Great Weather Again This Weekend
The weather gods are smiling upon us once again, with a great forecast for this weekend and the days either side thereof. We can look forward to light winds and sunny skies from now until some time Tuesday, when a moderate southeaster will take hold and dominate the remainder of the working week.
No complaints on the temperature front either, with very mild winter conditions for the foreseeable future. There is a chance of early morning fogs in coming days though, so keep this in mind if planning a dawn start. It can be a little chaotic, and somewhat dangerous when big numbers of boats are leaving port in a white-out, so take extra care and slow right down if necessary.
The first quarter moon phase on Monday means neap tides, but check your tide charts and you will see that there is still a reasonable degree of run in the tide. As the tides start to make from then on and build towards the full moon a week thereafter, the bite from so many of our fish species will ramp up, so there is plenty to look forward to in the coming week.
Snapper fans will be “chafing at the bit” to get out there amongst the snapper from Monday the 16th onwards. The month-long closure has been a little frustrating for many, but as we all know, quite necessary these days due to diminished stocks.
Pearl perch too will be back on the hit list come Monday, so we can now revisit the offshore grounds without needing to avoid the prime snapper and pearly country. Let’s all hope that the annual closure is achieving what it was designed to do, and protect these two vulnerable species from overexploitation during their key spawning period.
Many fishos caught and released quality snapper from numerous areas within and beyond the bay during the closure. Anecdotally, it sounds as though a reasonable run of fish is on offer out around the Gutters and on a few sites off Rooneys Point. The 25 Fathom Hole will be very popular, and shouldn’t have seen any boats for the past month, as there is little else there other than snapper this time of year.
Only a few days to go before we can keep a feed of snapper. Pic: Hervey Bay Fly & Sportfishing
Pick the bigger tides and you can enjoy the best of the Platypus Bay snapper season in coming weeks. Night sessions will always suit the bait brigade up that way, particularly with the aid of a light berley trail. Those favouring artificial offerings can pick up quality knobbies and their smaller kin during the daylight hours though, as luring enables a fisho to be vastly more mobile and the snapper can be hunted with your sounder and offered an irresistible morsel once found.
There has been quite a few quality knobbies and a swag of squire caught and released in closer during the closure as well. The usual winter haunts are all worth a look, though some sites will be a little too popular with our ever-increasing crowds of fishos. You will probably need a ticket to get a spot at grounds such as Moon Ledge, the Outer Banks, the Arch Cliffs 6 Mile, the Burrum 8 Mile, the Simpson arti or the Roy Rufus arti.
There are swags of smaller, lesser-known sites locally that can produce quality snapper and a bag of lovely eating sized squire. Trollers will score some great fish dragging deep divers close by some of these sites, as well as by fringing the commonly fished grounds looking for fish spooked by all the traffic on the reef proper.
The snapper should bite particularly well during the coming week. The bite might be a bit lethargic until the tides build from the neaps, but by mid-week they should be ravenous. The coming full moon will be worth slotting into the diary for avid snapper hunters, as this offers one of the best cracks at this species for the season.
At the risk of sounding naïve, we trust that everyone will adhere to the bag limit restrictions for snapper, being a maximum (in possession) of four fish, only one of which can be 70cm or over. A “boat limit” applies to snapper nowadays too, being twice the individual bag limit only, for two or more persons on board. Remember that this boat limit also means that only two fish of your boat’s potential eight can be 70cm or more, even if you have multiple fishos on board.
The abovementioned maximum size restrictions are a little hard to stomach in a fishery where the reasoning given for the restriction is to protect the larger breeding stock, when the same rules are not applied to all parties taking from this fishery. It begs the question; why are other maximum size restrictions applied to all parties (eg; flathead, barra, estuary cod) but not for our beloved snapper? It is a bit suss at best.
At a time when our local fisheries are under more pressure than ever, we as fishos need to hone our skills and master the art of targeting given species on the right tides at the right times. Inshore, this can mean simple things such as floatlining for snapper in lieu of over-weighting our offerings and plonking them on the bottom. It can mean deploying a consistent berley trail in slight current to attract and hold active fish, or even to spur inactive fish into biting.
Bait presentation is everything when it comes to tricking trophy fish. No fish that has survived in heavily pressured waters ever got that old by falling for dead baits spinning in the current. Similarly so, dropping one dead offering after another to fish that will only respond to live bait or lures is obviously pointless. Be observant and pay extra attention to detail and you can trick those wary trophy fish that are ignoring others’ offerings.
Grunter or javelin fish are bloody tasty and will readily take a soft vibe, micro jig or soft plastic. Pic: Hervey Bay Fly & Sportfishing
Sure enough, you take the skills you’ve developed locally and head up to the Great Barrier Reef and you can score big time. Plenty of locals head to 1770 and ports to the north of there and have little trouble piecing together a terrific bag of quality reef fish. That was again the case again last weekend for those that headed up that way. Some didn’t even venture out too far either, scoring quality fish on reefs not far offshore from the mainland.
Whilst the GBR gave up bag limits of coral trout and red throat, along with some great reds, big scarlets, swags of tuskies and various other tasty treats, our wide grounds such as the Gutters and beyond gave up but a modest feed. The grounds west of the Breaksea Light were less productive than expected for some, though others scored quite well by seeking out the bait schools south of there.
A nice coral trout caught on a charter with Hervey Bay Fly & Sportfishing.
Winter time is when Hervey Bay is normally inundated with hordes of baitfish of various types. If you want to find the fish that predate on these baitfish then you need to be fishing where the bait is aggregating. Too many folks head for GPS marks and plonk on the spot/s hoping for the best, when sometimes quite nearby are grounds holding all the bait and the better-quality fish.
It is becoming quite apparent that our baitfish schools are less abundant this year than in years gone by. Yes, there are big schools of bait in some areas, but hardly the quantities we would expect in winter. Put this one down to the continuing effects of the prolonged local drought if you like.
When you do find ample baitfish up the bay, quite often shadowing them are various members of the trevally clan. These critters are popular with the sportsfishos, but are regularly scorned by reef fishos. There is no denying the fun that the kids or those new to the sport can have on a school or three of hungry trevors. Some of these trevallies reach a substantial size too, and can be quite exhausting when hookups are coming thick and fast.
Big cobia are still a strong chance in the northern bay, particularly where the bait is thickest. We are not hearing of nearly the number of big cobes this year as we normally do, but they are still worthy of targeting if you find them appealing. They will respond well to berley, but are quite an easy fish to target with live baits suspended well clear of the bottom. Be very wary of keeping big cobes caught in Platypus Bay. They are potentially a high-risk candidate for ciguatera fish poisoining, though not illegal to take from that area like spanish mackerel.
Chinamanfish are a no take species due to the high risk of ciguatera poisoning. Pic: Hervey Bay Fly & Sportfishing
It’s Mack Attack Time
Mackerel fans have plenty to look forward to in coming weeks. This season’s school mackerel run has kicked off with a smattering of fish pushing south into the bay with the herring schools. It is worth looking for mackerel out off the Burrum Coast at present. Anywhere from the Woodgate artificial through to the grounds just off Pt Vernon / Gatakers Bay can see waves of mackerel swimming through right now.
The Fairway is super popular for mackerel fishos and rightly so. For those unfamiliar, this is a beacon just to the north of the banks that denotes clear waters to its north for north-bound shipping. It sits in a great depth of water for baitfish to aggregate and is a great example of the “one tree in the paddock” scenario that draws baitfish and their predators much the same as a solo tree will attract shade-seeking cows or sheep in an otherwise treeless paddock.
If you want a parking spot nearby to the Fairway beacon itself, then you had better be there before the sun rises. Being in the midst of a crowd of vessels, all anchored, with hot-running speedsters such as mackerel and trevally bolting in all directions can mean sheer pandemonium some days. So, if that isn’t your scene but you want to suss it out, then simply troll lures or drift live baits past the area picking off fish that are rounding up the bait in the area.
Golden trevally provide plenty of fun for fishos using soft plastics and jigs. Pic: Fraser Guided Fishing
By the way, quality snapper and some excellent grunter are hauled over the gunwhales out at the Fairway after dark at times, so don’t think the area is limited to pelagics only. If the Fairway is quiet, the Burrum 8 Mile is along a similar latitude (to the west) and fishes well for mackerel during daylight, snapper after dark on the bigger tides, and big grunter at differing times throughout the year. Like everywhere, don’t expect much from these spots if the baitfish aren’t there.
The mackerel along the west coast of the bay are not large fish as yet. There are a lot of smaller undersized fish mixed in with the legal models, so handle them with care and release a.s.a.p. As the mackerel schools descend into the bay in bigger numbers in coming weeks, they will inundate many of our inshore reefs. Look for macks around any bait-rich beacons lining our shipping channels, the bait grounds north of Woody Island, and over any deeper reefs in the area where you can find herring or yakkas.
The schoolies will find their way into the Great Sandy Straits and will soon be a regular feature at River Heads. Look for macks in deeper gutters gouged into the strait’s vast network of sandflats, such as Christies Gutter south of Moon or the Turkey Straits. Trollers have the edge when it comes to tracking down scattered mackerel schools, but when they arrive en-masse the birds and attending boats are typically a dead giveaway of the bigger aggregations.
There will be some mackerel that will make their way into our local rivers. This will typically be a somewhat fleeting visit, but the lower reaches of the Burrum and Mary often see quality macks racing about rounding up the herring and gar this time of year.
Clearing Waters Spicing Up the Straits Fishery
Mobile schools of trevally have been a feature of our northern strait’s fishery just recently. Decent schools of small to medium sized golden trevally have been delighting sportsfishos from the bay islands south.
There should be queenies about in the same waters this time of year too.
Last weekend, there were some huge GTs patrolling the verges of select parts of the bay islands for those lucky enough to trip over them with gear capable of tangling with them. They were happy enough to intercept small offerings intended for their smaller cousins apparently, but weren’t so happy about joining their pursuers in the boat for the happy snaps.
Bobby from Hot Reels Pro Fish Charters has been getting his clients onto some nice golden trevally on light spin tackle and Gobblers soft plastics.
Grunter and blue salmon have been less obvious up on the flats recently, suggesting that they are best targeted within the local creeks or perhaps the deeper feeder channels. They are certainly worth hunting in the Mary system for those willing to venture a few miles upstream.
Flathead have been eagerly targeted in recent weeks. From the coffee rock outcrops and creek mouths north of Moon Point to the big gutters, creeks and drains to its south, there has been a few flatties scattered along the western side of Fraser. You can pick a few up in the Mary, Susan or Burrum systems as well. Our local creeks are giving up a few decent flatties for those on foot or sneaking about in little tinnies or kayaks.
Fraser Guided Fishing has been finding some nice shallow water lizards for clients.
We get to hear about or view photos of a few large oversized flatties these days, but not nearly as many as you would expect. This species is vastly more prolific further down the straits away from the Hervey Bay “metropolis”, but even down that way, you need to seek them out away from the popular areas.
Whiting fishos will be gearing up next week to target their beloved ‘ting on the flats and around the creek mouths as the full moon approaches. Night sessions are the best option this time of year, largely due to the clearer waters that keep them a little spooky during daylight.
As mentioned recently, it has been a woeful tiger squid season this year. There will still be a few about for a while yet, but their numbers are very low. The River Heads and Burrum Heads areas will see their share in coming weeks, bringing them within reach of shore-based squidders. The southern straits will see better numbers this time of year, together with plenty of pencil squid in the deeper waters.
A soft plastic munching dusky flathead for Hervey Bay Fly & Sportfishing.
Beach Fishos Revel in the Mild Winter Conditions
We mentioned the great run of tailor over on Fraser’s surf beach last week. Since last week’s report we have had a few fishos return from the island with similar stories to tell. Great numbers of decent tailor inundated some gutters and fed voraciously during the afternoons and into the evening. The odd bigger fish up to four kilos was also reported.
The run of big dart has also continued. These critters are vastly more fun than tailor, taking a range of baits too which makes them a great candidate for big battles on the lighter rods. Along with the tailor, the best of the dart have been found along the central section of beach, either side of the Cathedrals. Both species are highly mobile, settling into an area or a sole gutter briefly, only to be found elsewhere along that stretch of beach the next day or so.
Fisho's flock to Fraser Island every year to chase a feed of tailor. In between the tailor session there's plenty of other options as well including bream, whiting, flathead, tarwhine and dart.
Big tarwhine continue to test the light gear in the rock-strewn gutters, whilst the big whiting should become active again as the full moon approaches next week. Jewies haven’t rated a mention so far this season, but they are definitely a worthy target over the impending full moon. So much activity from the dart and tailor is bound to draw the jewies into the beach gutters where the keener fishos will be soaking their jewie baits after dark.
Beach fishos locally can soon dust off the light whiting gear in readiness for this year’s local whiting season. Our town beaches will soon be flooded with schools of whiting once the winds swing into the north and bring a little colour back to our clear waters. Try a night session on the last of the rising tide over the coming full moon and you should pick up a few early fish if you are willing to be mobile and walk away from the little tackers.