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Weekly Fishing Report - 11th November 2021

Andrew with his first billfish on a recent run with staff member Dane.

Wild Weather Easing for the Weekend

We’ve had another tough week weather-wise, with northerly winds restricting boating activity for the greater part of the past week. The humidity has really ramped up over the last day or two as well, courtesy of the warm air from the north riding the prevailing air stream. There is a bit of conflict amongst the weather prediction sites as to the timing of the next weather change (so check the latest forecasts), but the consensus suggests the following.

We can expect an even stiffer north-wester this evening and tomorrow, reaching up to 30 knots, with the likelihood of some decent showers and/or storms. The rains are supposed to clear our region overnight Friday. A fairly brisk westerly wind is forecast to blow at least 20 knots most of Saturday, easing back overnight.

Come Sunday, the weather improves dramatically, and we are set to enjoy great conditions, with light and variable winds and clear skies until mid-week. Barely 15 knots of generally easterly wind will see out the remainder of the working week, so all in all, things are looking up for boaties from Sunday onwards.

Tides-wise, tonight’s half moon heralds the start of the last quarter phase, meaning we are in the midst of another spell of neap tides and minimal tidal flow. As the week wears on, the tides will build as we approach next Friday’s full moon.

Boaties Beware - Local Water Restrictions in Place

Our local council has applied Level 3 Water Restrictions to households in our district. This encompasses all communities within the Hervey Bay area, stretching from Burrum Heads and Howard to River Heads.

We are mentioning this issue in our report as it has an impact on local boaties. Under Level 3 Restrictions you cannot wash your boat with a hose. You have to do so with a bucket. This will obviously be rather frustrating for many boat owners, but we need to do the right thing.

Our local water supply, Lake Lenthalls is very low at present, and dropping. We can of course hope that the lake’s catchment receives good falls of rain this week or soon and things improve. If the rains don’t come, then the unseen COViD-spawned population explosion and extra demand on our water supply could mean drastic measures are required in the future. Please all do the right thing, and do your bit to conserve our precious water.

Of course, we might expect a bit of a line up at local car wash facilities in the future. They use recycled water and offer the added bonus of suds and high-pressure washers that can make short work of the boat clean up at the end of the day.

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Weather Messed Up the Marlin Fishery

Quite a few small black marlin were caught and released in the northern reaches of Platypus Bay and off Rooneys Point just prior to and into last weekend. Unfortunately, the northerly winds ramped up again all too soon and turned the waters off Rooneys and throughout the northern bay “dirty”. The big northwester over the next couple of days will only make that situation even worse, so it looks like our inshore marlin fishery will have a short hiatus as we await the better weather and improved water quality.

Unfortunately, the bad weather has forced the local game fishing club to cancel their annual game fishing tournament that was scheduled to kick off today. Offshore last weekend, only a very small number of vessels hit the wide grounds in search of larger billfish on heavy tackle. Marlin were found, but there were no significant numbers recorded, partially due to the lack of boats out there trolling.

Feedback from those that had a crack included comments on the general lack of mahi mahi in the waters east of Breaksea Spit and Sandy Cape, possibly due to the less-than-anticipated volume of baitfish in much of the water over the shelf.

Dane was out there and tangled with a few billies, but most noteworthy was the huge mako shark he hooked trolling his most expensive skirt. After an epic battle including many high-flying leaps that had them driving the boat away to avoid a premature landing, they got the big critter boat-side and retrieved the now-destroyed lure. They then released the shark only to have it swing around and take a swipe at the boat. He now has some fibreglass repair work to get sorted and another tale from the surprise-filled waters offshore of Fraser.

How spectacular are those colours!

As far as the reasoning for so few boats offshore chasing marlin last week is concerned, there are potentially a few factors. Sure enough, there would have been a few crews saving their effort and resources for the now-cancelled game competition the following week. The dominant, and quite strong northerly winds this spring have also left less opportunity than other seasons and kept boats away.

Game fishing charters are not getting their usual patronage due to COViD restrictions and the inability of punters from interstate or overseas to get onboard. Similarly, game boats from down south that often cruise up this way during their downtime to catch billfish off Fraser and then follow the fish south have been restricted due to COViD.

An improvement in the weather early next week looks like it will offer decent boating conditions offshore, with very little in the way of swell and fairly light winds. After such a blow as what we are experiencing right now though, there will be some questions as to how quickly the water quality will improve and the fishery rebound.

A nice mac tuna caught on fly in less than ideal conditions. Pic: Hervey Bay Fly & Sportfishing

Reef Fishos Should Score a Feed Next Week

Whilst there were very few game boats offshore last weekend, there were a few boats out off Breaksea Spit chasing reefies. Plenty caught a feed of mixed reef fish drifting with the current over the shoal country between the bar and the shelf. Red throat emperor bit well and stood out amongst other catches, but it was the continuing run of large venus tusk fish that has been most notable.

For some months now, offshore fishos have been catching remarkable numbers of sizeable tusk fish off Breaksea Spit and offshore of Fraser Island. These tasty critters have always been there in some numbers, but even the charter operators have remarked on the sheer abundance of tuskies and the extra-large average size.

Matty with a solid tuskfish, gotta love those electric blue highlights.

Is this the result of some extraordinary spawning event a few years ago, that perhaps coincided with our region’s lack of rains for such an extended period? Or is it something more sinister – being that the sharks have been systematically wiping out our other reef-dwelling bottom species to such an extent that the tuskfish, prone to graze and live out in the rubbly or sparsely-vegetated waters away from the heavy reefs have been able to propagate and thrive with vastly less competition from other bottom dwellers? Maybe we will never know.

Back inshore, the better weather next week will see big numbers of boats out in the bay (even on a weekday these days). The local coral trout population has been on the chew and they will be heavily targeted. You could pick up a few in the shallows or try the deeper reefs and expect to score if you drop the right baits or lures at the right time. Plenty of estuary cod will be caught by those targeting trout.

Fish and chips for tea with Hervey Bay Fly & Sportfishing.

Squire are a chance from the deeper reefs in our shipping channels, particularly around the local shipwrecks and other artificials. Squire will also be an easy target off Rooneys and at some sites within Platypus Bay, as well as along the fringes of the Gutters for anyone heading up that way.

Grass sweetlip have arrived inshore and are increasing in numbers. Again, you can pick up a feed of sweeties up in the shallows, along the sandy/rubbly verges of these reefs, or ply the deeper reefs in the shipping channels. The shallow reef scenario will be vastly better when the tides build further, but you could capitalise by fishing after dark on the neaps to counter the lack of run.

Expect to have an issue with small sweetlip this time of year, whether fishing deeper or shallow.
Those that venture up towards Rooneys might expect to catch a modest feed of scarlets, some big grunter and plenty of school mackerel. We wouldn’t anticipate much in the way of reef fish from the 25 Fathom Hole, but if the sharks can be avoided, then the Gutters should give up a mixed bag including coral trout, grass sweetlip, squire, cod and perhaps a red emperor if you are lucky.

You can expect to see schools of mack tuna busting up on the surface if heading up the bay. They will take small metal slugs with gusto and are a ton of fun for the kids. It won’t be long at all and the first of the season’s spotted mackerel will turn up. The north wind will keep them out of the bay, but once the winds turn to the southeast for a reasonable period, we can expect the arrival of the first spotties. Stay tuned and we will let you know as we get word of their arrival.

Not sure if Andrew's listening to Metallica or trying to become one with the deep drop.

Dane and shop regular Chris with some nice pearlies caught whilst deep dropping.

Muggy Weather Livened Up the Estuary Predators

Few folks could honestly say that they enjoy the extra-humid, muggy conditions such as what we have had this week. On the other hand, the likes of mangrove jacks and threadfin salmon absolutely revel in these conditions. The waters of the Burrum system have been a little congested recently, with many fishos heading for the rivers chasing the mighty mangrove jack.

The jacks have been on the chew too, with quality fish being caught on a regular basis from some parts of the rivers. The waters have been quite clear in many stretches, so night time or low light forays have been necessary to get a bite from the jacks in those areas, whilst the upper reaches have given up good jacks at other times as well.

The Great Sandy Straits is also home to great numbers of mangrove jacks, as are most of the little creeks along the inside of Fraser. You need the right weather to enable access to these creeks or the straits of course, so they don’t see nearly the traffic that the Burrum does when the winds are up. Be prepared to do battle with more than just cranky jacks if heading for our mangrove-lined creeks. The local mosquito and sandfly populations will be waiting to welcome you and in the worst-case scenario of light winds and low light can be virtually unbearable.

The straits will be worth a crack for those looking for threadies, grunter and other estuary dwellers. You could find a few queenfish, small GTs, golden trevally, flathead and even a few late season blue salmon. Mulloway jew are still a chance in some of the deeper waters, as proven by those targeting them nightly off the pontoon at River Heads.

We truly shouldn’t have to say this, but you must not target barramundi during the annual closure. Barely a day goes by without folks instore buying gear to target saltwater barra. As stated recently, it has never been more important to lay off these fish as it is right now. You might think that just because you find a few here or there that there are plenty about. Their numbers are truly at an all-time low and we need these important breeding stocks to be able to do their thing this season unhindered so that the species can rebound and we can once again enjoy the best the fishery can offer.

A solid chunk of golden trevally caught with Tri from Fraser Guided Fishing.

Barra on the Move in Impoundments

If you do want to target barra during the closure, then obviously heading for one of Qld’s stocked impoundments is the go. Locally, Lake Lenthalls has never seen more traffic, even though the dirt access road is in atrocious condition. The camp ground has been popular and quite full, which isn’t hard as it has a very restricted number of allowable campers. Book early to avoid disappointment if planning to camp at Lenthalls.

The barra have been on the chew out there when the weather has been right. The hot, muggy conditions and consistent winds this week have been perfect. The lake being so low offers you the opportunity to make note of potential fish-holding structures for when the waters inevitably rise again. In the meantime, fish the laydown timber, wind-blown points, or schools of barra or bass identified via your sounder and be ready to rumble with some fairly sizeable fish. Lenthalls offers a great topwater fishery too, so tie on a suitable stickbait or popper for the late afternoon or early evening session.

Sam Cass with a feisty little Lenthalls barra that took a weedless 5" Zman Diezel Minnowz.

Lake Monduran’s barra have been on the move. Creeks, bays and stretches of the lake that fished so well only a few weeks ago have failed to produce as the barra move on to greener pastures. In some cases, it would seem likely that the barra have shifted due to the excessive boat traffic, something that becomes quite obvious in high traffic areas. Take note if when you turn up, scan up a heap of fish and they vacate the area as soon as they sense your presence. These fish are spooking. Quite the opposite scenario to some time ago when unfished barra would rush up to investigate your boat upon arrival.

The prevailing wind will continue to dictate the whereabouts and feeding activity of the barra. The main basin and Bird Bay will likely fire big time over the next day or two as the big north wester blows and the storms roll in. The westerly thereafter will still hold fish in similar areas, with a subtle shift to nearby waters. Trollers will continue to score plenty of fish, so if you are struggling to catch barra casting, then perhaps a troll is worth a try.

Of particular note at Mondy this week, was the big fall of rain that fell in the catchment of the B Bay creeks on Tuesday night. A slow-moving storm saw It pour down for several hours and the waters within that area rose by around 5 inches overnight. It is still rising, albeit rather minimally at the time of writing. Strangely, there was no mention on mainstream media via the news or weather of such heavy rain, but we cannot deny first hand info from those that rode it out and monitored the rise that evening.

Steve has been having some great sessions on the dam lately.

The lake will be inundated with boats over the next week or so, particularly closer to the full moon. The way the weather is shaping up it will change quite a bit between now and the moon, so boats will be scattered and looking for mobile fish as the winds change and barra shift their focus to different stretches of water.

We mentioned the struggle many were having getting Awoonga’s barra to bite in a recent report. Since then, it has come to light that a lot of the feedback about the tough bite has been from “point sitters” that have been employing the simple old strategy of parking the boat off a prominent wind-blown point and waiting for the barra to come past.

Some say that these same points see so much traffic, so consistently that the barra are waking up to what’s going on and have become a bit cagey in the vicinity. Whilst some struggled on the points, apparently some terrific numbers of fish were landed by others working stretches of banks, bays and individual structures well up the lake past Dingo Island. Undoubtedly, the points will fire again and there will be plenty of boats parked thereon when they do.

It is great to hear that big numbers are still possible from Awoonga and it proves once again that we shouldn’t assume a tough bite is lake-wide just because some areas failed to produce. The night-time bite around the November full moon can be something to behold on Awoonga if the weather plays the game. Something to look forward to indeed.

Jamie Rush with a nice Mondy 'Mundi.

Good luck out there y’all.

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