A few glorious days slipped by early in the week, and by the number of trailers at the ramps it was obvious the school holidays had started. Sadly that spell of weather could not continue and we are now looking at moderate southeasters for much of the week ahead.
The southeaster will dominate the foreseeable future, and although 15-20 knots is likely for the next few days, it looks as though the winds will lighten as we come closer to Easter. Typically this weather pattern at this time of year will see “lighter winds inshore early” mentioned in forecasts that will also be more of a southerly nature early in the mornings offering savvy boaties the chance to sneak out at sparrows and get back before the winds get up.
The weakening neap tides with this Saturday’s quarter moon phase will at least lessen the impact of the current on the wave action in the bay, but you are still in for a rough time during “wind against tide” conditions, so choose your timing and target areas carefully. You might also want to pack a raincoat or brolly, as the predicted showers are just that bit harder to take with the cooler conditions.
The beaut thing about living, fishing or holidaying on Hervey Bay is the great protection afforded by Fraser Island for fishos wanting to head up the island. So long as the winds have some easterly in them, then a run up towards Wathumba in Platypus Bay is a fairly comfortable exercise, in a capable vessel, with a capable skipper, in winds up to say 20 knots. That early morning southerly can mean rougher conditions till it turns to the south east though, so perhaps a late start might suit those planning a pelagic session up that way.
And speaking of pelagics, we have them in droves right now. Longtail tuna continue to be the most sought after of a long list of speedsters willing to chase down a high speed Zman Jerkshad or metal slug, or a fast-twitched stickbait. Surface-feeding schools of tuna have not been hard to find at all, though they can be particularly flighty and hard to approach this side of say Arch Cliffs.
You have the luxury of numerous pods of tuna to choose from throughout the bay and can be somewhat selective size-wise if you are willing to drive away from mid-sized models looking for the bigger donkeys. Longtails beyond the 20kg mark are out there in smaller pods and hopefully you find these larger fish away from the all-too-common whaler sharks.
Mack tuna schools are also prolific at present, and a trained eye or an observant fisho, will soon notice their different colouration to the longtail when eye-balling the fish slashing away at the hapless bait schools. Yellowfin have been a common capture further north just beyond Rooneys and out to the west around the Gutters, though are a fairly unlikely candidate back in the bay proper.
Spanish mackerel, school mackerel, queenfish and cobia have all been fairly common by-catch around the tuna schools of late, and can all be found either hanging off reefs or large bait schools throughout parts of Platypus Bay. Again, for the sake of our visiting fishos, spanish mackerel are a no-take species within the waters of Platypus Bay (basically east of a line drawn from Coongul Point to Rooneys Point on Fraser). This restriction is due to their excessively high risk of carrying the Ciguatera toxin.
Spotted mackerel have been a late-stayer in the bay this year, so if heading towards Rooneys, pack a selection of metal slugs in sizes from 20-40 grams and look for surface feeding schools of these tasty sportfish.
Trevally numbers will continue to increase as our waters cool further, and a huge range of trevally species can be landed in a good day’s jigging around the bay reefs and bait schools. Golden trevally are possibly our most targeted trevor, but the tassled, shiny skinned cousin, the diamond trevally will be an increasingly more common catch as winter approaches. Add brassy, long-nosed, gold-spotted, and giant trevally and you have the potential for some exhausting sessions on the micro jigs, plastics or vibes.
For those new to fishing our waters, be warned that we have a ravenous and seemingly relentless population of oversized whalers and their cousins that are well attuned to following our boats in order to steal your prize fish.
Being shark-savvy is paramount and this generally means you should try to: (1) drive away from them when they find you and fish another location (or school of fish) altogether, (2) use tackle heavy enough to get your target species to the boat as quickly as possible, and (3) take extra care when handling your fish boat-side and avoid “swimming” the fish by simply spearing them back into the water.
The sharks are not limited to the wider grounds either, as they are also quite a nuisance inshore and are particularly fond of stealing hard-earned reef fish from those fishing the well known inshore grounds. Fishing shallower waters will enable you to mostly avoid the larger sharks during daylight hours, but you wouldn’t want to take a swim in these same shallows after dark.
All sharks are protected in Qld once they reach a size of 1.5m nowadays, and, like it or not, these rules must be obeyed. However, many southerners love to target sharks for both the sport and for food, and would be truly in seventh heaven if they were to actively target the (smaller) models in our waters.
Hooking up to an acrobatic juvenile bull shark or other whaler up on the flats is bound to get the heart pumping for those that enjoy catching sharks for sport. After a healthy release, perhaps these caught sharks might think twice about approaching boats in the future. Well, we can only hope eh. By the way, trying to land a small noah in deeper waters nowadays so often sees them “shortened” by their larger brethren, so keep this in mind.
Given the weather forecast it looks like our protected inshore waters will be popular for holiday-makers and locals alike. Luckily, we have a very sound population of grass sweetlip inshore at the moment that can keep a family entertained (and well fed). The sweeties are very easy to catch on a variety of baits that include squid, hardiheads, banana prawns and strip baits.
Anchoring just off reef ledges or over ferny/spongy country found in areas from Coongul to Kingfisher Bay will see you hooking into sweeties one after the other, and if not then you need to move and try another spot. They are most active as the current picks up and runs and will bite well right throughout the tide at times. Even the larger sweeties are hardly a shy fish, but still need a reasonable bait presentation that does not spin in the current.
Over the turn of the tide you can bring out the heavier gear and target cod or coral trout on live baits, or try for the same species on tea-bagged plastics. Big cod should always be returned to the water unharmed so that they can keep our reefs in good nick by “digging” holes under structures as they build their lairs.
Blackall will be a fairly common catch for those fishing soft baits of squid or prawn near heavy structure during daylight or nearby during the evening. Small numbers of scarlet sea perch can be found inshore too for those lucky enough to find them without attending sharks.
The cooler weather lately spurred the squire into action, so they are a reasonable target from here on through winter. Moon Ledge and the Roy Rufus arti are commonly known snapper grounds that produce a few decent fish early in the season, however, shark attrition can be quite pathetic nowadays so please do the right thing and don’t waste the resource.
The neap tides will do very little for the snapper/squire fishery unless you are on the water super early or during the evening. Fresh or live baits, fished as lightly as possible to get near the bottom, but not hold bottom, is the way to go for snapper. The quality of your bait presentation will be difference between tricking a cunning big old fish and putting up with a horde of pickers.
Those fishos favouring artificial presentations will be best suited choosing jigheads that are barely heavy enough to get to the bottom with smaller 3-5 inch plastics attached. Paddle-tails imitating hardiheads, prawn lookalikes and curly-tailed grubs all have their fans amongst snapper fishos, but in any case keep your leader light (around 20lb is ample) and fish the low light periods if possible.
You cannot help but notice the passing schools of longtail (and mack) tuna turning the surface to foam throughout the local shipping channels of late. Chasing these fish around can often be a frustrating and fruitless exercise due to their super-flighty nature. However, have a suitable lure attached to the right rod at the ready for when they bust up within casting range and your tame little session on the reefies could go next level.
Those looking to entertain the kids could also consider a session chasing mackerel inshore. There have been a few showing up in the shipping channel south of the Fairway, over towards Mickeys, down in the Channel Hole and out from Kingfisher Bay. Drifting with whole pilchard, herring or squid baits set mid-water can produce, but searching likely water with high speed trolling lures would be a good idea if you cannot pinpoint them initially.
Mary/Susan Rivers & The Great Sandy Straits
Prawners have been mostly struggling to scratch up a feed in the Mary and Susan of late. A minor freshwater stain in the Susan, Bunya and Bengstons has improved the situation, but we keep looking forward to the prawn run each week with bated breath. You will certainly get some prawn if you target the drains in the larger feeder creeks, but the big runs we are so accustomed to have yet to eventuate.
The weather forecast suggests River Heads will be a popular launching point for boaties looking for calmer waters this week. Family fishos will find some nice schools of bream hanging around the rock bars in the lower parts of the rivers and a few flathead and cod in the same areas. Flathead are also starting to haunt the drains as our waters cool.
Decent grunter can be found a couple of miles upstream of the heads at present in both the Susan and Mary. They favour the deeper holes during the bottom of the tide and the gravelly banks and bars during the run. Prawn, herring and small squid baits are best for grunter unless you are into your plastics in which case GULPs excel.
Threadies are well-scattered and are possibly easiest to track down in the Susan and Bengstons Creek. There are a lot of catfish that will annoy the bait fishos, but persist or move to get the threadies as they pass by. Watch for the same fish working jelly prawn in the gutters and drains and flick small plastics and sinking stickbaits into these spots and twitch them out slowly.
Barra fishos will be targeting snags and rock bars over the turn of the tide, unless they have side scanning sounders in which case they may even find the schooled up fish holding along some of the deeper banks downstream of feeder creeks in both river systems.
Down the Straits is the go for those seeking out the banana prawns, but you just might be better off heading down towards Tin Can by road and launching mid straits going on recent reports. The larger creeks down that way have been producing reasonable numbers of late (apparently).
Local Creeks & Beaches
Our local creeks have let go some good prawn this last week or so, and those lucky enough to be there after the recent rain scored quite well on large prawn washed from the back reaches. Boat access is definitely restricted to the smaller tinnies, but there are also opportunities to get into the prawns from the banks of these creeks by seeking out access to the muddy mid reaches and deeper holes.
Holiday-makers looking to entertain the kids along our beaches will find the going a bit slow whiting-wise till the tides build closer to Easter. In the meantime, the lower reaches of creeks such as Eli and Beelbi should offer plenty of action from bream, flathead, small cod and occasional whiting.
A lot of fun can be had on the flats out the front of Eli Creek chasing whiting during the early flood tide. Baits of worms and yabbies will work of course, but the best fun is with the micro poppers and stickbaits in the skinny water. Up the size of these topwater lures slightly and head to Beelbi Creek and its flats for a crack at the local queenfish population as well.
There have been reports of gar around the jetties and groynes along our beaches of late. Light gear with pencil-type floats and tiny hooks can keep the kids entertain for a couple of hours. Berley is key and the first of the ebb tide the best.
Some good pelagics have turned up at the pier just in time for the school holidays. It might get a bit crowded out there, but with the likes of queenfish, golden trevally, mackerel and the odd passing school of longtail tuna on offer there is little wonder why. The older kids just love this style of fishing and can keep themselves entertained for hours (even days) chasing livies to feed to some of the best sportfish you will catch shore-based in these parts.
Normally bream will turn up in small numbers at the pier by Easter, but this year the water has been way warmer for so much longer that it may be a late start to the bream season. Only time will tell, but to try for them just catch a few herring and fish these amongst the pylons after dark and see how you go.
Take a squid jig with you if heading out to the pier as a few “locallies” should be turning up at times. Simply scan the water for them as you walk out over the first channel and watch for them hovering behind the pylons out of the current.
To get away from the crowds and into some seriously great freshwater fishing, you can give Lenthalls a try for bass and barra. Both species have been biting well out there over recent weeks and the bass in particular have been getting caught in big numbers.
Good luck out there y’all.