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Fisho's Weekly Fishing Report - 12th January 2023

Melissa with a cod caught trolling the inshore reefs

Moderate Trade Wind to Prevail

The wind dropped out and offered even better conditions than previously forecast last week, so many crews got to enjoy a few days of glamour conditions on the bay and offshore. The week ahead doesn’t look nearly as good unfortunately, with a moderate trade wind forecast to blow quite consistently. Luckily, we enjoy plenty of protection here on the Fraser coast and such a moderate breeze is but a nuisance and won’t stop a super keen fisho.

Today’s light-moderate ESE breeze will increase a little tomorrow and tend more southeasterly. 15-20 knots from the southeast is the bureau’s official call for Friday and this weekend. Lighter winds early will offer the best conditions wind-wise, and potentially the best bite with the moon setting mid-late morning.

Staff member Logan with a chunky blue maori cod

A shower is possible over the weekend, and even more likely early next week. The wind direction should remain consistent from the southeast and ramp up a little to average around 20 knots for a couple of days. An easing trend should then see a return to around 15 knots to see the week out. Things might get a little interesting in a week or so’s time, as the monsoon dips lower this week.

You can add an extra 5 knots to each day’s forecast for our northern offshore waters, pretty much putting offshore forays on hold until the winds ease for all but the biggest vessels and keenest crew. Heading south and crossing the Wide Bay Bar is slightly better, though caution is advised on the bar with an increasing swell.

The moon is waning and we will see the passing of the last quarter phase this Sunday. This means another period of neap tides, which will slow the fishing on some fronts and improve the odds on others. As the tides start to make next week, the fishing will improve all-round.

Daniel Goodwin with a beautiful coral trout

Big GT Action at the Pier

Diminished bait schools and a lack of their pelagic predators has meant that the primary activity out towards the end of the pier has been targeting giant trevally. Kids and adults alike have been trying their hand at this brutal form of fishing, with most losing the battle and a few trumping their adversaries. GTs up to 32kg have been landed this week.

Adrian with a solid GT caught off the Urangan Pier

Nocturnal fishos have been toying with sharks of all sizes. Some nights the sharks are quite abundant and have been giving the kids a rush. Some have tried for pencil squid with very little success. At times, there are small numbers to be caught by sinking jigs to the bottom at dawn, but for the most part, this year’s pencil squid season is a bust.

Our town beaches continue to entertain the littlies with the usual summertime run of small whiting, flathead, bream, and dart. Neap tides will make these beach-dwellers more lethargic, so trying our local creeks is a better bet for the next few days.

The one saviour of many fisho’s beach fishing forays has been the big grunter frequenting our inshore waters at present. The full moon tides saw quality fish up to and exceeding 70cm caught once again, with average grunter typically in the 50-60cm range. Lots of fun and a great feed for bait fishos and lure lovers alike.

 

Ben (above) and his son Noah (below) with some nice inshore trout

Fishing the rocks that fringe Pialba and Pt Vernon has been productive for many grunter hunters. Coral trout captures were possible for those that could keep them out of the reefy terrain as well. Whenever large schools of baitfish venture near the rocks, queenies and little GTs seem to appear from nowhere. Random as these events may be, it pays to have a couple of appropriate stickies, poppers or plastics amongst your arsenal just in case.

Our local creeks (Beelbi, O’Reagans, Eli and Pulgul) are worth a try for landlubbers chasing mangrove jacks and flathead. The latter two creeks are the least productive, but still worth a crack for anyone local to those waters. Beelbi remains the pick of the bunch, with recent captures of flathead, queenfish, GTs, bream, cod, whiting and grunter offering something for the family fisho or keen young fisho.

Jacks are certainly the favoured target species for many wandering these creeks this time of year. Dawn or dusk sessions (doused in Bushmans) flicking small poppers and stickbaits can offer heart-stopping surface strikes when your lure dances past the jacks’ lairs. Many of the jacks will only be rats, but enough 50cm+ fish call these little creeks home to justify tight drags, beefed up hooks and sturdy leaders. Jacks are an all-day option, so take an array of small paddle-tailed plastics, frogs and hardbodies and pepper the shady overhangs and structure during the day.

Burrum System Clearing Up and Improving

Dirty water has been the bane of local river fishos of late. Thankfully, our rivers are starting to settle and increased salinity levels has improved the fishing. Admittedly, the best conditions and fishing are still in the lower reaches, though the neaps will enable ventures a little further upstream.

It is all about the mangrove jacks in the Burrum system. These tenacious critters can be targeted in all four rivers, though the Gregory and Burrum offer the best access, the most structure and potentially the greatest numbers of jacks. Try all four rivers in your jack career and make your own assessments, and ensure you observe the often varied water quality in each river.

Burrum jacks can be targeted every which way but loose. Deploy dead baits such as mullet fillets, butterflied baitfish, whole fresh squid and even pillies into or in front of likely structure and you will soon tempt any residents. Catch live baits and drop prawns, poddies, flickers, herring or garfish into the same zone and they will soon react. You might need to put up with annoying muddies walking off with your baits, or bycatch of out-of-season barra, cod and the like. Bounce from spot to spot and don’t sit there all day. Go at night and you improve your chances hands-down.

Dawn, dusk and evening sessions are the go for topwater fans when chasing jacks. Retrieves vary on lure style and terrain, but one thing remains constant – you must get your lure into the zone! Casts that fall short will go unnoticed. Give floating lures a moment or two at rest after touchdown for nearby fish to react, as often they will be snatched just as you start your retrieve.

If you haven’t already got one, then get yourself a lure retrieving pole. These telescopic devices are a godsend and will give you the confidence to go the extra distance with your expensive lures. Who knows, you might even pay for the pole through other fisho’s lures you retrieve from the trees and snags.

Prawn imitations are common these days and most will tempt jacks if used correctly. Straight retrieves work a treat for lures with jiggly legs, whilst others should be sunk right to the bottom and twitched or hopped, or otherwise jerked quite quickly away from the tops of timbered structure or past larger rocks. Paddle-tails rigged weedless should be wound at a medium pace, whilst the same plastics can be hopped and drawn from the bottom on J-style jig heads as well.

Cranking hardbodies deep amongst the structure or winding them at medium pace across rock bars can tempt jacks that crunch them with gusto. Keep your offerings small when starting out and you will certainly get to tangle with more jacks. Once you reckon you are up to the task, then take on the trophies with bigger offerings and heavier tackle and you might get to pose with the critters that have been breaking hearts so often.

Darran with a nice blue salmon (above) and thready (below)

Mary System Improving

The vast creeks and channels of the Great Sandy Straits have been the preferred destinations for many fishos in recent times due to dirty water in the Mary and Susan rivers. This ploy has paid off for many, with the likes of threadfin salmon, blue salmon, grunter, jewfish, flathead, jacks and many other species taking to a range of lures and baits.

This scene is set to continue, and will undoubtedly improve further as boat traffic diminishes after the school holidays. The neaps can mean slower fishing in many of the straits’ creek systems, yet offer good times for those either chasing jacks within the creeks or opting to fish the ledges and reefs within the channels. Some surprisingly good quality reef fish will call these waters home as the water quality improves further. Avoiding further flooding this wet season seems unlikely, so make the most of such opportunities now.

The Mary system is finally starting to clear enough to warrant future forays chasing salmon. Both threadfin and blue salmon of good sizes have been caught with some consistency just of late. Average threadies are around a metre in length, with plenty over 120cm possible quite regularly for those that seek out the bigger fish. True monsters that would stretch the tape beyond the 150cm mark do swim the waters of the Mary but you need a lot of luck on your side to land one of these hard-fighting critters with so many active bull sharks in the system.

Queen T with a blue salmon and thready. Great job out-fishing Logan...again!

There seems to still be quite a few blue salmon returning to the Mary/Susan as well as down the straits. Many are fairly large fish too, though most fall well short of the metre. A 90cm blue will pull string like a 120cm threadie by the way, so be prepared for a fair old battle when hooked to the larger blues. They might not be much on the plate, but sure are great sport, and like their cousins, will make short work of inferior or light leaders.

The lower reaches of the two rivers are still the go for the most part, yet you can scan a little further upstream in the near future. Feeder creeks have been productive of late, as have the areas around the mouths thereof. This is possibly due to the roaming nature of the salmon species and their tendency to do the miles looking for prawn and baitfish. There is ample fodder in the feeder streams at present.

A very real problem in our rivers is the prevalence of bull sharks, both large and small. The little ones (and their cousins) are very common captures for live baiters and those deploying strip baits etc. The bigger models are shockers for stealing trophy sambos and can be unavoidable when they tune in to you and the schools of fish you are pursuing. Watch your scanner mid-fight as the sharks can often be spotted, though just as often it is just a massive surface explosion or unstoppable release of line that makes you aware of the unfolding carnage.

Not sure who looks more stunned, Harry or the GT? 

Other than the sambos, you might find a few grunter sneaking about over the gravelly stuff near River Heads. South Head in particular would be worth a look for grunter hunters. Jewies are possible from both heads or from the deeper waters of the mouth when the tide slows. Don’t be too surprised if big GTs turn up around the heads area either, as they are very much prone to hunt such waters this time of year.

Options for Prawns, Crabs and Squid

The prawning has been improving week by week of late. Best options remain the creeks of the straits, the feeder creeks of the Mary system, and just recently, the waters of the lower Mary and Susan. Catching bananas is a lot of fun and offers a great feed. Few could argue that bananas are anywhere near as flavoursome as the prawn species trawled offshore, but the price is right!

Look for prawn along muddy banks downstream of feeder creeks, within the creeks themselves and around any smaller drains. Often these might only be the smaller prawn, but they make for great bait and are fantastic “boilers”. Scanning deeper waters within the rivers and creeks with your sounder, particularly in slower backwaters or around deeper bends, can give away the presence of prawn schools. These are typically the larger prawn, still great for bait or boiling, but better for alternative cooking methods.

Expect great things from our prawn populations this season. Keen local prawners will score fairly regularly from now on (future flood events permitting of course). Enhanced propagation due to flooding rains and consistent brackish waters augers well for a sensational prawn season “proper” come autumn.

Mud crabbers had to battle to find untouched territory in the easily accessible waterways in recent weeks. Those that went beyond and snuck their pots into the hard-to-reach waters scored better and did so whilst largely avoiding the thieves. The muddies reacted to the full moon just passed and potted well. Most reports suggest the quality was good, with nice full bucks and not too many jennies (but far too many stories of theft and pot tampering abound).

Doing the extra miles has been necessary to score better numbers of sand crabs recently. The waters just off the Burrum coast that were so highly productive last year are failing to produce the numbers at present. Put it down to a water quality issue if you like, as the bay is a bit on the dirty side. Whatever the case, for now, you will need to burn more fuel to score big numbers of sandies or suffice with what you find inshore.

It is a similar story for pencil squid fans. Our inshore waters are a tad too dirty for the usual big annual run of pencillies inshore. Yes, there are a few out there for the taking, but they are in miniscule numbers compared with a standard season. Venture further up the bay, particularly towards Rooneys or the northern central bay and you will find better numbers of pencillies.

Things may well change, and the squid may make runs inshore in better numbers in the near future. Ensure you have a selection of small squid jigs on board and a light outfit to deploy the jigs, and you can be ready for a quick drift or two in likely waters, or at least be ready should a school of squid follow a bait or lure back to the boat.

Better Pelagic Action Wider on the Bay

The best of Hervey Bay’s spotted mackerel schools have been favouring the central and far northern bay of late. There has been a few schools in Platypus Bay closer to Fraser, but the majority of the fish have been out wider. The 25 Fathom Hole area is still central to a lot of the spotty action, as are the waters off Rooneys Point. Consistent southeasterly breezes this week may well draw the schools closer to Fraser and within range of smaller vessels seeking protection from the wind nearer the island.

The best of the mack tuna action seems to be in similar waters. This must be where the best of the bay’s miniature baitfish schools are gathered in the better quality waters. Juvenile black marlin are still a chance from around these schools of mackerel, tuna or bonito, though it is fair to say that the main biomass of billfish have moved south.

Sean and Matt with a spanish mackerel from a recent trip

Head for the 25 Fathom Hole itself, or the ledges of the Gutters further north, and you are a chance of connecting to a spanish mackerel on the troll, or on a live bait or jigged lure. Early morning sees the spaniards favouring the upper water column which suits the trollers, who can then sink lures or baits deeper to maintain the action later.

School mackerel are also in some numbers at the hole as well as over the rubbly country fringing parts of the Gutters. The wider reefs of Platypus Bay and several reefs off Rooneys are also good sites to seek school mackerel at present if you are a fan. Fairly large golden trevally have been scoffing jigs around the reefs wide of the island recently, entertaining quite a number of visiting fishos.

Spaniards, cobia and mahi mahi have been found offshore beyond the Breaksea Spit in recent times of good weather. Popping or stick baiting for the spaniards and also for big bruiser GTs can get the adrenalin rushing for the young and energetic. Jigging heavy metal really comes into its own this time of year offshore for those willing to get stretched on big AJs, green jobbies and the like. The jigs make contending with stronger currents a simpler affair and will produce trophy reefies at times too.

Thomas and Jack with a chunky Platypus Bay golden trevally

Reef Fishos Rewarded for Doing the Miles

Over the full moon tides, some reef fishos scored well and were rewarded for doing the extra miles, whilst many others struggled amongst pressured fish, sharks and what was at times a lethargic bite. Those chasing trout scored quite well out wide in the northern bay if they avoided the noahs. Once again, jigs and tea-bagged plastics did the damage for those that favour those techniques and either don’t need or cannot find live baits.

Gary (above) and Andrew (below) getting into a few trout

Offshore over the Breaksea Spit there was a mix of reefies caught. The current varied dramatically, with vastly more north towards Lady Elliot and much less (at times) east of the bar. Reds featured for a lucky few, as did the odd blue maori cod. Quality red throats were active up off the bottom and plenty of plump venus tuskies filled boxes for those drifting the scattered reefs and sandy fringes. The sharks weren’t too bad offshore for many, but not everyone was so lucky.

Brett (above) and Chris (below) with a couple of nice red emperor

Deep droppers working offshore of the bar and Fraser, and also those that ventured north and fished deep off the Bunker Group found plenty of willing fish in depths from 100-400m. There were eskies loaded with quality pearlies, snapper, jobfish varieties including rosies, rubies and flamies, and bar cod, just to mention the common species. The sharks were an issue locally in 100m, but not as bad further north. Beyond 200m, the sharks are rarely a problem.

The water is surprisingly dirty quite a distance offshore at present. Plumes of off-coloured water can be found beyond the light ship country. Water quality ebbs and flows with the tides and the EAC even this far out. Whilst this is notable, so is the proliferation of snotty big brown jellyfish in the northern bay and beyond. These creatures are a staple at times for the area, yet their numbers seem exaggerated at the moment.

Deeg with a nice ruby and bar cod from a recent deep drop mission

Bree with a couple of flametail snapper

Inshore Reefs Feeding the Masses

There has been a lot of extra mouths to feed in Hervey Bay over the holidays, and many of these folks have relished a feed of fresh reef fish, grunter or mackerel from our inshore waters. The shallow reefs have copped an absolute flogging in recent weeks, and the average results are reflecting the pressure. There were still quality coral trout and some great grunter caught, amongst catches of sweeties, cod and tuskies, but the numbers have declined as you would expect.

Melissa with a nice trout, trolled up on a Predatek Spoonbill

The deeper reefs will be the focus of many over the neaps, with a view to targeting coral trout, cod and sweetlip primarily. There are a few squire scattered around the deeper inshore reefs too, along with small numbers of scarlet sea perch. Blackall are common captures for many fishing soft baits such as prawn, squid and the like. Many newbies to the bay are keeping them and telling us they are quite palatable (though most locals still won’t put them in the esky).

Tuskies are a tasty favourite amongst reef fishos

School mackerel fans need to seek out the sites holding baitfish to find their quarry. The Outer Banks, Simpson arti and the Fairway beacon are likely haunts worth a try. Trolling diving hardbodies through our shipping channels can be quite productive early in the day, with lures such as Laser Pros, X-Raps and Rapala CD-Mags being well-proven local favourites.

Trolling deeper divers such as the now legendary Classic Dr Evil can see you picking up cod and coral trout as you pass any significant reef structure in waters up to 40 feet deep. These divers might say they dive to 20 feet plus on the packaging, but be warned – they will dive to 36 feet when trolled slowly with the tide. Bycatch can include cool fish such as scarlets and large tuskies if you are super lucky, or the likes of mackerel, golden trevally and GTs quite commonly. These are the favourite lure of our wintertime snapper trollers and a must have for any local troller.

The Dr Evil is hands down one of the best deep diving lures for our inshore reefs

Big GTs continue to terrorise any baitfish, smaller reefies or mackerel that show signs of weakness around our inshore shipwrecks and artificial reefs. They require fairly heavy tackle, good reflexes and stamina, or a ton of luck to land around these structures, but are worth targeting for anyone so inclined. Spend enough time around these sites in summertime and you will soon come into contact with them in one way or another.

Irukandji and Crocs in our Waters

We shared information from other media reports recently of cases of Irukandji syndrome in Hervey Bay waters. As you may have seen in recent press releases, not all of the incidents were actually Irukandji. Some were indeed stings from other marine jellyfish with similar, yet non-life-threatening symptoms. All the same, a couple of the stings were confirmed to be Irukandji and you should all consider precautionary measures (such as carrying vinegar on board) if you frequently swim in our waters.

Another issue that we feel needs to be raised regards estuarine crocodiles. There are signs at all of our boat ramps warning of the potential danger of crocs in our waters, yet the vast majority of folks seem to think this is a “croc”, so to speak.

A suspicious side scan screen shot from near Turkey Island recently. 

Another recent sighting of a crocodile at Maroom once again highlights the reality of their presence in our area. This is in addition to two other un-reported sightings two months ago. Both of which were in the northern sector of the Great Sandy Straits, and both were large (yet possibly also the same croc as the sightings were only 10 miles apart within the same week).

Main stream news went to air at a similar time basically telling joe public not to be concerned that there are croc traps in our waters, and that there had been no recent sightings. It is concerning that folks might take this for granted and be unduly complacent when interacting with our estuarine waters.

We have crocs in our waters. That is a fact. Your scribe has had two close encounters (in 20 years admittedly), but that was two too many. Several discussions with local fishos since have revealed a number of other genuine encounters from these stealthy and very much camera-shy creatures.

We suggest that everyone keep enjoying our beautiful stretch of coastline without fear of crocodiles, but ensure that common sense prevails. Your chances of being taken by a crocodile in our estuaries is minimal – but not zero!

Good luck out there y’all …… Jase

Staff member Bane with a nice grassie

Callum (above and below) with an ironjaw on a Mustad Winman jig and a solid amberjack

Matt with a green jobfish from a recent offshore trip

 

 

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