Garry was stoked to tick off his first black marlin. We're lucky to have such a unique fishery on our doorstep. Pic: HBFS
Showers and Storms on the Way
Putting last week’s heatwave and intense northerly winds behind us, we are now enjoying a cooler change. It has been too windy for fishing open waters lately, apart from today for those lucky enough to have the day off.
The forecast suggests we are in for a much-needed spell of showers and storms over the weekend and into next week. The wind will stiffen tomorrow from the southeast and will blow up to at least 25 knots at times during the weekend. It looks as though the wind will then swing through the west into the north early in the week, before settling into a pleasant spell of light northerlies with afternoon sea breezes by mid-week.
The tides are building towards next Tuesday’s new moon, which will see increasing run in the tide daily till then. Those lucky enough to have days off during the mid-to-latter part of next week should enjoy a few good days on the water, with good tidal flow and light winds.
Pier and Local Beaches Hotspots for Rampaging Pelagics
Just as most boaties have been stranded ashore due to the recent weather, local landlubbers have been having a ball chasing queenfish and trevally from our local beaches and the Urangan Pier.
Masses of hardiheads blown in by the northerly winds last week attracted a number of golden trevally and queenfish to the Torquay – Urangan stretch of our town beach. The rock groynes were central to the best of the action, with the hapless baitfish balled up against the groynes being smashed by their pursuing predators.
More hardiheads and gar sought shelter under the Urangan Pier from the wild winds recently, only to be hammered by broad-barred mackerel up on the sandbank. The queenies and goldies are also likely visitors to the pier waters whilst the baitfish are in such numbers.
Giant trevally have been frequent captures from the pier lately, with many fish in the “average” 15-25kg range being landed whilst much larger fish have been proving too much to handle for most. An exception, and an exceptional GT at that, was an estimated 45kg monster landed and released by a local pier regular about a week ago. Big nasty GT’s of that calibre will be there for a while yet, whilst ever the water quality is good.
Nocturnal pier-goers seeking a feed of pencil squid have been hanging their lights from the end section most nights when the weather allows. Dirty water associated with strong northerlies sees the squid numbers taper off, but they soon return when the water cleans up.
Gear up with a light outfit and tiny 1.5 - 2.0 sized squid jigs, a light source, or at least some light sticks or strobes and fish either side of high tide during the evening. Some nights you might score only a few, but when they really show up, you can score your limit in no time. A bag limit of 50 (in possession) was introduced for pencil squid last year, which is probably a good thing nowadays that all and sundry know how, when and where to catch these squid.
Back around the full moon there were a few locals getting stuck into the garfish from the rock groynes. The bigger new moon tides should see a return of these supposedly tasty little delicacies to the same groynes and possibly the pier. Tiny hooks, baited with pieces of prawn or yabby are the go, suspended under a quill float on the lightest gear you own.
In addition, there has been schools of whiting gathered along the Scarness and Torquay beaches. The majority of these whiting have been too small to keep, but a potential feed is on offer over the new moon if you wish to try.
Jacks on the Chew, But Threadies Hard to Find
The sweltering heat and small tides last week combined to provide some insane fishing for mangrove jacks. The Burrum system produced the goods for many, with the bait fishos again showing the way in both number and size of fish caught. Even though a cool change has moved through our region, the waters are now hot and the jacks will continue to feed regularly.
Next week’s bigger tides will favour those looking to target jacks within the creeks of the Great Sandy Straits. The bigger 4m high tides will see a little too much water in many of Fraser’s western creeks over the high, but once it starts to recede, the jacks will move back out from the mangrove forest and settle into ambush mode along the snag studded drop-offs.
Those very same 4m high tides will enable small boaters or kayakers to gain access, albeit temporarily, to the jack filled upper reaches of some of the mainland creeks down the straits. Obviously, whilst the fires are still burning over on Fraser, some consideration should be given to smoke issues when venturing down the straits.
Quite a few hopefuls charging up the Mary and Susan Rivers looking for threadfin salmon are coming up empty-handed. Unfortunately, this year’s salmon stocks are seemingly at an all-time low. Quality threadies can be found, but the smaller numbers of fish make the task a little harder.
Next week’s big tides will see a few threadies showing up in the lower reaches, with the big gutters in particular being likely haunts for threadies chasing baitfish forced off the mudflats through the drains. Trollers will be in for a good crack at the threadies as they will be mobile and are quite ravenous when on the move. If you can get two lures out the back, then try a herring profile and a garfish profile in tandem when trolling the shallow stretches.
Grunter have been more consistent in our rivers of late, as well as throughout many of the creeks down the straits. Bait fishos are scoring well when the pickers aren’t too bad, but the lure fishos often get the most consistent quality nowadays. As always, hopping small plastics or soft vibes over gravelly bottom works a treat for grunter.
Our inshore reefs and their inhabitants have enjoyed a reasonable reprieve from angler effort due to the weather of late. Those that got out on the better days have reported good numbers of grass sweetlip from the fringe of the reefs surrounding the top of Woody Island. The same species can also be found over the rubbly bottom of the Urangan Channel and around the many deeper reefs within our shipping channels.
Coral trout can be trolled-up early in the morning around the fringing reefs of Woody Island. Spear-fishing is not permitted along this eastern shore of Woody and for that reason there are still good numbers of trout on offer. The same goes for the Roy Rufus artificial reef, where quality trout can be caught over the turn of tide if you can beat the sharks to the boat.
Estuary cod are quite prolific locally and inhabit most of our reef systems. They are suckers for a live bait during the slower stages of the tide and are quite often considered bycatch for those chasing trout. Cod will also take a range of slow-trolled deep diving hardbodies, whether along the fringes of the shallow reefs or out wider in the deeper water.
Please avoid being greedy and killing excessive numbers of cod. These cod are very important fish when it comes to the health of a given reef system. They apparently use their pectoral fins and their tail wrist to dig out and sweep sand from beneath the hard reef, which provides nooks and crannies for them and other fish to shelter in. Not only that, but they tend to gorge on happy moments and are said to keep them at bay if there are numbers of large cod on a reef.
Mackerel, Trevally and Queenfish on Offer Inshore
The NU2 beacon, the shipwreck nearby, and the adjacent shipping channel have been focal points for commercial and recreational fishers over the past week when the weather allowed. School and spanish mackerel have been the main targets, but plenty of trevally and queenfish have also been caught in the area. Such intense fishing effort may well see those waters devoid of fish in the near future, however, the presence of such numbers of those species suggests baitfish (likely herring) are moving through the area.
If you want to catch big goldies on jigs book a trip with Tri from Fraser Guided Fishing, he's the man!
School mackerel are possible from other inshore reefs within our local shipping channels, so long as there is a bait source hanging off the reef to attract the macks. As pencil squid move through the area, the mackerel can be well-scattered throughout these channels and will often be found in the vicinity of the best patches of squid. Trolling diving lures can be highly productive at this time, and is a simple matter of setting up a troll pattern that will see you follow the verges of the channels and also pass over any likely baitfish-holding reef systems.
A few trevally and plenty of queenies have been frequenting the bottom of Woody Island and the Picnics. Big bruising GT’s are possible from the same areas over the bigger tides, particularly during the afternoons. In fact, GT’s are again proving to be an issue for those trying to land reef fish around the Roy Rufus arti shipwrecks, and they will be entrenched in that area for some time to come.
Spike in Pelagic Activity Likely Over New Moon
If the weather forecasters are on the money, then there will be a great opportunity for sportsfishos to head up into Platypus Bay late next week on the hunt for pelagics. Obviously, baby black marlin will be high on the list for many, and going on the most recent reports from the area, there should be plenty of fish to go around. The local guides have been catching a few when the weather provided access to the bay, and others have reported sighting up to 5 fish per day.
The strong southeaster this weekend should see the spotted mackerel schools push down into southern Platypus Bay. Tending to feed into the wind, they will be pushing the “rain bait” into the waves of the southeaster making them easier targets. Surface-feeding schools of spotties should not be hard to find for anyone venturing up into the bay in the near future.
Mack tuna schools have been prolific of late throughout Platypus Bay and the central bay. Longtail tuna numbers are also on the increase from what we are told, so there will be no shortage of commotion on the surface up that way.
The old mac tuna isn't as highly sought after as the longtail tuna, but they still pull plenty of string and can be super fussy at times. Pic: Fraser Guided Fishing
You can still find plenty of trevally hanging around some of the reefs up that way, with goldies, brassies and little GT’s being some of the most common. Don’t be surprised to spot a big black GT or perhaps a small school of them or queenies when travelling the beach along the inside of Fraser, not to mention pods of longtails should you venture northwards beyond Wathumba.
So, all in all, things are looking rosy for the adrenalin junkies out chasing pelagics in the near future. Arm yourself with plenty of metal slugs in the 20-50 gram range for the spotties and tuna, some stickbaits in case the tuna are chasing gar or flying fish, and a few jerkshad-styled plastics on heavy jigheads for the tuna and trevors. Don’t rely on just light tackle for this caper nowadays, as the shark problem we are forced to live with is very real and demands heavier tackle to subdue the target fish in quick time.
Weeks of fairly consistent northerly winds saw a great bite at Mondy for those that chose to fish the late afternoons into the evening. Dawn sessions were also productive for some, but fairly short-lived. Speaking from first hand experience, the dam can be a fickle place but super productive if you put in the hours.
The change in the fishery last week, after several weeks of such a consistent “edge” or “near edge” bite was dramatic. For much of the lake, in particular the mid to upper reaches, the fish vacated the banks and shallows and moved out along the timber studded drop-offs to the main river and creek courses.
Rusty's Lake Monduran Barra Charters has been getting into the barra action at Lake Monduran.
Side-scanning sounders made finding these fish much easier, once you could force yourself away from the more traditional waters around the fringes. Big barra in loose schools suspended within and around the tree tops in 40-60 feet of water were a common sight once you found the right areas.
Slow-rolling long bodied paddle-tailed plastics or slashing garfish-profiled hardbodies tempted a few fish, but as has often been the case lately, they can prove difficult to tempt when not in the mood.
Stay with the fish, keep casting and change retrieve speed to see what will get a reaction. It has been amazing just how fast a retrieve a barra will respond to when the waters are hot.
Speaking of hot water, this is possibly part of the reason for the fish moving out along the deeper drop-offs. The waters have been consistently warm, peaking at around 32°C late in the day when the northerlies dominated. Perhaps the fish also respond to the scent of rains and could well be making their way to the river course to head downstream when the big rains come.
Pic: Rusty's Lake Monduran Barra Charters
Whatever the case, the whole scene is changing at Mondy. The water level is dropping at a rapid rate. It is now sitting at around 48% of capacity and is dropping by what appears to be more than 20cm per week. This much water being pumped from the lake is a game changer and can see incredible fisheries develop in pockets of the dam where vast flats become too shallow for the fish to reside and they move out en-masse, feeding as they shift.
The lower reaches of the lake are also in a state of flux, with more and more fish moving into the large open expanses of the river course and indeed the main basin. This is now offering a prime opportunity to trollers, who can ply their craft along the timbered edges of the water courses or along ridges, gullies and drop-offs in the main bodies of water.
It is glaringly obvious when the trollers are having success from the occasional dead barra seen floating in the lake. There are a few floating carcasses in the main basin and Bird Bay right now. These dead fish are a sure sign of either poor handling, or barotrauma caused by fish being brought to the surface after fighting deep (or both). Perhaps the best you can do to avoid killing these magnificent creatures unnecessarily is to fight them with as much drag as you dare and keep them from diving too deep. Lifting fish inappropriately or leaving them to lie on a hot surface should be avoided by all, whether trolling or otherwise.
Pic: Rusty's Lake Monduran Barra Charters
Typically overlooked by barra fishos is the incredible bass fishery on offer in Mondy. Big bass are available in substantial numbers for anyone so inclined to target them. Good places to start include the very same river-edge drop-offs and deeper points that the barra favoured recently.
Trolling these areas with deep diving bass lures capable of depths or 4-5 metres has been scoring some serious numbers for a couple of intrepid bass fishos. Including a local couple, that usually fish Lenthalls for bass, but have been visiting Mondy for a quick day trip and scoring around a dozen fish each trip. Considering that those trips have only been for morning sessions and that all the bass have been between 40-48cm fork length, it makes the drive up the Bruce more than worthwhile.
Good luck out there y’all.