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Fisho’s Weekly Fishing Report – 3rd May, 2024

There are more than just prawns at Woodgate. Riley caught and released this 13-foot tiger shark last week.

Make the Most of the One-Day Sunday this Week

If you were frustrated by the less-than-ideal conditions last week, then perhaps skip to the next heading and avoid looking at the weather forecasts, as the week ahead isn’t pretty. Labour Day long weekend, and it’s blowing 25 knots from the south-east here at present. Showers are streaming onshore and a strong wind warning has been issued for Hervey Bay waters.

The wind will ease a bit as Saturday unfolds. There will still be a few showers and winds from the south-east at 20 knots, easing slightly as night falls. Sunday is vastly improved, and potentially the only decent day this week, so make the most of it, as the trade wind is going to crank up once again thereafter.

Getting out early is an option for the Monday public holiday, as is an overnight sojourn Sunday night for those keen enough. It won’t be glamorous, but will be the best chance you have for the week. If the forecast is correct, then we can expect a 20 knot south-easter by nightfall Monday, that is likely to stiffen further heading into mid-week. All in all, blustery conditions and too wet to sort out the gardens or the lawn either. Frustrating!

The tides have been ‘making’ since Wednesday and will be peaking around the new moon next Wednesday. Tidal flow is increasing daily whilst the moon wanes. This set of ‘darks’ is a potentially very productive one for certain local fisheries, and surely for crustaceans.

Crowds gather when sharks this big are hauled up on a public beach.
Timmy caught this 11-foot tiger from Woodgate beach last week. It was released unharmed.
When you just gotta get that hook back, no matter what .....

 

Masses of Baitfish Attract More Tuna to the Bay

Hervey Bay is alive with masses of mac and longtail tuna, drawn to the bay’s growing biomass of baitfish. This latest weather event may well attract even more fish as both predator and prey escape the rough waters offshore. Getting a chance to hit the bay has been the frustrating part however. 

Opportunities last week were very limited. Anzac Day was THE day and a veritable armada of vessels departed local ramps en-masse. Conditions were great inshore, though still a little jiggly for the smaller boats up the bay, apparently. Platypus Bay has been tuna central lately and most folks are heading that way to enjoy the relative protection afforded by Fraser Island.

Both mac and longtail tuna continue to push the baitfish to the surface and feast regularly. Going armed with an array of lures is suggested, as the varying forms of fodder the tuna are pursuing can be anything from tiny whitebait, herring and hardy heads to baby long toms, flying fish and garfish. A swag of metal slugs and heavy-rigged jerkshads is a mainstay for many, and quite cost effective too.

Many fishos favour stickbaits these days and will use them all day if they can avoid the sharks. We stock a large range of the best stickies for the job, and whilst some are a little exy, there are quite a few that are very affordable. You will appreciate the better ‘dance’ and casting distance achieved from some of the ‘better’ lures, and the explosive strikes from the larger longtail can seem exaggerated on the best of the best.

The sharks have been an issue, but thankfully, not for everyone. We have repeatedly warned you to steer clear of the larger bust-ups in favour of the smaller ones away from the major melees. Doing so can see you hooking into the best class of longtail on offer, whilst at the same time avoiding the mac tuna and the sharks. If you can get out Sunday, then you shouldn’t have to drive far to encounter your first tuna schools. Have fun, and keep on the move to avoid those noahs.

Hot Reels Charters are catching plenty of longtails when clients are keen.
Zac Turner had plenty of fun with the longtails last week.
Luke found mac tuna and schoolies in close off Gatakers Bay this week.
Tony caught this big wobbegong just off Gatakers Bay ramp. Take care with wobbies as they can bite you while you hold their tail.

Autumnal Pelagic Activity Inshore

Whilst tuna roam our waters from the extremities of the northern bay right into the Great Sandy Straits, there are plenty of other pelagics you can pursue as well. The run of school mackerel inshore has been healthy of late. The western bay’s reefs were alive with mackerel some days recently, as were reefs across the banks and into the shipping channels. Further inshore movements are possible over these making tides, so mackerel will be on the menu for many folks once the weather settles.

Broad-barred mackerel can be found lurking around prominent structure inshore. Artificial reefs host them temporarily, as do the fringing reefs of the bay islands. Broadies will be even more common over our shallow inshore flats in coming weeks and months, annoying those of us seeking other quarry and trying to avoid being bitten off. Attempting to evade a mackerel by cranking your lure to get it away from him will only trigger him to bite by the way, so, if anything, should your see a broadie approach, then slow down or stall your lure and watch him turn away (you hope).

Queenfish are much more lure-collection-friendly and are once again making their presence felt up on the local flats. If you get out over the bigger tides this week, then the bay islands and the current lines that spin off those formations are worth prospecting. Otherwise, ledges skirting shallow flats will host schools of queenfish that mill about waiting for the next chance to hit the flats and raise hell for the local baitfish.

Bonito schools continue to flood into the bay and offer a bit of fun for the kids. Obviously, they make great bait too and are eagerly sought after by many folks. Look for them on the Outer Banks or over other reef sites hosting smaller baitfish such as juvenile herring. You will see them working the open waters of the shipping channels and the open bay at times too. Some small slugs, softies on heavily-weighted jig heads or even bait jigs will soon have them coming over the gunwales quick smart.

Another fish that has started its inshore migration is the golden trevally. They turn up at random earlier in the year at shipwrecks and ledges, but it is at this time that they become regular captures inshore. The shipwrecks of the Roy Rufus and the large concrete structures of the Hardy and Simpson artificial reef sites commonly host schools of goldies this time of year. 

Snapper fishos will get excited when they see clusters of large ‘arches’ on their sounders, only to find out the hard way that what they are looking at is indeed goldies. The initial take of the lure will feel very snapper-like, but once the first runs slow and that tell-tale trevally tail beat dominates, there can be no doubt. You are in for a dogged battle, but a clean one at least. Return them to the water unharmed as they are quite poor in the culinary stakes, and either move on to find your snapper, or drop another lure to the school if you prefer (assuming the sharks let you land the first one that is).

Doh! Someone took a wrong turn off Coongul.
Evan Reader was chuffed with this Hervey Bay mac tuna. Well done young fella.
Young Liam also got amongst the mac tuna and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Happy days for the Reader family.

Interest Rises in Catching Early Season Snapper

Much has been written about the inherent issues we have in these parts when it comes to landing early season snapper. The dreaded noahs arks have tainted what used to be a very enjoyable fishery that kept many of us out late at night or taking on the pre-dawn chill for the chance at beating our mates to the first true knobby of the season. Our relative mobility these days and use of lures in lieu of bait gives us an edge over old-school techniques that were time-honoured and proven by many locals.

Unfortunately for our poor old, very slow-growing snapper, their tendency to snatch lures jigged or wafted down through the water column has been their undoing for years. Not everyone can anchor accurately, or present a bait tantalising enough to tempt a wary old knobby. Fewer will make the effort to gather the appropriate baits from local grounds required to tempt selective fish. On the other hand, however, an ever-increasing number of modern-day fishos have mastered the art of jigging softies and are quite adept at it - and regularly hooking snapper. More fish being hooked, but not as many being landed – it’s an equation that always raises concern.

Respecting these older fish is necessary if we are to have a healthier snapper fishery in the future. Take what you need for a feed when you need to of course, but please take steps to avoid them altogether if the sharks are in attendance, or simply move on after a fish is taxed. As much as snapper are a great sports fish in their own right, to pursue them when their chances of surviving release are minimal due to the presence of sharks is foolhardy.

Early season snapper are possible close inshore at this time of year. The local artificial reefs will be popular for many fishos, as will the Outer Banks and ledges such as Moon. It is the promise of a reliable food source that draws snapper in so close so early. Bait schools are amassing gradually, but until the larger herring, pike and yakkas turn up on some of the reefs up the bay, the snapper will be a no-show on those grounds. 

Tracking down larger individual snapper can be very challenging for the uninitiated. Some of us know where to look and when, and can bounce from spot-to-spot scanning and sounding to see if it is worth a drop. If there is baitfish present, then a prospecting drift or two might be warranted. Otherwise, on to the next likely hotspot until those solid tell-tale arches appear on the screen. Having said this, one must remember that snapper can be downright ghosts and appear out of nowhere. They are way more mobile than many people might think too.

Josh caught this hard-fighting blackall not far from shore this week.
Mel with a chunky inshore sweetlip. They are quite prolific for now, but will thin out in winter.
This chunky shallow-water trout kept Luke and his family feasting in the manner they are accustomed.

Trollers will be out in force in coming weeks and months. Chances are you will see some folks trolling slowly around the local artis and ledges this Sunday. Almost invariably, they will be trolling Classic Dr Evil lures that plunge to the depths and are the best snapper trolling lolly we can offer. Other lures work, and very well, such as Nomad DTX Minnows and Crazy-Deep RMG Scorpions, yet it is the ultra-deep diving Dr Evils that have the match-winning runs on the board.

Dr Evils will smack bottom in 36’ when trolling with the tide, and a little less when trolling against the tide. Ignore the packaging that claims it dives to 20’+, as it achieves that depth and then some! Pick your trolling runs carefully. Avoid coming too close to other fishos, particularly those that are anchored.

Catching estuary cod is almost unavoidable if you venture near their favoured reefs. The odd solid coral trout is a bonus at times too. Add mackerel and trevally to the bycatch list and your trolling session can be quite exciting. Troll slowly and do so on a rod stiff enough to absorb the load of the lure, that will set the hooks whilst having enough grunt to extract a reef dweller caught too near its lair.

If you would rather wait until the proper snapper schools arrive and just go out for an easy feed for now, then sweetlip are your target. Their ranks will dwindle when our waters chill, but for now, they are still here in numbers. The better fish will typically be found around the fringes of the deeper reefs and ferny/spongy country inshore, with a few turning up along the fringes of the shallow reefs over the bigger tides after dark. 

Scarlets are possible, as are coral trout and estuary cod. Your chance of catching these species inshore diminishes when our waters get too cold, but they are in their prime right now. Jigging softies in front of major structure over the turn of the tide is the go for those not inclined to secure live baits and soak them instead. Heavier leaders are a must when pursuing trout and cod, meaning less bites from wary old snapper, so keep this in mind and have multiple outfits at the ready to offer the best presentations to whatever species you might target.

David caught this solid trout off 1770 last week.
Estuary cod such as this one of Luke's are still active, but will slow when winter arrives.

Dirty Rivers and a Stain in the Straits

Some folks see filthy water in our rivers and assume there are no fish there. How wrong they are. With spawning activities behind them, our major estuary predators can tend to make their way back upriver. Just how far varies of course, and can be dictated by the type of flow that is making the river so dirty. Right now, it is just a constant downstream flow of freshwater from the headwaters more-so than a gush of debris-laden run-off. Whether it is worth revisiting or not, most folks will avoid the upper reaches and try their luck down nearer the heads or indeed out in the straits.

There is a lot of fun to be had down the straits at present, from the smaller species such as bream and whiting, to bigger quarry such as barra, threadies, blues, jacks, grunter and jews. There are increasing numbers of queenies working the flats down that way, and possibly plenty of tuna to distract you in the main shipping channel. 

The bigger ebb tides this week will drain the flats well and create ample feeding opportunities for all of the above. Look for the blues on the flats and in the channels, the grunter, jacks and threadies in the creeks, and the barra along the ledges or up a deeper creek system. Jewies are getting more active as it cools and they are being found along Fraser’s western ledges and not far from River Heads.

The Burrum fished quite well last week. Barra bit well, and so did the jacks when they felt like it. Quality jacks are worth pursuing, and you should do so before it gets any cooler. As always, if you cannot find them or tempt them with your lures, then resort to baits and work them out a bit, before returning to lures once you know where jack lives. Go topwater near or after dark and you could experience something very special. Be it barra or jacks, the take will be explosive and the surge of adrenalin could be just shy of fatal. 

These tides will likely have the locals out and about chasing a feed of whiting and grunter in the Burrum. Once again, as it did back nearer the full moon, the weather might deter the majority of folks, so the fish might feed on uninterrupted. Downstream movements of bream in recent weeks will continue as they commence gathering to spawn. Anchoring near rocky outcrops or major snags and berleying appeals to some bream fans, whilst others seek the opportunity to bust out the ultra-light tackle and take them on with tiny lures of many kinds. There will be excellent bream fishing on offer as winter approaches. 

DUO Tide Minnows are a gun flathead lure and XOS lizards are particularly partial to them on the flats.
A fat pikey bream caught on a Chasebaits Flick Prawn. These scrappy bream are very aggressive and lurk near many snags in our rivers.
Yellowfin bream are on the move out of our estuaries. This one snatched a Chasebaits flick prawn meant for larger quarry.

A Veritable Feast of Crabs and Prawns

A lot of the boats you see on our rivers these days don’t even have a fishing rod on board. Folks’ intent on feeding the family are out chasing the great run of mud crabs and some prawns to boot. Word of good catches of muddies continues to creep up the grapevine and the stories hail from the Burrum system, through the local creeks to the Mary and the straits. Everyone who makes enough effort is being rewarded with crabs it seems.

Sand crabbers continue to feast regularly too, be it from overnight soaks off the Burrum coast or up the island. Indeed, there has been so many quality sandies on offer that many folks have had to tip crabs back into the drink after their quota of 20 each was filled. You might get a chance to pick up a few sandies from shallower inshore waters this week due to the bigger tides over the darks. Take care not to leave pots overnight if you cannot get back there the next day due to the encroaching weather.

A crowd was anticipated on the Woodgate prawning grounds on Anzac Day and it was on for young and old. Some big hits on the banana prawn over the two weeks prior took out serious quantities but there was still plenty there for the taking. Bucket and boat limits are readily achieved when Woodgate fires and pretty much everyone goes home happy. It is a shame the wind has turned ‘sour’ and denied access to this wonderful prawn fishery since. It is not looking good this week, so consider returning to the creeks for a smaller yet nonetheless tasty prawn.

The Burrum is certainly worth a look for bananas. Try Buxton Hole or head further upstream. The Gregory and Isis are renowned for quality prawn and the Cherwell has its moments too. Sound the prawn out in the deeper holes or wash the banks and look for them skipping in your wake. The mid reaches will be most popular if Buxton doesn’t produce.

The Mary and Susan are due to give up a good feed of bananas now too. There have been a few random catches from the boat ramp at River Heads from those brave souls willing to cast their nets over rocks. Poking a little further upstream and sussing out any larger drain mouths, the big gutters of the lower reaches or any deeper holes where the rivers corner can produce. Many stretches of muddy bank in the lower reaches can teem with prawn when they run, so keep an eye out as you travel too. 

Most prawners are well aware of the way prawns are flushed out with a receding tide and merrily cast their arms off to get a feed before low tide. Saving some of that effort for the early flood tide is a particularly good idea however, as the flushed-out prawns often bury for a period and re-emerge when the tide floods to make their way back to shelter. They school when doing so and are very often caught in vastly better numbers than they might have been during the ebb tide. Food for thought perhaps.

Sand crabs are still readily available when the weather permits. Bag limits are easily achieved in the right spots.
Cleaned, cooked and ready to consume. Sandies are absolutely delicious and abundant out in the bay right now. Great haul Adam.
A boat limit of Woodgate banana prawn was on offer Anzac Day. Go for another look when the wind eases and turns offshore.

Landlubbers Joined by Frustrated Boaties

All this windy weather of late and more to come, has many boaties joining the local landlubbers just to get a fish in. Luckily, there has been plenty of shore-based action locally of late, so all has not been lost. The Urangan Pier was very productive over the past week, as were our local beaches.

There were longtail and mac tuna caught from the pier this week, along with school mackerel and queenfish. The abundance of large herring amassed under the pier is the drawcard and they are showing no signs of moving on just yet. Sharks of all denominations are also making an appearance, mostly after dark. Some small, some not so small and some still swimming trailing a length of line.

Whiting surprised a few family fishos when their kids hauled up unexpected keepers from the pier, and some highly irregular catches have been enjoyed along our beaches too. Even over the neaps of days just gone, some intrepid folks have managed a bag limit of plump whiting. The fresh has them flushed from the estuaries and a few beach-going whiting fishos are grinning from ear to ear.

It is a whiting bonanza over on Fraser Island too apparently, with very nice fish in good numbers coming from the waters south of Eurong. Quality dart are also in the mix and offer the surf fisho a crack at both species from differing gutter formations at differing stages of the tide. The southern surf whiting fishery over there is a bit of a ‘May special’ and well worth keeping in mind if you are heading to the island.

Good luck out there y’all …… Jase

Max with an Urangan Pier mackerel. It has been a hectic week for pier regulars with lots of pelagics, a few estuary species, plus sharks at night.
Steven Harvey fished south of Eurong with his family and they scored a feed of fat whiting and some dart in weed-free water.
Bailey Baker headed for Fraser and caught this solid dart amongst others.
We are now stocking Malosi lures for the discerning fisho. Check 'em out as they are some of the best in the market today.
Malosi topwater lures are an absolute premium timber product with amazing finishes.

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