Better Weather Ahead for School Holiday Revellers
Wow! What a week. Unseasonably chilly weather and howling winds followed by an intense heatwave. With all that in the rear-view mirror now, we can look forward to improved conditions over the coming week.
It is hardly an ideal forecast for the start of the school holidays, but when is it ever in summer. Initially, the passing of the trough tonight will give us some much-welcomed relief from the current heatwave, turning winds back onshore at 15 knots or so from the southeast tomorrow.
The weekend is looking okay, with around 15 knots of southeaster Saturday, tending more easterly and easing into Sunday. Monday should see a return of northerly winds that will dominate the working week. Weekdays are likely to see lighter northwesterly breezes in the mornings, swinging northeast and ramping up during the afternoons. Storms, or at least showers are likely mid-week at this stage.
The moon begins to wane after the passing of tonight’s full moon. Tidal flow will gradually ease day by day and our inshore waters will clear up somewhat. So, let’s take a look at possible fishing options for the coming week, with a focus on keeping the kids entertained.
River Heads Boat Ramp Pontoon Damaged
We are told that the pontoon at River Heads suffered some form of damage this week. Our attempts to clarify this issue with our local council have so far failed. They may well get back to us after this report goes out but we can wait no longer.
We are unsure whether the ramp is open or closed. Maybe those planning on using it could ask a River Heads local or seek clarification via social media. Sorry for the lack of information at this time.
Tuna Galore but Spotties Pull a Disappearing Act
Last week’s big blow was a game changer for the bay’s pelagic species. Since the winds eased, local charter operators have been back up the bay and have shared their observations. Essentially, the blow sent the spotties that were here prior either deeper in the water column or elsewhere, but there is plenty of tuna on offer and schoolies galore.
The spotted mackerel schools will return, and will soon be a regular feature of the bay’s open-water pelagic fishery. For now, keep your eyes peeled when travelling throughout the bay for small birds dipping above surface bust-ups, or white-water commotion without attending birds. Many of these bust-ups will be tuna of course, signified from afar by the sight of the tuna clearing the water’s surface.
The spotties tend to sip and slash at the baitfish on the surface without clearing the water. It is tiny baitfish such as mini versions of our future herring, hardiheads and other stocks that the spotties (and tuna) will be feasting on. They will also terrorise the likes of mini flying fish and garfish, so ensure you have a good range of metal slugs to match the hatch on any given day.
The kids can possibly have the most fun with the hordes of mack tuna. Whilst they can be flighty, they are easily tempted with smaller slugs that the kids can crank on their smaller outfits. If you haven’t handed them dedicated high-speed spinning reels and matching rods, then you can try keeping the boat in gear and motoring forward or getting them to sweep the rods to add speed to their presentations.
Tuna or spotties following a lure without striking is typically their response to an inappropriate lure size or lack of speed. You could never crank too fast. Basically, tell the kids to crank flat out and then go even faster. Obviously, care needs to be taken with lures flying out of the water at the end of retrieves, so keep the scene well-monitored.
Tuna handle reasonably well and can be speared back in after a quick happy snap. Swimming fish in the water is a no-no in our shark-infested waters. The sharks are already in nightmare proportions in some of the more popular waters such as Platypus Bay and off Rooneys, so mobility and shifting focus to smaller bust-ups and schools of fish is a daily tactic to avoid frustration and unnecessary depredation.
Spotted mackerel do not handle well at all when compared with tougher species such as tuna or trevally. We suggest you treat them as a catch and keep proposition in lieu of a catch and release target. You can still catch them and let them go of course, but way too many simply sink out of sight to feed the larger predators due to facial damage and/or removal of protective slime from contact with fishos’ hands.
If not handled, ie; released by way of a suitable de-hooker from singles retrofitted to your slugs, then a spottie’s chances of survival is vastly improved. Be very wary of sharks if attempting such a release however, and take no risks. Savvy sportsfishos will take their limit, or a feed of spotties, and move on to some other speedsters to keep the adrenalin flowing.
School mackerel offer a great alternative for the kids to target. They tend to release a bit better than their cousins and enable the kids to mix up their techniques and retrieves. Schoolies will have a crack at almost anything moving at times, but for guaranteed hook-ups you should be sinking spoon-styled metals such as Flashas and cranking them back vertically or on angles to tempt the mackerel. Broadies, spaniards and trevally are all possible bycatch when spinning vertically, and even quality reefies will snatch a spoon whilst it races away deep in the water column.
Before the latest blow, there was schoolies galore around many of the reefs within Platypus Bay. They were also very abundant in the western bay off the Burrum coast. They were making their presence felt around the deeper reefs in the local shipping channels and were also present at some of the local shipping beacons. We have no late mail on the best spots at this time, but are confident that you will find them if you find the baitfish schools.
Get the Kids onto a Marlin this Summer
Hervey Bay’s run of juvenile black marlin this season has been tremendous. Again, we haven’t had the chance to gauge the exact whereabouts of the baby blacks since the blow as at the time of writing, but hear that there are still fish up the island.
Being such juvenile fish, with huge appetites and lacking worldly experience, the bay’s baby blacks are incredibly easy to tempt and well within the realm of a junior fisho with decent fishing tackle. Tempting them is one thing of course, but then you have to hook them and then stay connected for the lengthy fight.
The kids will find the whole exercise very exciting once you get the lures out the back. From watching the spread, and scanning the waters for free-swimmers, to witnessing the aggression of a lit-up marlin as it smashes your teasers and then your lures, your junior deckies’ level of excitement will be peaking. The adrenalin, the panic, the hoots and hollers as the hooked fish greyhounds for the horizon will all remain in their memory and feature amongst stories retold for years to come.
All fishos are encouraged to release the little marlin boatside in lieu of hoisting aboard for photos, however, few could deny a junior the honour of cradling his/her first Hervey Bay black. A well-organised boat and crew will help to reduce the time taken for such memories to be recorded and hopefully the fish is released in good condition.
The offshore scene has been a complete blow-out over the past week. Small windows of opportunity might arise for larger vessels this week. A quick check of BOM’s SST chart will show you how the big finger of warm water has pushed further south, well past Fraser. The leading edge of the current is almost to the NSW border waters, so no surprise to hear of marlin and spotted mackerel off Cape Morton and Stradbroke Island recently.
This finger of hot water is well wide of Fraser, with cooler waters in close to the island proper. It might mean the heavy tackle fleet will need to burn more fuel and header wider and deeper, but it is great news for reef fishos working the offshore grounds out from Waddy Point or the Wide Bay Bar in the near future.
Sharks Hard to Beat on Deeper Reefs
Taking advantage of the bigger full moon tides and fishing our shallow fringes reefs will be the go for the next day or two. The sharks are rarely a big problem in such waters, which cannot be said for the deeper stuff. Early starts are the go ideally, though you can keep the bites coming with a little berley from an anchored boat throughout the day.
The main target species are coral trout, grunter and grass sweetlip at present. However, bycatch such as estuary cod, moses perch, stripies, tuckies, blackall and occasionally squire can add a bit of variety to the day. Baits such as squid and large prawns will tempt many of the above species, with a lightly-weighted pillie, herring or hardihead also worth sending out the back. Such a fish bait might produce a better trout or passing mackerel (just make sure you adhere to the one line per person rule if fishing in yellow zones such as Pt Vernon).
Trolling for trout is super popular these days. The size of the average trout caught is diminishing but they still keep responding to divers trolled just above the reef. The same lures that were producing 20 years ago still do, and they are joined by a few other models that all match the same general profile. Basically, a lure around 80-100mm long that dives to a select depth should be deployed and trolled quite quickly through waters slightly deeper than the lure’s diving depth. Tighten the drag on your reel and hang onto the rod.
If you head for our deeper inshore reefs, then you are likely to tangle with cod and trout over the turn of tide on live baits or jigged lures. Otherwise, drifting or anchoring and sending baits such as squid to the bottom will soon see you connecting to the growing population of grass sweetlip in the lower bay. Blackall bycatch can be significant after dark or nearer some of the heavier reef country, and squire and scarlets are also possible in the deeper channels.
The sharks are taking a terrible toll inshore, and by recent reports, they are even worse out wider. Shark-savvy locals know what to do, in keeping mobile when necessary, so we can only hope that visitors to our waters are quickly educated and don’t sit there wasting our precious piscatorial resources during these summer holidays.
The next week doesn’t look real flash for anyone keen on fishing out wider, with either too much wind or a northerly forecast taking the edge off such activities. With any luck, the lack of traffic might see a few sharks move on from the popular grounds at the Gutters and off Rooneys, and we can sneak out soon and secure a feed. Coral trout and grass sweetlip are the two mainstays in the far northern bay this time of year, but variety is always possible, with anything from reds, scarlets, spangos, squire, cod, blackall and tuskies possible if you can beat the sharks.
Chasing trophy reef fish is almost foolhardy during the warmer months on common grounds nowadays, where the sharks destroy any fish capable of pulling line or resisting the skull-drag approach. Some fishos have had to resort to electric reels and bent-butt rods just to extract decent fish, whilst others have settled for targeting lesser reefies that they can haul up unceremoniously on standard heavy reef tackle.
You may well have a better experience by traveling further and/or fishing “new” country that others haven’t discovered. Using the highly common “tea bagging softies” approach is your best bet for quickly assessing a given reef’s potential. Coral trout in particular, are very inquisitive and will pounce on a likely lure at the right stage of tide. Having said this, the alternative slow-pitch jigging technique can allow you to scope out similar waters and tempt similar fish in conditions too windy or currents too strong for the softies.
Rivers Filthy but Improving
The upper-mid reaches of the Burrum River and its tributary rivers is filthy dirty and quite fresh. The waning moon and diminishing tides will aide in clearing these waters somewhat, but for now, you will be best off sticking with the lower reaches. Grunter are possible from the Burrum Heads area, along with an odd flathead.
Mangrove jacks will respond positively to this heatwave and will remain active in coming weeks (so long as we have no further cold southerly blasts). Look for them under cover along the mangrove fringes and practice your skip-casting techniques if you wish, or chase bigger red devils deeper in the water column around sunken timber and rock bars.
The Gregory River certainly offers the greatest volume of jack-friendly country per mile, though these fish are spoilt for choice in the Cherwell, Isis and Burrum itself as well. The Gregory’s waters come from the north, whilst the other three rivers are fed from the west. Monitoring localised weather events and air temperatures might see you recognise consistent differences, though they will be subtle. Finding and fishing clearer, warmer waters will aide any lure fisho chasing jacks. You just need to modify your approach for the dirty stuff.
There is still freshwater flowing over the Mary River Barage, so the majority of the length of the mighty Mary remains pure fresh. So, the status quo remains, and fishing activities are best limited to the lower reaches. The waters from River Heads to Beaver Rock are salty and likely to produce the better fishing.
Grunter are worth pursuing over gravelly country in the vicinity of the heads itself. They will make their way back upstream when conditions improve. Threadies are easier to track down and can be caught on soft vibes, a suite of plastics or suitable hardbodies. Troll for them if you like, otherwise, seek them out around the snags, rock bars and any muddy verges holding prawns.
The muddies just started to move recently, so we would expect that a few local crabbers scored a modest feed as the full moon approached this week. Muddies will be highly sought-after for the Xmas feast, so our waters will be crowded with crab pots in the near future.
Given the extended rainfall and fresh-running upper reaches of our rivers, there is likely to be a lot more crab to the acre in the lower reaches and out in the straits generally this summer. They would otherwise be well upstream in the smallest creeks and the like this time of year, but the constant fresh flushes have forced them out.
Prawns-wise, the smaller local creeks are worth a look this time of year. So too, the waters in the rivers where the salty stuff mixes with the fresh should be scanned for signs of mature bananas in the future. Quality sounders certainly help find the better prawn schools in deeper water, whilst a feed of smaller prawn can be secured around muddy drains and the like if you are willing to put in the effort.
All-in-all, with the rivers running so fresh, the Great Sandy Straits stands out as a potentially better alternative. Many of Fraser’s western creeks have been quite fresh, but find the better water and you will find the jacks, grunter and threadies prowling these creeks.
Steer clear of the creeks and fish the deeper ledges, reefs and gravel beds and you could find yourself mixing it with anything from jewfish, grunter and jacks, to queenies, GTs, tailor and mackerel. The reef fishing down the straits can be entertaining too, and will get you away from the crowds and the sharks (to a degree).
Local Beaches Great Option for the Kids
If your idea of an enjoyable fishing session with the kids involves them catching a few whiting and maybe something more substantial, then our town beaches are for you. Protected from southerly winds and facing the northerlies, our beaches can be quite productive over the bigger tides.
Right now, with the full moon tides, there is a modest feed of whiting on offer, though you will probably have to sift through a lot of smaller ones. A few small dart, the odd little bream and maybe a flathead are all possible bycatch, but it is the chance of a large grunter that can really excite the kids if they are lucky.
Locations-wise, the Shelley Beach stretch at Torquay is the most popular. Known for whiting, and offering convenient platforms such as the storm water pipes and the groynes, this stretch of beach can be a little too crowded for some. Alternatively, the Pialba stretch, and particularly the subtle gutters in the vicinity of Wetside Water Park offer good waters for whiting and the odd flatty, and a better chance of grunter.
Dirty waters stirred up by the recent winds can see numbers of sting rays, shovel-nosed sharks and other small sharks move into our shallow beach waters. These critters can pull some string and give the kids a thrill, not to mention a quick lesson in pumping and winding etc. Chances are that the same critters are regular features at the Urangan Pier at the moment. We have not heard from anyone tempted to fish the pier’s waters since the blow.
Lake Callide’s Big Barra Stirring
As Lake Monduran gets over-crowded and the boat ramp frustrations are enhanced during the school holidays, some more adventurous fishos will look west to the waters of Lake Callide at Biloela. It is a steady 4.5-hour drive from here (or likely a tad longer now due to roadworks).
Callide is heavily stocked with barra, and possibly has Qld’s biggest impoundment barra swimming around in there right now. Interestingly, the biggest barra officially recorded from Callide’s waters is 126cm. There are most definitely fish in there that would dwarf that fish, yet such beasts need such a serious mix of luck, tackle selection, manageable terrain and even more luck, that they remain at large.
Catching Callide metre-beaters is commonplace when they come on the chew. Cold, cloudy weather and cold nights did little for encouraging a bite earlier this spring, following on from a well-reported fish kill last winter. Only a very small proportion of the lake’s barra died in the kill, and the schools are once again rampaging around the lake gorging themselves as they go.
Warmer weather, easterlies and northerlies stir Callide barra into action. These conditions often prevail this time of year. Daytime fish can be challenging at times, with the dawn, dusk and evening sessions being most productive by a long shot. Having said this, you can experience a great midday bite when the northwest wind blows gently out that way (if you can handle the heat).
Casting at the wind-blown edges is popular, and indeed Callide offers an opportunity for fishos to fish from the bank itself. It used to be weed-free, but now has a fringe of weed in some areas. Rocks and fluctuating lake levels keep it clear in many suitable spots for casters keen to park up and wander its banks.
Trollers score lots of big barra in Callide. Deeper divers and heavy swimbaits often rule during daylight hours, whilst shallower offerings can come to the fore after dark. You have the open waters of the lake to scan, looking for roaming “pelagic” barra; or can wander up the back to the creek that feeds the lake or try any wind-blown bays and the timber. The lake is not overly large, so offers the unique opportunity to fish its fringes in short time.
It isn’t just barra that attract fishos to Callide either. It is chockas with big fat yellowbelly willing to scoff all manner of suitable lures on the troll, jig or cast. And on top of that, it is one of the more popular lakes for redclaw fans seeking a feed of these tasty crustaceans.
Boat ramp congestion is not an issue at Callide. If you have a 4WD (and even without at times), you can launch from oodles of open banks around the lake. You can literally just launch and pull your trailer back out right where you park. Catching a fish from a boat whilst still on the trailer would be a cute idea and quite possible in this lake.
Accommodation-wise, Lake Callide Retreat is right there near the dam wall. Steve, Kerry and crew offer 1 and 2 bedroom cabins, powered sites and unpowered camping sites. Bilo is only about a 20-minute drive away and has all the other facilities you will need. You will need to get your tackle from us though of course.
Good luck out there y’all …… Jase