Moderate Trade Winds this Week
The mercury climbed again this last week, but thankfully, the humidity wasn’t as bad as it has been. Light winds enhanced the heat both on the water and off, so taking a dip in clear shallow water was a bonus for a few fishos. The week ahead looks different, with a lot more breeze spinning our way from the squeezing effect of a high in the Tasman and a low out New Caledonia way.
The onshore trade winds started to freshen late Wednesday and don’t look like easing in a hurry. 20-25 knots of south-easter is set to dominate our scene right through from now until Monday. There will be a few light showers blown onshore; mostly isolated or scattered at best. All in all, the weekend isn’t looking too flash, yet opportunities abound inshore for those keen to take on the breeze from a sheltered waterway.
BOM reckons the breeze will ease back below 20 knots come Tuesday, holding around the 15-knot mark through the middle of the week. If they are right long term, then the following weekend might be just as breezy as this one. Fairly typical late summer weather really.
The last of the waning moon is gradually disappearing, as we approach the new moon this Saturday. This means plenty of run in the tide, as some of the biggest tides of the summer fall this week. At their peak on Sunday, the tides will rise from a low of 0.35m to a whopping 4.24m.
The Portrait setting within your smart phone's camera will fade out the background. Clever tech for those that want their spots kept secret.
Protected Inshore Waters will be Popular
Keep the bigger tides in mind this week, as not only will it mean higher current flow, but exaggerated seas when wind and tide oppose. These very high tides can also dislodge debris from river banks and beaches etc, so there might be a few floating hazards here and there. All the same, our sheltered waters close inshore will be popular amongst those who simply must go fishing.
The Gatakers Bay / Point Vernon area continues to host a lot of crews chasing a feed of reef fish. Word is that it is fairly hard to catch a decent coral trout there at present, due no doubt to all the enhanced effort all summer. Those that ventured a short distance away and tried the fringes of Woody and Round Islands found plenty of coral trout – but they were mostly tiny. Throw backs were common, but there were the occasional keepers landed.
As is standard fare this time of year, the reefs in deeper waters such as the nearby shipping channels offer a better class of trout. Beating the bull sharks and their cousins is challenging at best and a real nightmare at worst. These big tides will be all too hard for many folks unfamiliar with fishing deeper inshore waters, so needless to say, ensure you concentrate your efforts around the tide changes if you wish to try.
The wind will keep the smaller tinnies hugging the coastline, though larger vessels can venture out into the southern bay. Time spent pursuing our summer run of inshore grunter would be time well spent, though the wind will likely restrict those activities to Point Vernon for many folks. Soaking large prawn baits day or night works a treat, though you can chase grunter on lures and have even more fun.
A school or two of spotted mackerel made a visit to the Point Vernon area this week. They could be spotted just out from the Gables and the nearby point when they were feeding, but were also encountered by trollers. Spotted mackerel have been quite elusive this past fortnight, so appearances such as this tell us just how random they can be. Where those same fish will be by the time you read this is anyone’s guess, but best you ensure you are ready for them if they bust up close inshore again.
You could take a wander out along the Urangan Pier if you prefer. There are plenty of garfish being caught on ultra-light tackle. A few small broadies have been hanging around at times too, and a flathead is possible. Evening sessions are most popular though; the squid lights suspended beneath the pier being a dead giveaway.
Take a Trip to Kingfisher Bay
Kingfisher Bay Resort’s jetty is a very popular fishing spot. Not only do visiting holiday-makers enjoy the jetty, but so too do many locals. It is a major drawcard for a variety of fish species, and squid too. Being such a major structure, perfectly positioned beyond the immediate outflow of the Mary River system, the jetty and the surrounding beach and ledges can harbour many estuarine predators as well as passing pelagics.
There is a swag of baitfish there at present. The waters are alive with food and there are plenty of predators willing to pounce on the abundant fodder. There are trevally and mackerel doing laps whilst knocking off a feed. Big blackall can be seen cruising from above and flatties, bream and plenty of whiting are on offer too.
A good class of whiting cruises the beach flats regularly over there. Often spotted from the elevated position on the jetty, they can be caught from there, but are usually targeted from the beach itself. Flathead lies give away their ambush spots, so keep an eye out for those at low tide and return to the same area when the tide fills, as so will the flathead.
Renowned for jewfish and other large estuarine predators at times, the jetty can fish very well at night. Live baiting is certainly an option, and a very good one, but lure fishing with soft vibes or large prawn imitation softies works a treat too. Ensure you have squid jigs with you any time you head to Kingfisher Bay as there are often tiger squid there and pencil squid too.
Water quality can be an issue over there at times such as these, so time your trip to target varying species. The run-out tide draws the filthy ex-river water up along the channel, but the flood tide filters in the cleaner waters again. If it is pelagics, whiting or squid that you seek, then best you head over for a high tide session.
The windy weekend ahead offers challenges for boaties, but the trip over to Kingfisher is a viable one for experienced skippers in capable vessels. The crossing to Fraser won’t appeal to all boaties, and could be quite rough and potentially very dangerous in smaller boats, particularly when the wind and tide oppose. This will be the one issue, timing-wise, for those keen to fish the cleaner high tide waters.
Launching from River Heads at the right time is a reasonable option in the right boat. Otherwise, hitching a ride with the barge from the heads is a safe and enjoyable alternative for those whose boat isn’t up to the trip or for those without a boat. Once there, you will be totally out of the prevailing south-easter and enjoying the beautiful surrounds as you catch some fish.
Kingfisher Bay Resort's jetty, looking back towards the beach. This shot was taken yesterday morning a couple of hours into the ebb tide.
The boss lady, Maina, enjoying a well-earned break over on Fraser Island's western shore. The dingo's company is just a bonus of the island life.
Take on the Inshore GTs While the Tides are Roaring
We’ve been talking up the bay’s inshore run of GTs this summer. They have been turning up at all the normal places, such as shipwrecks and deeper ledges, as well as at the Urangan Pier. This week’s raging tides will open up another prime inshore option, only enhanced by 20 knots of trade wind. Many folks are aware of the GTs that can be caught from the current lines and fringing shallows of the bay islands in such conditions, and now is the time to have a crack.
Wind and wave action not only disorientates a GT’s potential prey, but enables these brutal predators to feed ravenously without fear of detection. They can follow and attack their prey from beneath, as they will your oversized popper or stick bait. Letting the tide drain and targeting the obvious pressure points or converging currents is the go. Getting in position, with the wind at your back is pretty much mandatory, which is one major reason such activities are even better when its windy (less competition from other boats).
The giant trevally that have called the Roy Rufus shipwrecks home this summer have been up to their usual antics. They have been swiping reef fish and anything else they can get their mighty gob around. Live baiting for them has been challenging, as usual, with some winning the battle whilst others lose.
These waters are considered too deep for topwater offerings by a seeming majority – yet they are wrong. GTs have been raised from the arti this week on topwater. When in a rampaging mood, these beasts can be seen quite regularly chasing fish and/or baits to the boat. Low tide sessions before or just on dark have been proven GT bite times over these shipwrecks in the past, and probably still are.
Dave Howe caught this ripper GT on the Kgari. It is a shipwreck located on the Roy Rufus arti between Woody Island and Fraser Island.
Staff member, Scotty, with a solid GT he caught some time ago on 20lb gear. You can mix it with these bruisers this week if you wish.
Reef Fish Will Get a Reprieve this Week
With some exceptions, the reef fish will be largely safe from exploitation this week. Opportunities may arise for the odd sojourn at the right time inshore, but few will venture out wider. This should mean a good feed is in the offing once the trade wind eases. The sharks might even scatter a bit and stop lurking at so many of the better inshore hot spots (in a more perfect world maybe).
Call them scarlet sea perch, saddle-tailed snapper, or large-mouth nannygai if you like, but whatever the name, these handsome and very tasty fish have been on the chew inshore. A few deeper close spots are home to small numbers of legal-sized individuals, whilst other spots a bit further up the bay house seemingly endless numbers of smaller juveniles as well.
Scarlets are ravenous feeders when in the mood and can be quite suicidal at times. Unfortunately for them, they suffer from barotrauma very badly, so catch and release is bad news in deeper waters. You can pretty much assume that all the small scarlets you let go have very little chance of survival, vented or otherwise, in waters deeper than say 12 metres. Moving on is a good idea if confronted with undersized scarlets one after the other.
Grassy sweetlip don’t suffer barotrauma nearly as badly, so feel free to let them go if you have the luxury of being fussy about your seafood. A feed of sweeties is commonly sought after inshore by many however, and their good run this summer continues. These bottom-huggers rarely rise far from the bottom to snatch a bait (unlike their red-throat and spangled cousins), so offer them a tough bait to withstand the attentions of the smaller models and keep bouncing it back as the tide lifts it aloft.
Targeting sweeties and scarlets can be done with the same approach; even the same bait. Setting baits higher in the water column can appeal to the better class of scarlet though, as it does to snapper, so give that a try at times. Speaking of snapper, if there are any left inshore at present, then the big tides and onshore winds this week will have them on the hunt. An inshore knobby would be a rare animal right now, so bragging rights are assured if you can snare one.
Pretty much all reefies, and a few pelagics, continue to feast on the passing parade of pencil squid. Their numbers are still strong, albeit in differing areas as summer rolls on. The shipping channels are still the focus of most folks chasing squid. There have been hordes up the island and around Rooneys too, so if you are up that way after dark when the weather improves, you better make sure you have some squid jigs on board.
Queenies love lures and Coxy loves queenies.
Sharks Making Life Tough in the Northern Bay
There has been some quality reefies on offer in the northern bay – if you can beat the sharks! Chasing trophy fish at grounds such as the Gutters and off Rooneys Point is fraught with danger – for the fish and for your sanity. Settling for a good feed of more modest-sized, yet still tasty reef fish, is worth considering. Whilst we all want to catch thumping big reds and monster trout like in the good ol’ days, alas, such days are but a memory for some now. Heading wider and wider is the primary solution for the big red itch, but not everyone enjoys that capability.
If limited in range to the Gutters etc, then consider targeting the range of fringe dwellers such as venus tusk fish, moses perch and sweetlip. Smaller fish can be skull-dragged to the surface on heavy enough tackle, without getting any head-down attitude that attracts the sharks. Skull-dragging smaller fish to the boat can confuse the noahs, somewhat akin to the way fish are unceremoniously hauled up on electric reels from deeper water these days. If they fight back and get their head down, they are history.
Spanish mackerel are a no-take species right at the moment. Come the 22nd February you will be able to target them again, but only until the next closed period kicks in 1st March. There has been a few about in the northern bay too, so many a spaniard fan will be looking to get their share between or after the closures.
Interestingly, Qld commercial fisherfolk are now allowed to take sharks larger than 1.5 metres if they are line caught. This might see a reduction in shark numbers to some degree in the future, but it will take a long time to have any real effect. Whether such activity is commercially viable to an operator that has to take up valuable ice box space and ice to keep large shark barrels worth a pittance at the processor is yet to be seen.
Unacceptable levels of heavy metals (mercury etc) have kept large sharks from the seafood market for eons. The real money was in fins for some cultures willing to pay big bucks for that product. What the future holds in this regard is out of our hands, but we recreational fishos might benefit if the new regulations appeal to commercial operators. They certainly won’t have any trouble finding product out there.
Quinn had a good day out with Bobby on a Hot Reels Charter, hauling this nice jack over the side before the sharks moved in.
Venus Tusk Fish are on the chew in the northern bay. Hot Reels clients have been getting a few regularly lately.
Mary is Dirty and Susan is no Better
Fresh water run-off from our hinterland continues to flow down the Mary River. It is largely fresh for a good part of its length; salinity improving closer to the mouth. The incoming tide is struggling to make ground against the outflows at present, so best you stick to the lower reaches or look beyond the river itself. The same goes for the Susan River. Fresh waters upstream, with better chances of catching fish down closer to the heads.
There are threadfin salmon and barra on offer within a short drive from River Heads. This week’s massive tides will create their own opportunities and diminish others, so location and timing will be everything. When once you might focus on the last of the ebb tide, now the latter stages of the flood have their appeal. Rock bars are particularly productive during such times as these, as are the banks and holes nearby.
Hordes of tiny recruits from past spawns are evident in the rivers at present. Baby barra and baby sambos are great to hear about as far as future potential goes. Ensuring that these precious juveniles are handled with care and returned to the water a.s.a.p. when caught in cast nets is paramount. Ditto the juvie grunter and jewfish as well. Many of these youngsters are schooled up and pouncing on small hard bodies one after the other. Flattening barbs is a rare thing these days it seems, but worth considering during a baby barra bonanza.
Most are finding the muddy waters of the Mary and Susan too daunting and are heading for the Great Sandy Straits instead. A wise move in so many ways. Being mobile and second-guessing when and where plumes of dirty water and cleaner water will appear is part of the ‘fun’. Timing can be everything, as a spot profoundly filthy at one time can be cleaner and a highway for baitfish and predators at another.
Finding creeks with just the right mix of colour and bait can mean a windfall. Scanning these waters has never been easier thanks to the latest technology, so a quick buzz in and out of a system is just part of a day out. Sure enough, historical barra holding hotspots demand attention, and there are many within the straits.
Mangrove jacks are still hyperactive, if not somewhat more mobile than they were before the latest rains. There are quality jacks schooling outside many creeks, taking up temporary station along deeper rocky ledges or over nearby reefs. Local migration under cover of dirty water is part of their genetic make-up. The jacks can be easier to tempt in dirtier waters too by the way, being not nearly as weary as their big eyes make them when the waters are clear. If you have failed to catch pre-wet jacks in the past, now is your time for another go.
The Burrum’s jack population is on the move too, but most are still contained within the river. The Burrum is running dirty all the way to the heads right now. That dirty water has created a handy little fishery in its lower reaches. There has been jacks and barra caught, and some very nice grunter and estuary cod too. Whilst the waters are indeed filthy, this scenario is just a part of the life of riverine fish and they adapt to the changes – as should you.
Barra season is open and they are fair game once again. No doubt Dane will be eager to get out amongst them in coming weeks.
Harry catches plenty of threadies and the dirty water won't stop this from happening.
Big threadies are on the move and can be found well beyond the creeks and rivers.
Here's Billy Green with a plump little mangrove jack. They have been on the chew big time and are on the move now as well.
Sharks Haven’t Gone Far from Our Beaches
Relating observations of lesser shark numbers along our town beaches last week seemed to be a little premature. Effort may indeed be down, with less tourists in town, but there is still plenty of sharks about. Small ones, scary-sized ones, all within range of shore-based shark fishos.
The waters off O’Regans Creek and Toogoom have been teeming with large sharks for some time now. The smaller models harassing the bait fishos at Gatakers Bay are still an issue, as are the bigger models swiping fish from trollers. These big tides will put a spring in their step this week, so if you are a shark fan, then get out and mix it with them, and if not, beware.
Speaking of sharks, we published a great-looking photo of a very large hammerhead landed by some shark fisho’s last week, with the caption “Hammertime on the beach”. Having no idea as to the photo’s origin, being passed on from one to another to another to us, we were perhaps rightly called out for “fake news” and so on. Rest assured that no local credit was sought for the capture, which we are told was from Western Australian origin apparently. We just though it was a cool photo and decided to share. Ooops!
Jasper reeled in this big bull shark from our town beaches one night this week. Definitely don't go for a swim after dark.
Good Crabbing Continues
These big tides will shift our highly mobile mud crabs into overdrive this week. The full moon might well be synonymous with the best crabbing, but the new moon has its appeal too. Extra water flow can not only mean the crabs will move and feed more, but your crab pots might grow legs too. Those new to the game should ensure that their pots are duly weighted to resist the effects of higher current flow.
Many a shore-based mud crabber has scored a modest feed of late. Dirty waters in our rivers sees some crab march on beyond those streams across mudflats covered in coloured water; making the likes of the Booral Flats a happy hunting ground for a period. Crab pot theft can be decidedly less on the right stretch of flat too, given the outright exposure a potential thief would experience if they dared lift a pot out on open terrain.
The Burrum continues to give up a few crabs. Local effort soon has its impact, so only the true locals really know whose pots have been where and what areas haven’t been harvested. Luckily the crabs are moving. Soaking pots for a few hours then moving them if necessary is a good ploy before settling on spots for the overnight soak.
Burrum Heads folks are yet to get excited about the sand crabbing prospects out front, but that is likely to change sometime in March. There is still no word of any significant prawn activity. Yes, you can catch a few for bait or a very modest feed with enough effort, but proper prawning is still a future activity.
Good luck out there y’all …… Jase
Young Kade Whittle has been into the barra this time. Even at his age he is too cunning to give away backgrounds.
Kade and his dad Carlin had a fat time on the barra pre-dawn this week. Soft vibes did the damage once again.
Corey caught this fine barra at twilight this week. Evening sessions can be particularly productive, and their boofs give away their presence.
The Chartreuse Squid UV coloured Samaki Live Shrimp has been a winner with the barra. Retrofit it to an exposed jighead and beef up your leader.
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