Coxy with one of the coolest flathead photos we have seen in a while.
Winter Arrives Early
Get the boat ready and dust off the winter tackle – the long weekend ahead is looking great! Much better than the week just gone at least, with its all-too-brief spells of better weather between bouts of stronger breeze.
This week’s report is being written a little in advance to give you a handle on potential options for the Show Day long weekend. Check the latest weather reports daily of course, but at this stage it looks like light westerly winds rotating clockwise throughout the day Friday, preceding a fairly stiff southwesterly change that evening. Perfect for a day at the show or on the water.
The blow will ease as quickly as it arrived some time Saturday morning, leaving us with a renewed chill in the air and a chance to work off the dagwood dogs and fairy floss during a workout on the water later that day. Sunday should dawn quite chilly, yet glorious, with very light winds expected after the early southerly loses its vigour.
The weather should get better and better as the working week wears on. A little early southwesterly or southerly will make early rises less comfortable early in the week, but by mid-week it should be glassed-out seas and glorious sunny skies all round.
Neap tides around Sunday’s first quarter moon phase will only serve to lessen the wave heights and flatten our seas even further. There will be diminished current flow until the tides start to make in earnest through the week. Great conditions for offshore forays, a spell of river exploration, or a session of two plying our deeper waters for reefies and pelagics.
Wayne again with a stonker rambo trout caught north of the bay.
Pier Fishos Focussed on Bream, Flatties and Tuna
Urangan Pier fishos have been getting amongst a decent initial run of bream this week. No particularly large fish apparently, which is a little odd, but the odd breambo up to 38cm or so is keeping these fishos on their toes. This fishery will only get better from now on, and many bream fans will come out of the woodwork to challenge themselves against the pier’s notoriously tricky larger bream.
Time of day or night can be quite important this early in the bream run. Until the masses of spawning stock arrive, smaller schools often tend to be quite mobile, exploring their new temporary “home”. This week it was those that rose early and fished the sunrise that scored the best fish. Varying stages of the moon and its position in the sky will see this situation change and the usual cycles materialise.
Bait fishos can score bream on store-bought bait, and we are more than happy to supply you with the best we can, however, these fish will most certainly enjoy a constant diet of baitfish such as the pier’s herring during their stay. So, perhaps you should become accustomed to catching these baitfish (if not already).
Make sure you have the right bait jigs for gathering your herring at the pier. The one’s we boaties all use out on the bay are fine when the tides are big and there is plenty of flow, but when the neaps are on and the herring are fussy, you should be using the smaller-hooked models without the beads and extra bling. We might slip a photo in nearby to draw you a picture perhaps.
We have the biggest selection at the best prices. A bait jig for every application.
Evening sessions under a waxing moon will be enjoyable this week – so long as you are rugged-up and geared-up for night sessions. As good as the pier’s lights may be, they pale in comparison to a decent headlamp. Such a headlamp is a must for not only the finer details of rigging etc, but for peering over the side to identify your catch in the darkness.
Until the jewies turn up, it will be mostly bream at night this time of year. Daytime however, will still see passing schools of tuna busting up within casting distance, if not tearing into the bait schools sheltered beneath the pier. Longtails were caught from the deeper waters out the end this week. Mack tuna are also a chance, and will turn up without notice.
Small school mackerel can be occasional captures from the deeper pier waters, and queenfish cannot be counted out either. Take care with smaller mackerel, as undersized fish can be common. The neap tides are quite conducive to a daily flathead session. Eyeballing flatties lurking around or nearby to the pylons is part of the game. Catching live baits in the first channel can be the tricky part. Refer back to recent fishing reports for a few tips for newcomers in this respect.
What is it with bream fisho's and a mouthful of rod.
Options for Those on Shanks’s Pony
If the pier just ain’t your thing, and you are currently boatless, then you can wander our local foreshores looking for either the standard bread ‘n’ butter species, or spark-up some adrenalin on our inshore pelagics. Look for bream around man-made structures such as the Urangan Harbour rock walls, or near-shore reefs, or head out to River Heads or Burrum Heads and see if the schools are amassing at the river mouths yet.
Whiting fans will stow their tackle for a few days waiting for the tides to make and get significantly larger once again. Recent catches from the beaches west of town might be hard to replicate over the neaps. Your chances will be better at night, but not nearly as good as they will be this time next week.
Flathead will be a much better target for now. Our local creek mouths have been giving up a few, as have the accessible sections of shoreline further up these creeks. The rocky foreshores of River Heads can be productive for flathead fishos at times too, albeit a little snaggy for the unwary or unaccustomed.
Flicking small paddle-tailed softies, prawn imitations or twitching those dynamite little Daiwa Double Clutches will soon see if there are any flatties about in our skinny waters. It might only be a foot deep, or it could be deeper where the fish decide to lurk, so go prepared to cover all options. Polarised sunnies are an absolute must too, enhancing not only your chances at spotting structure to target and snags to avoid, but alerting you to fish reacting to your presentations. Nothing beats sight fishing after all!
Those wandering the foreshores of local creeks such as Beelbi and O’Reagans or the Burrum river mouth had plenty of opportunity to tangle with passing schools of feeding queenfish this week. Larger schools of very small fish were great fun for the kids, and with a couple of better medium-sized models around the 80cm mark getting in on the act, the “big kids” weren’t left out either. Again, queenie action is more dynamic over the springs than the neaps, but you can imagine that with fish cruising our western beaches and stream mouths, they are a chance even now.
Big cod are common offshore, you wouldn't want to keep them any bigger than this fella.
Plenty of Inshore Action for Sportsfishos
Queenfish featured heavily in inshore sportsfishos’ captures over the past week. The bay islands turned it on for many, as schools of small, medium and occasionally the odd larger queenie took to the air with all manner of lures hanging out of their gobs. Dancing topwater stickbaits and quickly blooping the right-sized poppers got the attention of many, though more often than not, it was the humble softies jerked erratically through the right waters that connected to the most fish.
You might need to ply deeper nearby waters this week to mix it up with the queenies over the neaps. Going on the number of golden trevally reported from these very waters last week, they, might be an even better proposition. Softies will be the go for the goldies generally-speaking, but you are still in the game with even humble spoons and metal slugs.
Those being the very slugs that you already have tied on one of your spin rods in readiness for the many schools of mack tuna that are so frequently busting up inshore of late. The tuna schools have been thick and occasionally quite approachable at times (though certainly not always). The local shipping channels have been the go, with many fish erupting into schools of tiny baitfish from Pelican Bank to Kingfisher Bay, as well as throughout Urangan Channel from the Fairway to the Harbour.
Do not be surprised to bump into schools of mack tuna, and indeed occasional pods of large longtails whilst traversing the deeper waters of the Great Sandy Straits this time of year. They will even wander into the mouth of the Mary River when conditions are right, and that should be soon, as our waters continue to clear up weekly.
The mackerel scene inshore is a little hit and miss. Good numbers can be found at the Burrum 8 Mile and at the Fairway, where hordes of herring are currently holding station. The size isn’t real flash though, so take care to release the smaller models unharmed. A better class of schoolie can be found wandering the local shipping channels, or lurking around baitfish schools on the reefs within Platypus Bay.
Broad-barred mackerel on the other hand are making their presence felt around the bay islands and many other inshore features. These skinny-water flats specialists spend plenty of time hunting garfish and hardyheads up on our flats and can be a genuine nuisance for those of us plying these very same waters with other target species on our minds. Expect more and more broadies down the straits in coming weeks, often within the channels dissecting the many sand/mud flats waiting for the right time to race up into the skinny water.
Those flaming green toadfish can be a nightmare in some of these waters this time of year. Avoid them at all costs. Often your initial encounters might be little more than a missed bite, or a missing piece of lure, but if you don’t soon learn to recognise them as the potential protagonist, then future lure losses will be great indeed. At least the toads are mostly smallish down the straits, barely a kilo at best, unlike the horrible soul-destroying vermin that wander the open bay waters in winter.
Winter Whiting Arriving
Bag limits of fat little winter whiting were enjoyed by many fishos last week, but certainly not all. Those that sought out the schools up off Woodgate Beach in the waters protected from the westerly winds scored well. Plump fish of a decent size kept most entertained and no doubt filleting for ages.
The waters off Gatakers Bay also gave up modest numbers of winter whiting. The average size was smaller by comparison to those reported elsewhere. Bag limits were actually possible for those that persisted. Some found the going too tough and the fish too small. One day’s fish were bettered by the next this week. Being mobile and willing to drive away from the little tackers is vital at times.
Straits fishos were heard bragging of a decent class of fish, though their whereabouts are rarely aired publicly. So many different channels and deeper flats exist down the straits, that the effort and catches can be quite widespread. Needless to say, those unfamiliar with those waters will typically hunt down the boats in lieu of the fish, as they do in these parts as well.
The chill will go a long way to livening up the local winter whiting scene this week, even if the minimal tidal flow does not. So, gear up, grab your lightest rods or favourite handline and seek out some winter whiting this week if you wish. If you aren’t fishing in a yellow zone (one line, one hook), then do yourself a favour and tie on one of the 2x3 bait jigs we stock to better your chances substantially.
All you will need otherwise will be a few sinkers, a pack of small squid to cut into tiny strips, and a packet or two of GULP worms. You might even get half serious and score yourself one of the few remaining tubs of Gulp Alive Sandworms we have left at the bargain price on offer. Not only will the worms contained inside catch you your whiting, but the juice will enable you to store and rehydrate your other GULP worms as well.
Pre-rigged and so convenient. These jigs spiced with bait are hard to beat.
Bay Snapper Proved Hard to Find
Many keen fishos hit the bay last weekend in the hunt for snapper. The vast majority failed to score, whilst a few snuck quality fish over the gunwales away from the crowds. Heavy boat traffic certainly had an impact in many inshore waters. On some reefs, if you weren’t there pre-dawn, then you pretty much missed out.
The southwester Sunday did no-one any favours. We hinted at a subtle warning last week, yet many bashed their way around for little reward that day anyway. Better to fish our inshore waters for snapper on a bad tide in the right onshore breeze, than to work even good tides in an offshore blow perhaps? Lessens many of us learned over countless hours on the water over the years still take time to learn for all. Do not be deterred. The snapper will arrive and the season will improve from here on in.
Perhaps it won’t be a great snapper season, once again, but the challenge of catching elusive fish can be somewhat of a red flag to a bull for some. When next you try, and for many, that will be this week, the very same grounds you prospected last weekend might turn fruitful. That is the way of transient fish such as snapper. Here one day, gone the next.
Bait fishing with locally-caught baitfish will be productive for some, but many others will continue to rely on the proven soft plastics, jigs or trolled deep divers that have scored so many fish in the past. Whatever your bent, your chances of connecting with an old-man knobby will improve vastly on the approach of the full moon in a week’s time.
Observations from the past week reflect the growing masses of baitfish in the western bay, and a general lack thereof in many other waters to the east. Where the snapper will be next week will be largely determined by the mass movements of baitfish inshore. Lateral movements are the most confusing, yet often a reality. North-south makes sense, but doesn’t always eventuate.
Try the Burrum 8 Mile pre-dawn of after dark on the next full moon if you wish, or opt for similar timing all the way over at Moon Ledge. Both might draw snapper, or the better numbers might turn up at the Simpson arti, the Outer Banks or the Roy Rufus. There is some semblance of satisfaction in “guessing” right, or even more-so when using your hard-earned knowledge to second-guess these nomadic wanderers and actually “hunt” them.
One thing is for sure, and that is that those opting for lures will better their chances during “bankers’ hours”. Jigging, working plastics or trolling deep divers can pick up snapper well away from any given form of structure as small schools of these fish roam the nearby paddock waiting for the right time to pounce on their prey at the reef systems so widely known and fished these days.
Stonker reefies caught offshore last week by Mark Hulse.
Mel with a lovely frying-pan snapper. Common bi-catch over sandy or rubbly country.
Deep Droppers Scored Well Out Wide
The best reports we’ve had this week are from those that roared out offshore during the brief spell of light winds last weekend. There was a bit of swell, but the current was minimal. Light winds made for great deep dropping conditions and many headed straight for the continental shelf.
Results varied. Some crews brained it, and shouldn’t have to burn that much fuel for quite some time. Great hauls of tasty reef fish from 300-400 metres included many bar cod, flame snapper, ruby snapper and other jobbies along with a few delicious-tasting alfonsino. It is fair to say that the culinary rewards out-weigh any form of adrenalin rush when it comes to this style of fishing – and rewarded you will be in the fish-rich shelf waters mere hours from port!
Sharks didn’t prove to be an issue for some deep droppers that plied the 100-metre line last week. Hauls of quality pearl perch, large rosy jobfish and snapper found their way into eskies. Back in over the shoal country in a little over half that depth, there were more knobbies found, along with large scarlet sea perch and plenty of mixed reefies. Sharks were hit and miss, so mobility was the solution. It is certainly encouraging to hear that the sharks can actually be avoided out there at present, as that isn’t always the case.
Not everyone headed right offshore. Some just headed up to the Gutters and made the most of what they could find. There was the odd red emperor caught, a few quality trout like usual and plenty of grassy sweetlip, squire, spangled emperor and other lesser reefies. Cobia are fast becoming a standard addition to a reef fisho’s catch card at the Gutters, and are likely to be turning up over Rooneys way, in Platypus Bay, and elsewhere more frequently, as more bait schools move into the bay.
Those crews that ventured up towards Lady Elliot Island and fished the country west of the Break Sea Spit light, the African Gutters and nearby flat country found a mix of reefies on the chew. The current made it challenging at times, yet quality trout, scarlets, big grassies, tuskies and cod bit well during the periods of lesser tidal flow.
Those that didn’t get a chance last weekend, or those that want another crack, can take advantage of another spell of great weather Sunday, and perhaps during the week. The neaps will make some of the abovementioned country much easier to fish and if the winds are as light as the weather bureau predicts, we will be hearing of more great catches next week. Less swell will appeal to many offshore, even though some old hands might tell you that decent ground swell can improve the drifting options and the fishing offshore.
Yet another of the vast variety of deep water job fishes. Deeg with a sizable Ornate.
Estuary Fisheries Go into Winter Mode
Most experienced estuary fans avoided the rivers in favour of the straits last week. That may well be reversed this week. Cooler waters are now consistent and our summer species are taking a backseat to their winter rivals. Sure, you might still chance some barra or even a jack or two, but things just got that bit harder. The cold snap won’t help that cause this week either.
Those seeking threadfin salmon on the other hand can still take on that task with confidence. Finding threadies in our rivers is not terribly challenging this time of year. The size can be a little disappointing on average though, particularly for those that tend to wander well upstream. Sub-metre threadies fail to draw any oohs and ahhs these days, but those very same fish can be a ton of fun for the newcomer or the kids.
Soft vibes will be your best bet for tempting early winter threadies. Look for schools holding in deeper waters (“holes” if you like) where some form of structure or bottom variation breaks the prevailing current. It might be as subtle as a small ledge, a protruding mud bank or simply a sharp corner in the stream. Threadies will often “hole-up” in such locations for periods of the ebb tide, breaking cover to drift and feed with the flood tide when it returns.
Trollers can plumb the depths of certain stretches of river this time of year and find themselves hooked up to threadies of all sizes, large barra potentially, and more often than not, blue salmon. The blues’ activity level is increasing as they revel in the cooling waters. Indeed, they can be a pest when seeking alternative species, yet offer great sport for many fishos happy to be hooked up and losing line no matter the culprit on the end.
Jewie fans will be excited by the prospect of the impending pre-full moon tides next week. The lower reaches of the Mary will be popular hunting grounds for some, and indeed, River Heads itself will likely host a few insomniacs soaking live baits at all hours. Once again, soft vibes will bring a lot of jewies undone, though a well-placed softie won’t be ignored.
Trolling for jewies is possible, although possibly best attempted over along Fraser’s western ledges. Deep divers will be the go. We have a few proven models in store for those keen to give it a try. At least the estuary cod might lack the same enthusiasm for deep divers that they show in the warmer months. They can be very hard to avoid along some stretches.
Ripper flatty Dan. Gotta love skinny water fishing this time of year.
Other than these larger predators, you can always spend a few quality hours chasing grunter, flathead and perhaps bream. Look for the grunter well up the creeks at present and if you are mobile and keep grubbing the bottom with small softies, you will soon score. Flatties could be anywhere throughout a given creek right now, from the drain mouths and likely prawn patches upstream to the shallows fringing the stream’s mouth downstream.
If bream take your fancy, then you are in luck. They continue to gather in ever-increasing numbers as they make their way downstream with intent to spawn. Try the rock bars in the lower reaches of the major rivers or any rock formations in or near the mouth of the creeks. They will venture up onto nearby flats in vast schools at times too, offering sight-fishing opportunities second to none for bream fans in these parts.
Take the crab pots and score a feed of muddies too if you wish. The straits have continued to fire in recent weeks and the quality has been excellent. The next full moon will have many crabbers out in force, hunting possibly the best of the last of the season’s muddies.
Mud crabs, and sand crabs out wider too for that matter, have certainly been more consistent than the banana prawns in our area. We are so far beyond the realm of our usual prime prawn season with so little to show for it that it amazes many of us. All the same, you wouldn’t dare hit the local creeks or rivers right now without a decent cast net on board just in case – would you?
Good luck out there y’all …… Jase
Catching fish on Squidtrex is easier than finding one in a tackle shop. Well done Luke.
Coming eye to eye with an alfonsino is a special experience.
Long tails can be found offshore, as well as in the bay. They are quite thick down south right now.
Quality red throats are a staple from Southern Barrier Reef waters.
Quality tuskies abound offshore. Mel scored this one east of the Wide Bay bar.