Wet Week Ahead
Southeasterly, northerly, southwesterly or southerly – take your pick, as there will be a little bit of each over the coming few days. The wind will vary from day to day, though the southeaster will dominate for much of the week ahead. Expect showers for our stretch of the Qld coastline.
Fishing conditions will be a bit tough some days, but you will get a few chances out in the boat if you time it right. Saturday’s quarter moon phase means neap tides, though there is a little more tidal movement in the neaps this time of year, making for favourable tides for some species and local fisheries.
Our local fish population will get a bit of a reprieve from angler effort over the coming fortnight if the current weather forecast is anything to go by. By the time the weather comes good, the ongoing influx of winter species should see an improvement in winter fishing options.
Here is a bit of a rundown on species you can encounter over winter:
Excluding the odd cold snap so far this winter, things have been fairly mild to date. All the same, our water temperature is now consistently below 20C and falling, bringing on our usual winter species. Baitfish numbers are improving out wider in the bay and up the island which will see an influx of trevally species and snapper.
Our snapper seasons in recent years have been rather concerning. Barely a shadow of the biomass of snapper that once migrated into Hervey Bay now make the pilgrimage. Yes, we can still get out there and target quality knobbies with a good chance of succeeding if a few basic principles are adhered to, but do not be fooled into thinking that the local snapper population is in good health.
Snapper are a clean-fighting, superb looking and great eating fish that are eagerly sought after by many local fishos. They are certainly not difficult to catch if you pay attention to tides and bait/lure presentation and they actually release very well from our relatively shallow inshore waters. The very strict bag limits, allowing only one of four fish to be in excess of 70cm often demand that we practice catch and release when aggregations of larger snapper are encountered.
Sharks were only a small, rather uncommon issue several years ago, even when there were masses of spawning snapper aggregated in commonly fished areas. Today, the sharks are a huge issue and we should all be making a concerted effort to minimise wastage of snapper (and other fish species) by moving elsewhere when the sharks move in.
For those that struggle to catch snapper on a regular basis, a brief list of inshore spots worthy of trying this time of year include the Roy Rufus Arti, Moon Ledge, The Outer Banks, Arch Cliffs 6 Mile and the Burrum 8 and 12 Mile reefs. Bigger tides and night sessions will produce best results for bait fishos, whilst those favouring lures will do okay during the day with plastics and micro jigs.
Smaller snapper (squire) can also be found in the same places mentioned above, but often frequent a bigger range of country inshore. Other areas you are likely to encounter the odd squire include the reefs out from Kingfisher, Boges Hole, The Channel Hole, Mickies, Sammies, the Fairway, Urangan Channel and out from many of our shallow inshore reefs – just to name a few. Pick the right area and the right tides and you can even pick a few up after dark in the mouth of the Mary River.
Trevally are a mainstay for Hervey Bay sportsfishos throughout the winter months. Many species migrate into our waters this time of year, both big and small, offering a ton of fun and variety for those that like that sort of thing. Few fisheries are easier than targeting trevally and they will respond well to stacks of plastic presentations, vibes, jigs and baits. They are great fun for the kids and are a great option for training them to use artificials.
There has been an increase in trevally numbers inshore just recently. Golden trevally will school up in places like the Roy Rufus Arti, Maringa Bombie and the Outer Banks, but can be found anywhere there is a reasonable supply of baitfish. They also roam in schools in the vicinity of various ledges and reefs, so are commonly picked up by those trolling deep divers targeting snapper.
The reefs, weed patches and sink holes up in Platypus Bay will be regular haunts for masses of trevally over winter. The species list is a real who’s who of trevors, that includes the sought after goldies, diamonds and GTs, but also comprises many lesser species including brassies, turrum, long-nosed, cale cale and bludgers, just to name a few.
The ledges of the Southern Gutters and other drop offs and bombies out that way will also attract vast hordes of trevally. Long-nosed will certainly be the most common species, but goldies, bludgers, GTs, diamonds and brassies all turn up. Seething masses of trevally can be found on the sounder, often rising to the surface in partially mixed schools, eager to eat anything you throw their way.
Word is that some schools of winter whiting have turned up off O’Reagans Creek and Toogoom. Launching from Gatakers Bay and heading that way it is easy enough to try a couple of drifts in areas not occupied by the hordes of other boats.
Finding a spot of your own can see you score much better-quality whiting, much quicker, when drifting is the favourable technique. Find a good patch of whiting and anchor up and you will almost undoubtedly have neighbours very quickly.
Speculative forays south of Round Island and west of Woody Island have been productive for the pioneering whiting fisho willing to venture away from the crowds off Gatakers. Bag limits were achieved, unhindered (for now), though those grounds will likely be commonly targeted from now on, as they so often are mid-season.
Tailor will turn up in increasing numbers around the Bay Islands, Ungowa, Kingfisher, River Heads and Burrum Heads. They can be spun up on metal spoons and will eagerly smash smaller hard bodies trolled at a medium pace. Grounds such as The Outer Banks, Arch Cliffs 6 Mile and The Fairway often attract schools of tailor in winter as well, though they are typically quite small and little more than a nuisance in these areas.
Hervey Bay tailor are rarely of any significant size. Larger fish turn up occasionally, though often they are swimming solo or in very small groups. The bigger fish are most likely on the points of the bay islands or the nearby flats where hardiheads are aggregated.
Tailor frequent the Urangan Pier this time of year. Undersized fish are quite common, and at times there won’t be any legal fish amongst them. Spinning for them with spoons is popular, as is live baiting.
Jewies have been active already this season. They are mostly targeted in the deeper holes and around rock bars in the lower reaches of our rivers or down the straits. River Heads is a prime site for landlubbers to target jewies at night with live baits. The pontoon beside the boat ramp has seen the demise of many jew since its construction, though savvy lure fishos will know how to extract jewies land-based out there without having to contend with the crowds on the dock.
Soft vibes and large plastics account for plenty of jewfish in our waters. They will take a trolled lure as well, typically a model that dives to 5 metres or more trolled over structure or along drop offs and ledges. Most of our jewfish population is relatively small (by southern standards), but a few fish exceeding 20kg turn up annually. Sub-75cm fish are quite common nowadays, so be careful to release the smaller models unharmed if you are inclined to keep jew to eat.
Blue salmon can be a quite annoying form of bycatch for some of us whilst chasing more desirable species, however, others will find their ease of capture and great fighting qualities quite appealing. You would be unlikely to rate them as a food fish if you are used to the more desirable species found in our waters.
Blues are already quite common in our rivers and within the creeks and feeder channels down the straits. They rarely venture into deeper open waters in the bay, but are commonly found in vast schools mooching across the shallow flats.
Blues will take just about any well-presented lure or bait. They are certainly not fussy, but you should still try to imitate the local food source/s for best results. Soft vibes are possibly the most effective artificial, though they will eagerly hunt down a trolled lure, a plastic hopped off the bottom or even a spoon spun at a medium pace.
Whilst technically more common later in winter leading into spring, flatties are quite popular targets at the moment as well. You can find flatties right throughout our rivers this time of year, from the upper reaches to the mouths. They will favour the mouths of gutters and feeder creeks, or gravelly banks and rock bars.
Larger flatties are often found in the vicinity of large inshore FAD’s that attract quantities of baitfish, such as Urangan Pier, Kingfisher Jetty and the River Heads boat ramps. They can turn up in so many locations, in such varying depths, that they are often bycatch for numerous fishos targeting other species. Don’t be surprised to catch a flattie in 50ft of water on the Arti this time of year, or from a foot of water along the beach.
Yellowfin bream are incredibly popular down south, but barely raise an eyebrow around these parts due to our substantial mix of “more desirable” species. For those of you out there that like your bream fishing, you are in for a great time over the next couple of months.
Urangan Pier is popular for landlubbers, particularly after dark. Sure enough, you will still score some great bream out there in the daylight, just make sure your bait presentations are spot on. Poorly-presented baits that spin in the current will be largely ignored by the quality fish, but the uneducated “pickers” will probably have a go.
Bream fishos often refer to quality bream as being anything over about 30cm. This sized fish is quite common this time of year, with the better fish exceeding 42cm (or a kilo on average) being a suitable yardstick for those wanting to claim a “big” bream.
Just a few of the many locations you can try for larger bream this time of year include River Heads, Kingfisher Jetty, the Bay Islands, Gatakers Bay / Pt Vernon and a plethora of rock bars, ledges and shallow flats down the straits.
Winter Reef Fishing
When the weather improves, there will be a stack of reef fishing opportunities for those looking to venture out wider. The offshore grounds, crossing the bars either north or south of Fraser will be very popular, with slight currents this time of year offering sensational reef fishing.
Back inside, the grounds off Rooneys and out at the Gutters will see many crews looking for coral trout, sweetlip and snapper. There will be stacks of trevally in those areas, and big cobia will be reasonably common. We can only hope that the sharks back off a bit with the cooler water, though they have barely done so over the commonly known country in recent years.
By the time the weather cleans up, the 25 Fathom Hole should be worth a visit for those looking for a snapper. The arrival of yakkas in the area will be the determining factor that will dictate how good the snapper fishery is in that area. Basically, lots of yakka means a better chance of visiting schools of snapper.
The 25 Fathom Hole is a very popular spot nowadays, so don’t expect the place to yourself on a nice day. Bait fishos need to be there pre-dawn or stay after dusk for any real chance at the snapper. Live or butterflied yakka are the go for snapper, float-lined down with sinker weights that will keep the bait off the bottom. Get a bait anywhere near the bottom during daylight out there and it will be picked to pieces by juvenile squire and the like.
Lure fishos stand a much stronger chance in daylight, offering suitably-weighted soft plastics to snapper they drift over around the yakka schools. A keen eye on the sounder will often spot the snapper, though they can often avoid the sounder beam and take off with a plastic all the same. Bigger fish are typically encountered with this technique, though sub-70cm fish also turn up often enough to offer a feed.
Good luck out there y’all.