Cassie Railz showing the Big H how to do it over a school of solid black jew.
Regain Your Sanity with Stable Weather this Week
Several days of insane humidity, low-intensity heatwave conditions and light onshore winds spoiled many a fishos’ desires to go fishing last week. The rains came eventually, and thankfully delivered a nice soaking and some minor run-off, instead of the dramatic downpours that caused havoc and destruction for our neighbours down the coast. The cool change was most certainly welcome, in the form of the blustery south-easter that has blown for the past couple of days and relieved us of the unbearable humidity.
The wind is easing today, quite a lot in fact, with little more than 10 knots all day. Tomorrow will be similar, if not a little breezier, with closer to 15 knots of south-easterly wind for the bay. It continues to warm up throughout the weekend, as the wind eases again Sunday and stays onshore, with 10 knots or so from an easterly direction. The weekend should be pretty much clear and sunny, with next to no chance of rain.
Rain is unlikely to be an issue again until the showers start rolling in with a stiffening south-easter later in the working week. In the meantime, Monday should be a glamour, before the south-easter starts gradually ramping up Tuesday. By mid-week, we can expect the return of the trade wind at around 20 knots or so to see the week out.
Last week’s full moon is well behind us now, and the moon is waning. The half moon of the last quarter phase this Saturday means neap tides and minimal tidal flow. Dark nights ahead of a late moonrise will suit some fisheries (and fishos), as will the falling moon throughout the morning for others.
Last Week’s Rains Have Our Streams Flowing
Whilst we watched on as the ‘Sunshine’ Coast and Brisvegas were hammered with torrential downpours, flash flooding and many under-estimated flooding events, the rains that fell in our district were just the right amount. Just enough to put a little extra flow in our creeks and rivers, but not so much as to register as flooding.
The upper Mary’s catchment down Gympie-way received enough rain to cause a minor rise that will continue the current flow. Nothing dramatic, but certainly enough to flood over the weir on its way to Maryborough. So too, Teddington Weir is overflowing, adding even more freshwater from Tinana Creek.
The Burrum River is getting a fresh flush right now, with Lenthalls Dam flowing over and plenty of water heading downstream. It is only a minor rise once again, and just what the river needed. Good falls in the catchments of all four of the Burrum system’s rivers are adding to the flush-out, particularly from the Cherwell River that received some of the best rain in its headwaters. The Burrum is brown all the way to the heads right now, but that doesn’t mean the fish aren’t still in there.
Local creeks flowed with excess local run-off, re-invigorating the landscape of these short little systems, whilst flushing out some of its summer residents. Great opportunities abound for both land-based and boating fishos to capitalise on the minor flows and get amongst the fish dislodged from these streams.
At the moment, River Heads, at the mouth of the Mary and Susan Rivers, is quite brown with recent run-off from rains prior to this latest event. Further freshwater flows will add to this scene, which is spewing a subtle stain out into the straits. Once again, a great opportunity for those that wish to pounce on it.
Spanish Mackerel Closure is in Force
The taking of spanish mackerel is once again prohibited in our waters, effectively from 1st to 21st February (midnight to midnight). This closure affects all Qld tidal waters south of latitude 22˚S. There will be another closure from the 1st to 21st March for the same waters.
These closures were initiated by our governors a year ago in an attempt to ease the pressure on spanish mackerel stocks. Regardless of substantial anecdotal evidence to suggest that the spaniards have no issues of overfishing in our area, the closures are in and will be enforced.
There have been healthy numbers of spanish mackerel in the northern bay recently. The usual grounds at the Gutters have been producing quality fish, which will now enjoy protection for two 3-week periods. Sneaking in a spanish session is obviously feasible for the ‘gap’ between the closures if the weather permits.
Why the closures are set for dates on a calendar and not around phases of the moon baffles me for one, but hey, I ain’t no government scientist. The ‘gap’ is also somewhat confusing for those not up to speed on the regs, so spread the word if you have fisho friends that are spanish mackerel fans.
Barramundi Season is Open!
One door closes and another door opens! Qld’s east coast barramundi fishery opened on the 1st February, enabling one and all to once again target our state’s most iconic sports fish. This is a very exciting moment on the calendar for many local fishos, as once again we can tangle with our favourite fish. It is probably also a significant date and a relief for many others too, that spent much of the past three-month closure actively targeting fish inappropriately.
Here’s hoping that we had just enough local rains to enable our barra population to spawn this summer. We’ve had no flooding, so the spawning event might be minimised for that reason, but at least we had some run-off and a taste of fresh in our streams. Large fish were reported (and captured it seems) from the usual downstream spawning aggregation sites, and those very same areas will be ground zero for many folks’ efforts this week.
Great weather and tides are set to see this barra season kick off with a bang. There are many large fish on offer from each of our major river systems, not to mention those that are swimming around down the straits. So, gear up if you haven’t already done so, and set course for the best barra hotspots you can think of. There are many in our region.
Give some thought to the future of our barra fishery in the process, and limit your impact on fish that are still very much in spawn-mode. Just because our past governors decided to put a pin on the calendar and declare a closed period, doesn’t mean that the fish actually adhere to those dates. More wet weather can create enhanced spawning opportunities, and on a much larger scale – if the fish are still there to spawn!
For those keen to keep a barra for the table, you have every right to do so. No-one should ever deny that right. A minimum size limit of 58cm keeps everyone honest (we trust), and a maximum size limit of 120cm protects the true matriarchs of their genus. A bag limit of 5 exists, but few would brag about achieving such in southern Qld in this day and age. A self-imposed limit below the official one could be you doing your bit for the species and the future.
So too, keeping very large barra, certainly any over a metre, needs to be reviewed. It wouldn’t be considered socially acceptable these days, yet the option is still there. Catch a big girl and let her go eh! She may well spawn another squillion offspring if given the chance. Photos last as long as your memories, even longer. What you might consider a triumph today, might bring you regret when you get older. Enough said; the choice is always yours.
A Few Tips for Barra First-Timers
With the perennial turmoil of retention versus release aired and forgotten, let’s take a gander at a few options for those new to the barra-catching game. Assuming that you have already spent big on appropriate tackle that you are hiding from the better half, the main things to look at are the where’s, the when’s and the how’s.
Having already alluded to the movements of mature barra, you can rightly assume that many of the best of our fish are still gathered in spawning aggregations downstream in our rivers and beyond. Taking the Mary for example. The River Heads district is going to be popular. You won’t have to burn a lot of fuel to find barra if launching from there, but neither will everybody else. If you don’t like spectators watching on, then head further afield.
Not all barra rush downstream in times of minimal freshwater flow. Inflows upstream can be magnets for hungry barra, drawn to feast on the abundant food washed down by the fresh. They can handle pure freshwater, and truly relish it when conditions are right (such as now). The middle ground will be a lot tricker. Assume the fish have gone one way or the other and follow them.
The Great Sandy Straits is home to a barra population that varies with water quality and annual harvest activities. Right now, wandering its creeks, and indeed the many waterways that feed from or into those creek systems is worth trying. You can find the true motherlode if you are lucky, and catch barra in numbers and size that even our far northern neighbours would consider notable.
Fraser’s western ledges will host barra at times, as will its many creeks. Don’t expect to find barra north of Kingfisher Bay with any form of consistency (on that side of the straits anyway). Many vast mudflats, sandflats, and island verges attract hungry barra in these times of plenty. Dislodged or disorientated baitfish in unfamiliar territory are easy prey for this most efficient predator.
Time your efforts to fish the mangrove-lined fringes of the flats during the last of the flood and early ebb tide. This can be potentially the toughest period in which to find and catch barra admittedly, but if you are on the water at such times, then the flats are a good option. Pay particular attention to isolated clusters of mangroves, small islets and the like, and don’t ignore the rock bars.
Keep your eyes peeled for signs of life, and not just on your sounder. It doesn’t lie, but it rarely sees all. Watch for swirls, or even a barra spooked by your boat, and look for the tell-tale signs of fleeing baitfish or prawns that give away the barra’s presence. Such signs could also be caused by threadies or other predators, but they should not be ignored. A good side scanner will soon tell you who the culprit is, in all but the shallowest of water, but so too will your lures if you land and dance them right.
I could suggest that you look at the terrain whilst you traverse the flats, and focus on the snake drains or any deeper channels that the barra and their prey will use to access the higher ground. I might also suggest you spend extra time on these drains as the tide ebbs, if you suspect you have barra in your range. But today, really, with the sounder tech we all enjoy, it would be a wasted effort. Search until you scan up some barra and swim your lures past them – oh so easy!
Burrum Barra on the Move
Run-off from recent rains, although minor, has the Burrum system’s barra population on the move. You can intercept these fish quite readily, so long as you are mobile and willing to scout around. The mid reaches are a good starting point for those familiar with those waters. There are so many back eddies, holes, rock bars and major snags in those stretches of the Burrum’s rivers that you could spend days just scanning them all.
From there downstream is where many bigger barra will be found. Large fish in spawn-mode are worthy of some respect. Luckily for them, really big barra have a tendency to kick butt on inferior tackle or hardware, so many more ‘monsters’ will be lost than landed. All the same, there are ample open water options in the lower reaches that offer a fisho a crack at a truly large barra without structural issues or hazards. The Burrum Heads locals will get their chance to tangle with barra without going anywhere over the next week or two, one would think.
As you would elsewhere, focus your efforts on the tide changes and be either up in the shallows when the tide is topping out, or at appropriate ambush points when the tide drains. There are very few creeks of any real value to a barra fisho in the Burrum system, yet all are worth a passing glance should there be any outflow of dirty water or bait. Concentrating on the rock bars, the snags and the eddies formed off the islands is time well spent.
Low tide sessions can be red-hot. Stagnating waters aside, if there is a good bait source, then this is dinner time for old Mrs Barramundi. Look for masses of poddy or flicker mullet, prawn and other bait sources such as biddies, glassies or ponies etc. Easy fodder for barra one and all. Large mullet won’t swim past the biggest barramundi un-noticed either, often drawing massive boofs as they are engulfed or side-swiped day or night (particularly night).
Seeking out saltier waters beneath the fresh that flows over the top has merit in many circumstances. Indeed, many a jack fisho has found quality fish feeding deeper during the recent weeks of excessive heat and minor run-off. Barra have been reported from similar deeper waters.
Wherever and whenever you go, be it the Burrum, the Mary, the Straits or just a local creek or flat, your arsenal of lures needs to be expansive. Never get caught without a good selection of paddle-tailed softies (large and small) and strong jig heads to suit; prawn imitations rigged or unrigged; vibes; suspending and floating hardbodies; and if you are up for it, topwater lures. Many awesome swimbaits add that extra appeal to the experienced barra fisho’s session, from the everyday soft models so popular with impoundment fishos to the rather expensive and super-effective hard versions.
Learn how to present your lures to entice barra. In short, slow-roll your paddle-tails; slow-roll or hop your prawns; jig or hop your vibes; twitch and stall your suspending hardbodies; crank and roll your floaters; or roll your swimbaits. Speeds can vary, and they should if you are not getting bit. Match the hatch size-wise, but consider medium-sized divers, smaller vibes, larger swimbaits, and prawns of all sizes.
Topwater-wise - it’s all in the name. Fizz your fizzers; pop your poppers; and walk your ‘walk the dog’ stick baits. Vary the speed once again, and add plenty of pauses. If this is all too tricky, then just tie on a soft plastic frog rigged weedless, and crank it across likely terrain at varying speeds. Not only will any hungry barra within range smash that thing, but so too will any nearby jacks.
I’ve kept the tips above fairly generic and basic to enable those new to the game to get into their first barra. For more specifics, drop into Fisho’s and talk to the staff. In the meantime, read on for the latest reports from around the traps, and perhaps a few more hints on catching a barramundi.
Now that the season is open again, our previously highly sought after alternative estuarine predators might be considered bycatch by some. Threadies are still a very serious target species and highly active at present. Vibing will still catch them in deeper waters, but so too will time spent working drains and muddy verges. Its time to give your growing prawn imitation collection a good work out.
The mangrove jack fishery just goes from strength to strength this summer, spurred on by the incessant heat and humidity. Thumping big red dawgs are quite mobile these days and turning up well outside their usual creek haunts. You can still head upstream into your favourite creek and seek them out, but might also consider the fringing waters beyond that system. Deeper ledges are a good starting point, but any form of rock or reef nearby could house jack temporarily too.
The best of our grunter have made their way downstream in our rivers and are out the front, largely. Fish lingering in the lower reaches are worth pursuing, but it is definitely time to seek them out beyond those waters. The shallow fringing reefs, rubble patches and gravelly runs inshore are all worth a look, as are the flats and channels that lead and feed these fish exiting our rivers. The straits can be great.
Jewfish - both escaping freshwater flows, and feasting on the very opportunities they provide - have been a feature of catches in the River Heads area this week. Schoolies have been caught in numbers by the odd crew. The average size of these mulloway has failed to impress at times, though better fish are being caught too. Much larger black jew have also made their presence felt, albeit in smaller numbers.
Crabbers are Well Fed and Prawners are Drooling
The muddies have been on the move all summer and are showing no sign of slowing. Extra effort is having an impact in popular areas, yet more crabs are on the march downstream offering wave after wave of delights for those with their pots in the right spots. Sticking to the lower reaches has paid dividends for many.
Sand crabbers have had little to cheer about lately, though their time will come. Expect better things on the sand crabbing front come March.
On the prawning front, it has been a waiting game for most, whilst the temptation has been too strong for the odd crew. No-one is bragging about numbers, or size for that matter, and the chances of failure outweigh the chances of success in our rivers at present. All the same, word of smatterings of better prawn showing up in small numbers is doing the rounds, and it won’t be too long before this season kicks off.
Quite frankly, it has been way too hot to bother prawning of late. A bout of trade winds will help the prawners’ cause, as will further rains. We’ve had just enough to get things going, so those in the know will be looking at their favourite little creeks in weeks to come. Until word gets out, the rest will have to sit back and drool over the prospect of what might be, this banana prawn season.
Dirty Water Impacts Urangan Pier Waters
Reports from Urangan Pier have been few and far between this week. The heat and the rain diminished effort, but word of dirtier water has spread and fewer folks are heading out on the long walk. The ‘dirty’ water is just a taint from recent outflows from the Mary River. Clean water species such as the giant trevally and mackerel etc aren’t as inclined to linger when they get a taste of fresh. By the same token, feeding opportunities arise elsewhere too, especially for the GTs.
A few flatties have been reported, along with the usual sharks after dark. Those chasing pencil squid haven’t enjoyed the bonanza they did in recent weeks, but a feed is still possible at high tide if cleaner, saltier water returns. Dirty water can be viewed as a bad thing or an opportunity. Displaced estuary predators are a viable target from the pier at this time.
Along the town beaches, it has been all about the small whiting and scrappy little dart for the smaller kids. You stand a chance of snaring a flathead or two around any major structure along the beach (jetty, groyne or rock/reef), but even more-so if you head for the local creeks.
Grunter are a more serious target as time goes on and more fresh flows from the local streams. Look for them where rock meets sand. There has been a lot of smaller grunter mixed in with the better fish this week. Rats around the 40cm mark can be a real nuisance for experienced fishos, but offer a ton of fun for a whiting fisho or the kids. Better fish averaging 55cm are possible if you can avoid the little tackers.
Grunter are a worthy target on the outskirts of town too. The Booral mudflats are just one option, though not as appealing to sand-lovers who might try west of town instead. Small sharks have moved on as far as their massive numbers were weeks ago, but many a keen young fisho is still having fun with the odd one after dark. So too, those ‘lucky’ enough to be on the spot when a cruising queenfish or two hunts along the beach.
There will be barra caught by shore-based fishos this week. They are known to haunt stretches of beach and creek mouths at times, as well as other local structures. Pondages are incredibly popular these days and certainly no secret anymore.
A Better Week Ahead for Bay Fishos
The heat and rain reduced the effort on the bay, but a few braved the conditions and managed a feed. Pencil squid are still about, and so are their larger cousins. A feed of sweeties is still a simple affair, though the better class of fish has largely headed for deeper water. The sharks won’t mind a free feed, so keep on the move if you must. The same goes for coral trout, with fewer fish of any size being caught from the shallows and better-sized fish more common in deeper water.
Mix up your offerings and be species-specific when you head out reef fishing and you can catch trout, cod, sweeties and scarlets. You might have a bit of blackall bycatch if you use prawn, flesh or squid baits at some spots, so expect a fair battle if they are big ones. School mackerel might turn up to join the party, though they haven’t been a ‘problem’ over many of our inshore reef sites. The big GTs have though, so gear up heavy and go do battle with them if you are up for a fight.
Heading up the island or out into the upper central bay might be required if you wish to chase spotties or tuna. They haven’t been as prolific as they were a fortnight ago, but are bound to be out there somewhere. Perhaps the stable weather this week will see them return to their surface-feeding antics.
Good luck out there y’all …… Jase
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