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Fisho’s Weekly Fishing Report – 30th March, 2023

Jackson with a double header of quality inshore coral trout both measuring over the 60cm mark.

Cool Change Before the Full Moon

We have been spoilt over the past fortnight, with great spells of weather, and what will very likely be the last of the summer heatwave conditions for this season. Storms are brewing in the west as this report is being drafted and a cool change will wash over our region in a couple of days’ time.

Tomorrow looks like being a great day on the water, and Saturday looks even better. Very light winds, the first of our autumn southerlies, will greet boaties and pave the way out wide for those with a little wanderlust. Light winds again Sunday look sensational, but you might want to pack the brolly. Expect cooler conditions from the weekend onwards. 

Showers are likely Monday, tending to rain at times, with a stiffening breeze overnight that should blow itself out Tuesday morning. From then onwards, the whole working week looks fantastic wind-wise, with barely 5 knots forecast daily at this stage. It is likely to be damp at times, and storms are highly possible, so keep this in mind.

So, the first week of the Easter school holidays looks great for boaties, whilst those choosing the camping option will enjoy a few spells of wet weather to liven things up. We are coming off the neap tides now, with a waxing moon growing brighter nightly as we approach the full moon next Thursday. The tides are getting bigger and this will get the fish and crustaceans on the hunt.


Billy with a solid Island jack, get after them fisho's before things cool down.


Spanish Mackerel Galore After Closure

Spanish mackerel fans have been out in force chasing their beloved spaniards since the closed season concluded on the 21st March. There have been schools of spaniards out wide in the northern bay, and they have been very receptive to a range of techniques.

Trollers are picking them up, dragging large diving lures such as Rapala X Raps and Halco Laser Pros at around 7 knots, or Halco Max’s a little quicker again. Focussing your trolls along or over reef systems such as the Northern or Southern Gutters or the vast low-slung reefs off Rooneys Point has been productive. The spaniards have been obvious, not only on the sounder, but often visibly seen in the upper water column.


Another very satisfied customer aboard a charter with Hot Reels Pro Fish Charters.


Reef fishos at the Gutters have struggled to avoid the spaniards quite often, and lure losses are high. As if the sharks weren’t a big enough problem out there! The spaniards tend to hang around the most prominent sections of the gutter ledges (where the baitfish and juvenile demersal life is greatest).

Over the rubblier country out that way, you will occasionally still encounter the odd spaniard, but large school mackerel are more common. Vertically spinning for mackerel can be a lot of fun for the energetic, whilst any whole fish baits, live baits, soft plastics or jigs sent towards the bottom will get intercepted if you are so lucky / unlucky.

Spaniards are also showing up in Platypus Bay around larger reef systems and schools of larger baitfish. Visitors to our waters should be aware that spanish mackerel caught in Platypus Bay must be released unharmed. The risk of ciguatera poisoning is too high and a blanket ban has been in place for many years. 


In the same session Tom also managed to catch a fantastic spanish mackerel.


School mackerel are widespread throughout the bay, yet not everywhere. You can track them down around the reefs of Platypus Bay, the central bay or the Outer Banks area. We haven’t heard any news of schoolies off the Burrum Coast of late, but they are likely in the area somewhere. Trolling the local shipping channels, or focussing your attention on bait schools aggregated around beacons or reefs and spinning for them with spoons will soon see you amongst the mackerel action.

There are still remnant schools of spotted mackerel in the northern bay. These late season spotties are quite uncommon at this time, yet not that surprising this year given the belated heatwaves we endured during March. Some of the spotties have taken larger lures than usual, but spinning with the same slugs you have tied on for tuna will soon tempt them if found.


Jackson with a Daiwa insulated bag of tasty pelagic treats! Longtail tuna when properly handled and iced makes for some fantastic sashimi.


The odd cobia has been reported from the northern bay recently. They aren’t all that thick as yet, but schools will soon arrive to stretch your arms and test your stamina. School-sized fish will aggregate in numbers when the baitfish arrive with the cooler waters, and huge solo models will just turn up whenever and where-ever they see fit.


Tuna, Trevally, Queenies – The Choice is Yours

The tuna are abundant and will be a major drawcard for sportsfishing families keen to get the kids amongst the action. Mack tuna are absolutely prolific in the central and eastern bay, and longtail numbers are such now that you can be selective and target them more exclusively. 

Take lots of small metal slugs with you when chasing tuna, along with plenty of 5-inch jerkshads and heavy 5/0 jig heads. Shark attrition is very high, and a solo angler might lose big numbers if unlucky. The mind boggles at how many losses might be incurred by a large family or crew. Try to minimise your losses and the wastage of fish by targeting smaller pods of tuna away from the major melees.


Jackson with a typical school sized longtail tuna for this time of year that was caught off of a bait ball up in Platypus bay.


Dan with a typical school size longtail for up in Platypus Bay.


The sharks are drawn to the bigger bust-ups naturally, but will also focus their attention on your boat as soon as you arrive. They are very attuned to the easy feed and will be chuffed at the weather from the past week or so and the outlook for the week ahead. The kids are bound to find the vicious nature of the big whaler sharks quite “exciting” to say the least.

Jigging deeper reefs with plastics and slow pitch jigs can see you connected to quite large golden trevally. There are many likely reefs within Platypus Bay and off Rooneys where you can find goldies, or you can try the Outer Banks in closer. Their presence is quite obvious on any decent sounder, so sound around before dropping into or ahead of the schools. 


Linc with a pigeon pair of longtail tuna he managed to extract from the toothy brigade.


Reece from Tackle Tactics with a longtail tuna caught on what we locals refer to as the 'Hervey Bay Special', the Zman 5in Bubble Gum Streakz a must have.


Coxy with a solid slab of longtail tuna he spun up on a soft plastic.


Always be on the lookout for those nasty big “arches” too, as the sharks take a terrible toll on goldies. Something to consider also, is that these big arches aren’t necessarily always sharks. Mostly they are, but in places such as the Outer Banks, the Fairway, the Burrum 8 Mile or the 3 Ships, very large groper or cod can be the culprit stealing your fish.

Those preferring to stay close inshore can target queenfish around the bay islands, Fraser’s western ledges or the beach flats and creek mouths of the western bay. There will be queenies down the straits as well, very often seen harassing schools of garfish, hardiheads or small herring. 

Giant herring are also possible from similar inshore terrain, though they often tend to sit wider of the eddies than the queenies. Hook into a metre giant herring and your reel will be unloading line in a hurry. Handle them with care, as quite like the queenies, they fight almost to the death and they can suffer badly from poor handling.


Cassie with her PB queenfish to date measuring in at a whopping 120cm. What an EPIC Hervey Bay sport fish.


Cassie had a ripper day out on the bay also scoring her PB golden trevally too, another Iconic sport fish to Hervey Bay.


Scene Set for Sorties Offshore

During the recent spells of better weather, several crews made their way across Breaksea Spit and fished over the shelf line beyond. Deep-dropping with the aid of electric reels and bent-butt rods is incredibly popular these days and enables crews to plumb the depths seeking esky-fillers beyond the realm of the ever-present sharks in shallower waters.

Just this last week, there have been catches that included flame snapper, ruby snapper, bar cod, hapuka and large pearl perch from depths of 200m and deeper. There are many other deep-water species on offer out there as well, and with such ridiculously good weather forecast for the week ahead, some of these might be chilling their way back to port.


Deeg with a pigeon pair of beautiful deep water table fish, flame tail snapper.


A typical deep water double, double header. As currents subside on the shelf line the deepwater fishing will prosper.


Those not geared-up for the deep water can ply the insanely productive grounds of the Sandy Cape Shoals and surrounds. Depending upon the current at the time, you can be fishing from the shallow stuff in 30 metres (best at night) to the more popular ridge country in 50-60 metres.

The sheer volume of tasty reef species you might encounter in these waters is mind blowing. Common captures include venus tusk fish in big numbers if you drift the rubbly stuff, quality red throats around the pinnacles and ridges, maori cod both blue and brown, coronation trout, green jobbies and many, many more. Hussar can eat you out of the boat at some spots, and are often converted to big slab baits for the red emperor you would hunt out around the more isolated lumps and bumps.

Heading deeper and plying the waters along the edge of the continental shelf drop-off in 100 metres can be risky. Huge numbers of fish school along several sections of this shelf line, but so do the sharks. Dodge the noahs and you are in for a ball, with pearlies, various jobfish species and possibly snapper along the 100-metre line, and large tuskies, reds and hussar closer to 80 metres. 


Nash with a less than common capture however a very prized one from the deep. A solid Hapuka.


Chris Hutchinson absolutely stoked with his first ruby snapper from the deep.


Damo 'The Skipper' holding up a solid bar cod that was caught on the electric reels, hauled up from the deep.


There appears to be a pool of cooler, slower-moving water around the Waddy Point region (see BOM’s SST chart). The Gardner Banks will be popular with beach-launching Fraser Island goers over Easter. Red throat, tuskies, coronation trout and cods are the mainstays of this vast reef system. Prime red emperor country is only a short drive away for those that know how to find, or know of some isolated rocks in the vicinity.

Those opting to head north instead of east as they pass Rooneys have a different mix of fish on offer. The grounds between the Lightship and Lady Elliot Island offer some of the best fishing for big reds and other reefies in our region. Sounding out isolated reefs of hard rock can see you tangling with large trout, big jacks, large cod and reds. Grassy sweetlip and tuskies skirt the fringes and soon add variety to the esky.

Drifting the flatter country and subtle channels up that way, whilst focussing on the weedier-looking bottom can put you onto large scarlet sea perch, or quite often schools of scarlets in the 4-8 kilo bracket. Again, grass sweetlip often graze such country if there is some hard bottom mixed in, along with tuskies and hard-pulling yet less-desirable species such as blackall and spangled perch.

Many will opt to head up the Bruce and ply the waters of the Bunker or Capricorn Groups this week. The weather looks absolutely mint, so overnighters on the wide grounds should suit the more adventurous. Reds, scarlets, pearlies, various jobbies and even snapper are possible out wide up that way, complimenting what has fast become an easily-achieved bag limit of trout and red throat from the shallower reefs near the islands.

Putting techniques developed here in the bay to catch our trout etc work ridiculously well in the fish-rich waters of the GBR proper. Tea bag prawn-profiled plastics around the hard reef, and tie on a slow pitch jig or Nomad Squidtrex for a drift across deeper country nearby. If you can avoid the noahs, then a full esky is assured.


When the weather has permitted, the lads aboard Hot Reels Pro Fish Charters have been smacking the trout.


A rambo trout caught whilst on charter with Hot Reels Pro Fish Charters.


Inshore Reef Fishing Can Be Frustrating

Word from crews back from forays to the Gutters this week suggests the sharks are once again at their worst. Most struggled big-time and came back with a feed, but lost way too many quality fish in the process. Making the most of the glamour weather and scouting further away would seem prudent at present. 

The scene isn’t any better over Rooneys way either, with only those focussing on little hidden gems away from regular boat traffic able to score quality fish. The sharks are relentless and unlikely to slow down any time soon. Scout the paddock when driving around up that way and you might be pleasantly surprised to find the likes of scarlets and grunter feeding over what would seem fairly insignificant flat bottom.

Closer inshore, the deeper reefs are plagued with sharks, but with the amount of traffic likely this week coming, you might be the crew getting lucky. This might seem strange, but often when there is a crowd of boats in an area, some will have the sharks’ attention, whilst others slip the odd fish over the side nearby.

Coral trout and cod are the main target when the tide slackens for those tea-bagging lures or dropping live baits to their lairs. Bouncing baits of squid over the fringes of these reefs will soon attract the attention of any sweetlip in the area. The sweeties are still quite prolific inshore and would be the easiest of options for the family reef fisho – if only for the flaming sharks!

Fishing the shallow reefs during the building tides next week will be productive for the insomniacs. Night sessions, pre-dawn sessions and occasionally dusk sessions can be very productive. Sweeties are the main target for most fishos, but blackall and cod often make their presence felt. There are even cooler fish such as mangrove jacks on the prowl at night on certain shallow reef systems and they can be targeted with lures or live baits. 

Grunter will once again be targeted from inshore waters as the full moon approaches. The Fairway is a possible hotspot after dark. A savvy fisho might find them mooching about wide of rocky outcrops or along ledges in the southern bay. They are not as widespread in the “banks area” as they were months ago, being more likely from the top end of the straits, or from within the straits proper.


Tom with a solid local gt he caught whilst fishing the waters off of Point Vernon.


Another absolute fish of a life time for client Rob whilst on charter with Hot Reels Pro Fish Charters.


Burrum Barra and Jacks Biting Well

There are schools of grunter making their way upstream in the Burrum system at present, though most captures have been reported from the lower reaches up to the Isis mouth. A few flathead have also been on the chew in the Burrum Heads area from there to Buxton.

Barra once again lifted the excitement levels at Burrum Heads this week, with quite good fish in the 90’s making the brag mats. Better fish are still on offer, yet even the average size of these ex-Lenthalls Dam fish makes for exciting fishing indeed. It is a crying shame that so many prime brood stock won’t get to spawn again in the future. We can only hope that plenty more will continue to evade those that would see them dead and our barra fishery of the future will be assured.

The hot weather this past week has kept both the barra and the mangrove jacks on the chew. Their enthusiasm might dip slightly with the cool change next week, yet both species will be keen to continue fattening up for the coming cold months. The jacks are widespread throughout all four rivers and can be found near numerous forms of structure. The best areas will be those that either hold or see a consistent passing of baitfish and/or prawn.

Whiting will be worth pursuing up the Burrum as the full moon gets nearer. Stealthy fishos parked up on the sand banks at night will score some real elbow slappers stretching the tape to 40cm or maybe more. No big numbers necessarily, but when the whiting are this large, then you only need a few for a feed. These same fishos might encounter a few passing grunter whilst targeting whiting with yabbies.

The Burrum Heads Amateur Fishing Club’s Easter Classic will be held over the upcoming Easter long weekend. We have entry forms instore for any keen entrants. Tune in again next week for more on this great local event.


Justin Green's young fella with a lovely Straits barramundi.


Justin is a bit of a estuarine specialist and knows where and when to be to put himself in these images. Another great barra mission.


Variety on Offer in the Great Sandy Straits

Whilst the Mary system continues to give up only relatively small numbers of barra and threadfin compared to other nearby waters, many are focussing on the vast expanses of the Great Sandy Straits. You can be down that way sneaking up on various ghosts of the flats, chasing pelagics as they bust-up or seeking out the major estuarine predators amongst the creeks and channels.

Barra can be found in some, but certainly not all creek systems. They don’t tend to live too long if they hang around any of the deeper ledges in clear water, so areas that might have otherwise been productive in years gone by fail to offer the fishing they once did. Stick with the creeks and work the bottom of the tide around snags and rock bars, before returning to nearby flats when the tide is higher.

Threadfin salmon can be found in many of the creeks down the straits. Soft vibes will soon get their attention in waters beyond a metre deep, particularly if there is schools of small herring milling around the area. Dirtier waters will favour the threadies given the lack of major rains this past summer. Go for a troll if new to these waters and you might be surprised at how effective shallow divers are at tracking down the sometimes elusive threadies.

You won’t troll far if there are any blue salmon in the area, as these ravenous fish tend to smash anything that moves. They are great sport for the family fisho and are suckers for all manner of lures. Work them a bit faster than you might for threadies or barra and the blues will be all over your vibes, plastics and hardbodies. You can even spin them up on spoons. The Flasha spoon was developed with blues as a major target, not just mackerel. Blue salmon don’t normally invade our waters in any number until our waters cool, yet this year they have been present to some degree all through the warmer months.

Fraser’s western creeks are the go for anyone chasing jacks in numbers, though you can also find them in many of the mainland creeks as well. The jacks have been hungry and hyperactive. Great numbers can be scored when bait fishing, and a handy fisho attuned to accurate casting and lure dancing skills can catch impressive fish too. Get out and make the most of this remnant summery weather in the next day or two if you can, otherwise look to target the jacks again once the sun comes back out and our weather warms later next week.


Stuart Hough holding a lovely Urangan Pier broad-bar mackerel.


Crabs and Prawns for Easter

The sand crabs have returned to the waters off the Burrum coast. Dropping heavy pots into waters around 12 metres deep would be a good starting point. Sandies can tend to move shallower when the tides get bigger and then retreat to the subtly deeper channels as the tidal flow declines again. Shifting your pots frequently until you track them down can be the key to initial success.

Many will be out chasing mud crabs for Easter. The creeks and feeder channels of the Great Sandy Straits have been the prime mud crab real estate for many weeks now. Increasing salinity levels in the Mary system might see a renewed surge of crab, but we cannot confirm that at present. For now, it’s the creeks along the inside of Fraser, the inlets within the straits’ islands and the mainland creeks that have produced the goods.

Prawns-wise, this week should be very interesting. A cool change, a bit of rain and plenty of prawn slowly emerging from the creeks should see their numbers swell. To date, our local creeks such as Eli and Beelbi offer a crack at a feed for landlubbers, but it is the creeks down the straits and the local rivers that will deliver the better catches for boaties.

Be warned however, that you can waste potentially hours casting for very little return at this time, so scout these streams with your sounder and pay attention to deeper waters when the tide is slacker. Prawns show clearly on a decent sounder and can be in great numbers and better size in the deeper water. The smaller prawns have been flicking when chased or disturbed, so an observant fisho will soon spot such activity. Prawning in drains can be hard work compared with the deeper stuff, yet still suits many folks keen on a feed of the succulent small-medium “boilers”.

The Burnett River prawns are thick right now apparently. Without flooding, it is hard to predict whether or not they will run out and accumulate along Woodgate Beach. Easter occasionally sees a run of large bananas up along Woodgate, the likes of which is rarely replicated in our region. It will take a southerly or southwesterly wind and cooler conditions for anything to happen up that way. When and if it does, the grapevine will be alive - but you might hear about it here after the horse has bolted. 

Good luck out there y’all …… Jase


Dylan 'vaughny' Vaugh proving the banana myth may just be a myth..... We are still not sold on it.


Local angler Josh came across a school of wahoo whilst drifting out in the deep blue for reef fish. Drop over a lure and one scoffed it instantly.

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