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Fisho’s Weekly Fishing Report – 7th June, 2024

A lot of quality red emperor were caught this week. Kyle Leaver impressed the father-in-law by putting him onto this one.

Weather as Brilliant as the State of Origin Result

Why is it that the weather is so often so glamorous when the State of Origin game is on? Just this time of year perhaps. Whatever the reason, there are no complaints locally, with anyone with a boat and a day off roaring off into the bay or beyond in spectacular conditions this week. The big game Wednesday night, backed up by a terrific win from our girls’ team last night, were further bonuses for devoted Maroons fans and capped-off a fantastic mid-week period for many folks.

The ultra-light windless days and nights of the past couple of days are about to give way to a subtle south-westerly-tending breeze for the weekend. The winds will still be fairly light and quite manageable at around 10 knots on the bay, all the way through from today until Monday. It will be quite cool, under sunny skies and starry nights. Perfect winter weather really, influenced by a standard winter pattern of high pressure over land.

It will be more like 15 knots from the south-south-west offshore to our immediate north, and even lighter and more westerly-tending to our south. Head south if you are keen to get out wide this weekend or early in the week, and enjoy the wide-open swells and seas flattened by the prevailing westerlies. 

The south-wester may ease further mid-week and another round of calm days could greet those lucky enough to avoid work. All in all, the week ahead looks great. Further opportunity for offshore forays for the bigger boats, and plenty of options on the bay for the rest. Even if the forecast changes and the winds increase, the estuary scene or near-shore sheltered waters will be worth investigating for those that haven’t worn themselves out already.

“Was the dark of the moon on the 6th of June, in a Kenworth pullin’ logs …..” - a line from the famous song “Convoy” from C.W McCall that has a degree of relevance to the current lunar status you may notice. Regardless of McCall’s legendary lyrics, this is a wicked time of year to be fishing Hervey Bay waters, and the tides a-coming are not to be missed for those keen to mix it with the best on offer right now.

Chris Lingard scored this top-class red from a reef trip this week.

The Lingard family will be eating well for a while. Solid fish Nathan.
A quick trip to the shelf to bag some pearlies etc then on to the reef fishing was the order of the day for Deej this week.

Offshore Fishing to our North Worth Bragging About

After months of limited opportunity, the spell of magnificent weather over the past few days coupled with great reef fishing tides, diminishing offshore current and dropping water temperatures, and made for exceptional offshore fishing. Many crews headed far and wide and most reaped the rewards of their efforts.

Those that wandered up the Bruce and launched at 1770 filled their eskies (and for some their bag limits) with relative ease. Coral trout, RTEs, reds, tuskies and various other reef fish all adding their own type of colour to impressive esky-loads of the GBR’s finest. Deep-dropping out wider, beyond the Bunker Group, was also very fruitful, but few needed to burn that much fuel to experience first class fishing. The ramp’s car park overflowed as you might expect, so timing was once again everything for a stressless trip to 1770.

Departing from Urangan and heading over Breaksea Spit was also highly productive. Some crews struck issues with sharks and had to keep on the move, whilst others stumbled onto the motherlode without attending noahs and came home with broad grins and full eskies. Even though the sharks annoyed some crews, most were able to avoid them here and there by switching depths and managed a better than average feed regardless.

Deep-dropping was very successful in minimal current and stuff-all wind. The usual candidates lined up for the long haul to the surface, including snapper, pearl perch, a few random deep-water cods and a couple of representatives from the jobfish clans. At other times of year, deep dropping has been the only option when the sharks were relentless in shallower waters, but not this week.

The excellent ‘bite’ continued on, pretty much all day offshore, so crews that opted to fish the deep stuff early then head shallow scored well, as did those that did the reverse. There were many red emperor caught. Many for the old hands, and the odd one for those just breaking their duck too. You don’t get many better periods of year for chasing red emperor in these parts than right now, and the darks really tuned them on.

The same great bite was experienced up towards Lady Elliot and to the west thereof too. Once again, numbers of red emperor were caught, and so too were many other quality reef fish. The brown sides of large grassy sweetlip made the more appealing coloured fish stand out in the ice boxes of some crews. Those big grassies sure do pull and are super-aggressive fish that are fun to catch. They actually release very well if you are keener on the better-quality blue, orange, pink and red coloured box fillers.

Spanish mackerel and cobia were caught from various wide grounds both east of Breaksea Spit and further north. Generally speaking, those lucky enough to avoid the sharks had an absolute ball out wide. The lack of boat traffic on many grounds is undoubtedly a factor in the currently diminished shark issue in those waters. How long that situation holds out for if the desirable winter conditions we all so eagerly wish for materialise is yet to be seen. 

A ripper RTE for Bob Goodwin. One of the reef's best eating fish, and a sucker for many techniques from baits to a variety of lures.
Rory picked up this spaniard 20m off the bottom in 120m when it snaffled his deep drop rig on the retrieve. A rather uncommon capture.
A spiced-up BUKU Hybrid Jig was too tempting for this solid grassy of Adrian's.

Fantastic Fishing Offshore to Our South Too

It must be very competitive in the Rainbow Beach Family Fishing Competition right now. Competitors have had the week of dreams weather-wise, and undoubtedly have been bringing bragging class fish to the weighmaster daily. The big reds have been on the chew out wide east of the bar, and up north, east of Fraser too. They are without doubt, the most sought-after species that all reef fishing entrants are keen to hoist aloft for the crowd and we trust there have been many impressive fish and cheers all round.

The snapper fishing has just been getting better and better down that way, and the pearlies are putting smiles on dials as they come over the side in decent numbers too. It is fair to say that the squire are very thick, and there are plenty of snappery-squire amongst them. Bigger knobbies have also started to turn up closer inshore, and are still being found in good numbers out wider.

The current is quite gentle in close which makes for easy travelling and even easier fishing for those in smaller offshore-capable vessels. Light offshore winds made for perfect conditions earlier this week however, so many crews in larger vessels headed wide and up along Fraser. The current varied, but was generally as light as the winds. Everything from kingies and amberjack, to spaniards and the best of the region’s reef fish were encountered. Enough trophies made their way over the gunwales to justify the miles travelled and the fuel burnt. Excellent fishing!

Big Matty Gray slipped over a flat bottom bar and got stuck into the knobbies. Those waters will be very popular again this week.
Snapper and squire of all sizes are in great numbers off Wide Bay bar. Staff member, Scotty, managed a double hook up first drop for the day.
Shane hiding behind a solid pearlie he caught offshore in glamour weather.

Help Qld Fisheries with Their Research

A team from the Qld Department of Fisheries (DAF) has embarked on a project to expand the knowledge-base of popular deep-water species. They are endeavouring to collect as many fish frames as they can, so that they can study the fish’s age, growth rate, reproduction and genetics. They have two PhD students from the University of Queensland working on the project who will welcome any contributions from you, the fishing public.

So, if you are a keen deep-dropper that brings home any of the fish species shown in the flyer reproduced below, then you have the chance to contribute towards this project – and – get rid of your deep-water reef fish frames to boot. This is a rather convenient way of unloading those annoying fish frames you otherwise have to make such an effort to dispose of, and aide these researchers for the betterment of the fishery. Check out the flyer below and make contact, and they will come to you to collect your fish frames at a time that is convenient.

In addition, the Keen Angler Program continues, which is a longer-term monitoring program that invites the public to once again contribute discarded fish frames of select species for research purposes. The list of eligible species for this project is also contained within another reproduction of a flyer below. Get involved if you are keen, and getting rid of your fish frames just got a whole lot easier.

DAF’s Fish Attracting Device Program is well-established along our coastline and many fishos benefit from these FADs located at sites off Fraser Island. For your information, the FAD “F2” was just replaced a couple of days ago, east of the 4 Mile Breaksea Spit bar crossing (in around 60 metres of water). 

This floating FAD (yellow buoy) was the subject of an article you may have read hereabouts many months ago when it went missing. Apparently, it was dislodged by a trawler at some stage and ended up down at Moreton Island. It has been returned to its appropriate position and can once again be visited to seek the mahi mahi and other pelagic species that are attracted to such devices. See DAFs website or google Qld FAD F2 for a more detailed description and the GPS coordinates of its position.

It is also worth noting that the annual closure for Australian Bass in our tidal waters is now in place. From the 1st June to 31st August each year, all bass in waters other than those backed-up behind dam walls that form the lakes within the Stocked Impoundments Permit Scheme are off limits. You cannot target or keep bass caught from any of our local streams or other waterways other than the abovementioned SIPS lakes for the duration of the closure. This will enable these feisty little fish to spawn in peace and hopefully help sustain this popular fishery year in year out.

Help Fisheries learn more about our deep-water fishes and get rid of your fish frames in one foul swoop.
Qld Fisheries' Keen Angler Program is worth investigating. Fisheries will happily collect your fish frames from the list above.
Few deep water fish can rival flamies in the photogenic stakes.

Flamies were part of the catch from over the shelf for Adrian and Tommy.

Snapper Starting to Arrive Inshore

If you filtered through the somewhat cryptic message in last week’s fishing report regarding our inshore snapper, then you would have already been out there to intercept them as they migrated inshore on the approach of this new moon. The lack of numbers to date is now a thing of the past, as the first real migratory schools have started to trickle in.

Quality knobbies have been reported from sites in the western bay, as well as some of the usual hotspots in the south. Reef systems in the central bay have drawn a few fish already, but their numbers will swell dramatically with the arrival of yakkas and other baitfish in better numbers. The reefs wide of the Burrum have given up snapper, and the Outer Banks, Simpson arti, Moon Ledge and the Roy Rufus are all worth prospecting. 

Snapper numbers are still quite low, but as anticipated, the arrival of at least some fish is pretty much a given for this particular moon phase. Early signs, with less fish due to persistent shark depredation in the warmer months, suggest this might only be an average snapper season at best. A warmer winter is predicted apparently, so Hervey Bay’s appeal to migratory fish can be impacted. Colder weather and colder water mean more baitfish and hopefully more snapper, so fingers crossed for a decent season.

The south-west wind certainly cools our climate in these parts, and can trigger a good bite from the snapper – but not everywhere. Take it from an old hand, that protected waters closer inshore that are out of the prevailing south-west wind can be highly unproductive for daytime activities whilst that wind direction prevails. Such a breeze so often eases late in the day and into the early evening before returning later at night, so you can see a potential window there perhaps.

Evening sessions are vastly more productive; however, you can look for an onshore wind-change during the day. One quite often associated with a tide change, that will trigger an aggressive feeding response from snapper lingering in waters sheltered from the offshore breeze. Otherwise, head a little wider into the bay, or to more exposed waters to catch fish happily feeding beneath the slightly more turbulent surface.

Bait fishos will have their moments in coming weeks and months. Snapper are particularly partial to the food sources readily available in the area they pass through, so consider making the effort to gather local baitfish etc, as suggested and described in a recent fishing report. There are some very large greenback herring on offer from many inshore bait grounds right now that have big snapper written all over them. 

Brandon snared this fine snapper on a Live Shrimp soft plastic retrofitted to a standard j-style jig head.
Jerk shads have always appealed to snapper such as this one AJ caught this week.
It was shenanigans afloat for Shane & Tommy this week. There are obviously kingies out there for those keen to find them.

Tuna are on the Move

The above average run of longtail tuna this autumn has just started to show signs of steadying. Calmer inshore waters appeal less to roaming tuna schools when it comes to their surface-feeding tactics, so large areas of the bay that were hosting tuna schools in numbers are now almost devoid of fish. Large tracts of the western bay are an example.

Our latest reports suggest the best numbers of longtails have contracted north to the northern sector of Platypus Bay and to the waters off Rooneys. There are still big numbers of mac tuna further south, but the longtails haven’t been as easy to find in the southern sector this week as they were the week before. The recent making tides drew some down through the straits, whilst others headed north looking for nourishment.

Longtails will still be a viable target species through winter, but in a different manner to the current status quo. Instead of tearing about the bay looking for substantial bust-ups on the surface, you will have to consider targeting tuna found deeper in the water column feeding on larger forms of prey. As the tiny baitfish and warmer-water fodder species make way for the likes of yakkas etc, the remaining longtails’ diet will change.

Accidental hookups to tuna whilst jigging plastics etc for snapper and trevally reveal the scenario that will unfold. Bigger tuna deeper in the water column. There will still be schools of longtails feeding from the surface at times, but nothing like the bonanza of past weeks. Smaller pods of extra-large fish, or even solo individuals sipping victims from the surface as they cruise will become the norm. Stick baiting to fish sighted in this scenario can be very exciting and can see larger longtails landed without the sharks that shadow the larger schools of autumn / early winter.

Trollers can really shine at this time, as they present ‘baits’ deeper in the water that appeal to the longtails. These trollers might not be targeting longtails, as they may prefer snapper or trevally, but they won’t have any say in that should they swim the right lure past a deep-feeding longtail. Super deep divers such as Dr Evils etc have the snapper trollers tunnel-visioned (and why not) whilst someone interested in connecting to a tuna on the move might lean towards an X-Rap or similar and a bit more speed in their troll.

Trevally numbers are about to explode in many parts of the bay. The Gutters and Platypus Bay will host many schools of trevally from the numerous clans that visit our waters. Goldies are fairly dominant closer inshore, though the mix of trevors you can encounter in one day out wider is exhausting (in so many ways). Something to look forward to if you are into jigging for sport, but something that is still a future fishery until our waters cool further and the masses of yakkas etc arrive en-masse.

The Prentice family spent some quality time on the bay chasing longtails.
Big winter queenies are a Hervey Bay special that can be accessed by anyone. Here is a ripper version Tommy caught recently.
The Hislops headed wide and scored a great feed, including large tuskies such as this one.

Where are the Winter Whiting?

We get asked regularly where the winter whiting are at this time of year. To date, they have been very elusive, bordering on non-existent – until now. Early efforts were very dismal. A few fish for a day or two off Gatakers Bay failed to morph into the usual early season run in those parts. Even now, few if any fish are being caught from out the front of Gatakers or Point Vernon.

The only reports of any numbers from those launching from the ramp up there are from off Toogoom, apparently. I say apparently, as there were folks talking up decent catches days ago, then others wander in saying there aren’t any boats in the area. The whole fishery seems scattered at present, possibly due to the warmer than average autumn that has preceded these cooler times.

There will be good times ahead for winter whiting fans. This same new moon period that moves so many other winter-orientated fish species will see them turn up in places they haven’t visited recently. Launching at Gatakers still seems a decent ploy for now, as River Heads departures have been very lack-lustre, and it is still typically a tad early for Urangan. Hopefully we will have more specific reports for next week and can help you pinpoint the source of your next mini seafood banquet.

Oh, and whilst we are on the winter whiting subject, it might be worth a note or two on fish size. As you all know, winteries have no minimum size limit (and an in-possession bag limit of 50). Of course, common sense should still apply when it comes to what whiting you might keep. There is an assumption that a wintery needs to exceed 20cm at least to warrant filleting. 

It is very hard to listen to complaints that the scaler bags that we supply for scaling your whiting catch have holes that are too big - when a bloke’s thumb won’t even fit through the holes! Struth people, if the whiting are that tiny, then you should be throwing them back unharmed and continuing your search for a better class of fish - surely!

There are pictures of scaler bags hereabouts that might interest some of you. Not for the abovementioned reason hopefully, but for alternatives. That being, the cleaning of tiger squid. If you don’t already know how messy that task is, then you might be in for a shock in the future. Grab a suitable ‘scaler bag’ for the purpose though and your squid can be tumble-cleaned on your way home; mess largely avoided. It is a simple enough process you can ask us about instore or look up via Google if you prefer. Worth considering for keen calamari fans.

The Wilson Scaler Bag has an optional small-mesh insert within the outer bag, rigged on a suitable rope with a quality swivel. It is our best for whiting.
This larger-meshed 'scaler bag' is more appropriate for cleaning tiger squid. Pull their heads off, chuck 'em in and toe the bag on the plane for a mile or two.

Jewies are on the chew and being caught from many inshore sites. Here's Jeff with a nice specimen caught this week.

Urangan Pier Continues to Fish Well

As intimated last week, the larger bream have started to arrive at the Urangan Pier. Bigger bream are likely to be a constant for several weeks, even months now; their bite peaking at key times relative to the moon and their spawning activities. You can target them old-school with baits of herring sourced from the pier waters, or take along a bag of mullet gut, fowl gut or mullet fillets if frozen baits are more your thing. Should that be the case, then concentrate your efforts after dark.

Flathead will be a pier special in coming weeks too. The next set of neaps should be interesting. Like pike or live herring will account for most flathead captures. A pretty cool way to catch them once spotted with the aid of polarised sunnies. Even cooler when you actually witness the flattie cruise over and pounce on your hapless livie plonked nearby.

This past week or making tides drew more pelagics back to terrorise the pier’s baitfish population. There are currently ample large greenback herring beneath the pier and plenty of pike too. School mackerel, broad-barred mackerel and golden trevally have all been caught in recent days. Let’s see if they hang around as the tides diminish this week.

There hasn’t been much reported from our town beaches, that we know of, though rock fishos are having a few highlights when working lures across the fringing reefs of Point Vernon. Whilst a stray coral trout isn’t out of the question, it has been the likes of blue salmon and smallish GTs that have taken to the lures. Good fun in clean waters where the sight-fishing factor adds that extra appeal. 

Young Finn Welch was very happy catching his favourite fish on his first attempt with a lure. Well done young fella.
Connor was duly chuffed with this nice winter-time barra.

Harry Railz followed up his thumper 125cm barra a fortnight ago with this stonker that was even bigger.
This pic of Riley & Tommy almost deserves a meme all of its own.

Other Fisheries in Brief

Squidding is ever-popular and the ‘localies’ (tiger squid) are being hotly pursued. The weather has favoured squid fans all week, so there are far less out there than there was a week ago. All the same, many will be squidding again this week, be it from a boat or the shore. 

Large broad-barred mackerel are readily available across many inshore flats and around the fringes of the bay islands. They are very easy to temp on a range of lures, just don’t go too big. They are toothy of course, but not nearly as likely to bite you off as a schoolie or spaniard. Avoid wire and you will catch way more. Now that they will no longer be netted in these parts, their numbers are likely to explode. Great news for mackerel fans, maybe not so much for squidders. 

School mackerel have been reported from many of the usual snapper hotspots inshore this week. Look for schools of herring in close, or for herring or yakkas out wider. The schoolies are readily recognisable on your sounder screen and can be easily tempted or avoided, depending on your desire. They are easy targets for trollers, spinners and bait fishos alike. The rest of us trying to avoid them whilst targeting snapper or reefies will just have to curse them once again as our lure collections get taxed.

Small schools of kingfish have turned up in the northern straits. They are not uncommon in winter, though this year’s run of fish seems to be a little larger than some in the past. Kingfisher Bay and the Picnics are a good place to start your search if you are keen to mix it with them. Live baits will tempt them, as will many lures cast or trolled, or sinking stick baits for even more fun.

Bream fishos can start to get a little more excited. The annual spawning run has nudged up a notch and schools are starting to gather in better numbers. Interestingly, there are still quite large bream well upriver, so there are still more to migrate downstream as well.

The sand crabs out in the bay are still potting in excellent numbers. A bag limit is potentially only a matter of a few hours’ soak in the right waters. No word on muddies this week, but if past weeks are anything to go by, then there will be locals feasting well yet again.

Woodgate failed to produce any prawn this week apparently, or so we hear. The Burrum system’s prawn is worth pursuing for those so inclined, as is the Mary’s. Large night-running bananas have been spotted in the lights of the barges at River Heads recently, so many will know where to go looking for them. Straits fishos should ensure they take a top pocket net for their next venture into the creeks down there too, as a feed is in the offing should their timing be right.

The Great Sandy Straits is a great place to spend a day fishing at present. You can get serious and chase a winter barra, or opt for a crack at a jewie or two. You can chase queenies and large blue salmon up on the flats, grunter or threadies in the creeks or take the easiest option of all and go looking for flatties. Bust out the finesse gear and see how the bream run is shaping up otherwise, and make sure you have squid jigs with you or you could be bitterly disappointed.

Good luck out there y’all …… Jase

Deej with the sort of sweetie caught well up north of the bay. Fish like this were almost a pest on the gutters once upon a time.
This school red was a great addition to the esky for Tom.

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