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Fisho’s Weekly Fishing Report – 8th March, 2024

Liam and Timmy dragged this beast ashore up Rooneys way.

Strong Winds Will Keep Boaties Ashore

Last weekend was superb, making for two in a row. Good weather rarely lasts though, and the south-east trade wind took hold a couple of days ago. Things will go from bad to worse over the coming few days unfortunately, so this weekend might be one to catch up on some chores and build your stash of brownie points.

The south-easter is well-entrenched and will remain so for a few days. There’s between 20 and 25 knots out there at the moment, that could strengthen to 30 knots late in the day. Saturday is no better, nor is Sunday. It might ease slightly and be a little lighter around dawn, but not for long. The weekend is basically a blow-out with 20-30 knots of trade wind and passing showers.

The working work doesn’t start much better either unfortunately. A slight improvement Tuesday is said to precede better conditions mid-week. Those frustrated holidaymakers or locals with time off work will be champing at the bit come Wednesday and raring to get out there. Whether they will get their chance then or later is yet to be seen. How the week unfolds is questionable at this stage, given the possible variables surrounding the movements of a low-pressure system developing in the coral sea. The monsoon will redevelop up north in coming days too, so the next couple of weeks could be interesting.

It is the new moon phase that we are largely going to miss out on fishing this time around. Sunday is the day of the new, so expect large king tides before and after. There will be a significant flow in the tide which will exacerbate the wind-whipped seas when the wind and tide oppose, exaggerating what might otherwise be relatively safe inshore waters. Keep that in mind perhaps, and also consider the big high tides peaking at 4.22m from lows as low as 0.38m.

An interesting feature at Moon Point on Fraser Island at present. There is bound to be a story behind this one.

Enjoy the Fraser Island lifestyle and let the dingoes do what they do in peace.

Freezers are Well-Stocked Courtesy of Better Weather Last Week

Many boaties made the most of last weekend’s great spell of weather and blasted off into the distance. There were tales of unexpected seas and uncomfortable trips ploughing into 10 knots or so of north-easter, but many of those who slogged on through were well rewarded. Once across Breaksea Spit the seas were virtually flat, but it was a lengthy and teeth-rattling chore to get there in the more modest-sized offshore boats.

The fishing was great once again. Sharky over the shoal country, but in fairly minimal current in some areas. The usual expansive mixed bag of tasty reefies were possible if the sharks could be avoided. Driving away from prime reefy ground to avoid the noahs became all-too-common though, so some had to make do with tuskies, various cods and hussar for the table.

Those with deep drop tackle fared much better, bombing the edge of the continental shelf and the slope beyond for a good mix of pearl perch, snapper, jobfish and cod. More and more crews are gearing up with bent butt rods, electric reels and rod-mounted portable lithium batteries these days – through frustration as much as anything – as this is perhaps the only proven way to beat the noahs. Go deep and go hard.

Tim has been into the scarlets again. There have been smaller ones inshore and even better models out wider.
Wayne went wide and caught a range of reef fish, including this solid spango.
Coronation trout love Live Shrimp lures just as much as their cousins. Pretty fish Wayne.

Josh McGuire headed wide during better weather last week and caught this solid iron jaw from deep water.

Expect Big Tuna Numbers After This Blow

There is nothing like an east coast low or a sustained onshore blow in autumn to draw a larger biomass of tuna into Hervey Bay. Decent schools of longtails turned up weeks ago, and their numbers are very likely to swell. Last reports suggest the best schools and biggest numbers were out in the open waters of the central bay.

Those that banged their way up towards Wathumba and Rooneys in the developing trade wind this week did it a bit tough. Tuna were spotted more than caught for some; struggling to maintain contact and get their lures in front of highly mobile fish in the wind. Others were luckier on that front, but then had to contend with the sharks. Expect increased shark numbers to arrive with the masses of tuna, and take the usual precautions to avoid them.

Whilst the weather was still good, Platypus Bay was a pleasure to be boating on; scooting from spot-to-spot flicking or jigging lures for all manner of pelagics. The longtails were indeed hard to tempt some days, so time spent jigging for trevally or seeking out the large queenies and mackerel was time well spent. There were schools of spotties encountered again last week, proof once again that the bay’s stragglers can linger for some time. 

Too much traffic on the flats can be counter-productive for sports fishos chasing longtails or other pelagics. There will be very little traffic up the island this week, so those that are first on the scene on the right tides could be in for a good time. Baitfish seeking the shelter Fraser offers sometimes cruise right into the shallows and the predators follow. Waiting for a nice sunny day and taking a high-speed cruise not far of the beach with all eyes peeled and spin gear at the ready will be the tactic of more than one crew next week.

Jacko Kelly spent a day out with his old man aboard Tri Ton's charter vessel and had a great time, as always.

Steve tricked this solid goldie into thinking his Nomad Squidtrex was the real thing.

GTs are Ready to Rumble Inshore

The wind will likely be a tad too strong for the most part in coming days, but if the opportunity presents itself, any keen sports fisho with the gear and the gumption to take on the bay’s inshore giant trevally has the tides on their side. The roaring tide and wind in your ears are just what you want if you want to mix it with GTs in the shallows.

The usual hotspots around the bay islands, the inshore shipwrecks and ledges are joined by certain waters further down the straits as prime GT hunting grounds this week. Don’t be shocked to have a large spanish mackerel sky-rocket out of the water ballistic missile-style with your stickie or popper in its maw either. They cannot be taken at the moment, and are still totally protected until the latest closure concludes at midnight on the 21st.

You should all be well aware of the unacceptably high risk of ciguatera poisoning from affected spanish mackerel in Hervey Bay waters by now. Very large fish to 30kg and occasionally more make their way right down into the bay this time of year, and are not in any way considered safe to eat in these parts. Small ones in the single digits kilos-wise maybe, but not the big ones. 

Similarly so, large GTs are also very susceptible to, and known to carry, the same toxin. Now, there aren’t too many folks that would consider a large GT as a candidate for the table, but we are informed that someone did recently, and the folks the fish was shared with came down with the dreaded illness. It’s a nasty one, all round, so perhaps google ciguatera and familiarise yourself with this issue if you feel the need.

Some say that XOS cobia are also risky for ciguatera poisoning, though cases are rare. They are certainly a big garbage-guts that will hoover up all sorts of fish, crabs and so on. Fish to 20kg or so don’t seem to be an issue. You might re-think taking the big 30kg monsters though. School-sized cobes are poking about in the northern bay and offshore at present, offering a bit of a workout for those getting them on jigging gear.

Steve with a solid cobia. These bruisers are highly mobile and are turning up in the northern bay and offshore in varying sizes.

Matt hauled in this solid estuary cod recently. These critters are at their most ravenous summer into autumn.

Nomad Squidtrex vibes are deadly on all manner of reefies, especially scarlets, as Lochie can attest.

Seeking Sport or a Feed from Protected Waters

 A little tamer than a session chucking oversized topwater lures at GTs, would be an outing somewhat similar, but even closer inshore and out of the wind on lighter tackle - ie; chasing queenfish. The protected waters accessed via Gatakers Bay boat ramp offer you a crack at queenies (and other bycatch), but you might need to take on the wind around the corner. Consider the effect of the wind on your casting capability and be realistic. It is very much doable, but certainly not for everyone.

A sneaky dawn-buster trolling session will probably be on the cards for a few diehards. Coral trout in the shallows have been pestered to death this summer and what is left isn’t all that encouraging, but the tides are great and some might find a close run or two appealing. Anchoring in the sheltered waters and soaking baits for grunter, sweeties and other reefies has potential. Your sanity will be better maintained if such efforts coincide with periods when wind and tide aren’t opposed. Those familiar with the yawing boat and snagged lines at other times will know what I mean.

Our reefies will otherwise enjoy a reprieve this week, or at least until Wednesday perhaps. Once the weather improves, the hunt will be back on for coral trout, cod, scarlets and sweeties in the deeper waters of the southern bay. Grunter hunters will be back out again too, seeking these fine table fish from the usual grounds.

A man's gotta troll when a man's gotta troll. Luke with another victim of his faved Grumpy Lures Trout Candy.
Mel took a spell from trolling and picked up a nice 46cm grassy bait fishing. There are plenty like this out there this time of year.
Deej's other half Dana with a chunky little bluey from a recent outing.
Dinner was sorted for Jeff with this nice bluey.

Timing is Everything if Heading Down the Straits

There are miles of protected waters to enjoy nestled in behind the western shores of Fraser Island – but you need to get there first. Small boat skippers should be very wary of the strong currents and exposed stretches of water that lie between our boat ramps and the safe haven over near the island – and think twice! 

Larger boat owners could time any such trip to coincide with the lower stage of the tide (preferably when the tide is ebbing), but would still be in for a hard time. Take no risks, and avoid periods of high wind (which in reality negates much of the coming four days). If you do get over there, remember that you need to get back, and the periods of high water and an incoming tide will be super-treacherous while the wind is up. Again, don’t risk it unless safe!

The rewards of such an adventure might be catches of reef fish, large estuarine predators such as barra, salmon, jacks, grunter or even jewies, as well as potentially queenfish or perhaps a GT. The challenge won’t just be the crossing, but contending with the wind swirling wildly as it eddies off varying landforms, as well as the stronger current. If you are unfamiliar with fishing such waters in high winds, then you will be on a very steep learning curve.

Recent straits catches included all of the above, and quite a few decent flathead too. The grunter have been hard to track down for some folks; not realising just how much they migrate this time of year perhaps. It is such a shame the wind will be up this weekend, as otherwise the new moon tides would certainly offer champagne straits fishing for those in the know.

Billy was happy with this nice salty.
Blue salmon are very common in our creeks and rivers. Here's Lachlan with a decent blue he caught recently.


Water Quality Still Varies in Our Rivers

The wind and strong currents will keep all but the true river diehards of the Mary this weekend. Recent catches suggest the lower reaches is still the area to focus on, though the threadies are starting to gorge on the amassing jelly prawn, drawing some fish back upriver. Bait fishos should do better than lure fishos in the roaring tide when it comes to barra, but the option to fish calmer waters out of the wind during slack water still appeals. Consider the flood tide in lieu of the ebb otherwise and adjust your tactics to suit.

The mouth of the Burrum has been very clear at high tide. Dirty water upstream will be pushed down with these bigger tides, but the return flush from the sea will see the clarity improve once again. Most efforts have centred around the flood tide and rocky areas when it comes to barra, and the same periods have been productive for jacks too. The fish will get a spell this weekend from the majority of us, but anyone on the water at night over these darks will likely hear some very special sounds. Enough to spook the odd inexperienced fisho and reason enough to be glad you aren’t a mullet or a prawn.

The big tidal flush may well get some grunter on the move in the heads area, and perhaps some whiting over the banks. Any fish out the front will be safe until the weather improves, and by then the tides will carry less favour. All the same, a day out in pleasant conditions on a less favourable tide beats a nightmare trip on the better tides any time.

Corey doesn't mind getting his feet muddy. Jacks are the reward for those willing to go the extra mile.
A nice barra for Joe. Schools of barra will move significant distances on these big tides.
Mangrove jacks like this one of Joe's continue to chew their heads off. They are a great target option over the darks.


Banana Prawn Fans Get Your Nets Ready

Experienced prawners will be taking note of the cooler conditions, recent localised rainfall and strong onshore blow right now. This new moon period is a potential game changer on the prawning front. It has been way too hot until now, and will still be warm for a while yet apparently, but the first decent sniffs of mobile prawn have been noted in recent days. Not large prawn. Boilers more than fryers you might say. Tasty buggers all the same.

I wouldn’t dare blow the whistle on the burgeoning prawn fishery this early in the piece. The grapevine and social media fanatics will do that soon enough. Suffice to say, take a peek in the smaller creeks, or scope out waters in a larger river where cleaner waters are mixing with the dirty stuff. A few of us learnt to taste the water to track down the prawn back in the day. Sounders can do that task even better these days.

Throwing cast nets in 25 knots of wind is a real pain in the proverbial by the way. However, many locals will recall a few such events similar to this blow from past years that had us all lined up along protected shores, backs to the wind throwing for bananas in a few metres of water. Top pocket cast net sales are very likely to spike in coming weeks for us in the tackle game. Sales will be slow initially as the locals all have good nets, but then the grapevine will spread and it will be on for young and old – hopefully.

We have had some lovely rain this summer, and continue to enjoy light falls. The lack of flooding is a concern, when considering the resultant banana prawn bonanza that major flooding triggers if said floods occur at the right time. However, the upper reaches of our rivers are very much pure freshwater right now and the brackish waters further downstream harbour ever-growing prawn progeny and enable it to grow at a very fast rate. Less energy wasted exuding salt from its body enables a prawn to feast and grow quickly. The more jelly prawn that emerges the better right now.

Stay tuned for updates as this prawn season unfolds. I will share a few tips on the wheres, hows and whens in a future report. But for now, if you are familiar with the Hervey Bay prawn scene, you have reason to dust off your nets and get ready for happy days ahead. After all, this season simply has to be better than last year – it couldn’t possibly be worse!

New instore just this week - the King Brown Killer Prawn - tried, tested and proven. Get in quick as initial stocks will sell out in no time.
Master Bates loves the sweetlips.


Crabbers Had a Blinder Last Week

As summer gave way to autumn, the local mud crabbing just went from good to great! Last weekend in particular was sensational. The muddies decided to march on in earnest, spurred on by stormy nights and post full moon tides. Crabs retreating back up local creeks were intercepted, and in really good numbers. It isn’t often that a crabber can share small creeks with so many others and walk away with a bag limit of muddies. Struth, half the time they are lucky to walk away with all their pots!

Our local creeks fired, the Mary fired and very likely the Susan and the Burrum system gave up good crab as well. Just how full the crabs have been, and so consistently has also been very satisfying; meaning more reward for effort and no need to throw back empty bucks. Short soaks were all that was required for some crabbers, particularly either side of the recent evening storms. Overnight soaks also produced too, and on occasion, pots had multiple occupants which is a real treat these days.

Will the crabbing bonanza continue? Possibly so. Most of you won’t be going fishing for a few days, so you might as well put some pots out and have a crack. The big tides will be racing, so ensure you secure your pots, or add weights if necessary. Recent movements suggest a migration back upstream, but for now the crabs have been in very accessible waters.

Once the weather improves, the sand crabbers will be trying their luck out off the Burrum coast once again. There was a good sniff of early season sandies out that way just recently, and this should be just the start of better things to come.

Ash scored a great feed of muddies last weekend. His best pot contained 5 bucks, and he had to let crabs go.

Tim O'Neill smashed the muddies after Sunday night's storms. A great haul for a 3 hour soak.


GTs at the Pier and Grunter Along Our Beaches

Going on stories getting around of mud crabs being picked up free-hand on the flats by boaties wandering our inshore waters, you would think that there might even be the odd morsel swimming past the Urangan Pier. Sandies have been known to swim by in the months of May and November in the past, in numbers sufficient to warrant the lowering of a dilly or two by regulars. By “dillies” I mean the double ringed drop nets by the way, as witches hat dillies have been banned in Qld for eons.

The only real news from the pier this week has been of the return of the giant trevally. Live baiting efforts have been tempting them once again, and as usual, more battles are lost than won when these brutes are hooked. Sharks will be on some folks’ minds as they lug their heavy tackle out the end after dark this week. That is, if they believe they can contend with the wind. It will be extremely challenging and potentially frustrating for ballooning baits out.

Many boaties will be grounded this weekend, and some might consider joining the regular landlubbers for a wander along our protected stretches of beach. The big tides will have the whiting on the job, though west of town will produce better than our town beaches will.

Grunter will be the main target species for a savvy few that have tuned into this fishery over the years. Its easy enough, be it via bait fishing or lure fishing methods. These big tides are the tides to try, and results will come to those who read the beach right. Efforts during the early flood tide will hopefully be rewarded, as will time spent fishing after dark.

Otherwise, wandering the banks of our local creeks could produce a few nice fish. Grunter are possible, as are barra, queenies and flathead. If the jelly prawn is flushed out, then the whiting will pounce, but extremely windy periods won’t favour those seeking them on topwater. There has been a continuous run of quality mangrove jack from our local creeks (particularly the upper reaches) and this run won’t abate over the darks.

Good luck out there y’all …… Jase

More photos from Dane's recent trip to the Swains with the Wilson Fishing crew. This spaniard fell victim of the Duo Fumble.
Dane and Dicko with a very common double hook-up. Zerek Live Shrimps and Mustad Wingman jigs are essential lures for Swains trips.
Dane and Shane with a pigeon pair of GTs on the well-proven Duo Fumble 230s.
Mustad Staggerbod jigs in 150 and 200gm were standouts. Here's Nick and Dane with the evidence.
Picking strawberries Swains-style. These fish came out of 40m and were all victim of the go-to coloured Mustad Wingman pictured.
Standard fair for Swains Reefs trips. Take plenty of Zerek Live Shrimp and your limit of tasty trout and RTEs is assured.
The Mustad Staggerbod strikes again. Steve with a solid green jobbie.
There's that Mustad Wingman colour again. Make sure you have a few of these if heading for the coral sea.
Zerek Live Shrimps and heavy jig heads are must-take lures for any coral sea adventure.

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