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Fisho’s Weekly Fishing Report – 21st June, 2024

No red emperor were safe off 1770 with Garry on the hunt.

Excellent Weather for the Winter Solstice

Rarely in recent times have we enjoyed such a prolonged spell of such brilliant weather. Light winds, clear skies and colder and colder temperatures over the past week were relished by many. The good times aren’t over yet either, with similar conditions forecast again next week.

Today’s winter solstice (shortest day of the year) will be remembered by many for the glamorous boating conditions. Barely a puff of breeze greeted those that launched this morning, and those that wisely stayed out overnight last night. The glassed-out conditions will be short-lived initially however, as there is a little extra breeze forecast for this weekend.

Saturday will dawn just fine. Light wind (if any) most likely from the south-west. Come late morning however, a 15 knot south to south-east change will take hold and maintain that wind strength (at least) through the night and much of Sunday. There might even be a bit of cloud and a shower or two. Disappointing for those souls limited to weekend boating and fishing, but still manageable inshore.

The breeze is likely to ease back to 10 knots or so from the south initially Monday, then drop out altogether around midday. Excellent light and variable conditions are expected again Tuesday and onward into the working week. Typical bosses’ weather once again. Evenings will be a little warmer for the next few days which is a bonus perhaps, though the daytime temps won’t rise much under cloud cover, showers and that bit of extra breeze.

The moon will be full this Saturday. Excellent tides right now for so many fisheries, with higher highs in the evening following lower lows in the afternoons. As the moon wanes and the potential prime bite tapers off, the return of such brilliant weather won’t deter those with a boat and some time off, so the start of the Qld school holidays should be happy times for many families.

Chris went to Stanage Bay and hauled in this handsome nannygai (scarlet).

Chris with more of the right-coloured fish from his Stanage Bay trip.

Darrel with a thumper red emperor from off Stanage Bay.

Awesome Offshore Catches Continue

So little past pressure on our local offshore grounds, and indeed elsewhere, have meant that the waters from D.I well to our north have been fishing incredibly well. The sheer number of red emperor caught by all and sundry, not just the guns, has been notable, and is quite indicative of how well our offshore fishery can recover when Mother Nature puts her foot down and goes into protective mode. Excellent hauls of fish have been taken over the past three weeks, and even the sharks have been avoidable in many regions.

That hasn’t been the case everywhere unfortunately. The noahs have dampened the enthusiasm of many a crew whilst attempting to fish grounds east of Breaksea Spit or up near the lightship (Breaksea Light). Even amongst the sharks though, some great reef fish have been hauled aboard by keeping on the move constantly. Much of the 100m line on the shelf remains shark central, as the motherlode of reef fish and quite a few sub-surface pelagics amass along that edge of the drop-off. 

Minimal current offshore, up towards and beyond the 13-mile crossing, made for easy fishing, whilst down south off Waddy Point, the current is currently kicking along at 2 knots and very little baitfish or other life makes that area less appealing. Heading deeper has been the go for those with the luxury of deep dropping tackle. The waters beyond 200m have been shark-free and highly productive. Some were happy to stay in their favoured slot depths to 250m, whilst others took advantage of slight current up north and light winds to venture even deeper.

Pearl perch and snapper led the charge from the abovementioned depths, but were also joined by flamies and other members of the jobfish clan. The usual array of cods, and a few random ‘perch’ or ‘snapper’ species also joined the fray, and added that little extra mystery to what is coming up next. The take-home catch of species such as pearlies is substantial these days thanks to deep drop tackle. Its impact on the future of the species could be debated, but at least the pearlies hooked are coming home with fishos in lieu of ending up shark fodder from shallower waters.

Those that managed to avoid the sharks this side of the shelf scored many fine table fish, and had plenty of vibrant colour in the ice box to show for their efforts. Large tuskies from sandier country between the reefier pinnacles and bombies were welcomed aboard, though for many folks, long drifts weren’t that common due to the lack of wind and current on their day offshore. RTEs, some fine reds, and the usual round-up of local reef dwellers (coronation trout, maori cod, spangos, hussar etc) bit exceptionally well over extended periods. Lingering high pressure systems overhead being very significant factors in maintaining such a good bite.

Some made the effort to see if any of the juvenile black marlin had turned up off the ‘zero mile’ (just east of Sandy Cape). The answer being a resounding “no”. A marlin was raised apparently, but it was only the overabundance of mac tuna that kept the ratchets squealing. Spaniards continue to make an appearance over shoal country east of the spit, whilst anyone keen to jig the deeper waters for kingies or AJs has many locations where they can test their stamina.

Pearlies by day, and pearlies by night. Chris headed wide and picked this one up amongst others.

Some might call this double header of Callum's the 'ultimate'. Great fish.

1770 has been a popular launching point once again, and why not, with such excellent catches being so consistently recorded from the Bunker Group of reefs. A bag limit of coral trout is pretty much a given for those familiar with tea-bagging prawn imitations, and a limit of RTEs is on the cards too. Once those species are sorted from the shallower reefs, its then on to deeper waters and either bigger versions of the same, or reds, nannies and various codgers joining their neighbours on ice. 

If time and bag limits permit, then it’s off to even deeper waters in the hunt for gold bands, pearlies, snapper and other jobfish varieties. Some might even head wider still and deploy the deep drop tackle beyond 100m. All this, whilst throwing back half-decent reefies to remain within the allowable limits. Or at least, this is the sort of scene that unfolds on glamour trips for a few experienced (or downright lucky) crews these days. Chances are if it wasn’t you, then you still heard from others as they bragged about their recent blinder reef trips.

Clayton puts the lads on the money off 1770 and managed some very nice fish himself too.

Clayton's crew smashed the reefies during their latest 1770 trip. A fine brace of trout that was just part of their haul.

Hitching a ride off 1770 with Clayton resulted in this nice red.

Snapper on the Hit List this Week

You wouldn’t want to be a Hervey Bay snapper right now, with so many eager fishos out there in hot pursuit. All geared up with the latest and greatest in tackle and lures, and advancing in the technique stakes means more and more fishos are a real threat to any snapper swimming in our waters. Luckily for those snapper, our limits are quite strict these days and an increasing number of folks are happy to catch and release, so hopefully there will be ample fish to spawn this season and do their bit for the survival of the species.

Many folks failed to tempt any snapper during their efforts over the past week. The neap tides can be blamed for their lack of success to some extent. Evening sessions were warranted, just to enhance their chances over those pitiful tides. Right now is a different matter however, as Saturday’s full moon heralds prime tides and no excuses whatsoever over coming days and nights.

There will be snapper caught from some of the heavily fished inshore hotspots. Most likely by those timing their assault to avoid the heavy traffic, or fish prime bite times around dawn, dusk, and tide changes. From the Burrum 8 Mile to Moon ledge, and from the Simpson arti to the Roy Rufus, many of these well-known hotspots will be popular (and have been all week). Alternatives, along ledges, over rubbly reef and even just feeder channels leading to such locations are all worthy of scan. The more isolated and less likely a spot is to drawn interest from other fishos, the more chance it has of holding snapper consistently.

That is, so long as there is ample baitfish or other food sources present. No tucker, no snapper, basically. Then comes the reverse. So much tucker that the snapper are spoilt for choice. That scene is unfolding up in Platypus Bay, and beyond, up Rooneys way, as literally millions of baitfish gather as part of their winter migration. Yakkas, herring, pike, pilchards apparently, and numerous other baitfish species that have more nicknames than real identities are amassing over the usual grounds up the island and up the bay. 

You might struggle with the daytime bite in many such bait-rich locations, then hit the motherlode as the snapper roll in just on the fall of darkness. Be prepared to linger beyond sunset and the rewards are usually substantial. Excellent catches can be made, where throwing back one large knobbie after another is necessary, as they are all 70cm+ and you are struggling to find any smaller models to take home. Semi-theoretical these days perhaps, but let’s hope that is the case this season. It kicked off ultra-slow due to a warm autumn, but the chill of the past three weeks and the massive influx of baitfish puts earlier concerns aside as snapper fishos head out with renewed enthusiasm.

Jamie picked up a solid snapper this week. More to come in the near future no doubt.

The snapper are in and on the chew, as Mitchell found out recently.

The potential snapper bycatch over this full moon period can be substantial as well. Already, there have been very large cobia caught, goldies and other trevally making nuisances of themselves, and lovely catches of grunter that are always welcome in a seafood-lover’s esky. Scarlets (nannies) are also happy to bite well over the moon and will feature in catches from up Rooneys or Wathumba way if the sharks have no say in it. Some might even snare a jewie or two inshore whilst seeking snapper.

Many isolated and largely-unknown grounds in the central bay were lost to the new expanded green zones, which sucks, but there are still quite a few spots that have snapper history and nannygai or grunter on offer. The way the bait has turned up so early off Wathumba suggests that the 25 Fathom Hole might draw snapper earlier than usual too, but so far, the sharks have been an issue up that way and we are unaware if the yakkas have actually arrived. Worth a look if you are heading past at dawn or dusk perhaps.

Whilst on the topic of sharks, the Gutters probably rates a mention. The new green zones took out some reefs south of the main sector of the Southern Gutter, along with the 16 Mile and plenty of bits in between. The poor reward for effort these days from some of those once hallowed grounds – due to increased traffic and shark depredation – suggests the loss to the greens might not be all that bad. Or does it? Will this compression of effort to other reefs beyond the green zones exacerbate the shark issue on remaining country? Probably will!

Tez headed north and picked up this fine school red.

Doreen sorted this spaniard out quick smart. Just one of the pelagics you might encounter offshore at present.

This tang snapper of Doreen's is yet another weird and wonderful critter you can haul from the depths.

Start Looking Sub-Surface for your Pelagics

Whilst mac tuna continue to roam the bay and excite a few sport fishos, the diminished number of longtails has been notable. Reports of a few longtails up Rooneys way filter back every few days, but the exhilarating days of autumn are in the rear vision mirror now. Not to say you won’t get lucky and trip over a pod of extra-large longtails in your travels, just vastly less chance. Be ready all the same, and have a stick bait tied on for such an occasion.

Some of the best longtails of winter might actually come from within the Great Sandy Straits. Large fish wander the shipping channels looking for prey and are quite visible when they bust the surface. There are mac tuna schools scattered throughout the straits at present; flighty as they may be. Late winter longtails as big as we might see often churn the water to foam down in the southern extremities of the straits off Inskip Point, so keep that in mind for the future if you are a mad tuna fan.

Shifting your focus from surface-feeding tuna schools to sub-surface pelagics such as mackerel and trevally is a good idea at this time. As mentioned recently, the trevally clans will all gather in Hervey Bay as winter wears on, and you can mix it with many different species in a day. Head for Platypus Bay, particularly off Wathumba and Station Hill, or try Rooneys or the Gutters, if you can handle the losses to the noahs. 

Go mad, jigging your hearts out and the trevors will keep lining up for more. You cannot miss them on the sounder. It is up to you to judge their size and decide whether to drop or keep searching. A small number of you will experience the crazy, swirling tornados of trevors in the not-too-distant future and will be potentially jigging them off your rod tips with no need to drop a lure far at all.

Whilst there are still a few spaniards in the bay, it’s the number of schoolies and broadies inshore that has the mackerel fans excited. The schoolies can be found by trolling or spinning reefy areas rich in baitfish. The beacons even host a few at times should the baitfish decide to linger over these bigger tides. The Outer Banks, Simpson, Arch Cliffs and Burrum reefs are all worth a look for schoolies. Some might be found not far from Gatakers Bay too, or off Toogoom or Woodgate.

Broadies are more and more prevalent in the shallows as they hunt for hardies and garies. Sight-fishing for these toothy buggers appeals to many folks, whilst other folks keep a constant eye out for them to ensure they can avoid them. Queenfish offer another level of fun from similar shallow waters, or from the deeper stuff where currents converge off the bay islands and elsewhere. Should you hook a large blue salmon from similar terrain, or even a rat kingie or stray trevally, then don’t be too shocked. All and sundry are keen to take a swipe at baitfish forced from the flats and over nearby drop-offs this time of year.

Aaron Muldoon caught this barra from Lenthalls on fly. A great winter option for fly fishos keen to test their skills.

James Muldoon managed a chunky Lenthalls barra, proving that the little lake's barra are still a viable target when it’s cold.

Exciting Times for Bream Fans

A full moon late in June is a prime time for bream fishos, as they hit the local flats, creeks and rocky outcrops looking to intercept the bream schools amassing to spawn. Big numbers are on offer right now, and plenty of folks have been getting into them. The Burrum River’s population is swelling in the lower reaches, whilst there are still good numbers schooling beyond Buxton. Whiting are also readily available within the river, and flatties are worth pursuing too. No surprises if there are schools of tailor terrorising the local herring populations over this full moon, and grunter are also likely to bite well after dark.

The bream in our local creeks are on the move too, schooling as they gather to exit these streams and spawn over nearby shallow reefs. The fringing reefs of Gatakers Bay and Point Vernon come alive with masses of bream at this time. Anchor and berley and catch them in their dozens, or drift about and try lures if you favour. Be prepared for issues with pike if you take up the lure fishing option. They love all manner of bream lures and can be relentless in those waters.

The bay islands will also host large schools of bream, as will the flats along Fraser’s western shores. River Heads, South Head, Beaver Rock, Ungowa, Kingfisher Jetty and God knows how many other rocky or reefy areas might draw the bream schools this winter. The big migration has hit the afterburners and you can get out there amongst them if you wish.

Ensure you have some squid jigs with you should you go breaming, as tiger squid are also inclined to favour similar terrain in winter. The tiger squid season so far has been much better than last year, however, there are so many folks pursuing them these days that you can be chasing caught fish (squid) and left second-guessing where everyone else has already been if you don’t know some sneaky alternatives. 

Stephen's great haul of bream from the Burrum River early one evening. Strip baits in a berley trail tempted them. Many released, all 27cm+.

Dan's spanky new deep drop combo was blooded with this solid pearlie in great conditions.

Doreen put the deep drop gear to work and hauled up this fine flamie.

Time to Target Coldwater Predators in Our Estuaries

As the waters reach teeth-chattering low temperatures, many folks otherwise fixated on barra and threadies will turn their focus to other large estuary predators more likely to feed in winter. Yes, both barra and threadies can still be caught, and will be, but other fish demand at least a little attention this time of year. Especially jewfish; that chunky big lazy eating machine that is so easily tempted with a soft vibe, a soft plastic or a trolled deep diver. 

Look for jewies within the lower reaches of the Mary (and the Burrum) and spend some time targeting them when the tide is slack. You can catch them when the tide is racing too, but you will need to present your lure in their face to tempt them. Come slack water, they will roam within cooee of their favoured lair and are easy targets for both lure fishos and live baiters alike. They even come to the surface to feed during the evening or at dawn or dusk should the right bait source draw their interest. 

They will feed on pike that are so abundant at this time of year, whilst still gorging on herring at times. Their penchant for squid is well known, as is their habit of chasing mullet with great vigour. Sea mullet will make their way downstream in our rivers and creeks later in winter and will gather to spawn in open waters not far beyond those streams. The biggest of the jewies will position themselves for the mullet run. The prime sites shouldn’t be too hard to guess.

If you find jewies too challenging, or the action is too limited, then go look for blue salmon. These things grow fast, partly because they eat so flaming much. Find a school of blues and rarely would your offering be ignored. They are perhaps the least fussy fish you will encounter in our estuaries. Renowned for their fighting prowess, however clean it might be, they have a blistering burst of speed and lips that will chafe through light leader very quickly. Respect their power and have fun on whatever tackle you choose, and use them to test your collection of lures. If blues don’t eat it, it probably ain’t any good.

Look for blue salmon within our rivers, or within the creeks of the straits and the channels that feed those creeks. Rising tides over nearby flats will draw the blues up to feed in skinny waters too, so they can be found just about anywhere. Work the tides effectively and you and the kids can have a swag of fun these holidays. You might even trip over a few threadfin salmon in your travels. They won’t be as easy to tempt, particularly if you can see them, so try down-sizing your lures and lean towards a prawn imitation if all else fails.

You can find queenies on the flats down the straits. They too will spend time feeding or travelling within the feeder channels, but won’t venture up the creeks nearly as frequently. Not yet anyway. Maybe soon. Small tailor can be a real nuisance within some of the straits’ creek systems. Larger choppers are possible from Kingfisher late winter, and also around the bay islands. Indeed, they can turn up anywhere down the straits, and will do at River Heads at some time in the not-too-distant future.

Your chances of interactions with flathead improve with each passing week at this time of year. Already, large flatties are being caught from within many streams and to some extent along adjacent flats. These big tides will make them easier than ever to locate and catch, so put them on the to-do list too if you wish.

Erica Newton was justifiably proud of this beaut flathead.

Erica's other half couldn't let her take all the glory.

Winter Whiting Schools Finally Arrive

As stated last week, the winter whiting season started very poorly in these parts – but that has all changed. Finally, good schools of whiting have taken up semi-residence over traditional grounds and are biting quite well. Woodgate has had its moments, producing quality fish at times. The size of the tide tends to match the size of the fish by the way.

Toogoom held a glimmer of hope for those launching from Gatakers Bay, though the consistency was very ordinary. The toads have often been thick as, and the whiting schools fairly small. Gatakers Bay itself failed to produce early, but might be worth a look now. Same goes for the other grounds east of there. Some folks launching from River Heads brought back a feed, but even they were a little despondent when describing their catches.

On the other hand, news from south of Round Island, west of Woody Island is much better. A photo hereabouts tells the story, where a crew of three bagged out with 150 winteries in a mere three hours down that way. Launching from Urangan just became viable and many will scatter across those popular grounds once word gets out. Hopefully the dreaded toads don’t turn up early and destroy the fun. 

Given that, historically, those waters typically come online later than Gatakers-Toogoom-Woodgate, we can only speculate as to why the other grounds failed to produce prior to now. Regardless, this latest news is just what the winter whiting fraternity have been waiting for, and undoubtedly many families with smaller kids in tow will have plenty of fun catching these tasty little morsels in coming weeks. 

Alex and crew bagged out with 150 whiting in barely 3 hours this week. Fair to say the whiting are in and biting, finally.

Mac tuna such as this one created moments of excitement out the deep end once again this week.

Max wandered the local creeks and picked up this ripper flatty.

Fun for Families on Urangan Pier or Fraser Island

Shore-based family fishos can take the kids for the long walk out to the deep end of Urangan Pier and reasonably expect to catch some fish. The bream are on, big time, and are a great option for all ages. Local techniques will work best, so pay attention to others’ successes, or perhaps read back through past fishing reports for tips. The full moon period will be prime, and with bream to 45cm on offer, and numbers now substantial, the pier will draw a bit of a crowd. 

Mac tuna have been adding a little excitement again as they make raids on the pier’s herring population. There have been a few school mackerel too, but no serious numbers of late. Flathead are a very real live bait target, so set the kids up to catch pike and send them out alive to better your chances at a flatty. A live herring will do if the pike-catching thing is too challenging. 

Wander the local creeks if you would rather. Catches of pretty solid blue salmon from a creek this week indicate that the waters have cleared too much for the fish that were lingering around nearby rocky foreshores in past weeks. Flatties are a strong chance from our local creeks. Bream too, and maybe even a grunter or a few queenfish. A fun day out with the kids if any let alone all of the above turn up to play.

Those heading for Fraser Island are in for a fat time on the fishing front. The beach is wide and travelling is great. This isn’t exactly the best of news for surf fishos that want a lumpier beach with occasional high tide gutters and exposed rocks, but the saving grace is the excellent fishing that has been on offer regardless.

The big whiting are back in the Eurong area. There are still quality dart to be found in several gutters up and down the beach. Small choppers are turning up quite consistently, and are probably spurred on even more by this full moon. There are increasing numbers of bream turning up and the big tarwhine are on the bite if you can find them. All in all, Fraser’s fantastic surf fishing continues from strength to strength as winter wears on, and the beach looks as pretty as a picture right now. Get over there and enjoy this incredible piece of paradise if you get the chance.

Good luck out there y’all …… Jase

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