A Great Weekend, Then Some More Rain
It was great to finally receive some much-needed rainfall over our parched Fraser Coast district. It might have been a couple of days later than the bureau first suggested, but when it came, it was nice and steady, widespread and very welcome. All in all, it has been a rather muggy week under cloudy skies for the most part. Warmer nights and cooler days – very pleasant really.
We look like getting lucky again this week, with more rain forecast for Tuesday. In the meantime, easing onshore winds are setting the stage for a great weekend on the water. Today’s 15-20 knot easterly should weaken by mid-morning Saturday, leaving us with a most enjoyable 10 knot zephyr. A slight north-easterly sea breeze overnight will be followed by an even lighter breeze Sunday morning.
The north wind will return Sunday afternoon and maintain a steady 10 knots or so right through Monday. Warmth will build once again as the next round of storms, showers and potentially, rain, move in from the west. Tuesday is supposedly going to be very wet. Things could get quite interesting after that. The potential for stronger northerlies for the remainder of the week is quite high.
The tides have been building under a waxing moon all week. Monday’s full moon heralds the peak in the monthly cycle once again. There is a fair degree of tidal flow over this full moon, but nothing dramatic. Highs peak at a little over 3.8m from lows bottoming out at 0.7m.
There is plenty of mahi mahi out wide at present. The FADs are popular, but fish are turning up trolling the shelf line as well.
Heading Offshore This Weekend
Normally, at this time of year, the local game fishing fleet would be racing each other to get offshore and into the marlin. Not so this year however. As we’ve reported recently, the billfish scene has been very lack lustre. Deploying heavy tackle and chasing stripes along the shelf line or blues out wider in canyon country is still an option, yet the return for effort this season so far has been wearing on many crews.
The game fishing bycatch has its own appeal this time of year. Large mahi mahi, schools of yellowfin tuna and potentially the odd wahoo encounter are more than enough to get plenty of crew members excited. Some might head offshore for a trolling session with billfish and other “vermin” in mind, whilst others will be happy to go reef fishing and take on any pelagics that they happen to trip over en-route.
The run of mahi mahi has been excellent in the quality stakes, if not in quantity. The FADs are more popular than ever, being the first obvious point of call. Otherwise, keeping a good lookout whilst traveling for signs of bird activity, surface-feeding fish or any random flotsam can also see you connecting to the most colourful acrobats of the sea.
Encounters with cobia can be quite common offshore this time of year. There have been big numbers to our north, wide of the Bunker Group, so don’t be surprised to have them snatching baits or running down lures trolled past the local offshore reefs. If the weather and current permit, then evening sessions anchored over shallower reef offshore north-east of Fraser can have your whole crew huffing and puffing when the cobes move in after dark.
Reef fishing could be quite entertaining and fruitful. Working around the prevailing current, and timing your bar crossings to avoid the stronger ebb tide flows into an easterly breeze, will ensure a safer and more productive trip. The shoal country east of Breaksea Spit will be popular. Quicker drifts might mean more tuskies in the box at the end of the day, but hopefully they are accompanied by a range of other tasty delights from the reefs.
Deep dropping will be on the cards when the breeze drops right out. A good skipper and well-weighted rigs will be necessary to hit the sweet spots in a timely fashion. A variety of jobfishes and the standard bar cod and pearlies might be chilling for the long run home with a few snapper that have moved back to the deeper shelf waters.
A handle double of grassy and scarlet from a Double Island Point Fishing Charter. Variety is assured east of Fraser Island or DI.
Snapper feature regularly in catches from Double Island Point Fishing Charters. Your chances are far better offshore than inshore this time of year.
Offshore jewies are suckers for live baits, jigs and a range of softies. Yet another trophy fish from a Double Island Point Fishing Charter.
Tuna Aplenty in Platypus Bay
The waters of Platypus Bay are alive with hordes of tuna right now. Both longtail and mack tuna are in abundance, and much of the action is close to Fraser Island, not far from Wathumba Creek. This augurs well for those in small craft that are keen on a trip up the island this weekend whilst the wind prevails from the east.
It is not just tuna up the island either, as small schools of large spotted mackerel have found their way into the bay as well. As suggested in recent reports, we typically anticipate a run of larger spotties that turn up ahead of the main biomass of smaller fish. These “scouts” if you like, can be the largest you will see for the upcoming season, so make the most of any encounters.
Simply having ready-rigged spin rods with small metal slugs attached will ensure you can make the most of any contact you have with either the tuna or the spotties. This time of year, it is the tiniest baitfish that attract the tuna and spotties, and you need to be able to mimic their quarry. Carry a range of slugs, so that you can vary what you throw at the surface bust-ups. Being able to spin 20–30-gram slugs this early in the season can be an advantage. Later on, 40-gram models will be all the rage.
Chasing surface-feeding pelagics such as spotties and tuna is easier when the sun comes out. Each species uses the reflection of the water’s surface as a barrier to push their quarry against. The resultant confusion forces the hapless baitfish to ball-up and then the mass slaughter begins. If you are yet to witness a bait ball being demolished by tuna and/or spotties, then you and the kids are in for a few eye openers.
Unfortunately, one all-too-common feature of these exciting natural occurrences is the presence of the sharks that also join the melee. Like elsewhere in this county, an unnatural number of large sharks now shadow the mass migrations of pelagics and baitfish into Hervey Bay, and predate heavily on fish hooked by fishos. They have already turned up in the Wathumba area and are putting a real dampener on an otherwise enjoyable outing for many. Try to avoid them if you can, perhaps by steering away from the larger bust-ups in favour of smaller numbers of fish.
Josh Collins trolled this big longtail tuna up on a stickbait off Wathumba Creek this week.
A Feed or a Bit of Fun Inshore
We cannot pinpoint the whereabouts of the best school mackerel fishery inshore at present, but rest assured, they are out there, and in good numbers. Prior to the recent blow and rain event, the western bay was alive with schoolies. It will just be a matter of tracking down the herring and/or yakkas to find them. Try the grounds off Woodgate, wide off the Burrum, the Fairway, the outer banks or off Arch Cliffs.
Wander the shipping channels inshore too if you wish, as wherever the current set of making tides is pushing the herring, is where the mackerel will pursue them. Many local artificial reefs can be schoolie hotspots at this time. Mackerel can even venture into shallower waters over the makes, so don’t be surprised to have your trout lures snipped off whilst trolling the shallow reefs.
The tides building towards Monday’s full moon are prime for those keen on some shallow water trout trolling. Early starts are a must, though you can still catch a random fish or two later in the day. This is a very popular pastime nowadays, so don’t expect the results you might have enjoyed 20 or even just 5 years ago, and be prepared to scope out greener pastures away from the crowds for a better class of fish.
Giant herring have been eagerly pursued around the bay islands recently. Tragically, sharks have homed in on any areas where these high-speed acrobats are targeted too frequently. Once again, a complete waste of a fish resource, where sharks become accustomed to constant angler effort.
The days of being safe from shark depredation over our shallow reefs are behind us too unfortunately. Reports of coral trout and sweetlip being taxed regularly are doing the rounds, and from reefs that have not been considered high risk in the shark department in the past. It seems we can’t even fish the likes of Gatakers Bay or Woody Island without running the gauntlet amongst the sharks these days.
All the same, the shallow reefs will be popular this week, and many will take home a modest feed. Sweetlip will be the easy target for those favouring the dead bait approach. Evening or pre-dawn sessions will ensure a better class of sweetlip, though you can till get a feed during daylight. Avoid any form of berley if you can, and minimise blood in the water. If the sharks find you – move!
A plump little coral trout, typical of the fish you can catch trolling or flicking lures over our shallow reefs.
You can try the deeper inshore reefs and might chance a coral trout or cod over the turn of tide. Live baits or tea-bagged softies or jigs will tempt them. You will need to be accurate and present your bait or lure on the doorstep of their lair. Once hooked, you will then need to muscle them from that very lair, which isn’t always easy. After that, you must winch them to the surface as fast and unceremoniously as you can, in the hope that you can beat the noahs. Good luck!
The sharks won’t be everywhere just yet, so keep on the move and hopefully your day out is productive. You might even get a mixed bag of squire, blackall and scarlet sea perch, or have some fun with the schools of large golden trevally that hang around some of the more prominent deepwater structures. The goldies will be more common north of the banks at this time, but schools turn up randomly in high-current areas if there is plenty of baitfish.
You could consider pushing your sports fishing to extreme level and spending some time pursuing the first of this season’s inshore giant trevally. Big black bruiser GTs have already shown up at the Urangan Pier and elsewhere inshore. The current lines and pressure points of the bay islands are happy hunting grounds for some, whilst others will favour deeper waters.
Even otherwise uninteresting sites such as the bait grounds have been known to attract GTs. This is typically the case when schoolies are drawn to herring in the area, and even more-so when filthy weather turns them away from lesser water quality in Urangan Channel. The River Heads peninsula, Kingfisher Bay and Ungowa are just a few other areas one might encounter GTs at this time. Big tides like those this weekend are perfect for such a quest.
Grunter are a great summertime target from our town beaches. Bigger tides like this weekend are the go. Here's Joseph with a ripper.
Expect a Good Bite from Our Estuary Brawlers
The daily increase in tidal flow in our rivers and creeks gets many fish on the move. Fish that are quite sedentary over the neaps begin to swim greater distances with the ebb and flow of the tides. The smell of rain in the air livened up many terrestrial creatures, and may well have had a positive effect on marine creatures too. Follow up rains and hopefully some heavy downpours from passing storms could really fire up our estuaries this week.
Mangrove jacks are a great target right now. Cloudy skies and warm nights suit them to a tee. Sure, they love extreme heat too, but the recent humidity and the likely return of similar conditions this week would suggest forays chasing jacks should be productive.
Fraser’s western creeks, the mainland creeks of the straits and all four rivers of the Burrum system are worth trying for jacks this week. Time your assaults to fish the high-flow areas when the tide is low, and see if you can find shallower inlets, snag-riddled flats or shady structures when the tide is high.
The jacks will often be out of reach at the peak of high tide in many creeks, as they venture forth beneath the mangrove canopy hunting crabs and other morsels. Send your weedless frogs into the jungle in such a scenario, or simply hang out and await the falling tide that forces them and the baitfish back into the main stream. Get your casts deep into cover or tight to structure and look for any areas where the prevailing current is broken. Otherwise, just fish for them with bait and catch heaps.
The Mary’s big king threadfin salmon are still hotly pursued by many fishos. They are in spawn mode at present, and have been for weeks. Many folks enjoy catching threadies and letting them go, which is applaudable, though not all are maximising the fish’s chances of survival in the process.
Big threadies go hard and often swim to and from deep water during a fight. They suffer quite badly from barotrauma, yet suffer far worse from poor handling. Everyone is guilty of hauling these majestic critters into the boat for the sake of a happy snap prior to release. Doing so quickly and getting them back in the drink quick smart is advisable, yet not even close to bettering their chances the way keeping them in the water will. If you can avoid lifting them from the water, then do so – particularly now when they are full of roe and ready to spawn.
These big tides this week will see a number of threadies mooching up into the shallows and feeding on all manner of small fish and prawns washed out of drains during the ebb tide. Luckily, the lack of jelly prawn at this time means these fish won’t be too hard to tempt. Small lures - be they shallow diving hardbodies, paddle-tailed plastics, prawn imitations or vibes - are all worth throwing at them.
Catching fish on lures after dark can be even easier than in daylight. Josh Cox picked up this blue salmon recently.
With barra off the hit list, the other major estuary target species is grunter. Quality fish can be found right up in the back reaches of some creeks during a flood tide, retreating downstream as the tide ebbs. The Great Sandy Straits is home to some classy grunter at present, but they can be elusive in the dry conditions. When (if) the proper rains come, they will be flushed out and it will be a bonanza inshore.
There is still plenty of blue salmon in the Mary. Schools of small blues are still as annoying as ever, following vibes meant for kingies all the way to the boat whilst attacking them repeatedly. Large blues are still being caught, mainly upstream.
There is every chance that lures worked around drains and the like in the lower reaches will be attacked by more flathead than salmon, and a day out specifically targeting flatties is still very much viable. The straits and Fraser’s western creeks are the go, but you can still chance a few along the mainland coast and in its creeks.
Whiting fans can pick up a feed with enough effort down the straits. Weed is definitely a major hassle in many creeks and across many flats though. Find better water, away from the weed, and the only problem you will have will be sifting through all the little ones. Try the lower reaches of the Mary or Susan this week.
Blue jellyfish are in ever-increasing numbers and are bordering on plague proportions in some stretches of water. They are prevalent throughout the straits and the Mary system. If I recall correctly, such massive aggregations were the precursor to major flooding events in the past. El Nino or not, early next year might be interesting.
Rigging live baits on ganged hooks is a good idea when mackerel such as this are feeding around Urangan Pier. Great fish Lukas.
Wandering Our Flats on Foot
Those without a boat can hit the local flats, beaches or creeks this week with a very reasonable chance of a feed of fish, or at least a bit of fun. Numbers of whiting have been chasing down tiny topwater offerings down Urangan way, where 20 fish or more have been possible. They haven’t been overly large (what whiting are really?) but there have been a few keepers amongst the throwbacks.
Soaking yabby baits after dark is likely to see you connected to a better class of whiting if you are so inclined. The bonus of such an outing being the chance of tangling with the odd quality grunter in the process. These yabby-loving ghosts of the flats can pull some serious string from your whiting tackle, so don’t panic if your “whiting” hits the afterburners.
This week’s tides also offer landlubbers the chance to specifically target grunter from a range of local shorelines. The Pialba beachfront is very popular these days, but you can be more adventurous. Think shallow waters, rising tides and big fish mooching in under cover of darkness or cloudy waters. You might be surprised just where some of these larger grunter feed.
As briefly mentioned above, the first of the season’s giant trevally have turned up at Urangan Pier. These bruisers bring out the local pier regulars in force, all sporting heavy tackle they believe they can dominate the big GTs with. Realistically, it takes more than just heavy gear to subdue a pier GT. A little cunning, some bait-presenting prowess, quick reflexes and a degree of angling skill are a great start - but practice haunted by past losses and a ton of old-fashioned good luck can win out just as often!
There have been a few school mackerel at the pier of late too apparently. Many of which are likely to be recycled into live baits for the pier’s GTs in the future. Just remember of course, that a regulated species must be of legal size to be used as bait. Other than the above, it has been a few small whiting, bream and other tiddlers entertaining the youngest fishos, whilst others wander out after dark sporting heavy shark fishing tackle.
Joey has been smashing Mondy's big barra, one after the other after the other - and, loving it!
Mondy is a Troller’s Dream Right Now
We alluded to the unfolding trolling fishery at Lake Monduran in last week’s report - and the whole scene went ballistic! The lake’s big barra have been making their way downstream recently, and are now aggregating in substantial schools in the lower reaches. The main basin has been going off!
Few have been venturing far beyond the action right off the boat ramps. Scenes of full car parks and boats doing laps day and night have been commonplace for the past week. The threat of storms and impending steady rains really had the barra convinced they should make their way downstream to spawn – only to be foiled by that pesky dam wall.
Folks that might otherwise struggle with the standard impoundment barra scene have been slaying it. Others that only turn up when events such as this unfold are in their element right now too. Reports of big hauls of barra, recorded in the multiples of dozens daily are doing the rounds. These are all big fish too, with a barra under 90cm being quite a rarity.
Most are trolling, and doing so with a mix of lures in tow. Some are favouring heavy swimbaits, others diving lures. One day one mob claims their technique is best, then another day, the other mob trolling with the alternatives betters them. The depth at which a lure is tracking is just as likely the reason for its success as its profile or make-up. Barra’s eyes are atop their heads, so trolling lures beneath them will fail every time.
Many are opting to cast into schools of fish sounded up in open waters. Big numbers are being caught this way too. You would need a ticket to get a park on some points in the main basin and nearby. Some are flouting the etiquette issue a little too frequently, but that seems to be commonplace all over the lake these days.
Expect overflowing carparks and heavy traffic this week. The full moon will draw a crowd regardless of this current scenario, so you can well imagine the scene this weekend. Many will launch and disappear off into the vast reaches of Mondy to do battle in the usual manner, hopefully without prying eyes. Others will simply join in the fun and catch big barra in numbers they might have only ever dreamed of.
The weather is likely to play a big part in proceedings this week too. Easterlies tending north-easterly, then northerly, prior to potential storm weather and a north-wester preceding a solid day of rain – stop it!
Good luck out there y’all …… Jase
Jaymes won a trip on Big Cat Reality from the Woodgate Family Fishing Comp. This fine Gt was just one of his many captures over a week or fantastic fishing.
A chunky yellowfin tuna will test your stamina. They are suckers for trolled lures and stick baits as well. It's fair to say, Jaymes had a ball.
It's not a great photo, but a ripper of a trout for Jaymes. One of the best trophies from the reef edges of the coral sea.