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Weekly Fishing Report - 16th February 2023

Melissa with a broad-barred mackerel

Weather Stabilises this Week

The heat was cranked right up when the north wind blew earlier this week. Thankfully, the change blew through late Tuesday and we have returned to much more pleasant conditions. Right now, we have around 15-20 knots of southeasterly and plenty of sunshine, with better conditions forecast for the weekend.

Both Saturday and Sunday are looking quite good, with basically 10-15 knots of southeasterly being the official forecast. Early risers will enjoy the best conditions. The morning’s lighter winds will likely give way to a slightly stiffer sea breeze during the afternoon – just enough to cool you off after a warm day on the water.

The onshore flow is forecast to continue throughout the working week. The breeze is likely to ramp up a little and average around the 15-knot mark. Wind direction might fluctuate between easterly and southeasterly, but should be fairly consistent and stable. We might see the odd light shower throughout the week, though nothing of any significance.

The moon continues to wane and the tides are building as we approach next Monday’s new moon phase. The tidal variation will be quite substantial throughout the weekend, peaking with around 3.8 metres of flow (to highs over 4.2m) Monday-Tuesday. Keep these spring tides in mind when planning your fishing adventures, as some inshore or estuary waters will be stirred up and filthy, and in some areas the seas will be exaggerated during periods of wind against tide.

Matty with a nice chrome coloured saltwater barra, shame about the placement of that big toe mate.

Opportunities for Offshore Forays for Larger Vessels

The wind is hardly the 5-10 knot variables that many crews favour for their offshore trips, yet the opportunity is certainly there for capable skippers and keen crews to venture across our bars or head up the Bruce looking for their offshore fix. Those with smaller vessels that venture offshore in better conditions should perhaps be considering other alternatives.

Timing of bar crossings must be considered in earnest, as big outflowing tides against an easterly sea and swell can make both our northern and southern bars messy. Consideration as to water depth is also necessary for those leaning towards a 1770 trip due to the shallow nature of the Round Hill Creek bar crossing.

Carson with a brown maori cod caught whilst tea-bagging a Chasebaits Flick Prawn rigged on an appropriate size jighead

A quick check of BOM’s Sea Surface Temperature Chart will highlight the strong current out wide off Fraser Island and the hot waters to our north. Cooler, slower-moving currents appear to be pooling towards the southern end of Fraser that would suit the reef fishing brigade, whilst the waters east of Breaksea Spit will favour those chasing pelagics or those that are keen on a summertime jigging session.

Heading north to ply the Bunker Group reef systems over the new moon tides will appeal to those familiar with those waters. Be warned though, you will need to add a little time to your trip up the Bruce, as roadworks between here and the highway and along the Bruce itself could add up to an hour to your trip.

Bad weather has given our offshore reefs a spell of late, so plenty of quality reefies should be on offer. Trout, red throat and tuskies are likely to dominate the catches from the shallower waters up north, whilst reds, scarlets and various jobbies will feed between periods of strong current out wider and deeper. The sharks are typically at their worst over the new moon tides in summer, so keep that in mind.

Regardless of your chosen destination, if you plan on fishing any deeper waters this time of year offshore, then you might want to take a good selection of jigs with you. Slow-pitch jigs can be fished in faster-moving waters much more effectively than soft plastics and are attractive to all manner of predators and even a few scavengers.

The new Nomad Squidtrex adds a whole new dimension to this fishery, offering the life-like reality of a softy, with the weight of a jig. They have been walking off our shelves and have proven themselves for the few lucky fishos that got out and gave them a test run last week. Reefies have been smashing them apparently, and very little rod work has been necessary to get the bite. Indeed, some have even left them in the rod holder and picked up quality fish the lazy way.

Matty with another hardbody crunching saltwater barra

Reef Fishos Struggle to Avoid the Sharks

As has unfortunately become the norm at this time of year, anyone heading out onto the bay seeking a feed of reefies has got the local shark population to compete with. Some score well by avoiding well-known reefs and finding their own isolated gems, whilst the remainder do battle from spot to spot as they move about trying to avoid the tax man.

The enhanced tidal flow of the summer new moons gives the sharks an extra edge and seems to increase their activity. Having said this, they are not present everywhere and a mobile crew can score a feed eventually. The age-old art of fishing at anchor has lost a lot of appeal due to the shark depredation, giving the fishos deploying lures such as jigs and heavily-weighted softies the edge.

Coral trout are hyperactive this time of year. Targeting them around the turn of tide will be necessary over the springs, so ensure you are “on the money” when the tide is turning. Cod, scarlets, reef jacks and even reds can cruise the same reefy grounds in the northern bay at this time and will take the same lures or live baits as the trout.

Those actually chasing reds and scarlets would otherwise be better served drifting likely bottom slightly deeper out in the paddock. Fringe-dwellers such as tuskies, grass sweetlip, spangled perch and the like will be active over the big tides. Simply drifting with large squid baits will soon secure a few and hopefully not draw the attention of the noahs.

Word from crews recently fishing the Gutters suggests that the spanish mackerel are thick out that way. The first of the new spanish mackerel bans concludes at midnight on the 21st of February. Spaniard fans will only have from then until the second closure kicks in on the 1st March to get their fix.

A bit of by-catch for Dylan, with this beautifully coloured QLD grouper

Focus on Deeper Reefs over the Turn of Tide

Many will save fuel whilst the wind is less than ideal and seek out a feed of reefies inshore. The big tides can certainly excite the local reef fish and a good bite is assured at times. Many fishos will struggle with the tidal flow during the middle of the run in deeper inshore waters, so if that is you, then time your efforts for the couple of hours either side of high and low tide.

Live baits, jigs and softies will appeal to any coral trout or estuary cod lurking around the deeper reefs. Their “bite” is likely to be more pronounced one side of the tide or the other, depending upon bait movement through the chosen area. Keep mobile and bounce from spot to spot looking for candidates and remember to take the difference in the timing of the tide into account as you travel around the lower bay – upper straits area.

Grass sweetlip are quite prolific in the lower bay right now. They will be here for a few months yet and are quite easy to catch. There is no denying that the better fishing for grassies is at dawn and dusk or during the evening when it comes to the shallow reefs. The same can also be said for the deeper reefs, yet they are still a very viable target during daylight hours in these deeper waters.

Scarlets are a great target over the new moon for those that can track them down inshore. They are much easier to find further north in Platypus Bay, whilst the central bay typically produces a better average-sized specimen. They are another fish that is quite easy to catch, being quite competitive and prone to fall to many lures and baits.

A bit of sportfishing action with Hot Reels Pro Fish Charters

Just a quick reminder though, that scarlets (saddle-tail / large-mouth nannygai) and their less tasty cousins, the small-mouth, suffer very badly from barotrauma. Their chances of survival if dragged up from waters beyond 10 metres deep is minimal at best, so please avoid sitting on schools of undersized fish pulling them in one after the other.

We haven’t had any recent reports regarding school mackerel in the lower bay, but they would be typically quite well-spread throughout our shipping channels this time of year. They will focus on any pencil squid or schools of small herring as they pass through these waters and will otherwise find themselves in the vicinity of any reefs or beacons holding schools of baitfish as they travel.

New Moon Favours the Shallow Reef Fishos

The last school mackerel we heard of were those found by trollers along the fringes of the Pt Vernon reefs, a few at the Outer Banks and schools of them and spaniards hanging around the Fairway occasionally.

Not everyone trolling these shallows is happy to catch the pesky mackerel, as coral trout are the more appealing target. We’ve pointed out recently that the incredible amount of fishing pressure on our inshore shallow reefs over the school holidays diminished their population dramatically, but if anyone is restricted to fishing such waters, your chances are at their best over the tides in coming days. Be on the water at dawn or miss out.

There are many other shallow reefs locally that a trout hunter could focus on. The fringes of the bay islands, the reef flats near Round Island and some stretches of ledge over along the western side of Fraser are worth a try. Again, early starts are a must. Otherwise, tie on a deeper diver if trolling is your thing and hunt appropriate depths in Urangan Channel or further down the straits and you might be pleasantly surprised. The constant cod might annoy you, but enough large trout frequent such waters to make a trolling session worthwhile.

The Pro Lure Clone Prawn has been a great option for our shallow water reefs and estuaries

Having a suitable spin outfit armed with either a topwater lures, metal slug or softie attached would be a good idea for those choosing to troll or fish the shallow reefs fringing the bay islands. These tides will see any queenfish or trevally in the area super-active. Look out for them on the sounder or look for baitfish scattering across the surface as you travel.

If you’ve got the tackle and are up to the task, then you can always opt for a popping or stick baiting session chasing GTs. The current lines spinning off the points of the bay islands are very popular haunts (though they can get a little too crowded on tides such as these). Big GTs also cruise some of the ledges along the western side of Fraser east of the very same islands. Further south, GTs are also a possibility around beacons and ledges such as those in the Ungowa area.

The shipwrecks of the Roy Rufus artificial reef, along with the Simpson and Hardy artis are also hangouts for big GTs this time of year. Huge spaniards also lurk around these structures some seasons, so keep an eye out for them. In the past, spaniards of 20-30 kilos have been known to lurk in the shadow of your anchored tinny just waiting for you to try and pull a reefy such as a squire or sweety into the boat. It can be real carnage out there at times - if it ain’t the flaming sharks, then it’s the spaniards or the GTs stealing your hard-won prize.

Burrum Heads is the Focal Point for Barra Fishos

Barramundi fans have been flocking to Burrum Heads since the season opened. Crowds of boats have been gathering at some spots which is discomforting for some, yet seemingly “the norm” for others. There is no denying the popularity of the barra fishery at the heads at present, and many have enjoyed champagne fishing. Undoubtedly, there will be ample barra fans there again this week, learning how to contend with the bigger tides.

There are a few quality grunter wandering the lower reaches of the Burrum at present as well. The big tides will favour the bait fishos soaking prawns, herring or yabbies off the deeper edges of sand banks or along gravelly stretches. Night sessions will see these grunter mooch right up onto the flats where they can be sensational sport on the light gear.

Tom with a barra from Burrum Heads

Further upriver, the barra numbers seem to dwindle out at present. Netting activity is obviously a factor, though the presence of the larger fish in numbers at the heads also suggests spawning could be in full swing. You will find the strong currents very challenging upriver over the springs, so consider scoping out the sandbanks, islands and verges without venturing too far up.

Mangrove jacks have been hyperactive of late due to the extreme heat. Late afternoon sessions can be dynamite after a hot humid day and are certainly easier on us humans as well. Water quality is good throughout much of the mid reaches suggesting this is a good starting point for jack hunters. Tidal flow will challenge lure fishos for a few days to come and favour the bait brigade. The upper reaches are quite fresh at the moment thanks to recent rains.

The Pro Lure Ultra Gar is an ultra realistic garfish imitation available in a floating and sinking version

Great Sandy Straits Prime for Estuary Predators

As the spring tides make all but the flats, rock bars and drain mouths of the lower reaches of the Mary system largely unfishable, many will shift their focus to the Great Sandy Straits. The myriad of creeks, feeder channels, rock bars, ledges and gravel beds are home to all manner of estuary predators late summer, along with a few schools of pelagics.

Barra, threadfin salmon, blue salmon and grunter will be highly mobile as they traverse the delta looking for a feed. Timing your efforts around low tide in the creeks, particularly around snags, rocks and ledges, will give you the best chance of connecting to them. Of course, those with side scanners have the definite advantage when it comes to finding the same fish during their travels.

Lucas with a solid night-time mangrove jack

The mainland creeks south of the Germans, along with most of Fraser’s western creeks are home to healthy populations of mangrove jacks. These creeks rise a little too high during these spring tide highs for optimal jack fishing over the high tide, yet offer great opportunities when the water recedes from the mangrove forest and flushes the bait and jacks back out. You will need to seek out likely ambush locations that break the current to be able to readily target the jacks with lures, or persist with short, accurate casts into likely haunts as the tide rages past.

Again, the bottom of the tide can be dynamite for jacks. They don’t need a lot of water either, with only 2-3 feet being enough to hold them. Those willing to push the boundaries in smaller vessels up the skinniest of creeks may be rewarded over the springs. Drifting in with the tide, in stealth mode, casting ahead as you go, can even offer sight fishing opportunities in the clearer creeks closer to Moon Point. Skipping prawn imitations or small topwater offerings under the mangrove canopy is also worth a try towards high tide, particularly when you can hear the jacks in the forest chomping at the crabs clinging to the mangrove roots.

Everything eats a prawn! The Pro Lure Clone Prawn rigged on a BKK Harpax jighead with a stinger treble underneath

Crustaceans on the Menu

Mud crabbers have enjoyed success in the lower reaches of the Burrum and down the Great Sandy Straits. The spring tides will flood terrain that only sees water over such high tides and experienced crabbers will be fully aware of this fact. Some are prepared to get muddy and push the limits and are rewarded at such times, whilst others will just take their chances in the mainstream.

Such big tides and a dark moon will see some movement of banana prawns. It is mostly small and medium prawns that are immediately obvious within our local creeks, yet there are likely to be patches of better prawn lurking in deeper waters as well. The prawn isn’t “running” as yet, but a decent feed is certainly obtainable for those willing to raise a sweat. The creeks around town and the creeks down the straits continue to be the best bet – for now.

Oh, and just in case you are wondering – red claw have been going nuts in some of southern Qld’s impoundments. Somerset is firing, Boondooma is producing big time, and Callide out at Biloela continues to give up a great feed. So, if you are a red claw fan, and happen to be heading to Callide chasing barra or yellas, or heading south with bass and yellas on your hit list, then take your pots and do your bit to reduce these lakes’ “noxious pests”.

Redclaw are a popular target in our QLD impoundments this time of year and make for a tasty feed

Try Beaches Out of Town for Bread and Butter

They tell us that the big northerlies a few days ago has turned the water a little too soupy for any significant pelagic action out along the Urangan Pier. Even gathering baitfish has been challenging at times, apparently. So, unless you enjoy battling the likes of sharks, shovellies and rays, then the pier wouldn’t seem overly appealing – for now. When the waters clean up and the pelagics return, we will let you know.

In the meantime, landlubbers can opt to try the local beaches for a feed of bread and butter species. Whiting fishos have been scoring a modest feed out along the Dundowran – Toogoom beaches, with a few flatties and grunter taking baits and lures in the subtle gutters or around creek mouths.

Beelbi Creek at Toogoom is still queenfish central at times, and the same queenies can be targeted across the flats when they push baitfish in within casting range. There has been a few barra, jacks and flatties taken from with the confines of Beelbi proper, and grunter are known to venture in and out of the creek with the tides.

Even Eli Creek has produced a bit of action around its mouth. Occasional raids by queenfish, and the odd visit by schools of grunter under cover of darkness add to the usual chance of a flathead downstream or mangrove jack further up. Big tides such as these can draw many fish to our flats and smaller creeks, some chasing mobile bait schools, others chasing prawns flushed out by the tides, so be prepared for anything.

Alternatively, anyone keen on a little mud-skipping could try the Booral Flats. The huge tides will drain these flats dramatically, and whilst a very challenging fishery in such conditions, it can offer a good chance of a feed. Whiting, flathead, grunter and salmon are all possible from these mudflats on bait or lures. As usual, we suggest a little extra care when wading, not just due to the pesky little bull sharks so often cruising these shallows, but also the mud crabs, stingrays and not-so-rare stonefish.

Good luck out there y’all …… Jase

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