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Weekly Fishing Report - 11th March 2021

Tri from Fraser Guided Fishing has been getting clients onto some sensational longtail tuna this week.

Light Onshore Winds for Now with Rain on the Way

Light onshore winds have greeted any boaties lucky enough to get out during the week. This trend should continue for the next couple of days, with the breeze tending more from the north throughout the weekend.

Storms are increasingly likely as the weekend approaches, with the bureau suggesting there will be severe storms across the district over the coming week. Early next week will see a fairly subtle southeasterly change behind the active trough bringing the storms. Showers are increasingly likely from the moisture-laden onshore winds, so we might just get a bit of the rain we need so badly.

Saturday night’s new moon sees the tides peak for this phase, and whilst there will be a healthy run in the tide, it will be far from extreme, with tidal flow of barely 3m at best. For those that are interested, the moon will reach its apogee next Thursday 18th March.

Tuna Chasers Challenged Over the Neaps

Last weekend’s tuna chasers found the fish much more challenging than they were during the red-hot bite only a week earlier. The neap tides undoubtedly had some impact on their feeding activity, but the tides are building now and the new moon should see another feeding spree.

Mack tuna proved easier to track down that the longtails for many hopefuls. The longtails were quite thick in close to Fraser within Platypus Bay one week and more common out wider the next. We will have to take each week as it comes, and take advantage of the calmer conditions to venture out into the central bay when the opportunity arises.

The tuna schools in closer to Fraser have big numbers of whalers and other large sharks in tow. Many crews found the sharks too relentless in close and made the dash for more open waters away from the boat traffic to find schools without attending sharks.

Many commented about the tuna becoming fussy almost overnight, being a far cry from a week earlier when the fresh fish migrating into the bay were keen to scoff nearly any presentation thrown their way. Smaller slugs and soft plastics have proven harder to resist this week, so ensure you have a good selection of both if heading out after tuna.

Tackle losses are high when the sharks are about, so don’t short-change yourself and find that you have to leave a feeding frenzy because you have run out of the best lures on the day. We certainly understand that it can get quite expensive when losing so many metals (or worse still – stickbaits), so this is where the jerkshad plastics and appropriate jigheads come in – they are substantially less burden on the pocket.

Larry Longtail (above) and Mary Mac-tuna (below) have been making regular appearances on charters with Fraser Guided Fishing.

A double header of longtail tuna on a recent charter with Hervey Bay Fly & Sportfishing.

Pelagics Aplenty in Platypus Bay

Its not all about the tuna out in the bay, though they are the obvious target being surface feeders and apparent to all and sundry. Often beneath the tuna schools lurk other pelagics picking up the scraps. Golden trevally will sometimes join the feeding melee, but are even more likely to be found haunting deeper bait schools throughout Platypus Bay.

Finding goldies lurking around known reef systems up that way is quite common, but the problem with this scenario is that the sharks also linger around the same reefs and fish schools. Find goldies out in the paddock, away from known reefs and you stand a far greater chance of landing them. They are an easily tempted fish that will soon respond to a range of jigs, softies, vibes or even vertically-jigged metals, and of course live baits.

A few goldies can be found mooching around up on the flats if you are lucky. Sunny clear skies help to track them down by looking for the fish and their shadows, so avoid the cloudy days for best success. You might also trip over queenies, GTs or tuna whilst cruising the flats, so be ready for allcomers.

Queenies show up in close to Fraser and will soon identify themselves with their high-flying antics once hooked. They are great sportfish that fight to the death (potentially) so try to land them as quickly as possible and reduce their time out of the water to a minimum. Releasing exhausted fish of any species around sharks will end in the inevitable, so keep this in mind if you suspect sharks are shadowing you.

There are great numbers of school mackerel on offer up in Platypus Bay at present. Find them around bait schools, under tuna schools, or over reef systems and spin them up on Flasha spoons. You can always try live baiting, or soaking gang-rigged pillies mid-water if you prefer the less active forms of mackerel fishing. Trollers will soon connect to a few schoolies dragging Halco Laser Pro 120 divers, Rapala CD’s or X-Raps around the likely areas, including the local shipping channels (especially in the vicinity of beacons laden with baitfish).

Giant herring (ladyfish for us older folks) are another much sought-after pelagic species that are well represented in our area. They grow up in our local estuaries, even in in our saltwater-flushed ponds and canals, before moving out to our inshore shoals to mature and grow big.

Metre-beater herring are quite commonly caught from many inshore hotspots that see plenty of juvenile baitfish passing through. It would be fairly rare to sight-fish them up in the shallows, but they do sneak into skinny water at times. Their tendency to lurk in the vicinity of sandy/speckled drop-offs with strong currents makes them a viable target for those working heavily-weighted plastics. Luckily, they often favour fairly shallow, reef-free country inshore so they can often be landed without sharks ruining the fun.

Occasionally, herring turn up in the Burrum and Mary river systems in middling sizes but offer fantastic sport when hooked whilst chasing other species. The clean clear waters in the winter time are more likely to see encounters with herring in our rivers.

These fish will rival queenies as aerial acrobats and will out-do them in the high-speed stakes. Blistering runs from herring is something special on the light gear in the shallows, so make sure your drag is smooth and ready for battle. Giant herring do not handle well. Hoist an exhausted fish up for a photo and chances are if you are not super quick about it, the fish’s likelihood of survival is severely diminished.

There are still a few big bruising giant trevally haunting local inshore reefs and ledges. The bigger tides this weekend will favour those looking to tangle with GTs on surface poppers/stickbaits around the bay islands and River Heads area. They have also been seen harassing bait schools down the straits at places such as Ungowa lately.

Queenfish are a great target for sports fishos and will take a wide range of lures including poppers and stickbaits, flies, soft plastics and jigs. Pic: Fraser Guided Fishing

From time to time even bonefish turn up in our waters, although usually in deeper water when chasing pelagics as opposed to on the flats like other destinations around the world. Pic: Hervey Bay Fly & Sportfishing

Double hook ups on mackerel! Pic: Hervey Bay Fly & Sportfishing

Beating the Sharks

At the risk of sounding like a worn-out record, the shark situation in the vicinity of the majority of our reef systems, both inshore and out wider, is horrendous. It can be rather exhausting on a hot day trying to skull-drag hefty reef fish up past the sharks and the chances of beating them if they are within coo-ee is next to zero. It has been many, many years since we could enjoy a relaxing day reef fishing over known country without having to frantically rip the fish up from the bottom at break-neck pace.

There is no solution to this issue, and seemingly unlikely to be one in the foreseeable future. For those of us that enjoy a meal of fresh reef fish, we need to basically give up on trying to extract fish from known reefs where sharks linger and spend some time seeking out untapped locations away from other boaties. As we’ve said before, there are days when the boat traffic locally is so hectic that you might get lucky on a spot whilst other crews occupy the sharks elsewhere, but that is a matter of pure luck.

Many offshore crews have geared up with electric reels and bent-butt rods to extract deep water ooglies from over the shelf. This same equipment, when put to use in shallower country (less than 100m) has an advantage of being able to skull-drag an average reef fish up without it getting to turn towards the bottom. You might have noticed how the sharks will so often ignore or let pass a smaller fish on conventional tackle if you winch it in, whilst they eat every bigger fish on the pump and wind. Using the electrics can have the same effect, confusing the sharks. Sporting? No. Necessary? Perhaps.

The same can be said for those of us that enjoyed a degree of deep-sea fishing with Alvey drop reels over the years. The one-to-one ratio enables an angler to lean back and wind the fish in without pumping (on the right rod), effectively confusing the sharks once again. The added advantage being that should a shark be hooked, the bigger Alveys are so tough that you can simply continue winding and break the beast off. Try that on any other reel and you will simply fail or possibly destroy the reel.

Handlines can offer a great alternative for shallow water reef fishing that will soon see you slipping reefies over the side one after another. Of course, this style of fishing is considered very much “old school” nowadays, so has fewer and fewer devotees, but no-one can deny its effectiveness. There is good reason that all shallow-water commercial line fishers use handlines to this day – no other equipment can recover line as quickly or strongly, or indeed let that inch or foot of line slip to feed a fussy fish with such efficiency.

Be warned however, that handlining can be a little dangerous for the uninitiated when it comes to tangling with the bigger sharks. There are certain spools (Alvey again) that have no knuckle-busting lugs on the inside, so one can simply drop the line and fight the shark with the spool in hand if necessary. Yes, handlines are a little messy on the deck and certainly won’t suit the majority of fishos today, but they are a great solution for the shallow reef country and worth considering in waters to 20m or so if you want the edge on the noahs.

At times it can be difficult getting goldies past the noahs. Pic: Hervey Bay Fly & Sportfishing.

Reef Fishing Options to Avoid the Sharks

Fish our commonly known inshore reefs such as the Roy Rufus arti, Moon Ledge, the Outer Banks, Mickies, Sammies, Boges Hole, the Channel Hole, Bogimbah Ledge and others and you will have issues with the sharks at some stage. There are fish such as coral trout, cod, tuskies, sweetlip, blackall, squire and scarlets in many of these areas, so if you get lucky you will score a feed. Night sessions are worth considering this time of year for all but the trout and tuskies, often seeing the better fish out to feed whilst the sharks temporarily vacate the area.

As the scarlet sea perch move inshore closer to Easter, we will see some schools turning up on fairly insignificant grounds out in the bay that rarely see boats at any other time. Find such grounds and you could enjoy champagne fishing for scarlets. Fish over 10kg were once found in small numbers within the bay, but you will need to venture further north for the trophies these days it seems.

Heading up the Bruce and launching from Bundy, 1770 and Turkey Beach is becoming increasingly popular for locals frustrated with the sharks locally. There is no doubt that the reef fishing is superior up on the GBR and so much country on offer scatters the boats and the sharks are easier to avoid.

Slipping across Breaksea Spit in coming weeks should be highly productive. There has been little boating traffic throughout the summer months, so the sharks will be scattered. The fishing is outstanding out over the bar and offers such a huge variety of tasty reef fish that the mind boggles. Make the most of the first of the new season’s diminished EAC next month before everyone else and you will hopefully score bigtime.

A technique that is certainly not for everyone, but is undeniably effective, is trolling inshore for reef fish. Trolling super deep divers such as Dr Evils has become immensely popular in the winter time for snapper, but this same technique (and lure) can be used this time of year to score a feed of trout, cod, squire, mackerel and others.

Dr Evils will crash bottom in 36’ trolling with the tide by the way, so they are no good in the shallower water. Try RMG Poltergeists (5m) or RMG Scorpions (3m, 5m, 8m depending upon the bib) for appropriate depths, and Spoonbills, Warlocks or Tilsan Barras for the shallows.
Trolling at slower speeds near speckled bottom, or along extensive ledges such as those along the inside of Fraser will soon see fish in the boat, with the advantage being that you are constantly moving and are away from the principal reef systems, so encounters with sharks are rare.

The local shipping channels offer good trolling as well, with even the Urangan Channel giving up numbers of cod and the occasional stonker trout. Shift your trolling focus to the shallow fringing reefs over the bigger tides can see you connecting to a few coral trout, but is seems the better fish are hard to find nowadays.

Estuaries Need Rain

Let’s hope we get some rain soon to revitalise our estuary systems. The Mary and Burrum systems desperately need a good flush to boost the baitfish numbers and trigger the prawns to breed and grow. Next week looks fairly positive rain-wise, so fingers crossed for some good falls in our catchment areas as well as locally.

In the meantime, there are always a few major predators to seek out in our rivers or down the straits. Barra, threadies, jacks and grunter are the major target species this time of year. Best numbers are likely from the creek systems down the straits it seems. Many are struggling to find any serious numbers of threadies or barra in the Mary/Susan Rivers, but there are still a few quality fish there for those willing to search.

This weekend’s tides will favour straits fishos however, whilst those hitting the rivers will be best to concentrate their efforts in the lower reaches. Jack fishos should be making the most of the warmer weather while it lasts, focussing on the creeks along the inside of Fraser, the Burrum system or our local creeks.

Kelly with a beautiful salty from down the Straits. Pic: Luke Fallon Sport & Game Fishing.

There have been a few flatties being caught around our estuaries of late. It is almost like there is more flatties around now than there was back in their “season” (late winter – early spring). Look for flatties around drain mouths, creek mouths or bait-rich muddy banks during the latter half of the ebb tide and early flood. They will likely sit a little deeper with the water so warm, so work the drop-offs and nearby waters to a few metres deep with soft vibes or plastics. Trollers won’t have too much trouble tripping over flatties in the creek channels at the moment.

The best chance of a feed of prawn is from the Burrum or its tributaries, though you will likely have to do some serious searching in the upper reaches to track down a feed even there. Mud crabs have been reasonably consistent of late, even though they have copped a bit of a hammering in the readily accessible areas. Muddies will be on the move again if we get some rain so perhaps get the pots ready for next week.

Good luck out there y’all.

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