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Fisho’s Weekly Fishing Report – 21st July, 2023

Henry & Lewis Jones enjoyed a day out with their dad Paul aboard Tri Ton's Fraser Coast Sportfishing charter. Schoolies aplenty.

 

A Good Weekend Before the Blow

 

The past week was a mish-mash of varying weather, from light drizzly rain and the odd shower to 20 knots of onshore breeze at times. Dramatic improvements in recent days have been quite welcome. This morning’s light westerly breeze will tend more north-westerly later in the day as the approaching trough nears our coastline.

A subtle south-westerly change overnight will cool the air a little, but nothing like the chill that is on its way early next week. Make the most of the weekend. Saturday will see up to 15 knots of wind from either side of southerly, tending more south-easterly in the afternoon. Sunday will be much better, with barely 10 knots from the south greeting early risers, before the breeze drops right out late morning. The sun will be out all weekend.

Then things turn pear-shaped. A trough will form in a pool of cold air over our part of the world Monday that will bring strong winds and a significant wind-chill factor to our coastline. Initially, stiff southwesterlies of up to 25 knots will carry the odd storm and even light hail in some districts, but most of us will only get a few showers.

Tuesday will be worse. The wind will swing back onshore and blow up to and possibly stronger than 30 knots from the southeast. Offshore and exposed coastal waters such as off Fraser Island will see even stronger winds at times.

The wind will then start to weaken gradually mid-week, but it will be at least Thursday before reasonable boating conditions will return. We can expect a few showers for most of the working week, lessening in intensity as the week wears on.

It might be a blessing that the tides are what they are for the coming week. The moon is waxing and will pass through the first quarter phase Wednesday. Diminishing neap tides until then are not that exciting, so look forward to better times all round later next week.

Veronique was pleased as punch with this nice golden trevally caught near Coongul Creek recently.

 

Fun Times on Our Flats

 

Limited opportunities for longer-range forays last week saw a lot of boaties putting the tinny to use in our local creeks, rivers and on the flats. Bread and butter species were the targets, and many enjoyed fruitful sessions.

The whiting were a bit hard to find for many that tried, being quite the surprise for the confident locals familiar with the local sand whiting scene. The whiting fishery won’t improve over this set of neaps of course, so if chasing ‘ting is your thing, then save your energy for a week’s time when the approaching full moon lifts the tide heights once again.

Bream were a much easier target species last week, and fans of these little scrappers found them in numbers around rock bars, gravel beds and shallow reefs in the southern bay and the straits. High tides spent up on the flats over likely terrain offered perhaps the most fun, with quality bream taking all manner of lures.

Topwater offerings were smashed with gusto time and time again. A little dance, then a pause, then repeat, was too tempting for many bream, particularly those targeted during low light periods or in waters coloured by nearby wave action. Small softies continue to tempt some of the wariest bream, whilst at the same time, tiny hardbodies rolled or twitched tantalisingly across their path gained plenty of interest.

Sight fishing for bream is a lot of fun, but is just one facet of a fun day on the flats. The clear water this time of year enables us to sight-fish for flatties in skinny water in many locations. Working the tides and targeting areas where these ambush specialists can lie in wait for food forced off the flats or out of the drains and creeks is key. Such areas are at their best during the lower half of the ebb tide and the initial flood.

Time spent prospecting the mangrove-fringed shorelines during the high stage of the tide can still see you tangle with a few flatties. They will be more widespread, so less numbers are likely from a given spot. Keep mobile and stealthy and you will be rewarded.

Dane with a high tide bream on a Baitjunkie Grub. The Fisho's Daiwa bream combos are a sheer joy to use.
Young Rueben had a hoot catching blues with his sister and their dad Rick.
Blue salmon are great fun for the kids. Avalon is all smiles as she shows off her recent capture.

Drifting into our creeks with the tide whilst flicking small lures is a great way to keep up with the flatties as they move upstream. Again, doing so in crystal clear creeks where you can spot your quarry or follow spooked fish that launch from their hide on your approach is one of the special things our waters offer in winter. 

Many creeks, our large river flats, and the vast flats of the Great Sandy Straits offer many opportunities to mix it up with others speedsters whilst up in skinny water. Blue salmon are certainly the most common this time of year, and are a ton of fun on light tackle. They will eat all manner of lures, but your presentations still need to be spot on. No fish will eat a poorly presented lure!

Schools of fairly small blues are common. Fish in that 40-60cm size range, up to a couple of kilos or so, are great fodder for the kids to fine tune their lure casting and sight-fishing skills. In many locations, you won’t be able to physically see the fish until they are spotted hot on the tail of a lure, but in such slightly murkier waters, side scanners make up for your lack of vision.

Much bigger blue salmon will be a feature of our August fishery, so you can look forward to that. Once these creatures better the 80cm mark they can be a real handful. Blistering runs, the odd jump and plenty of head-thrashing are the blues’ greatest assets. Their stamina can be quite exhausting too. The very large fish bettering the 90cm mark can be quite challenging to stay connected to if you opt for lighter leaders so keep that in mind too.

Queenies are the other primary flats target this time of year. Some can be found as they enter our streams, but it is often the open flats of the straits that host these voracious speedsters during winter. Once again, sight fishing opportunities abound, and a stealthy fisho must monitor the waters ahead for nervous baitfish or the tell-tale forky tales of the big queenies. Side scanners announce their presence without question and make them even easier to track down.

When the tide is in, get up on the flats near the mangroves or some rocks and the flatties will keep coming. Christie with a ripper.
The flats and drains in the background are a dead giveaway. Prime flathead territory.

Double hook-ups can be quite common when chasing flatties. Christie and Dane had a ball last week.

  

A Winter Session from Gatakers Bay

 

Protection from southerly and south-westerly winds is just one reason many boaties flock to Gatakers Bay boat ramp to launch. The other is the ample opportunities the nearby waters offer for a good feed or a day of fun in the sun. 

This ramp is not ideal for larger vessels by the way, or at least not at low tide. When it is busy (ie; always these days), there is very little space for larger boats to marshal and the narrow channel can get quite congested. If retrieving a larger vessel at low tide is a must, then the simple solution to this problem is to stand-off out the front waiting for clear access. Oh, and watch out for the bommies in the direct path of you when you clear the channel heading out. Idle clear before gunning it.

Many crews launching from Gatakers Bay will be seeking winter whiting. Schools of these tasty little tackers can be found off O’Regans Creek, Toogoom and the Burrum. Heading the other way and prospecting the waters directly out from town is worth consideration too. The yellowtail hole or the NU2 grounds are bound to have schools pass by at some stage soon, if not already.

Whilst picking up your latest fresh feed of whiting, you might consider the mackerel fishery that is ripe for the picking at present. There have been schoolies harassing the whiting, but even more-so the mobile herring schools passing through the western and southern bay. Go for a troll and you should pick some up, or deploy a gang-rigged pillie or whiting whilst you fill your creel with winteries.

Anchoring over a select piece of fringing reef closer to shore off Gatakers or Pt Vernon will put you in the running for a potential cricket score catch of bream. Commencing, then maintaining a steady flow of berley in these shallow waters (3-4 metres) will soon see the large spawning bream lining up for a feed.

Float-lining with just enough weight, if any at all, to get your bait down naturally will be necessary to tempt the cunning older fish. Small but sturdy hooks with strip baits attached on leaders of around 15lb is ideal. The strip bait option is necessary to withstand the attention of the “happy moments” which can be ravenous. With practice, you will learn the art of teasing the baits away from the happies as to not hook them, which will enable the bream to steal it from them as it sinks yet again.

Such a scenario can often draw the attention of terns and seagulls, which can be very persistent in their attempts to snatch your unweighted or lightly-weighted baits from your berley trail. Again, practice and observation will demonstrate the necessity to retain a couple of scraps of bait to throw elsewhere to distract the birds whilst casting a bait directly down current.

Other fish can be attracted to a good berley trail. Tailor will be very obvious when they show up, as will mackerel. The tailor are indeed a bonus, making for great strip baits and more berley in the pot- if yours is one that can be pounded. Such pounding might seem counter-intuitive for a usually stealthy fisho, yet do so for 20 minutes or so initially, and you will literally see the bream (and happies) rise to the pot each time you do so – akin to ringing the dinner bell if you like.

Opting to scout out the shallow fringing reefs for tiger squid might see you heading home with a feed of calamari as a bonus. Indeed, fishos targeting other species in the area should always carry some squid jigs this time of year, as you never know when a few will turn up chasing your bait, your lure or your whiting.

Luke loves his trolling. He and Mel will have to settle for cod instead of the usual trout this time though.

Love 'em or hate 'em, chopper tailor are a part of the Great Sandy Straits scene for the next couple of months.

 

What to Do When Snapper are Banned

 

Inshore reef fishing is certainly a lot less exciting this time of year due to the annual snapper closure. The tropical species are less enthusiastic inshore, but can still be caught. Their bite periods will be much shorter, and indeed, they can be downright lethargic.

Focus your efforts over the turn of tide, and use the abundant live baits at your disposal if you wish to tempt a cod or trout. Blackall and scarlets are possible from some of the gnarlier deep reefs, and decent sized sweeties can be found around the fringes in small numbers.

Otherwise, have some fun chasing golden trevally around shipwrecks and other inshore artis, or seek out the big numbers of school mackerel that have once again invaded the bay. As expected, big numbers of schoolies rode the making tides into the southern bay over the past week and they are now scattered nearly everywhere.

There won’t be much point attempting the usual July evening sessions up in Platypus Bay due to the snapper closure. That is of course, unless you have a red-hot scarlet spot you can rely on, or know where to track down a good feed of large grunter. Be ever-wary of the humpbacks from now on by the way, as their numbers will swell dramatically from here on into spring.

Anyone spotted pulling up on the 25 Fathom Hole over the next month would likely be viewed with some suspicion. Those waters are home to little all else other than snapper these days (in late winter at least), and have long lost the ability to give up a decent feed of the once common tropical species that the area used to host. Maybe the closure will see a renewed alternative fishery develop in time, by default.

Bobby and Pauly from Hot Reels Charters put their clients onto the spaniards quite often. Another recent capture from the bay.

The spaniards keep on coming for Hot Reels clients.

Heading wider when the weather allows has merit. For much of the year, many of us wouldn’t consider a Gutters trip viable due to the horrendous shark attrition and significant wastage. This time of year however, and potentially for only the next two months, those waters should be more productive and the sharks less active.

The influx of baitfish into the northern bay has drawn in many species of trevally, large cobia, and roaming demersal species such as scarlets and red emperor. These nomads will join the remnant local population of resident reefies and fatten on yakkas etc while the opportunity remains.

Live baiting is key to tempting wary trout, but many will still favour - and succeed using - the proven jigs and softies that make the task so much easier. Avoiding the trevally clans will be challenging over many sections of hard reef, particularly the more prominent ledge country. Take the kids for a run and get them jigging trevors for a day and they will likely sleep all the way home (if they aren’t wearing your ears out recounting the many hook-ups they enjoyed).

Big cobia continue to be a feature of the northern bay fishery. Huge fish are possible, some of which dwarf even the regular 30 kilo monsters. Expect a few more cobia encounters throughout Platypus Bay and around bait-rich sites in the central bay. Visits from these large nomadic hoovering machines in the southern bay is still possible – if the baitfish hordes arrive and stay.

Our offshore grounds had a spell last week due to less-than-ideal weather. Crews in larger vessels might make the journey over the Breaksea Spit this weekend before the big blow arrives. Many might know, from past experience offshore, just how dynamic a bite can be just prior to such a blow. Think big red emperor and if you’ve got the boat and the kahunas then go get ‘em.

Hot Reels Charter clients with yet another horse cobia from the northern bay. These brutes are more common than you might think.

 

Latest from the Mary River Scene

 

Blue salmon are turning up throughout the Mary and Susan rivers. Quite small fish are schooled in some areas, whilst better fish can be found elsewhere. Being such a mobile species, a bait fisho, sitting idle at an appropriate junction or passageway will soon encounter blues on patrol. Live baits will draw their attention better than alternatives, though blues are such garbage gutses they will take all sorts of dead baits too.

Monitoring your sounder and seeking out the blue salmon schools can see you and the kids cackling to each other as you hook one after the other on soft vibes or soft plastics. They are super aggressive when in a feeding mood (when are they not?) and you could find yourselves in multi-way hook-ups quite regularly. Try trolling if you wish, and you might encounter other species as well.

Threadies are still eagerly sought-after in the Mary. Their numbers are not improving, nor will their enthusiasm be when this next cool change sweeps through this week. All the same, time spent sounding likely terrain with soft vibes at the ready will be rewarding for the persistent. 

Trollers can opt to troll deep divers during the second half of the ebb tide, then switch to shallow divers and troll the banks when the tide floods thereafter. Erratic jerking of your rod to enhance the action of some lures can improve your results, though others are best trolled smoothly without interrupting their inherent action. Knowing when to apply such action will come with practice, observation and past or future captures.

Kallum Nitchinski loves fishing with his dad, Nath. And why not, with flatties like this as regular captures.

Young Kallum was chuffed with this nice chopper tailor on topwater.

Grunter are worth pursuing upriver. Hopping small softies or soft vibes close to the bottom will find them. Otherwise, drifting with baits can produce, as can anchoring and deploying the same baits over likely grunter terrain. Gravelly areas are most productive and such terrain is prolific in stretches of the big river.

The lower reaches of the Mary system is where you should focus on flatties and jewfish. Deeper rock bars and holes for the jewies, and the shallower margin for the flatties. Bream fans can pick up good numbers around the rocky verges of South Head or River Heads itself.

The capture of a large spaniard from the River Heads pontoon (pictured hereabouts) is testament to the crazy fish that are possible from the heads. Big GTs, queenies, jewfish, sambos and flatties all feature at times, but during prolonged periods of clear water in late winter, we will see the arrival of other pelagics.

Think tailor, school mackerel, broad-barred mackerel and tuna and you get the picture. When the herring and/or hardy head schools amass at the heads, you will see fishos spinning from the rocks. This scene should unfold sometime soon. Shore-based fishos will mostly catch the tailor and mackerel, whilst any tuna schools entering the river tend to stay out of reach of these anglers (though you never know your luck).

The tailor have arrived in the straits and are terrorising the bait schools as they migrate. Places such as Ungowa and Kingfisher Bay often draw schools of tailor due to the abundance of baitfish that gather in those areas. The tailor are largely only choppers, with lots of undersized or barely legal fish amongst them. Bigger fish are possible, so spin your heart out and see how you go. Look for the birds or the panicked baitfish, if it isn’t tailor, then it will be blue salmon, mackerel or tuna.

Issaac is proud of this ripper bream from the River Heads pontoon. That's a beauty mate.

Little blue salmon can be hard to avoid on the flats late winter. Great fun on the ultra light tackle.

A spanish mackerel of this calibre is far from common from the River Heads pontoon. Clear water enhances your chances though.

 

Burrum Waters Run Clear

 

The Burrum system morphs over winter into a very different version of its summertime self. Gatherings of small baitfish draw in pelagic species such as tailor; and school mackerel even make appearances in the mouth near the heads. Queenies and mini-GTs often arrive in numbers, but for some reason, they have failed to show en-masse in recent winters. Let’s see how this season shapes up.

The winter run of grunter is well under way, and quality fish are now a feature of all four rivers. Neap tides will see less movement and less feeding from the grunter, but you still might tempt a few, particularly at night. Whiting fishos often encounter large grunter (and small ones) swiping their yabbies and putting on a show in the darkness.

There is enough quality flathead on offer in these rivers to warrant some effort. The usual tactics will tempt them, be that trolling, flicking lures, or even vibing deeper waters. Probing the depths with vibes might also get you connected to a jewfish or a sambo. If bait fishing is more your thing, then spend some time with the cast net and secure some live baits. Herring or poddies will do fine, but prawns will be even better.

The relatively warm winter we’ve enjoyed has spiked a bit of out of season activity from the local mangrove jack population. Recent captures have been notable, though locals that live on the river will not be at all surprised. Night sessions catching jacks is pretty old school, no matter what time of year.

Apart from the ongoing chance of a decent wintertime barra in the Burrum, there are likely to be blues and bream on offer in addition to the above, and another good run of whiting when the full moon approaches. Indeed, if plying the Burrum’s waters this time of year, be ready for all comers.

Christie with an average flattie from a day when they were virtually all 60cm or more.

Hardbodies, vibes, plastics and even topwater will tempt our wintertime flatties. Let these bigger ones go so they can breed up in coming months.

Updates on Other Fisheries Next Week

We haven’t heard much from Urangan Pier fishos this week. It is commonly known that the bream run continues and there are a few mackerel photos doing the rounds. Maybe we will have more gossip for you next week.

Similarly so, we haven’t had a chance to talk to anyone over on Fraser Island, so don’t want to speculate on the current status of the surf beach fishery. Retrospectively, it was pretty quiet in recent weeks, with mostly whiting on the big tides, some decent dart and quality tarwhine around the rocky outcrops. Pippies have been as thick as they have ever been.

With any luck, we will have a Fraser Island update for you next week. Something positive hopefully, with no sad stories about the plight of the island’s poor old dingoes. Struth!

Good luck out there y’all …… Jase

Young Mason with a schoolie from Urangan Pier. Not going to ask about the footwear dude.
Mack attack! Schoolies are thick once again, as the crew on Hot Reels recently discovered.

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