A Cooler Week with a Moderate Onshore Air Flow
This week’s cool change was quite welcome after what was a very warm few days. Volunteer firies have their work cut out for them containing bushfires across the state right now, so don’t go adding to the problem, and dismiss the temptation to light a campfire at any time whilst it is unsafe to do so. Thank you RFS members, you are all champions!
The wind has eased today and turned back to the east and north-east. This evening’s gentle sea breeze will ease overnight, tending below 10 knots from the north-east Saturday morning. A sea breeze from the same direction will pick up to closer to 15 knots during the late afternoon, that will ease again early the next morning. Sunday should be a repeat of Saturday, with a lighter north-easter early, that builds late in the day.
10-15 knots from the east is the call for the majority of the working week. Cloudy skies will keep the temperature down, so the whole week should be quite pleasant all-round. There is some chance of a shower or storm from day to day. We might have to watch on with envy as south of the border gets a drenching. Our chances of any significant falls are quite slim, but we live in hope.
The moon is waning, and with the passing of the third quarter phase this Sunday, the tides are in a neap phase once again. There won’t be much tidal flow for several days. The moon won’t rise until the middle of the night this weekend, so get up early for the moon-above period and fish the moon down ‘til midday.
Corey Vincent with the sort of quality venus tusk fish you can catch out wide these days. They are tasty and they pull pretty hard too.
Wide Offshore Action is as Erratic as the Weather
At a time of year when many experienced skippers would expect to be flying multiple flags to signal their day’s captures, there are crews out wide struggling with the conditions and minimal action on the game fishing front. The EAC has kicked in, and there is a high-speed volume of water roaring past Fraser Island, but it is not the conveyor belt of baitfish and pelagics we might expect.
Yes, there have been marlin captures, and some very big ones, but numbers have been hard to come by again this week. A quick glimpse at BOM’s SST Chart tells part of the story, with the stronger flow out very wide and the warmer water yet to grace our stretch of coastline. It will, and it is but a matter of time, but the crews putting in the hard yards in recent weeks are growing impatient.
The strong current flow is impacting the closer offshore grounds, so those keen to mix it up with pelagics other than marlin have the opportunity to do so. Hurling poppers and stickbaits across the shallower reef edges in 15-30 metres outside Breaksea Spit could see you connecting to large GTs, spaniards or cobia. You might even raise green jobbies from the depths, or get to mix it with a sizeable yellowtail kingfish.
Dolphinfish are riding the strong currents and have been lingering around anything floating by. The offshore FADs are an obvious drawcard for dollies, and although very popular with fishos, can be fished by a number of vessels at once if everyone plays the game. When found, many of the current run of dollies has been sizeable, offering great sport and a handy feed for those so inclined.
You will be doing well to fish the bottom in such roaring currents, so keep that in mind. Deep dropping is at least possible, if the wind is light or non-existent. It will take a good skipper with a good working knowledge of his/her drop rates and the grounds over or along the shelf to land even the heaviest rigs amongst the deep-water fish in high current flow. It is doable, but vastly more challenging (and time-consuming if you miss).
The new moon is only a week and a bit away (Monday 13th), so expectations are high for a vast improvement on the local game fishing scene. So far this season it has been the offshore scene that has out-shone the inshore marlin fishery. Ports to our north are not faring much better apparently, so this season might be a tough one all-round. Here’s hoping a prolonged spell of lighter and more consistent onshore winds will turn this situation around this week.
Game fishing vessel, Little Audrey, has been hard at work offshore in recent weeks. There has been tough times and good times, and they have been there for them all.
Something for the topwater fanatics. Oceans Legacy's Keeling Popper 140 is bound to draw the big GTs and other pelagics up from the shoals out wide.
2023 Garmin Hervey Bay Game Fishing Classic
The organisers and competitors planning to fish the upcoming Garmin Hervey Bay Game Fishing Classic will be hoping for an improvement in the status quo, with the local club’s biggest event of the year scheduled for this time next week. Competitors will be on the water and ready to fish when the signal is given next Friday morning and will compete over the following days.
Come Sunday afternoon, we will all know who the winners are, in many categories, split up between junior and senior ranks, and vessel size (under or over 7.5 metres). There will be many impressive prizes up for grabs, some of which have been made available courtesy of Fisho’s Tackle World, as one of the event’s major sponsors.
Of course, billfish, including black, blue or striped marlin, along with sailfish, will be the main target species that will be awarded the most points, but a host of other pelagic species qualify for lesser points as well. Funnily enough, dedicated tournament game fishos refer to any fish other than a billfish as “vermin”, such is their disdain for other species deemed to waster their precious time and energy.
There will be a mothership parked up at the top of Fraser Island, as usual, along with a barge carrying fuel for smaller vessels. Booking fuel, a berth on the mothership and indeed registering your entries into this competition must be attended to post-haste, as time is running out. Check Hervey Bay Game Fishing Club’s website or social media platforms for cut-off times and details of the event.
This game comp will be the absolute tell-all of the local billfish scene, both inside Hervey Bay and offshore. To date, the lack of photos of any marlin caught inshore and the reports from those returning from the northern bay empty-handed suggest this contest might well be decided offshore this year.
By this time next week, we should have a better picture of how the bay’s inshore marlin fishery is shaping up and whether or not the offshore has improved. Better weather all week will enable larger vessels to get out wide and even the smallest boats will make it to Rooneys with little hassle.
Tuna and Mackerel Numbers on the Rise
Whilst the marlin fishos might have struggled in the bay recently, those favouring the lighter approach have found plenty of pelagics to mix it with. Mack tuna have been flooding into the bay in ever-increasing numbers, and are filtering well down into the bay.
Recent reports, when folks could actually get out, suggest there has been big numbers off Arch Cliffs and plenty north of Point Vernon as well. Those that have pursued the mack tuna have commented on the tiny nature of the baitfish they are feeding on. Standard fair this time of year, as you would likely know. So, arm yourself with plenty of tiny metal slugs and go have some fun on the spin gear if you wish.
It is too early for spotted mackerel in the bay, but they won’t be far off. A rise in water temperature would improve our chances. If I had to pinpoint a time of arrival, it would be during the making tides pre-full moon later this month. Those same slugs you use for tuna are what you will need for the spotties. Make sure you have them onboard, as you might be the first to encounter this season’s initial run of fish in the northern bay (a few strays often precede the larger biomass).
School mackerel are well entrenched across the bay at present, and are particularly prominent anywhere you can find schools of sizeable herring. With yakkas thinning out inshore, they are still a similar drawcard in the central bay. Those venturing up the western bay should have little difficulty finding a feed of schoolies, though many folks will favour the east due to the prevailing wind direction this week.
Trollers will score their fair share, as will bait fishos or those deploying livies, but it will be the energetic fishos spinning with Flasha Spoons, Halco Twisties and the like that will likely score the best numbers the quickest. With mackerel, it is just a matter of finding them, as catching them is a very simple affair.
Jacko Kelly had a ball out with his brother and old man this week. Tri Ton put them on the fish and the lads lapped it up.
Better Weather for Reef Fishos
Weather constraints have given our reef fish a further reprieve in recent weeks. This week looks reasonable though, for inshore forays in smaller vessels, or for the top of the bay for those in the bigger boats. It won’t be glamorous up north, so if you are a fair-weather sailor then it won’t appeal to you.
Given that the second and final Coral Reef Fin Fish Closure is looming (November 10th – 14th inclusive), a reef trip or two will be on the cards over the next week or so. Minimal tidal flow will make the task of positioning the boat over the gnarlier reef country where the trout hang out that bit easier in coming days, and they should bite quite well to boot.
Gathering live baits inshore is much harder now than it was when our waters were cooler, but some will know what to do. For the rest, it will pay to tie on some jigs, or heavily-weighted softies and put this potentially easier option to work. The sharks should not be too bad – yet – but be prepared to keep mobile if they menace you. Their numbers will swell dramatically now that those pesky tuna have returned.
Heading extra-wide will put you in the zone for the likes of red emperor and large scarlet sea perch this time of year. Focussing on waters 40-50 metres deep can be productive. Picture the exodus of a biomass of baitfish leaving Hervey Bay via its northern extremities bound for offshore and you might envision where apex reef predators would be well-positioned to intercept such migrations.
A mixed bag will be possible at places such as the Gutters. Snapper might feature for those fishing dawn, dusk or into the evening, otherwise it will be more of the usual grassies, tuskies, perch and hopefully some red-coloured taste sensations. Don’t be surprised by any late season cobia and be prepared to move away from the trevally schools if you aren’t excited by the prospect of tangling with them.
Luke is a local with swags of experience on the briny. Rewards such as this big red don't come as easily as they used to, eh Luke.
Not all the big reefies made it to the boat intact. Luke's blue maori was a bit short on one end.
It was a family day out to remember for Luke & Shelley Hislop. Big reds, trout and other quality reef fish are even better when the joy is shared with the fam.
Back inshore, it will be coral trout that many seek, either trolling or working plastics over the shallows. Cod will be even more abundant and willing to eat just about any offering in the deeper water. A snapper is still a chance, but smaller versions are more likely this late in the year.
We suggested the grassy sweetlip were due to return with the recent making tides, and it seems they did. You can fish for them on a regular basis from now on, starting with the fringes of the shallow reefs initially, before they retreat to deeper waters when our water temperature rises further.
Catching sweeties is very simple. They will scoff a variety of baits fished close to the bottom. They are not fussy (like snapper) and they don’t spook easily either. Sweeties are a great fish to get the youngsters into catching, as they are quite forgiving, and will help them fine tune their reef fishing techniques. Expect them to be more active on larger tides, and chase them after dark or pre-dawn over the neaps if you get the chance.
Young Ollie Pearce is the son of skipper, Greg, from Double Island Point Fishing Charters. He's got his hands full with this beaut snapper he caught recently.
East Coast Barramundi Season is Closed
As of midnight, of the 31st October, the Qld East Coast Barramundi Season is closed. This three-month closure was instigated many years ago to protect breeding stocks of barramundi so they could spawn. Without this closure, one might imagine a Qld with stuff all barra at all. You only have to look at how quickly healthy populations can be devastated in-season to understand the need for the closure.
The closure applies to all Qld waters, other than those banked-up behind the dam walls of recognised stocked impoundments. This means fishing for barra, or taking barra from, any other waters is prohibited. This includes all forms of water, be it fresh, salt or brackish. It includes pondages, canals, jetties, beaches and of course our rivers and creeks. It also includes any waters below our stocked impoundments.
So, you, your mates, your family and your neighbours all need to do the right thing over the coming three months and leave the barra alone. Targeting barra during the closed season is prohibited, as doing so can upset their chances of spawning. The scientists tell us that breeding females will re-absorb their eggs if highly stressed, and you can imagine that getting caught and released is a stressful event.
We need what is left of our mature barra population locally to get a chance to breed. Stocks are once again at a very low level, and the weather boffins are continually talking up a hot and dry summer. If they are right, then another poor wet season following on from last year’s will mean less recruitment and a much slower road to recovery. Here’s hoping for much needed heavy rains and minor-moderate flooding during their peak spawning period.
Matt with a sporty blue salmon he caught on one of the favoured local trout trolling lures, the 80mm Warlock.
Jacks Top the Hit List in Our Estuaries
With barra off the hit list, it is time to get serious and focus on the dynamic mangrove jack fishery we have on our doorstep. This drier-than-usual year has seen them spread their wings and they are already showing up in waterways not otherwise known as jack haunts. The lower reaches of the Mary and Susan are cases in point.
The Burrum is a recognised and highly productive mangrove jack waterway. Jacks are widespread and prone to inhabit the vast array of structures this system is blessed with. Manmade structures, rock bars and fallen timber houses many, yet others dwell beneath overhanging banks, in deeper rock-strewn holes and around mangrove clumps.
You can seek them out with lures, or do so with bait. Typically, a well-tuned bait fisho will be vastly more successful in the number stakes, yet rarely gets the cred that a lure fisho does. If it’s a tasty meal of jack that you seek, then catch some mullet, fillet them and away you go. Do the same with live poddies, prawn, biddies or herring if you prefer, but remember to avoid the barra.
Lure fishos are spoilt for choice these days. Small is best when chasing jacks. Lures around 100mm or 4 inches have the most runs on the board. Larger lures work too, as do smaller, but either way, accuracy and action imparted by you will likely be determining factors in your success rate. If starting out, and you aren’t willing to experiment too much, then simply tie on a prawn imitation or a small paddle-tailed softie and go see if you can find where jack lives.
The creeks draining the swamplands of Fraser Island’s western shores, as well as those that meander amongst the compacted sands are virtually all home to a population of mangrove jacks. Some hold big numbers, others don’t. One thing they all have in common though, is masses of sandflies and mozzies, so go armed to defend yourself against these terrors or you are in for a bad time. Bushmans is the best repellent – hands down! Though those that splash out on a Thermacell set-up might not even need repellent.
Many of the mainland creeks down the straits also host healthy jack populations, as do our local creeks. Many inshore reefs even boast a few extra-large models at times, though they would be expected visitors on such sites later in the season or after flooding rains.
Other than jacks, you can spend some time tracking down king threadfin with vibes or trolled lures, or hop smaller offerings over gravelly bottom seeking the grunter that can be found in some creeks and stretches of our rivers.
Flathead are certainly worth pursuing in the lower reaches of the rivers, and even further upstream in the case of the Burrum. The straits and Fraser’s western creeks are still the favoured haunts that many flatty fans will return to since the weather has improved, all hoping for a return of better numbers since the windy periods of late.
Those that do, might consider observations from others over the past week that claim there is a rather annoying weed issue in some of our creeks. This issue can adversely affect your ability to fish lures and even baits when it is at its worst, and has been reported from creeks along Fraser’s west and down the straits as well.
Not sure who your major sponsors are there Ben. We will have to get you a cap. Haha.
Land-based Fishos Need a Little Wanderlust
Those without boats might need to get a little adventurous to find the best fishing options at present. Sure enough, you can take a walk out to the deep end of the Urangan Pier and you might mix it with the school mackerel, tuna or flathead that have graced its waters over the past week. However, should that not be productive or appealing, then applying a little repellent and wandering the banks of our creeks and adjacent flats is a worthy alternative.
Make your way far enough upstream and you might be surprised at just how big the jacks can be in such skinny waters. Stick to the mouth region and it will be most likely flatties that you will find. Dawn or dusk sessions when the tides build closer to the new moon might bring grunter into the fray, and whiting will again be worth pursuing closer to the new moon too.
Those walking the rocky foreshores from Pialba to Gatakers Bay might chance a coral trout from the shallow reef, or perhaps a few blue salmon when they tear past chasing the herring. Rock-hopping for the likes of coral trout is an activity many have mastered and kept to themselves over the years, but that cat escaped from that bag a couple of years ago. It is now commonplace to see multiple fishos wandering the jagged shores chancing themselves against any fish willing to intercept their lures.
Kingy Ridgeway with his latest land-based capture. With a bit of guidance from his dad, there ain't much this young lad can't catch.
Fraser’s Surf Scene is Still Messed Up
It has been a frustrating fortnight for many fishos that made their way over to fish Fraser Island’s surf beaches. Big seas and strong winds played havoc, shifting masses of sand and changing the beachscape from week to week. The return of weed to many otherwise fishable gutters deterred allcomers, though it has been coming and going with the changes in the wind direction.
When the weed has drifted back to the second (outer) gutters, there has been tailor being caught. About a week ago, there were big flocks of birds observed wide of the beach following what the locals believed to be large late runs of tailor. The birds and the fish they were shadowing were heading in a northerly direction.
Without any reports from the past few days to go on, we can only relate our latest from island residents this time last week. At the time, the beach was once again quite wide, yet the higher sands were very porous and slushy, slowing any attempt to drive when the tides weren’t low.
Access tracks, and indeed some of the major thoroughfares through the island are “shocking”. Even locals with decades of experience have been bogged multiple times. The tracks are generally powdery or otherwise rutted and some significant wash-outs and jump-ups are cause for caution. You had better take extra care and allow extra time if heading over there before we get some proper rains.
Deep dropping is on the cards if the weather holds out this weekend. Deej managed to drift over a patch of flamies about a week ago.
If you can get weather like this, then head for the horizon. Flame snapper are just one of the table fish you can haul up from the depths.
Everybody is Flocking to the Impoundments
The popularity of our impoundments stocked with barramundi is at an all-time high. Monduran is copping the most traffic, but across the state, eager barra fishos are pitting themselves against these mighty fish in what must be the easiest conditions for doing so in years.
Even Lake Lenthalls is starting to give up barra in some numbers. They are only small fish, in the 60-70cm size range at best, but at least they are back on the chew. Truth be known, they probably have been all spring, it just took a couple of Lenthalls regulars to wander into the right backwaters to mix it with them. The water is till dirty out there, but the water quality is fine, hence the barra bite.
Lenthalls is a kayaker’s paradise. Boat traffic is heavily restricted and so is boat speed. It is small enough that you can reach the backwaters with a little effort, so all terrain is accessible. We have not heard if there has been any action from the bass population out there, but would suspect that if the barra are biting, then the bass probably are too. Indeed, talk of schools of tiny bass-sized barra in some stretches might interest those with only the lightest of tackle.
Callide’s fishing competition was held last weekend over the full moon. Turns out it was extremely tough going on the barra front. Only days before, anyone who had a handle on the barra was catching metre fish on a regular basis. Come the comp and 50+ boats and the barra spooked big time. Only two barra of 103 and 109cm were caught.
This is indicative of the way impoundment barra respond to excessive boat traffic and fishing pressure. Sure, the south-east change didn’t help, and was undoubtedly a negative factor, but the blame for the results has landed squarely with the traffic. In days since the comp, locals have once again been catching big barra in small numbers. Callide will improve once again, and is still home to some very big fish on average.
Darren O'toole with a beaut impoundment barra. Fish such as these will be the focus of many fishos during the barramundi closed season.
We just landed some of Berkley's new Powerbait Cullshads in both 6in and 8in. Another simple and effective pre-rigged plastic to throw at the lake barra.
Awoonga is proving too tough for many, and hordes from that region are flocking to Monduran. Awoonga’s bigger fish are showing signs of returning to the pelagic behaviours they exhibited in the hallowed days of the past. Something to consider for the keen trollers out there perhaps.
So, it looks like chaos will reign at Monduran’s boat ramps and parking facilities for the foreseeable future. The barra are biting all over the lake and nowhere is safe from prying eyes these days. All the usual tactics have been catching barra, both large and small, and in rare cases, in impressive numbers of larger fish. What you might see on you tube these days is a far cry from what can be achieved on a good day/night on Mondy, so don’t settle for just catching a couple of big fish and a handful of rats. If you are up to the task, then the big numbers will come.
It is early days for the true trollers’ prime time, but there has been a few keen on the non-casting method of barra fishing that have caught fish in recent weeks. Going old-school and dragging the tried and tested diving hardbodies of the past around the lake’s river and creek courses still appeals to some, whilst others keen to test even this technique are beginning to mix it up.
Larger, oversized hardbodies that don’t dive as deep are just as deadly on large fish in open water as those mid-sized deeper divers some use to target fish marking a few metres down. Trolling large paddle-tailed plastics rigged weedless or otherwise can see you get even more bites than those favouring hardbodies. Some even risk all and troll heavy swimbaits that plunge a little deeper these days, but they won’t be found wandering past too many trees (submerged or visible).
No matter what your preference, the simple fact that Mondy’s barra are biting so well means that you can experiment as much as you like. Following suit and mimicking others might catch you a few fish, but offering highly-pressured fish something different can be just the trigger for a scorecard that would make many others very jealous. And, to that end, guess what – we are stocking new and exciting impoundment barra lures every other week, so there is very little chance of getting bored with impoundment barra this season.
Good luck out there y’all …… Jase
Dane managed a few bonefish on fly under cloudy skies at Aitutaki. Not too many fishos would be lucky enough to get away with this on their honeymoon.
What a backdrop for a day’s fishing on the flats. Aitutaki lived up to expectations for Dane and Christie, but the weather did not.
Dane pretending his NZ South Island brown trout was a metre plus Mondy barra. Nice fish in nice surrounds, but .......