Fly fishing guru, Josh Power, getting up close and personal with a ripper saratoga.
It Will Be Hard to Beat the Past Week
We’ve all enjoyed a sensational week of weather here on the Fraser Coast. The rains eased and the humidity level plummeted. It cooled down considerably and the winds backed right off. The fishing has been red hot too – as good as we could ever hope for in these parts in summer.
Those out on the water today will be thinking of an early return to beat the freshening southeaster this afternoon. Up to 20 knots is possible by nightfall, which is a precursor to the weekend ahead. Saturday and Sunday aren’t looking too flash unfortunately, with a south-easter of around 15-20 knots (and possibly a little more) restricting boating activities to inshore or sheltered waters. Expect a few showers.
There will be a marked improvement Monday, much to the chagrin of all the tradies and others heading back to work. The whole working week looks quite good really. The breeze should average around 10 knots or so and rarely exceed 15. It will be onshore for the whole week (if they have guessed it right this time), tending south-easterly or easterly with minimal chance of any northerlies. Showers are highly likely; almost on a daily basis somewhere in the district, but generally scattered by nature and more of a nuisance than an issue.
The tides are building once again, as the waning moon approaches the new moon phase next Thursday. The high tides will peak at a smidge over 4m thereafter, from lows a little under 0.5m. Holidaymakers that revelled in the gentle, relatively slight currents over the past few days will have to contend with stronger flows from day to day this week, making some fisheries a bit more challenging, but nonetheless productive.
We sadly lost Lyn Althaus this week. Lyn was an avid angler and active member of the River Heads Fishing Club and will be sorely missed.
Lyn Althaus in happier times doing what she loved. Our thoughts are with Huxley and the family. RIP Lyn.
Not what you want to see whilst out on the water. Watch the radar on your phone as well as the sky this time of year.
Big Current on the Shoals but Better Over the Shelf
Better boating conditions over the past week saw a veritable flotilla of larger vessels scattering in all directions. Many made the long haul to offshore grounds over the bars either end of Fraser Island and everyone caught fish. As last week’s SST Charts suggested though, there was a ton of current up north, with a little less down south off Wide Bay.
The pelagic scene took a back seat to the reef fishing for many, though some may have regretted not being prepared for the strong-flowing EAC. The current is roaring over the shallower shoal country to 60 metres or so east of Breaksea Spit, yet it is less dramatic wider over the shelf. Recent reports of big offshore speedsters such as spaniards, mahi mahi and the odd stray marlin, along with stories of schools of cobia, and giant trevally as black as the cobes tempted some crews, and they spent time trolling and/or stick-baiting.
Unfortunately, this weekend’s weather will deny most crews access to the offshore grounds, but mid-week will be a different story. There will be a degree of swell early in the week, that eases day by day. The prevailing easterly will stand up a little too, especially as it smashes into the EAC, so those crewing smaller craft could find the bar and the seas a tad daunting. Wait for the swell to drop below a metre with light enough winds and off you go.
Many reef fishos won’t need to go next week anyway, as their awesome hauls of prime fillets caught this week will surely tide them over. Yet, others experienced a tough time amongst way too many sharks in strong currents and might need to head wide and elsewhere again soon. The grounds south of the Sandy Cape Shoals are particularly bad for sharks right now, so worth avoiding.
An abundance of top-quality reef fish did grace the eskies ofsome crews returning from the waters east of Breaksea. The bottom-feeders were definitely on the chew, if not challenging to fish for in the current pouring down from the north. Not everyone’s fish were red coloured, but the greens, browns, blues, pinks, yellows and purples from out there taste just about as good anyway.
The list of fish caught from offshore this week is expansive. Everything from red emperor and RTEs to tuskies, coronation trout, maori cod, wrasse and hussar came home for the ride. Cobia got in on the act, as did green jobbies up off the bottom. Heading deeper and fishing the 100m line of the shelf got some amongst the snapper and pearlies, but it was the deep-droppers that headed even wider that scored better on large pearlies, snapper and a variety of jobfish and cod species. Catches certainly varied, depending upon the crews out there and the currents and wind conditions of the day.
Jigging heavy slow-pitch jigs was highly productive during periods that weren’t wind against tide. Not all battles were won, but the regularity of bites and sheer variety from different depths kept the inexperienced guessing and the whole crew grinning. Periods of higher current flow were easier to contend with courtesy of the faster falling jigs. There are not many fish that won’t eat them, including many species that are quite a challenge on other lures.
Those that chose to head up the Bruce and fish out wide of ports to our north truly brained it. Exceptional catches of high-end reef fish such as reds, big scarlets, trout and RTEs quickly filled the biggest of eskies. Both 1770 and Roslyn Bay departure points absolutely fired and reinforced the benefits of doing the big miles on the highway instead of the water.
Luke was happy with this solid tusky from a recent charter trip offshore.
Mel caught this frying pan snapper on a recent charter trip over the Wide Bay Bar.
Tei Kearney scored big time with this monster red emperor. Surely the most sought after prize on our reefs.
Cat and Mouse with the Sharks in the Northern Bay
Back inshore, the far northern bay was quite productive for many crews. Resisting the temptation to pull up at school after school of tuna or spotted mackerel on the way up was a challenge for some, but the draw of better-tasting treats kept them steaming north (eventually). Spaniards were caught via varying methods; some methodical, some accidental.
In the reef fish stakes, it was the fringe dwellers that won the day for most crews. Fish such as venus tusk fish, grassy sweetlip, scarlets (nannygai), spangled emperor and various perch of modest sizes were regular esky guests. The highly sought-after coral trout bit okay for some, whilst others failed to score. The sharks were notably absent over some grounds and unbeatable at others. The sheer biomass of tuna and mackerel roaming the waters from there south have drawn the attention of many sharks - for now.
The minimal and diminishing tidal flow made for easy fishing for even the uninitiated in those waters, though it failed to trigger the more rigorous bite from the glamour species. Over Rooneys way, it was a lot more “sharky”, but a feed of scarlets, squire, grunter, sweeties, coral trout and cod was possible for the highly mobile. Evening sessions surrounded by hordes of pencil squid added a level of excitement to the night bite and offered primo baits for those with jigs.
Carrying a Daiwa Insulated Fish Bag or a Chiller Fish Bag can ensure you avoid this predicament after your day out on a charter boat.
A Fish Bag can be stowed in the collapsed form and put to use for the trip home. Throw in some ice or slurry and you're away.
Tim Litzow used a Vexed Bottom Meat Deluxe spiced with squid to trick this fine scarlet.
Some of the Best Reef Fishing Was Close Inshore
Saving on fuel and plugging away on our inshore reefs paid big dividends for many folks. Bag limits of sweetlip were on the cards and easily achieved by some. Scarlets bit well and are showing up at an increasing number of deeper spots inshore. Those that know what to do didn’t have too much trouble tempting coral trout, though many failed to boat their prized fish amongst the noahs.
Estuary cod have been hyperactive and hard to avoid at some inshore sites. Their penchant for live baits equals that of the trout, though their diet is vastly more varied. Whilst a lot of the trout, and even the cod, are smaller these days than in the past, the average size of the inshore run of sweeties is making up for it. So too, the scarlets, with fish bettering 50cm making for fine dining for a lucky few. Not to be outdone either, some sizeable and particularly hard-pulling blackall have been very active, putting the hurt on many an unsuspecting reef fisho, if only destined for release.
A surprise snapper or two has been a summertime delight for the odd fisho, as seems to happen each and every January. Whilst most of the reef fishing fleet favour bottom-fishing techniques this time of year (and rightly so), there is still a place for a little float-lining fun. Scarlets are just as susceptible to such techniques as the snapper, both day and night.
The shallow reefs produced surprisingly good catches for a set of neap tides. This is very likely due to the prolonged period of northerly winds prior, that stirred up the shallows and offered additional foraging opportunities as well as cover for many reef fish. The bigger tides next week will favour the shallow reef fans, and sweeties, coral trout, cod, grunter and blackall will all be on the chew.
There is no denying the improvement that a decent run of pencil squid makes to our inshore reef fishing scene in summer. The abundance of squid arrives at a time after the winter-spring biomass of baitfish have vacated inshore waters as the temperature rose. Seemingly sedentary species that many might think roam little will indeed travel where and when they must, just to eat. If the food comes to them – then the feast begins.
The list of inshore reef systems worth fishing at present is a long one. The fringing shallows of the bay islands (Round, Woody, Little Woody, Picnic and Duck), the shallow reefs from Pialba to Gatakers Bay and the Urangan Channel are all worth prospecting. Deeper reefs such as the Roy Rufus arti, the Simpson, the Hardy, those off Coongul and Moon and the many ledges from there south to Kingfisher Bay are all home to a variety of reefies and mackerel.
Take your pick and fish select reefs at the right time and you will score. You will have to adapt your techniques for the various depths and target species, or your catches will be random if any at all. Try the evenings under a darkening moon and you will learn lots. Make sure you have squid jigs on board if you do though.
Please don’t add to the demise of our local fisheries by feeding fish after fish to the sharks, and keep mobile when the sharks track you down. Many locals gave up on the deeper inshore reefs to a degree and retreated to the shallows in recent years, but it seems the sharks have wised up to that trick too.
Amanda got stretched by this hard-pulling blackall last week. They grow big in these parts.
Sid had his hands full with this big bluey. A fish to be proud of on either rod 'n' reel or handline.
Staff member, Jacko, with a nice bar-cheeked trout from the close inshore shallows.
Wear Yourselves out on Tuna and Catch Spotties to Eat
Hervey Bay is absolutely alive with tuna and spotted mackerel right now. You don’t need to drive far to get amongst the action either. The return of the south-east wind this week drew plenty of fish in close and latest reports suggest that you can get a feed of spotties off Moon Point and Coongul Point. They are widespread from there north through the central bay, but they are also well scattered throughout much of Platypus Bay.
The average size of the spotties this season has been very good. The really large fish early have been replaced with larger numbers of smaller fish, but avoiding undersized fish hasn’t been too hard. Spinning for spotties is fun for the whole family. Having said this, they aren’t really a good catch and release candidate. Contact with their skin removes slime coatings and their metabolisms don’t necessarily recover from exhaustion like other pelagics. Perhaps it is best to consider your mackerel fishing a quest for food, and focus the sport fishing part of your day on tuna, trevally and queenies.
And speaking of tuna, you have plenty to choose from. There are vast schools of longtails and mack tuna spread right throughout the bay. Platypus Bay will be the focal point this week due to the prevailing onshore breeze, and luckily, there is hordes of fish up that way. Spinning the same metals you used to score your bag limit of spotties will catch you some tuna too, but make sure you have some jerkshads and appropriate jig heads handy as well.
Many are reporting flighty tuna schools that are very hard to approach. That is no surprise, as the tuna have been doing the rounds in the bay for some time now and they get shier and shier with each contact with we fishos. You would get flighty too if you were being chased relentlessly! Perhaps they witness their brethren being monstered by sharks and equate the sound of outboard motors and slapping hulls with the carnage that unfolds.
Experienced skippers know how to approach tuna (and spotty) schools, whilst others must learn on the job. Simple manoeuvres to intercept the mobile schools can work, yet many fail to realise that it is the variation in motor noise that so often triggers the flight response from their quarry. Maintaining a constant speed and revs as you pass a school, whilst your crew launches lures in their direction can work if the fish refuse to “stay up”.
The longtails have been flighty, but certainly not uncatchable. Go for a spin and you will find out.
Mack tuna are prolific across the whole bay. Whether bycatch whilst spinning for spotties or an outright target, they are plenty of fun for sports fishos.
Whilst tearing around the bay looking for surface feeding pelagics, you might encounter the likes of queenies feeding on top, or even witness a big spaniard getting some air. Focus on reefs and deeper bait schools, and golden trevally can be added to your hit list. Just as spinning spoons vertically will tell you if there any schoolies or broadies about. In essence, all species of mackerel (except sharkies) and represented in the bay right now.
Those visiting for the first time should be aware that spanish mackerel are highly susceptible to ciguatera fish poisoning in Hervey Bay and are a very risky table fish if they are large. The risk is so high that the waters of Platypus Bay have been a no-take zone for spanish mackerel for eons. Any spaniards caught east of a line drawn from Rooneys Point south to Coongul Point must be released and not consumed.
Those keen to pit their skills against the bay’s summertime GTs should keep the week ahead open. As the tides build and crescendo, the GTs will hit overdrive and be out there monstering any mackerel, reef fish, baitfish or squid they can get their cavernous maws around. They appear to have vacated the Urangan Pier waters during the northerlies, but they haven’t gone far.
Try poppers or stickbaits around the current lines of the bay islands, along the deeper ledges over near Fraser, or down near River Heads. Alternatively, you could drop live baits to mid-water and see if you can stop them burying you in the shipwrecks or the other artificial reefs. Going for a leisurely (if not tense) troll with larger deep divers that plumb the depths at speed might appeal to others. In any case, prepare for battle and give no quarter as these brutes grow big in these parts.
There is nothing like fishing to create happy moments for the family to cherish forever.
Hervey Bay's big golden trevally are fun for the whole family. They pull hard and don't give up easy, so any big one is a battle.
The new Chartreuse Ginger Squid UV coloured Samaki Live Shrimp is a killer colour that will catch reef fish and estuarine species - and GTs too it seems.
Urangan Pier is Pencil Squid Central
As mentioned, the GTs seem to have disappeared from the pier’s waters – but they will be back. In the meantime, the capture of the odd mackerel, a queenfish and even little cobia has kept the daytime fishos interested. Ensuring that you are prepared to catch pelagics on the pier is simple enough. A few spoons to spin with, some bait jigs to catch herring etc and the right mix of hooks, sinkers and leaders will have you in the game.
The kids can have a ball catching anything and everything. Garfish have kept many entertained this week, milling about just under the surface in the first channel. Suckers for a light berley trail and tiny baits attached to tiny hooks trailing behind a float, the garies offer a visual delight for the kids and teach them patience and the simplest of light tackle skills. Some even find them tasty if cooked right, and the size of the fish lately has been good. There is no size limit and a bag limit of 50, so they are a prime candidate for some youngster pride at the dinner table perhaps.
Otherwise, the kids can chase the same garies at the groynes back towards Shelley Beach, or spend hours messing with tiddlers of many varieties from beneath the pier. Wandering the town beaches is once again a pleasant affair, now that the northerlies have abated, so take them whiting fishing with some worms or yabbies and they’ll be entertained for hours.
If you get half serious as the tides build later next week, then the next yabby or prawn bait tossed out from our beaches might be hoovered up by a passing grunter. These fish are a very real target species from our beaches and rocky shores now that there is some degree of fresh in our streams.
Landlubbers wandering the lower reaches of our creeks or around our river mouths might encounter grunter, threadfin salmon, blue salmon or even mangrove jacks. Flathead catches have spiked this past week due to the rains, with many fish turning up near stream mouths and out on nearby flats or beaches.
River Heads has been super popular this week, and for good reason. Threadies have gathered and have been a viable target not only for boaties nearby, but for those wandering the stones or fishing from the pontoon. It has been beyond hectic out there, so fishers using the pontoon must remember that it is a boating facility, not a fishing platform, and give way to boaties.
Harry had no trouble tricking the pier's garfish. Great school holiday fun for all ages.
It is all about the kids this time of year. Many happy hours can be enjoyed catching whiting along our beaches.
Little Hudsen had a ball on the beach catching whiting. They are a great fish for all ages and a worthy target this week coming.
Recent Rains Have our Estuary Critters on the Move
There has been no flooding per se, but localised run-off from recent storms and showers has freshened the upper reaches of most of our rivers and creeks. This is just the ticket, as a precursor to our wet season proper, that has already triggered the desired response from many estuarine species.
There is a minor flow of excess freshwater making its way down the Mary from its headwaters above Gympie. Heavy rains in the upper catchment take time to filter right downstream, but you can bet there is a stain on its way. The upper salty reaches are already impacted and the fish are on the move. As mentioned, some threadies are already at the mouth, yet many others are still spread throughout the river.
The flats and the big gutters of the lower reaches become temporary hotspots. The Great Sandy Straits will really come alive and the poor old Susan will even get a resurgence of fish. One of the first to move downstream is the grunter. Recent catches in the far-flung reaches will diminish as the lower reaches and then the adjacent open waters host the mobile schools. Follow-up rains or a lack thereof will dictate just how dramatic and speedy this migration is.
A pigeon pair of threadies from the river. They are on the move downstream and dead easy targets right now.
Darcy caught this beaut grunter recently. This is prime time for our near shore waters, the flats, and the lower reaches of our creeks and rivers.
Grunter and jacks are prime targets right now. A hint of freshwater has them on the move and feeding hard.
Just as active and very much in spawn-mode is our whole mature barramundi population. The number of people actively fishing for them is very disappointing. Anyone can catch hungry closed season barra that appear so prominently on the latest technology, yet it takes a good dose of discipline to drive away from them. It is fair to say that just about every one of us barra fishos is guilty of catching barra during the seasonal closure (on purpose) at some time in our fishing career. But it is just as fair to say that many should know better these days.
Just wait for the photos to flood forth when the season opens! We’ve got less than a month to wait, so how about some restraint, or less bitching about the effect of others when your impact on the precious spawn could be minimised too. We’ve got a lot to gain this season, and everything to lose!
Spend the next few weeks chasing grunter, threadies and mangrove jacks and you could realise fishing at a level the equal of even the best barra session (well …. maybe). Rarely do we get such prime opportunities as right now, with a minimal mix of freshwater, fish on the move, and a burst of energy in our estuaries.
Of course, it isn’t just the fish on the move either, as our highly sought after mud crabs have been quite hyperactive. Quick to vacate their dry season lairs in the backwaters when they get a taste of fresh, the muddies have been on the march downstream and are potting very well. They have largely been full, and the bucks to gennies ratio is quite acceptable too, which is a bonus.
Prawns-wise, it is still just a minimal catch for maximum effort scenario for the most part. A feed was on offer briefly in the Burrum, but they were gone as quickly as they appeared. With the exception of some prawners tripping over a few in or near the drains in the mid Mary or Susan, it is still those keen to risk their nets in the smallest creeks that might bring home a feed. More freshwater flows will change this scene for the better.
Good luck out there y’all …… Jase
A bag limit of prime Qld mud crabs. They are on the menu in many households and campsites right now.
This shot needs a meme. Standby Trent.
Like father like daughter. Taya has learnt both good and bad habits from her dad Trent.
Stop it Trent.