School Holiday Weather Improving
It certainly feels like spring these days, and the past week was fairly typical for September. The north wind restricted boating activities at times, yet we enjoyed a couple of great days as well.
After this latest trough and weak low-pressure system move on then we can expect vastly improved conditions. Showers are likely today, and even a storm is possible, though we shouldn’t get as much rain as they will to our south. The wet weather should clear tomorrow morning, leaving us with a light northerly in its wake.
Saturday and Sunday look even better again. Light and variable winds of less than 10 knots will see glassed-out seas at times under a sunny sky. Just perfect. The slight breeze will likely tend from points in the west Saturday and swing through the south, then east on Sunday. The barometer will fluctuate and so will the bite, but at least the boating conditions will be schmick.
The working week kicks off well too, with light winds initially, turning northerly and strengthening to 10-15 knots with accompanying showers on Tuesday. A bit more cloud cover and winds from all points of the compass are possible for the remainder of the week. All in all, pretty good conditions for school holiday makers.
The tides are building on a waning moon too, so this will enhance a number of local fisheries and offer plenty of options in our waters. Monday’s new moon will see another peak in the tide cycle. Whilst not massive, the bigger tides (maxing out with 0.6m lows from 3.8m highs) should be considered by unfamiliar boaties in wind-against-tide scenarios in local areas of stronger tidal flow.
Woodgate was Great, now it’s Toogoom’s Turn
Revellers enjoyed the Woodgate Hotel Fishing Classic last weekend despite the less-than-ideal weather conditions. The drinks flowed and so did the yarns. Whilst not everyone was there for the fishing, there was a number of super keen crews that braved the conditions and brought some quality fish back to the weighmaster.
Amongst the fish weighed in, there was cobia, spanish and school mackerel, longtail tuna, coral trout, red emperor, sweetlip, tuskfish and snapper from those that made it out onto the bay. Those fishing local shorelines and estuaries brought in some nice fish too, including bream, whiting, flathead, grunter and mangrove jack.
By all accounts, the comp was a resounding success and it is a reflection of the hard work put in by the Woodgate Hotel crew with the support of their many sponsors. This comp gets better and better every year, so mark the dates on the calendar for next year once announced.
And now it is Toogoom Fishing Club’s turn, as they host their 2022 Family Fishing Competition. The village of Toogoom will come alive with eager entrants throughout the duration of the comp. It kicks off tomorrow Friday 23 rd September and wraps up on Sunday 25 th . The comp is based at a site behind the Toogoom Hall.
This is a very affordable fishing competition for the family fishos. It only costs $30 for adults and $10 for juniors. There are some great prizes up for grabs, and fun times for all. There are substantial cash prizes, a holiday and a boating package on offer in the lucky draws and major raffles, along with lucky draw prizes of kayaks and bikes for the kids. There will also be other draw prizes, raffles, a photo competition and swags of activities to keep kids and adults entertained.
The family focussed nature of this competition is evidenced through the list of target species for weigh ins. Whiting, bream and mangrove jack are live or dead weigh-in options, whilst flathead are live weigh-in only. Grunter, grass sweetlip and pelagic species are catered for in their own categories and even muddies are on the hit list for the keen crabbers. The kids can also catch garfish or flounder and weigh them in either alive or dead.
Reef fishos keen to bring their best to the weighmaster will all be competing for a “largest overall” category prize that won’t be species-based. Catch a big snapper, coral trout, red emperor, scarlet or other and you are competing on weight alone.
This great little local competition is a ton of fun for family fishos and we wish all entrants the best of luck. Congratulations to whoever organised the weather for this year – you did a fantastic job.
Holiday Fun on Urangan Pier
As so often happens for the September school holidays, the pelagics have been turning it on under the Urangan Pier. Longtail tuna have been smashing live baits ballooned out from the deep end, whilst school mackerel have been scoffing spoons and livies in good numbers.
There has been a few spanish mackerel terrorising the bait schools and the school mackerel alike. Some locals will use a live school mackerel as live bait for a spaniard. Just make sure it is a legal model, over 50cm.
Apparently, a couple of giant trevally have turned up this week too. They are fans of swallowing live schoolies, or even dead models “jigged” erratically up from the bottom. It is early days for GTs at this time, but they are certainly something to look forward to for pier fishos with the tackle to subdue them in coming months.
Flathead continue to be sight-fished when conditions are right - live baits bringing many undone. You can try hopping heavily-weighted plastics, blades or soft vibes around the pylons of the first channel, but be a little wary doing so out the end with so many mackerel around.
For those looking to entertain the smaller kids, our run of whiting at the beach end of the pier is worth investigating. The new moon tides and a bit of northerly wind should see another resurgence in whiting numbers at the pier and along our beaches.
There are still a few decent bream taking baits and artificial offerings between the pylons out towards the deep end. Not big numbers, just remnants of the winter bream season basically, but fun for the young’uns all the same.
If the pier crowds don’t appeal to you and yours, then there is plenty of stretches of local beach that you can take the kids and expect to catch a feed of whiting. In town, Shelley Beach and its rock groynes or the pipes of Torquay Beach are worth a look. Similarly so, the subtle gutters along the Pialba stretch can hold quality whiting and a few other delightful surprises.
You can venture south of town proper and ply the mud flats of Booral for whiting, flatties and perhaps a salmon or grunter. You could head west or town and wander the beaches looking for whiting, or maybe a flathead around a creek mouth.
The rocks at Pt Vernon are worth a look for intrepid rock hoppers spinning with metals or stick baits. Tailor and little GTs are the major target, but don’t be too surprised if your target pelagic turns into an orange fish with blue spots. A bonus if ever there was one.
Nocturnal fishos might trip over a few schools of grunter along our foreshores over the new moon. Yabby or prawn baits, often deployed for other species, might take off and a dogged fight begin. The latest run of grunter has been quite sizeable too, with plenty of fish over 60cm getting about.
Our local creeks are worth a look for those on foot (or in a small boat or kayak). Beelbi Creek at Toogoom has been home to small GTs and queenies of late, and flathead, jacks, grunter and small barra are all possible. Jacks, cod, whiting and flathead are possible from Eli Creek, but be very wary in this silted-up waterway if boating.
Pelagic Options Aplenty on the Bay
Boaties will be able to take advantage of the great weather over the weekend and scatter all over the bay. An increase in surface activity will be a welcome sight for sportsfishos. A lot of the bust-ups are only mack tuna, but there are few small pods of longtails getting about in Platypus Bay as well. These tuna are hardly thick by Hervey Bay standards, but worth mentioning all the same.
There are plenty of bonito foaming up the waters out north of the banks and occasionally through the local shipping channels. These little guys (Watson’s Leaping Bonito by the way), are great sport for the kids and super easy to catch. They will pounce on bait jigs, and are suckers for small metals or softies worked quickly through the water column or cast at surface-feeding schools.
School mackerel are abundant in the western and southern bay. They are also turning up in numbers down the straits and can even be caught from River Heads off the stones. A few tailor can also be found terrorising the local baitfish. Masses of these pesky critters were hard to avoid off Coongul and Moon recently – again, a ton of fun for the kids.
There is still a few large cobia mooching about in the northern and central bay. Trevally are thick as thieves on many of the reefy ledges of the Gutters as well as off Rooneys and over many reef sites in Platypus Bay.
Queenfish were caught in numbers around the bay islands over the recent full moon, and yet were hard to find a few days later. This new moon might see new schools turn up, which only those that ply those waters will find out. There is a chance of large giant herring and a few species of trevally, tailor and mackerel from the same waters.
If a keen marlin fisho wanted a crack at potentially the first of Hervey Bay’s little blacks for this season, then this week’s new moon would be the time to try. It doesn’t sound like there is much in the way of garfish or flying fish in the open waters of the bay, but swags of yakka and bonito.
Taking advantage of the light winds could see you tangling with the little blacks off Sandy Cape this week. Waters north of there will also be worthy of a visit. Sailfish are also a possibility, that used to be caught in big numbers years ago up along the northern end of Breaksea Spit, both inside and outside, this time of year.
Reef Fishos Spoilt for Choice
Those keen on a feed of reefies have many options this week. The new moon tides will see a decent bite from any snapper left in the southern bay or straits. The reefs and weed patches of Platypus Bay are quite worthy of a visit over the darks, and even more-so at night. Berley trails and fresh baits sourced from the area will soon bring any nearby snapper undone. Be wary of whales though of course.
Quality grunter can be caught on a variety of baits or lures from several shallow reefs and inshore gravel patches. The fringing reefs of Pt Vernon will be popular for small boat owners chasing grunter on these tides. They are likely to turn up on many other sites, particularly north of the banks or off the Burrum Coast.
Shallow reef fans can try trolling for coral trout and cod. Grunter, mackerel, tailor and squire bycatch might be encountered as well. Dawn sessions are typically more productive than bankers’ hours.
Out wider, the 25 Fathom Hole is worth a look for snapper. Don’t hang around unless you spot the fish or the yakkas are thick though. Keep driving and head for the Gutters instead and target trout, scarlets, snapper, cod, sweeties and other reefies up that way.
The lads from Hot Reels Pro Fish Charters have been catching a good feed of late. They have been plying the waters of the Gutters as well as Platypus Bay for a variety of reefies and pelagics. Running two boats now, they are pretty much booked out well in advance at times, but just happen to have a couple of spaces for days this week if anyone wants to get on board. You had better be quick.
Bobby says that he and Pauly have been catching snapper, scarlets, moses and cobia, amongst other reefies and swags of trevally. The sharks have been an issue on some sites, but not everywhere, which is encouraging. They will focus a bit of effort on catching black marlin this season too, so talk to Bobby if you are keen on such an adventure.
Estuaries Warming and Fish Biting
Whiting fans will again be out chasing their beloved ‘ting on the flats this week. The western side of Fraser Island is where the best quality is often caught, but the many flats on the mainland side of the Great Sandy Straits are also highly productive.
Daytime and night time sessions are now viable. Yabbies and worms will both catch a limit of summeries, but for a bit more fun you can mix it up with softies and micro topwater lures. Bycatch of flathead, grunter and other fish is possible in some locations, though more often than not if you are on the best of the whiting, then that is all you are catching.
Grunter and blue salmon are another couple of fine flats targets this time of year. The straits is the go and stealth is key. Keep an eye out for queenies too, particularly if you venture further south.
Flathead fishing is as good as it gets at this time of year. They have copped a hammering in many areas, but thankfully more fishos practice catch and release than kill and grill when it comes to flatties these days. Try the creek mouths, gutters draining the flats and any adjacent areas where bait gathers or is forced to travel. Gravelly bottom can be a flathead magnet in areas otherwise devoid of obvious ambush sites.
Our beloved threadfin salmon are becoming increasingly active. The straits is the go for better numbers, as the Mary River is largely still fresh. Focus on the lower reaches and look for that “right” water. Hopping soft vibes over threadies sighted on your sounder will soon trigger a response, as will working the same lures or twitched hardbodies past the snags.
Barra are biting better now that the water has climbed to 23°C. This bite can only improve as our waters warm further. Barra can be found in the smallest creeks to the main rivers and the open waters of the straits. Arm yourself with plenty of hardbodies of various sizes, shapes and diving depths and some soft vibes.
If you struggle with those styles of lure, then resort to plastics on sturdy jig heads, both weedless and otherwise. Paddle-tailed plastics have always accounted for plenty of barra (and other estuary predators), though prawn imitations should not be overlooked this season, particularly with so much prawn still in our estuaries.
It is now time to start getting serious about chasing mangrove jacks. Yes, the water is still relatively cool, and yes, they will bite vastly better when the water is a solid 28°C or even more, but hungry fish coming out of the winter “hibernation” are fairly easy to tempt, even in relatively cool water.
Forget the Mary and Susan system for jacks. They are fairly rare in those rivers. The Burrum system - all four rivers in fact - is a much better bet and gives up excellent jacks every spring.
Even better right now, will be the small creeks along the western side of Fraser Island. Some creeks may still be a little too fresh if draining upstream swamps. The right tides, the right lures on the right day and you are in for some magic sessions.
If jack fishing is new to you (and going on the huge numbers of southerners now calling Hervey Bay home, for many it will be), then you have a steep learning curve ahead - potentially. You can flatten that curve by first targeting jacks with baits and then once you learn where jack lives, come back and master the art of tempting them with lures.
Start out with small lures, get blown away a few times, then beef up your tackle, and target the big angry so and so’s with larger lures and chase trophies. There is so many ways to target jacks, the mind boggles. Skip-casting under overhanging mangroves and other structures is trendy these days and catches stacks. Practice is key, as is the right lures that actually skip.
Topwater fishing for jacks is truly heart-in-mouth stuff. Barra are awesome when they boof a popper, but the crunch of a jack can be downright frightening. Low light is key for such activities of course, so concentrate on cranking hardbodies, hopping prawn imitations or rolling plastics during bankers’ hours.
Our excellent run of large banana prawn continues in our rivers too by the way, so take a cast net and get a feed when you get the chance.
Fraser Island – Hectic Fishing
The September school holidays is typically busier than Xmas holidays on Fraser. Hordes of families enjoying the fantastic island attractions and 4WDing, couple with convoys of keen fishos and campers to make for a particularly popular piece of paradise.
Expect plenty of traffic along the beaches, and be prepared for potential delays along the inland tracks if less experienced 4WDers get into trouble. The last we were told was that beach travel was fairly good, but there was a bit of rock exposed on various sites and the use of alternative routes was necessary when the tide was high.
A major downside to so much traffic can be the reluctance of fish to stay in the gutters close to shore. Heavy traffic combined with headlights shining on the waters so constantly can see fish move out into the second gutter. Let’s hope not.
The tailor fishing has been first class this season and continues to impress. The better gutters will be very popular, and apparently even doing the big miles doesn’t get you away from your fellow fishos these days.
Remember that the headlands are still closed to all forms of fishing. They will re-open on the 1 st October, so book that one in if you are a keen rock fisho. Going on the run of fish on Fraser this season it is likely to be a special event.
The new moon tides should produce a few whiting in the shallow low tide gutters and melon holes. Target dart in the deeper gutters and rips, and if these same gutters have any exposed rock, then you might tangle with a few bream and tarwhine.
Jewies are a chance at night time, as are sharks for the adventurous surf fisho with the right tackle. It is the tailor that draw the crowds to Fraser this time of year though, and we trust that many will get to enjoy the tremendous bite that has been a feature of the surf beach for weeks on end.
Good luck out there y’all …… Jase