A nice cobia caught on a recent charter with Tri from Fraser Guided Fishing.
Spectacular Weather Ahead
That bitterly cold polar blast yesterday was certainly a shock to the system. As tough as it was for us here locally, it was barely a shadow of the painfully cold chill from down south that hit Townsville last night. But we Queenslanders won’t talk about that ….
Check out your favourite weather site and you will see the fantastic spell of light winds and clear skies we can look forward to over the coming week. Barely 5 knots of southwester each morning, with the same from the northeast in the afternoons – absolutely perfect!
Tonight’s new moon sees a peak in the tidal flow. The post-new moon tides are particularly productive for a range of species, particularly reefies. Undoubtedly, our waters will be popular over the coming week, and our boat ramps hectic. If you’ve got a capable vessel, then do the miles while the weather is so good and get away from the crowds.
Such good weather typically sees many skippers lean on the throttle and bolt for the horizon at full tilt. By all means do so, but please be aware of the presence of humpback whales in our offshore waters. Whether heading off Fraser Island or further north, then the chances of crossing paths with migrating whales is very real.
Whilst they often laze about barely sub-surface in the bay during our local whale watch season (which is about 6 weeks away), they tend to be constantly travelling in offshore waters. The glass-out conditions will make them easy to spot, so keep an eye out and avoid them whilst traveling at speed.
The reason for mentioning the whales this week is partly due to the appearance of a humpback in the river that was filmed by folks standing on the pontoon at River Heads. Is this whale lost? Probably so, but good reason to be vigilant all the same – even in local inshore waters. Obviously, keep the whale issue in mind late winter into spring, and enjoy the fantastic spectacle that these leviathans offer when the season approaches.
A Humpback Whale mid flight.
The weather has been quite restrictive for several weekends in a row now, so we would expect that every offshore-capable vessel will be crewed up and heading for distant hotspots. Here’s a quick rundown on what might be expected from some areas for those heading offshore.
The grounds within 10 miles of the Wide Bay Bar are likely to produce quality snapper and lots of squire. Pearl perch will also be found on some grounds and though not typically large in these closer waters, they can reach reasonable size and are worthy targets purely due to their exceptional eating qualities.
Look for baitfish holding above likely reefy bottom and target the snapper and pearlies on live yakkas, butterflied yakkas or other baitfish. Anchoring and berleying can enable floatlining for the snapper, but success will be dictated by the local shark population. Being mobile, and deploying soft plastics or slow-pitch jigs can be highly successful and see you often plucking the better-quality fish from areas where the “pickers” are abundant.
Expect to find estuary cod, grass sweetlip, possibly large scarlets and moses perch on some of the close grounds, with cobia, spaniards and longtail tuna all possibilities around the bigger bait schools. Mulloway jew will also be found on the right spots in quite close - often wrecks, sink holes or ledges offering comfort and protection from the current and their predators (sharks).
Out wider, red emperor will be the major target for many, fishing large baits on appropriate tackle over isolated rocks and rubble country scattered across the paddock. Venus tuskfish, hussar, snapper, pearlies, cobia, amberjack and kingfish are all possibilities out wide.
Crossing the Breaksea Spit north of Fraser will put you in offshore reef fishing nirvana – potentially. We say “potentially” as the shark activity out there over the shoals and the shelf waters can make the fishing challenging. Be mobile and willing to ply differing depths and you will score a great feed. You will go through some gear, partly from unstoppables reefies, but more-so the noahs, so don’t scrimp on terminal gear or bait.
Large baits such as live or dead yakkas, whole mullet fillets, whole pencillies, large squid heads, or split-tailed hussar fillets drifted over the right country can produce red emperor for those lucky or skilled enough to find them. Typically, the reds will be found over smaller, isolated lumps and bumps, but a few turn up over the larger shoaly country often enough. Reds can be a bit random over the spit this time of year, but are a very worthy target on other grounds.
Using larger baits is handy when drifting the shoal country due to the significant number of small fish carpeting the bottom. Picker-resistant baits will survive long enough for the better fish to home in and steal it from the pickers. The list of potential reefies this time of year is expansive, and includes the likes of maori cod, coronation trout, red throat, tuskies, hussar, moses, spangled emperor, pearlies and even mangrove jacks for those hanging out there overnight.
Above the bottom you can also expect green jobbies, amberjack and snapper on some grounds. Once again, dropping lures such as plastics and jigs can produce some of the better fish found up off the bottom, and also enable a crew to be vastly more mobile if the sharks prove to be a hassle.
Hit the deeper waters along the tip of the continental shelf in 100m and you can expect to find snapper, pearl perch, pigfish, rosy jobfish and dirty big amberjack. The sharks can be particularly troublesome in this depth of water nowadays, and such a long wind up from the bottom makes them even harder to beat.
Those crews with deep dropping tackle can ply the deeper waters along the slope of the shelf and typically won’t encounter the sharks unless there are pelagic oceanic varieties lurking near the surface. Fishing depths from 200m and beyond can see all manner of deep water ooglies coming over the side, with pearl perch, snapper, various jobfish species, bar cod, comet cod and blue eye all possible from different depths. We trust we will have plenty of photos of the prettier versions from the deep water for next week’s report.
Pics: Hervey Bay Fly & Sportfishing
Head North and Wide
Several crews will opt to point the bow towards Lady Elliot Island and fish the highly productive waters both offshore and inshore in the area. Red emperor will be a major target and this area is one of the better hunting grounds for reds. Reef fish variety is substantial up that way and can include a lot of the species found over the Sandy Cape Shoals or the GBR as well as “inshore” species such as bar cheek trout and large grass sweetlip.
The sharks can be shocking up that way, particularly over the dark of the moon, and strong currents can be anticipated over much of that country. Time your efforts around key bite periods and tide turns so that you don’t exhaust yourselves fighting current and sharks for minimal result. Whilst this scenario might seem a challenge, get it right and the reef fishing can be outstanding this time of year.
Plenty of crews will prefer the cruise up the Bruce to launch at ports further north. The Bunker Group and Capricorn Group of islands and reefs offer a plethora of reef fishing opportunities. Scoring a bag limit of coral trout and red throat from the shallows is not all that difficult, enabling plenty of time to hit the deeper water of the shipping channel, or head wider looking for quality red fish.
Large red emperor, large scarlets, huge grassy sweetlip and big mangrove jacks can be found in the channel between the mainland and the islands. Night sessions are often preferred, though the potential of “phosphorous” in the water at night over the new moon can be very real. Head for deeper waters from 50-80m wide of the reefs and not only can you find reds, bigger trout and various jobfish, but quality pearlies and snapper.
Pics: Hervey Bay Fly & Sportfishing
Northern Bay Reefies and Snapper
The Southern and Northern Gutters will be popular for many crews this week. We have harped-on about the Gutters’ sharks for years now and the situation hasn’t improved. Let’s all hope that the chill in the air/water slows their metabolisms somewhat and they aren’t so aggressive. They will be there though, so do the right thing and keep on the move to avoid them.
Coral trout will be the main target at the Gutters on live baits or tea-bagged softies or jigs. Expect a few estuary cod as bycatch, and look for snapper, scarlets and mangrove jacks using the same techniques. Grass sweetlip, spangled emperor, tuskies, hussar and moses perch can be expected for the dead bait brigade, particularly on squid, mullet fillets and locally-caught yakkas.
Now is a great time of year to target reds in the vicinity of the Gutters. Admittedly however, you will do better further north or out in the paddock on small isolated lumps away from boat traffic. Large scarlets are also a possibly when scoping out these smaller lumps and subtle bits of reefy/ferny bottom.
Snapper are now a viable target at the Gutters and over at Rooneys. Look for areas holding yakkas during the day and work the fringes of these reefs, or come back on dusk and settle in for an evening session. Live baits or well-presented dead yakkas, pencil squid and the like can be deadly when suspended off the bottom for snapper. Bycatch of cobia of all sizes is certainly possible this time of year, both day and night, with some of the biggest cobia you will ever see frequenting our waters over winter.
Some crews in smaller vessels will likely head for the reefs of Platypus Bay for overnight sessions. A few snapper have started to show up in the area, but at this stage, the reefs off Rooneys offer better snapper fishing. Scarlet sea perch, big grunter, estuary cod and cobia are all likely candidates for baits and lures up that way. You might find a few tuna whilst traveling, though they are tending to feed sub-surface on larger baitfish such as yakkas and herring this time of year.
Sportsfishos can chase cobia all over the northern or eastern bay from now through winter. They will take all manner of lures, including trolled deep divers, but are absolute suckers for large jerkshad-styled plastics worked through the water column. Trevally numbers are on the increase around the reefs of Platypus Bay and out wider off Rooneys and at the Gutters. They can be hard to avoid for reef fishos at times, but offer a ton of fun for those that enjoy the sport.
Inshore Options in a Week-Long Glass-Out
Want to catch a big snapper inshore? Then get out there over the next couple of days or nights and hunt them down. The post new-moon tides are great for our local snapper and they will bite well. The trick is finding the bigger models without attending sharks. Smaller squire are still great fun and delicious to boot, and given our Qld bag limit of only one snapper of 70cm or more from a bag limit of four, the squire are a more desirable target for those chasing a feed.
Of course, you can try any of the usual inshore snapper hotspots, such as the Burrum 8 or 12 Mile, the Outer Banks, Simpson arti, Moon Ledge or the Roy Rufus arti, but be warned that the sharks love to haunt these grounds, so do the future of Qld’s snapper fishery a favour and move elsewhere if they find you. Once again, the strange situation of being happy to see crowds of other boats in an area you are fishing in the hope that other crews have the sharks occupied will apply over the coming week.
Reef fishos can expect to still catch a few grass sweetlip from the deeper inshore reefs, along with cod, trout, blackall and perhaps the odd scarlet sea perch. We haven’t heard too much about school mackerel this week, but there are bound to be some out there waiting to snip off your favourite plastic or jig.
Speaking of mackerel, the broad-barred variety becomes fairly common inshore over winter. They can frequent the reefs in the shipping channels, but are possibly even more common up in the shallows. You can sight-fish them around the fringes of the bay islands, where they can be seen right up in the shallowest water chasing hardiheads and gar. Broadies will also turn up at River Heads at some stage in the near future, and they can be found throughout the channels of the Great Sandy Straits in clear water wherever hardiheads are present.
Pics: Hervey Bay Fly & Sportfishing
Bream and Whiting Fishing Set to Improve
Reports from bream fans in recent weeks have been a bit less than encouraging. Sure enough, plenty of bream are being caught, but for some reason the larger fish have been a bit rare. Bream to 35cm are not uncommon, but the bigger one kilo, 42cm versions that should be everyday captures are scarce.
The bream at the Urangan Pier have been on the chew, but again the size is less than expected. Bigger bream have been found at the Urangan Harbour, lurking along the rock retaining walls. The fact that the harbour is full of herring and that the herring numbers at the pier are down possibly has something to do with this. Otherwise, there have been bream in the Burrum and Mary rivers systems for those boaties keen on a light tackle session.
Winter whiting fishos will be excited by the latest cold snap. The whiting just started to show up in better numbers off Gatakers Bay and The Gables last week, so we would expect a further improvement in numbers this week. The dark moon can be highly productive for whiting hunters, with the tidal flow enhancing their movement and triggering them to feed as they travel.
Watch out for the ink!
Calamari on the Menu
Squid fans have been out and about thinning out the tiger squid population of late. The glassy seas will see local stocks hit hard over the coming week, so if you are keen on a fresh feed of calamari then you had better get amongst them soon. It is a race from spot to spot nowadays just to beat other boats to the traditional squid hotspots, so savvy locals can look to find squid in less likely, yet still productive, areas away from the eyes and crowds.
Given the enhanced effort on squid these days, it was possibly quite timely that the Qld government implemented the “new” bag limit regulations last year. Arrow squid have a bag limit (in possession) of 50, whilst tiger squid are excluded. By default, the bag limit for tiger squid is in fact 20 (given that any species not otherwise listed now has a default bag limit of 20).
It is not only tiger squid in our waters this time of year, as there are still pencillies (arrow squid) down the Great Sandy Straits for those that want to go find them. It is quite amazing just where these pencillies will turn up, even right up into the creeks and rivers if the water is clear enough.
Land-based squid fans can ply their craft from our local jetties, particularly Urangan Pier, or from River Heads, the harbour or the Burrum Heads foreshore. Wandering the rocky Pt Vernon shoreline flicking lightly-weighted jigs into the nearby shallows can produce a feed too, but this option will only suit those that are comfortable traversing such terrain. Even flats fishos or beach fishos should carry a squid jig or two as when on the move, tigers in particular can turn up anywhere.