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Weekly Fishing Report - 10th January 2019

“Consistent” best describes our weather this past couple of weeks, as a High sits almost stationary just this side of New Zealand and the monsoon trough is well embedded across the Top End; leaving us with an ongoing stream of east to southeasterly winds. Some days have been better than others, with the recent trend of lighter winds falling mid-week looking set for a repeat. The recent new moon period fished very well for a range of species, so let’s see what transpires over the coming neaps.

The Bay

If you are an avid reader of this report then you will realise that there is only so much that can be said about chasing spotted mackerel in the bay. Basically, the spotties are still here, and in numbers, so if heading up the island or out into the central bay, start looking for the surface bust ups as soon as you steer clear of the banks. The most recent reports place the spotties off Coongul and Arch Cliffs for those looking to save on fuel, though you can expect to find plenty more north of those areas. 15-40gm metal slugs are the go on light high-speed spin tackle. Catch your limit if you are so inclined and move on, as spotties are not a suitable catch and release target with so many sharks in attendance.

Tuna numbers are on the increase throughout much of Platypus Bay and the central bay regions. Sharks are proving to be a real menace however, so consider “upping the ante” tackle-wise to stand a better chance at actually landing a few fish. Once upon a time you could tangle with huge longtails on light tackle and eventually wear them down, but those days are long gone unfortunately, and it is a more responsible angler these days that chooses appropriate gear to reduce the fight time and enjoy a healthy release thereafter.

There have been numbers of big golden trevally on the reefs in the vicinity of the Outer Banks for those looking for a bit of huff ‘n’ puff on the jigging gear. You can offer them a mix of micro jigs, softies or vibes and when in the mood they will attack all offerings with gusto. Sharks can be an issue with the goldies too, so be prepared to have some fun and move on when necessary.

Reef fishos heading to Platypus Bay, Rooneys and the Gutters have mostly struggled to put together any sort of a decent bag courtesy of the sharks. Whilst those in power, and the greens, (which could be one in the same?) choose to ignore the fact that they have enabled an imbalance of apex predators in an environment with diminishing food sources, it is up to us as responsible anglers to consider alternative options when the shark predation is at its worst. By all means head out and seek out a feed of delectable reefies when the weather allows, but be prepared to alter your game plan when faced with the dreaded taxman.

Inshore

It is certainly ironic that for quite a few of us it has become easier and more productive to seek out a feed of reef fish inshore than to head out wider this time of year. Yes, the sharks are still a major issue, but rarely is that the case over the shallow reefs. These shallows include the fringing reefs around the bay islands, Pt Vernon and Urangan Channel where good numbers of grass sweetlip, trout, cod, tuskfish, blackall and a few grunter were encountered over the recent new moon tides. Night sessions will produce better in these areas over the neaps for all bar the trout and tuskfish.

The same species can be found over many of the deeper inshore reefs at present, along with occasional small schools of scarlets, mackerel and a couple of varieties of trevally. Some enormous GT’s have taken up residence on the Roy Rufus artificial shipwrecks, and on some of the deeper ledges along the inside of Fraser. These beasts take a particular liking to stealing your hard-earned reefies on the way up, so look out. Those looking to tangle with them on purpose can choose to live bait during the day, or be there dawn, dusk or during the evening with big sinking stickbaits on the 80lb gear.

Queenies were active over the bigger new moon tides up on the flats and around the bay islands. Smaller stickbaits, poppers and a range of plastics and vibes will all account for their fair share of queenies. The neaps might see a few of these chaotic cruisers turn up at River Heads this week, as there have been plenty of fish over along the inside of Fraser and we are in the midst of a particularly dry “wet” season so far.

Great Sandy Straits & Mary/Susan Rivers

The flats and drains down the Straits and in the lower reaches of the rivers fished quite well for threadies over the new moon period. Quite a few barra have been encountered, and we trust that those finding them are releasing them immediately and not actively targeting them whilst they gather to spawn. It is only 3 weeks till the barra seasons opens, so leave them till then and just hope that we get enough rain before the 1st Feb to allow them to do their thing for the future of the species.

The dry summer has resulted in better numbers of bigger grunter remaining in our local estuaries, so if heading down the Straits or up the Susan you should take a range of small plastics and fish them hard to the bottom on the light gear. You can also find a few schools of better grunter along the many ledges on the inside of Fraser from about Kingfisher south. Don’t be surprised to catch an odd jewie or two along these ledges, along with the ever-annoying estuary cod and even reefies such as trout and sweetlip.

Burrum River System

It is all about the jacks in the Burrum system, with all four rivers up that way producing excellent fish. Muggy weather and low light conditions just scream jacks, but with so much terrain likely to hold them it can be a bit daunting for inexperienced jack anglers working the system out for the first time. There is a simple answer for those claiming they wasted hours for naught - use bait! This will help you to understand where jack lives and when he bites, and you will be amazed at how many you can catch (or be smoked by) where you just “wasted hours”.

Urangan Pier ,Town Beaches & Creeks

The Urangan Pier has fired up a bit this past week, with a real mix of pelagics visiting this iconic old FAD. GT’s have been testing the heaviest of tackle, whilst queenies have shown at times (including at night), along with a run of school and broad-barred mackerel and the odd golden trevally. The pencil squid that are so eagerly sought-after during the evening are also a possibility for those venturing out the end of the pier at first light in the morning. Sink your jigs to the bottom if looking for squid at this time.

Quite large schools of mostly small whiting kept plenty of holiday-makers and their kids entertained along our town beaches over the new moon. Expect the whiting to taper off as the tides reduce, though if you are keen you can try for them after dark for the best chance at a few keepers.

Probably the best way to secure a feed of whiting, and to have a ton of fun in the process, is to head to the outskirts of town and target them over the early making tide with micro surface poppers and stickbaits on your lightest flick stick. The flats off Eli Creek and Booral offer some of the better “whiting popping” for shore-based anglers, though onshore winds can make for difficult conditions, so choose your timing appropriately.

Our local creeks continue to produce some sensational mangrove jacks for those going the extra mile on foot, and for others you may have to settle for a mix of bream and flathead on small prawns or plastics.

Stocked Impoundments

Latest reports from Lake Monduran suggest it has been a bit hit and miss, depending upon the angler and their approach to fishing the lake. Best numbers of fish have been coming from the more heavily timbered areas on suspending hard bodies, though these have often been the smaller fish under 70cm. The dropping water level and lack of wet season rains might have the bigger fish confused (who knows), but the guides are scanning up big fish early in the mornings off the points that seem to be disappearing (moving deeper) later on. At least the winds have been consistent for the most part, so choosing which parts of the lake to fish is made that much easier.

Quite a few stonker bass have been caught recently at Monduran by anglers dropping soft vibes vertically to schooled up fish in 6-8 metres of water. The bass often favour drop offs and gullies adjacent to points, so look for fish suspended off the bottom and drop back in leader size to about 20lb to get a bite from these scrappy little Aussie battlers. You can certainly expect plenty of catfish bycatch when using this tea-bagging technique, particularly if you drop your vibe to the bottom.

Check out the “Golden Barra” competition and register online if heading up to Mondy, as no-one is yet to catch any of the specially tagged barra. With thousands of dollars in cash and prizes up for grabs, it is yet another great reason to hit the dam during the barra closed season.

Good luck out there y’all.

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