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Fisho’s Weekly Fishing Report – 20th April, 2023

Jackson with a beautiful diamond trevally, how good are the colours on it 

Blustery Wind and Showers All Week

Put a second chain on your dogs this week folks, because it’s going to blow! There are unlikely to be many opportunities for fishing and boating, other than in the most sheltered of waters. Luckily for us, many such locations can be found in our region, so all is not lost.

Freshening trade winds, courtesy of a high-pressure system down south and a firming ridge along our coastline, will dominate the foreseeable future. Today’s south-southeasterly will stiffen further tomorrow to 25 knots, triggering a strong wind warning for Hervey Bay waters. 

The weekend will see more of the same, with each day kicking off with slightly lighter southerly winds at dawn that freshen to at least 25 knots tending more south-southeast early in the day. Up to 30 knots is possible in the northern bay and offshore. There is the chance of a few scattered showers riding the onshore air stream. 

Initially, most shower activity should be coastal, but as the wind direction tends more easterly from Monday onwards, the showers will be more common and stretch into the hinterland as well. Up to 25 knots of east-southeasterly wind seems likely through Monday and Tuesday at this stage, easing back to 20 knots Wednesday. It will be at least this time next week before the weather improves, (yet we all know how inaccurate any potential forecasts are that far ahead). 

Consider the weather when planning any fishing, prawning or crabbing this week. Don’t take any chances and stay home if doubtful. Wind-against-tide scenarios will make crossing our inshore shipping channels quite treacherous, particularly amidst the flood tide in the mornings.

Today’s new moon peaks the tide cycle and means tidal flow will diminish daily over the coming week. Not a lot to get excited about, all in all, so make the most of the downtime and sort out your maintenance or build your brownie points in readiness for better days.

Kirby with a solid platinum emperor caught on his trusty 20wt fly rod

Big Pelagics Plunder Pier Baitfish

The kids have had a few exciting moments out along the Urangan Pier over the past week. Flathead have been a mainstay of late, and some quite sizeable models have been caught. Remembering the 75cm maximum size and avoiding gaffing the big breeders helps ensure future stocks of flatties. They may not breed until spring, but they will breed never if they have big holes in them.

Live baiting with herring or pike will tempt the flathead. Spotting the fish lurking in ambush mode near the pylons is a major part of the flathead hunt. Keeping your excitement level quashed so you don’t alert others to their whereabouts before you get a bait to them is another. Knowing when to strike after a flattie inhales the livie will then decide your likelihood of success, especially if using pike as bait.

A tad more exciting for the youngsters has been the large pelagics that have been making raids on the pier’s baitfish stocks this week. A few Spanish mackerel around the 10kg mark have been landed, along with quite large longtails as well. At least one longtail tipped the scales beyond 20kg, which is a bragworthy fish from a land-based platform. 

A few school mackerel also made a visit to pier waters and were taking swipes at spoons and live baits to their own demise. How the pelagic scene stacks up at the pier this week will be interesting to see. The making tides have peaked, but the afternoon lows look promising for tuna if you can handle the wind.

Bream fans should be getting their gear ready for the impending bream season. Given the residual heat and lack of rains in recent times we are anticipating a belated start this year. However, this week’s weather may fast-forward their migration. The next full moon period in a fortnight’s time should be a trigger for at least the large “pilot” bream to turn up at the pier.

The town beaches have been fairly quiet of late, with the exception of the small shark action after dark. Given the apparent numbers of flatties at the pier, one might think they are a fair chance from other points along the beach out of the wind. If there is baitfish gathered in the area, chances are there will be predators at some stage.

Mr Wilson with his 23kg longtail tuna caught off the Urangan Pier

Reef Fishing Opportunities Inshore

Take no chances with the wild weather of course, but if you simply must fish for reefies this week coming then you have some options. Gatakers Bay is the most obvious, offering shelter from the southerlies in close. Don’t expect too much joy numbers-wise, but you might manage a trout or two, and a handful of sweeties or blackall. 

An early morning troll would be as good an option as any for trout fans. Casting lures with the wind at your back might suit others. Anchoring and fishing baits into the abundant coral bommies is an option, though you might find it a little frustrating at times. Your boat will yaw wildly during the early flood tide if not tandem-anchored and you might snag a bit of tackle, so fish lightly weighted to improve the odds.

Woody Island offers good protection from winds from the southwest or south. Remembering the rough crossing to get there, once there you could ride out the breeze on the pick. Fish the shallow fringing reef for trout, cod, sweeties, blackall or tuskies, and consider an early troll too if that appeals. 

The Roy Rufus will be an option for those seeking snapper. It could be quite rough, and likely will be too risky for smaller vessels or inexperienced skippers. The sharks will very likely welcome you, and if you are the only boat, or one of very few, then they will be your shadow for the day. Rough, risky and sharky – hardly appealing really!

Vessels small enough to man-handle across the beach (ala kayaks, canoes, punts etc) can be worth slipping in to fish the close reefs off Torquay, Scarness or Pialba. Windy conditions later in the day will make even this option quite uncomfortable though, so go super early if at all.

Larger vessels with crews that are keen can always plow their way over to Moon Point and make their way up the island when conditions are suitable. You might chance a feed of reefies including scarlets, sweeties, cod and trout, but even this won’t appeal to many. Do yourselves a favour and leave it until the winds ease and swing more easterly mid-next week.

Rivers Offer Best Bet Out of Wind

Experienced lure fishos know just how limiting and frustrating lure fishing can be in strong winds, even within our creeks and rivers. Having said this though, the meandering Burrum system, with its many high banks and sheltered waters, offers possibly the best bet for keen fishos this week.

Bait fishos can anchor and quietly target species such as jacks, barra, grunter and others from numerous locations protected from the wind. Gathering live baits with a cast net will be annoying in wind-blown areas. There is plenty of mullet in the mid-upper reaches and a few prawns to boot.

It is interesting to note how barramundi reacts to windy conditions. Those taking the opportunity to learn more will find the large tidal run very challenging for a few days to come. By this time next week, the whole fishery will be easier and more productive. In the meantime, it might be fair to say that the bait fishos will have the edge this week.

Going on reports over the past week, the creeks down the straits are good options when you can gain access again. Grunter are well-represented in some of the bigger creek systems, along with plenty of blue salmon, a few threadies and barra. Flathead are more likely captures now than a few weeks ago and will react favourably to the cooler conditions.

Mulloway jew are very much a winter species in these parts, that start to turn up in better numbers from now on. Yes, they are year-round options if you are willing to seek them out, but your chances are improving by the week right now. 

If you aren’t into live baiting and prefer lures, then tie on vibes, prawn imitations or heavily-weighted paddle-tailed plastics and probe the deeper ledges along the western side of Fraser from Kingfisher south. Try similar tactics around the River Heads area, or head upstream looking for deep rock bars and snags protecting the lazy old jewies from the current.

Trolling can be deadly on jewfish, and will soon see yourself picking up the usual estuary cod bycatch. Indeed, the cod can be hard to avoid around some rocky ledges, large and small, though at times you just might trip over some cool bycatch such as trout, jacks or GTs. Select lures that dredge deep enough to get within a couple of metres of the bottom (we have a few candidates in-store of course) and drag them around when the tide starts to slow.

Seeking out the big schools of bream making their way downstream in our rivers will appeal to bream fishos in coming weeks. They will often hold station around prominent rock bars for periods and are suckers for lightly-weighted baits sent down a constant berley trail.

Making the most of the last of the mangrove jack season when you can is a must if you regularly lose sleep anticipating your next jack attack. This weather pattern screams migration opportunity for larger estuarine jacks prepping for the big trip offshore. Culminating in schools in the lower reaches is their modus operandi prior to the big march. Be there and get amongst such schools of jacks and it can be some of the best inshore fishing you can experience.

Aiden with a solid snapper from a recent offshore trip

Offshore Out of Bounds for Now

Given the weather forecast, talking about offshore forays is probably a bit of a tease. But we thought we should mention a few results from the glamour weather that so many headed far and wide in a week ago.

1770 was certainly popular (crowded some might say) and produced really nice mixed bags of reefies for many local crews. Red throats were the star performer up that way, coming in good numbers and good size if you plied the right waters. Coral trout also featured heavily, even though some were dismayed at not reaching their bag limit with the usual ease.

The grounds up towards Lady Elliot Island were also popular. Sadly, you no longer have such remote country all to yourself these days, as more and more crews stretch their legs and head farther afield to avoid the crowds and sharks in closer. Reds, large scarlets and quality trout were possible, cod were hard to avoid and a few big sweeties, tuskies and other lesser reef fish made the long journey worthwhile. Not everyone scored well. Even over the neap tides, the sharks destroyed the trip for some.

Over the Breaksea Spit, the sharks were very hard to avoid, but a bit of full throttle relocating got you away from them and fishing nearby country before the inevitable happened all over again. There was red emperor caught, reef jacks, coronation trout, maori cod and red throats. Tuskies were a saviour for some, taking baits with gusto out over the sandy patches between reefs.

Snapper featured amongst captures from the deeper waters along the 100m shelf line. We haven’t heard how anyone went deep dropping. There is every chance that pearlies, bar cod and various jobfish species would have been on the cards from the waters beyond the 200m line.

All in all, offshore was productive for some, and frustrating for others. When the current is okay, the sharks are the one variable that can turn such a trip sour. Otherwise, the insanely good fishing offshore from Fraser to Lady Elloit is outstanding this time of year.

Josh with a nice little reef jack

Pelagics Amass as Wind Blows

We wouldn’t expect too many fishos to be out chasing pelagics on the bay this week. Even if your boat and crew can handle the wind, it is simply too hard to keep in touch with the surface-feeding tuna and queenies and casting is very much limited to downwind trajectories only.

Give it a rest for a few days and look forward to the masses of tuna you can hunt after this blow. As we’ve mentioned many times before, strong onshore blows amass larger quantities of baitfish in the bay seeking shelter from rough seas and hot on their tails are increasing numbers of tuna. In a nutshell, the bay should be alive with tuna after this blow.

The average longtails are getting bigger too, so plenty to look forward to for tuna fans shortly. Tuna schools have been making their way down into the Great Sandy Straits this week as well, so opportunities to chase them from smaller vessels or simply save fuel in the bigger boats will suit some folks. They have been prevalent in the shipping channels from the Fairway through the Pelican Bank area and all the way down past Kingfisher. Tuna caught from Urangan Pier are notable, suggesting the Urangan Channel has had its moments of late too.

Spanish mackerel are still quite abundant throughout the northern bay. Bag limits were easily achievable last week during the glamour weather. Winds such as these will likely move some schools around, so be prepared to search for them next trip out. Trolling is a great way of doing so.

Broad-barred mackerel numbers will continue to increase as we head into winter. Keep your eyes peeled for them in the skinniest of water on the local flats, around the bay islands, and within the channels dissecting the mudflats down the straits. Throw small lures at them as they are typically hunting hardyheads and gar on the flats or herring in deeper waters.

Closer inshore, golden trevally have been harassing the baitfish gathered around artificial reefs and shipwrecks. Expect some consistency from the goldies inshore in coming months, so long as the sharks don’t wipe them out. Jigging is the preferred method of tempting goldies and being target-specific is pretty easy nowadays with the sensational marine electronics we have at our disposal.

Queenies bit well once the tide got a bit of pace about it this week. The current lines spinning off the bay islands produced a few, as did certain stretches of bait-laden ledge along Fraser. Incidental queenfish captures continue to offer a little variety to tuna fishos up the island. 

Jack De Pasquale picked up this chunky milfish when spinning with a metal slug around some bait balls

A milkfish of this size in Hervey Bay waters is a seriously cool capture

Crabbing and Prawning About to Go Next Level

Reports from crabbers plying the western bay for sandies suggest it isn’t too hard to score a feed right now. Not everyone bagged out, but some did, and on good quality sandies at that. The waters off the Burrum coast continue to draw most local crabbers, though others make their way up the island and score a feed as well.

Attention from sharks is a major issue on the crabbing grounds. Seems we cannot avoid these flaming things, no matter where we go. Some mentioned whalers simply milling about as pots were retrieved, waiting patiently for you to dispose of old bait and tip out the small sand-dwelling fish from your pots. Others weren’t so lucky though, and had their pots absolutely demolished by the sharks.

This blow will certainly give the sandies a spell, and might indeed see them shift some distance. Receding tides and heavy weather might suggest you seek them in slightly deeper waters if you get back out before the tides make again. 12-15 metres of water was productive this week just gone.

Muddies have been a bit of a challenge in many estuaries. Easter effort, combined with dry and cooling conditions have had their impact. Make the most of the period closer to the next full moon if you can and be prepared to actively shift your pots frequently until you get a sniff. Oh, and don’t believe that old yarn about mud crabs only being active in months with an “R” in them. That simply isn’t true for these parts.

On the prawning front, it has certainly been a slow start to this season (due to the lack of serious wet season rains), yet things are about to go next level. Today’s new moon is noteworthy. Banana prawns will commence their migration and it will be a matter of working out which stretch of river or creek is holding the better quality.

Masses of smaller prawn (boilers) can be found by scoping out likely muddy stretches in the upper reaches of our streams, whilst more mature bananas should be sought from deeper holes downstream from them when the tide slackens. It will be of no surprise to learn of a decent prawn run this week - while the wind is blowing. Frustratingly, some of our better prawning has happened during such blows, just to make it harder to throw a cast net.

And speaking of cast nets, we have just re-stocked the famous Pro Throw range of cast nets. Top Pocket Only nets sporting a chain bottom, and Top and Bottom nets sporting lead weights are available in both 10-foot and 12-foot sizes. These are larger nets than many other mass-produced nets, measured in overall net length, not lead-line to swivel. 

Pro Throw’s are tougher than many others too, making them a much better option for those throwing within the confines of our rivers. Come the full-blown banana prawn runs at Woodgate, Buxton, down the straits or within the lower Mary, these nets will come into their own.

Pro Throw cast nets complement our large range of other nets admirably. We also have Pro Casts, Ezy Casts and Fin-Teks in top pocket, drawstring and bottom pocket configurations. Basically, something for all scenarios and budgets. Get the lads instore to get the nets out and show you the benefits of one versus the others. We can even teach newcomers how to throw a cast net if you have the time.

Pro Throw Cast Nets

Winter Whiting Season Approaches

Many folks start asking about winter whiting this time of year. Anzac Day (on which our store will be closed by the way) is a reasonable date to consider starting your early season search. There has already been a couple of intrepid locals sneaking a reasonable feed of winteries into their eskies, no fan-fare and no specifics shared.

Those seeking the first of our season’s whiting will be plying the waters off Gatakers Bay initially, spreading their wings a little and scoping out the grounds off O’Reagans Creek and Toogoom thereafter. There have been a few schools making their way through the channels out from Tinnanbar down the straits of late. Locals down that way often enjoy very good early season whiting fishing without the crowds experienced in Hervey Bay. 

So, get the light tackle geared up, grab some 2 x 3 Bait Jigs, some GULP Sandworms and/or your favourite bait and be ready to chase a feed of winteries on the approach of the next full moon. We will keep you up to date on the latest as the season unfolds.

Good luck out there y’all …… Jase

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