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Fisho’s Weekly Fishing Report – 26th January, 2024

Mel has been into the coral trout again. The heat has shifted many of the shallow water survivors deeper.

Happy Australia Day Everybody

What a burst of heat we had to endure this past week. It was scorching, even here on the coast, so those in the outback must have really suffered. The cooling south-east change Tuesday was certainly welcomed in these parts. As TC Kirrily bears down on our fellow Queenslanders up north, the local scene is much more subdued than the BOM would have had us believe last week.

This report is being written a little earlier than usual, due to the public holiday tomorrow. Going on the latest from the weather boffins, Australia Day should be quite warm, with a good chance of showers. 10-15 knots of ENE wind could turn more northerly late in the day and strengthen slightly as it does. Saturday will be quite hot. 15-20 knots of northerly wind is the official call, but a lighter 10 knot breeze early will tempt some boaties.

Sunday is somewhat similar. Hot, with just enough northerly breeze to keep most folks off the bay. This is when the rain might ramp up a little, but they aren’t forecasting much at all, given Kirrily’s track off to the west. Be ready for the possibility of a storm this weekend, and rest assured that we are in for a few showers at least. A vastly different picture to that drawn by the BOM and the media only a few days ago. 

We could receive showers quite regularly all next week. Predictions of light-moderate onshore winds dragging moisture in from the sea look like the staple for the week. Expect generally 10-15 knots of east or south-easterly breeze pretty much all week (if you believe the forecasters can get it right that far out that is).

The full moon will add that extra glow to our Australia Day celebrations, brightening the night sky for those still out and about. Of course, this means there will be plenty of run in the tide for those on the water, and hopefully a positive response from hungry fish or crustaceans on the move. 

Josh McGuire got amongst the reds again recently. Something you can do too if you head wide and avoid the noahs.

Lochie extracted this solid GT after a torrid battle. There are even bigger brutes out there in summer, and you don't even have to drive far.

Surface-Feeding Pelagics Hard to Find in Sweltering Heat

The prospect of masses of tuna heading for Hervey Bay’s sheltered waters due to a passing east coast low seems dashed at this time. Next one perhaps? In the meantime, the proliferation of tuna and spotted mackerel, so obvious as they feasted upon tiny baitfish balled up on the surface a week ago, were notably absent in recent days. Some crews did big miles all over the bay and never saw a bust-up. Just the wrong day, or a result of the extraordinary heat early this week?

Spanish mackerel are loitering around major reef systems and aggregations of larger baitfish out in the bay. The northern bay’s reefs such as the Gutters are a decent starting point in your search, but the 25 Fathom Hole and many of the gravelly bait-laden grounds nearby can save you time and fuel this time of year. Go trolling with a spread of any decent high-speed capable lures in the vicinity of these reefs and the spaniards will let you know if they are there. Don’t be too shocked if you snavel a giant trevally in your travels, or even the odd queenie or golden trevally if you venture east into Platypus Bay.

Our spotted mackerel season is not over just yet. They may well have reached their peak, but numbers will linger. Consider the heat factor, as well as the tides, and perhaps time your search for the early and latter parts of the day. A trip up the island should be quite a pleasant affair during the working week, with Fraser Island offering maximum protection from the prevailing light easterlies. If you make it all the way to Rooneys and fail to spot the spotties, then you can always settle for a little light-hearted fun on the mack tuna up that way.

Spotties are still possible throughout the northern bay - but for how much longer.

Mack tuna are typically abundant in the bay this time of year, but they were nowhere to be seen some days this week.

Queenies are great fun for the whole family, and they get pretty big in these parts.

George muscled this ripper GT in after it smashed a stick bait. You can head for the Coral Sea or just around the corner and tangle with horse GTs right now.

Catch a Feed of Fish Inshore this Week

The north wind will likely keep most boaties in the estuaries or close inshore this weekend. Thereafter though, anyone keen on visiting their favourite local reefs should score a feed. Picking up a few grassy sweetlip is a very simple affair, aided by tough baits like squid, fished right on the bottom along the fringes of the reefs. They are quite abundant in the deeper inshore shipping channels at this time, but a few decent specimens can also be caught along the fringes of the shallow reefs if you concentrate on the periods of low light or darkness.

The same shallows are still ever-popular with trollers targeting coral trout, along with those more adept at extracting these tasty morsels on softies worked across the coral. Simple bait fishing techniques will always tempt the same trout, with pillies, hardiheads and large prawns being favourites amongst those that settle for dead baits. Catch some livies and your chances just improved dramatically, especially for any bigger fish still in the zone.

The full moon tides get the grunter on the hunt, and our close inshore waters are worth prospecting right now. The Gatakers Bay / Point Vernon area is popular for this activity this time of year. Fish the fringes of the reef, where coral meets sand, and be prepared to keep shifting regularly if you don’t find them straight away. Mature grunter in the 50-65cm size class is what you are looking for, and perhaps even bigger if you are lucky.

The deeper reefs such as the Roy Rufus, the local ledges and the other artis can all hold a mix of reefies, from your ubiquitous grassies and estuary cod, to prizes such as coral trout and scarlet sea perch. Look out for those big nasty GTs whilst fishing any major reefs and wrecks and hopefully you will avoid any fish losses to them. The dreaded sharks are more prevalent however, and are likely to home in on you when fishing less prominent structure, so be prepared to keep mobile as always.

Chasing pencil squid is still popular, and productive. Some are claiming that the squid have moved on in some areas, so if your usual favourite drifts don’t come up trumps, then keen searching. Tiger squid are pouncing on the same little jigs that the pencillies favour, offering a handy feed if they are big enough, or an opportunity to do something about the specie’s survival if they are too small. It will be interesting to see how this year’s tiger squid season shapes up. Increased harvest now, before they are ready to spawn, won’t help their numbers in the future.

Kids and squid go together like ...... something that goes well together.

Snapper are a common catch offshore along the shelf in summer, with only rare stragglers to be found in the bay. Nice fish Lochie.

Staff member, Scott, caught this spaniard on a Samaki Pacemaker. Trolling larger high-speed lures is a great way of tracking them down in the bay.

Dirty Water Flowing Down the Mary

The Mary River is filthy dirty, courtesy of minor run-off rains in the hinterland catchments. Localised run-off has been minimal. The saltwater is making gains against the dirty outflow in the lower reaches, but only barely during these bigger tides. Staying down river and focussing on the predators flushed downstream is a smart move at present.

The River Heads peninsula itself is playing host to swags of rat jewfish. You can catch them one after the other if you could be bothered, but legal fish are quite rare amongst these larger schools. Land-based fishos have ample opportunity to mix it with the local jewies from the rocks out there right now, along with threadfin salmon, the odd queenfish and cod.

Boaties can scan the larger gutters in that vicinity and will soon notice the threadies working the mobile schools of baitfish. Focussing some attention on the drains is worthwhile at present. The threadies main quarry in and around the drains is the tiny pony fish, glassies, small prawns and mullet right now, but it won’t be long and their gaze will be drawn to the amassing jelly prawns. Once this happens, the same old threadies that are so easy to catch right now will frustrate the you-know-what out of you.

Grunter catches are growing in the lower reaches and the waters beyond the river. They are highly mobile at these times and will be escaping the fresh waters of the upper reaches, and feeding as they go. Try the many creeks of the Great Sandy Straits as the tides flood in and top-out, or spend time in the channels that feed these systems at other times. Fraser’s western shores are a haven for displaced grunter, and many are quite sizeable at present.

You might find a few blue salmon, a flathead or two, or any number of bream in your travels. Queenies and GTs are working stretches of the main shipping channel, but they are as mobile as their quarry and here one day, gone the next. The open waters between Kingfisher Bay and River Heads are more interesting now that they usually might be. If you are ‘Johnny on the spot’ then you will know why.

Lures work every bit as well at night as they do in daylight - as Corey Martin found out when he caught a few, including this 85cm horse one night last week.

A pigeon pair of 67cm flatties kept Corey on his toes one night last week.

No points for guessing where Pete caught this queenie. Just one of many species possible from there these days.

Crabs and Fish for Burrum Locals

The muddies are on the move in all of our local creeks and rivers, and even the Burrum is giving up a feed. It can be boom and bust out there, as there is an extraordinary amount of local effort, and the good crabbing only lasts so long. Fresh baits in pots checked regularly and moved if they must be is a sound tactic. The crabs are out in the main flow and on the move.

Fish-wise, it is still the mighty mangrove jacks that has the locals and plenty of ‘Hervey Bay tourists’ fishing the incredibly hot water. Temps exceeding 30C are commonplace, so the jacks are just plain cranky. Good fish in the mid-50s are common and not just in the nastiest of snags. Mobile schools of jacks, traversing alternative waters under cover of dirtier water are an easy target for those that know how to intercept them. Bait fishos excel at this, and many a lure fisho can learn from their jack-hunting experiences right now.

Grunter are even more mobile and have made their way downstream. The Burrum Heads locals have their chance to score a fish or two these days, as they swim past or loiter in the area. There is more bait on the move than there has been, so that is a good sign. Not all fish have or will stay in the river though, so if you know of any handy rubble grounds or low-lying reefs just out from the river, then give them a nudge. Fresh squid, herring and prawns will soon tempt them if you are still resisting the proven soft plastics option.

By this time next week, the Qld Barra Season will be open. Come the 1st of February, you can once again legally target our barra, and many won’t have to feel the guilt or shame of the past three month’s efforts. No doubt many photos will spew forth, some easily recognisable as poorly timed due to the very sky in the background. Sunny shots have appeared in the past within days of the opening, even though there was no break in the cloud cover at the time.

We will offer a little insight into our local barra fishery, and give you a few hints and tips next week. In the meantime, wish our barra population well, as they will once again have to run the gauntlet of the primary harvesters come the 1st. Dirty waters will aid these harvest strategies.

Feasting on mud crabs is a regular luxury for some locals. This one was destined for Pete's dinner.

Taj caught this Qld Groper locally this week. They are cool fish, but are protected and must be released straight away, as this one was.

Urangan Pier GTs Offer a Challenge

The main focus from Urangan Pier regulars is giant trevally at present. These bruisers take some landing from a platform such as this, but with enough practice and just a little luck, you too can do it. Live baiting continues to be the main tactic, on heavy enough tackle to stop a mini freight train amongst pylons 12 feet apart. Small but strong hooks are a must to tempt the battle-weary GTs, and we stock plenty of the best.

We’ve mentioned swags of sharks along the pier and our town beaches over the past two weeks. Their numbers are less now than they were, by a healthy margin, but there are still a few about. Shark fishos can try the deeper waters of the pier after dark if they can find access amongst all the folks chasing pencil squid, or otherwise shift their focus to the town beaches. The stretch from Torquay to Pialba has been rather ‘sharky’ after dark recently.

Grunter-hunters have had a tougher time than expected along our beaches over the past couple of weeks, but this full moon will improve that. As each week wears on, more grunter flushed from our rivers will make their way along stretches of beach and rock, settling for periods where a food source is abundant. You can chase them by simply soaking baits, or take the more exciting approach, and seek them out with small softies on light tackle. 

The kids can be entertained by taking them for a wander along our town beaches looking for whiting and dart. They may all be small fish, but they are scrappy little fighters on their tiny tackle and worthy opponents for the youngest. The garfish seemed to have moved from their haunts along the pier and the groynes, but they won’t be too far away just yet. They may even return post-moon, so keep that in mind if you are looking to keep the kids entertained.

We trust you will all enjoy yourselves this Australia Day, remembering what it is that makes Australia great, and the many reasons we have to celebrate. We will catch you again after the barra season opens.

Good luck out there y’all …… Jase

Finny got amongst the pier's garfish a little while back, catching plenty, and they were of good size too.

GTs are the main target for many Urangan Pier regulars. Lucas hauled this one up this week.

The scarlets are well and truly on the chew of late, and you don't have to drive far to catch them either.

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