and the waters beyond. Prawn imitations will fool them every bit as well as the real thing.

 The Great Sandy Straits is fishing very well too, just as it should in times such as these. Some of the major creek systems are still home to schools of grunter and threadies, as well as blue salmon, the odd flathead and some plucky pikey bream. Yellowfin bream are also possible, as are queenies and small GTs. It is a real mixed bag, and those sporting the latest in today’s technology should have no problem locating, identifying and catching their quarry.

That very same hi tech should also very clearly tell you when a barra is a barra, enabling you to steer clear and go fish for something ‘in season’. At the risk of offending a seemingly growing number of folks hell-bent on targeting closed season barra – how about a rethink? You all want a better fishery, and you all want one without gillnets in the future as their extraction will see the barra numbers explode. Yet, showing restraint at a time when targeting and catching barra is not only uncool, but illegal, and negatively impacts the big mature barras’ chances at spawning, is asking too much?

Chase the straits’ mangrove jack population instead if you are up to the challenge. The biggest of the estuarine jacks are out ‘n’ about and ready to rumble regularly due to this incessant heat and humidity, and they will pull the skin off a barra twice their size. Pick a creek, any creek, and head in with the making tide. Flick your way in from snag to snag, or park up in front of the best in the creek and drift baits back to them. If they are home, you will soon find out.

Don’t get too attached to your lures if you go in under-gunned. There is an increasing array of primo small hardbodies and a huge number of smaller softies that will get the desired reaction from a jack, but the bigger, badder trophies lurking back deeper in that snag may well want something a bit more substantial. Bigger lures mean heavier hardware and vastly more pulling power. Beefed-up size 4s will pull trophies on the right day, but size 2s will boost your confidence – if you know what I mean. Your flash new jack rod may soon be subbed-out in favour of your heaviest barra gear if you trip over the nastiest of the red dawgs. 

Drop some crab pots in on your way somewhere, or get more serious and head out for a proper crabbing session. The recent rainfall has had the muddies on the move, and they are very active. The usual Xmas carnage is now largely behind us and the locals and visitors alike have more room to move on our rivers. The crabs have largely exited the backwaters and are swimming the main streams. The fresh water coming down the major rivers has shifted them downstream, as it has in smaller creeks impacted by localised run-off. Noting the full moon next Friday, this should be a good week for mud crab fans.


Jacks are far tastier than fishing rods. This heat has them all fired up.

Muddies are featuring on the menu for many families. Recent rains have them on the move.


Landlubbers – Here is your Chance to Shine

Not only might someone fishing on foot get a crack at a major river predator swimming past River Heads, but the Booral Flats offer opportunities (for those that are part mudskipper) to mix it with some serious fish as well. The usual whiting and flathead that are the mainstay of those muddy flats are often joined by schools of grunter and blue salmon, bull sharks, and even the odd thready at times such as these. Such fish are on the move due to the local run-off and you can intercept them if you wish.

You could keep things a little more civilised and wander the sandy town beaches in the hope of a few grunter or flathead. Focussing on the early flood tide and stretches of beach offering at least a subtle gutter is advisable. Small soft plastics resembling a prawn, or even a paddle-tail or wriggler-styled model will tempt your desired quarry. Light tackle is all that is needed, but beef the leader up to at last 15lb.

Head for the rocks at Pt Vernon if you wish and try for the same flatties and grunter, and chance your lures against any coral trout lurking amongst the coral. Don’t go too light in this case – 20lb tackle with a heavier leader is better. It won’t matter if you go light when it comes to the smaller fish, only the big ones. Prawn imitations and paddle-tails are the go for the trout in the softies stakes, but you can also try glide baits, shallow divers and even topwater.

GTs and queenies are not impossible, and indeed often turn up within casting range. They won’t bother unless there is baitfish there in numbers though, so scout the horizon regularly and go after them if you see nervous baitfish erupting. Basically, be prepared for anything when fishing our rocks. There has even been some rather large and very toothy barracuda hanging about this week.


Land-based jack fishing adds to the challenge. It is prime time right now, so go get 'em before the big wet arrives.

Steven and William Harvey had a great time catching these garfish. It is a visual fishery, adding to the fun factor.

Unfortunately, the flaming sharks are still a major issue in town. If they aren’t stealing your fish, then they are scoffing your larger baits. Go target them for a bit of fun if you wish, and feel free to keep your bag limit of one shark under 1.5m if you are so inclined. There is most definitely no shortage of them, regardless of the BS you see or read about in today’s popular media.

The sharks are well spread from Pt Vernon to Urangan. Fishos have been having issues with them out along the Urangan Pier when trying to live bait for GTs of late. The GTs are there, but sometimes the sharks are more aggressive and certainly lack the cunning of the trevally. There has also been the odd passing queenfish this week, and a mackerel or two to keep things interesting. Flathead are a chance in the first channel, but more likely from deeper water out towards the end due to the heat.

There is still a good feed of garfish on offer at the pier and from the nearby groynes. These funny little fish have proved to be a real hit with the kids this summer, offering them the visual appeal of float fishing and plenty of laughs to boot.

Evey night is pencil squid time at the pier, and with such hot days, an evening spent out there with the kids catching a swag of squid is obviously quite appealing. Big numbers can be caught quickly, so remember those possession limits and relish a fresh feed when you can. Pre-dawn sessions are potentially even more productive and can see less of a crowd than the evenings, meaning more squid, even quicker. Do take some ice or some form of chiller though, as you must cool your seafood in this heat. 

One final word regarding the news this week of Irukandji jellyfish stings along Fraser Island. You will all be aware that several jellyfish stings have led to emergency evacuations and hospitalisations for kids and adults stung on Fraser. The waters of Platypus Bay again seem to be playing host to this summertime menace. Carrying bottled vinegar has been a first aid remedy for jellyfish stings for eons, yet today, Google suggests otherwise? Perhaps you will have to investigate that option for yourself, but in the meantime, if you are feeling anxious, then we do stock stinger suits that can protect you from marine stingers.

Get out and enjoy the next few days of great weather if you can, and keep a close eye on any potential cyclone. Fingers crossed it doesn’t come our way, and double cross them if you enjoy your impoundment barra fishing.

Good luck out there y’all …… Jase


Local young gun, Kade Whittle was ecstatic when he caught his PB jewie from the surf recently. Plenty of adults would be equally as impressed.

Trolling for coral trout is very popular. Any small deep diver with the rightshimmy will tempt them.

Venus tusk fish feature in catches from the northern bay. Find them along the fringes of the reef, as this Hot Reels client did recently.


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