Feels Like Spring Already
Mid-week weather has been great lately, with a couple of weeks in a row turning it on for those that don’t need to work on weekdays. The past couple of days have been sublime, with light winds and clear skies offering boaties a chance to head far and wide.
Over the week ahead, it looks like a string of low-pressure systems will march across the Great Australian Bight effectively forcing highs further north over the continent. This will see our weather dominated by westerly and northerly winds this week. The lightest winds will be early next week, and there will be the odd day where the northerlies get up around 15 knots, so pick your days as the bay can be fairly lumpy when the northerly dominates.
The tides are building as we approach next Wednesday’s new moon. The evening tides mid next week will be very high, rising from very low lows, which will bring on the bite from a whole range of species.
Snapper Season Opens This Weekend
Qld’s inaugural one-month snapper closure concludes at midnight this Saturday 15th August. Many local fishos will be chafing at the bit to get out amongst the migrating snapper population thereafter.
Anecdotal reports of accidental snapper captures during the closure, or of observations from those scanning local reefs with their sounders, suggest there will be a reasonable run of snapper on offer for the season opener. The weather may not be ideal, with westerlies and northerlies traditionally deemed unfavourable for chasing Hervey Bay snapper, though that is unlikely to deter the super keen snapper fishos that haven’t had their fix for a month.
Night sessions will see the best results for bait fishos chasing snapper up in Platypus Bay. A light, but consistent, berley trail will attract and hold the fish long enough to score a feed in the right areas. Similar tactics will produce good fish around dawn as well, so long as you offer the fish the food they are feeding on in the area. For much of the bay, this means catching yakkas, pike and/or herring and either sending them out alive or butterflying the baits and floatlining them back in your berley trail.
Those choosing to target snapper around our deeper inshore reefs will obviously find the current substantially stronger, effectively denying the berley option for all but the slower periods around the tide changes. Live baits can attract better quality fish inshore, but the same butterflied baitfish, or whole pencil squid, winter whiting and even large prawns will all catch snapper of varying sizes if presented appropriately.
Snapper are suckers for a huge range of soft plastics, and will also take a range of other artificials from soft vibes and micro jigs to trolled deep-diving hardbodies. These lure options certainly make the task of finding and catching snapper in daylight hours easier for many of us, particularly when coupled with the latest in sounder and electric motor technology.
Snapper should be widespread throughout the bay at present. Hopefully they have gathered and had an opportunity to spawn, as after all, the closure was meant to allow this spawning unhindered. If the weather permits, then the southern and northern gutters will offer up snapper at dawn, dusk, and during the evening along the ledges. Those using softies or jigs should consider reducing leader size substantially from what they might otherwise be using for trout, as the snapper are a lot more leader-shy. Look for schools of snapper milling around away from the ledges during daylight, rather than hugging the drop-offs.
The 25 Fathom Hole will be an obvious choice for many chasing snapper. It gets a lot of pressure nowadays, so first in best dressed. Again, plastics and vibes work a treat during the day, whilst those bait fishos willing to hang into the evening will find the snapper moving though at some stage. Live and dead yakkas are pretty much the be all and end all of baits for the fathom hole.
Platypus Bay reefs will be prime for snapper right now. There is plenty of yakka, herring, pike and other baitfish up that way and the spawning snapper schools will be active. The new moon period is particularly good at this time of year, offering both daytime and night-time fishing options.
Closer inshore, the list of potential snapper hotspots includes the Burrum 8 and 12 Mile, the Outer Banks, Moon Ledge, Mickies and the Roy Rufus artificial reef. Numerous other inshore reefs and areas containing broken bottom can hold smaller snapper (squire), including the likes of the Urangan Channel, the Fairway, the Channel Hole, Boges Hole and the drop-offs along western side of Fraser in the vicinity of Kingfisher Bay.
So, when the weather permits, get out and get into some of our Hervey Bay snapper. Stick to the bag limit and take care to release unwanted fish in good condition. Avoid fishing shark-infested waters when possible as releasing exhausted fish in their vicinity is unlikely to end well.
Be aware of the new boat limit for snapper, wherein you are only allowed twice the individual limit if you have two or more people onboard. This effectively means only two fish over 70cm can be part of that boat limit.
Late Winter Pelagic Action
School mackerel numbers are on the increase in the southern bay and the straits at present. As mentioned last week, there are a lot more undersized fish than legal ones in many areas. Try any of the usual haunts for schoolies and move on and try elsewhere if you find too many juveniles. Trolling offers an opportunity to cover more territory and often finds better fish away from the schools of little ones.
There has been a flurry of pelagic activity up in Platypus Bay recently, with hoards of trevally scoffing all manner of softies, jigs and baits. Numbers of fairly large golden trevally have been quite common in the southern sector, with schools of goldies also making their way into our local shipping channels.
Queenfish and a few longtail tuna have been keeping the local guides’ clients entertained up in the eastern bay, whilst the odd big cobia gives them a workout when they turn up. Large spanish mackerel and huge barracuda can turn up anywhere this time of year and are sometimes the culprit when a schoolie, small trevally or squire gets bitten off.
Northerlies Will Stir Up the Summeries – Not So the Winteries
Summer whiting fans will be looking forward to the upcoming nights around the new moon. The big night tides will see active fish push up onto the flats or up into the little creeks along the inside of Fraser. The strength of the northerly wind at the time will dictate where and when you will be able to chase the whiting.
Live bloodworms and live yabbies will be their undoing for the bait-fishing brigade. Whilst those that like to mix it up a little will bust out the super-light finesses tackle and be seen blooping micro poppers or skipping mini stickbaits over the skinniest of water. Berkley GULP 2-inch Sandworms in New Penny colour do a great job of fooling summer whiting, whether attached to a tiny size 6 jighead or simply used as an artificial bait.
Whilst our local waters are still gin clear at present, the northerly winds this week should stir up the north-facing town beaches and offer a chance for whiting to come in and feed. Night sessions will always be best this time of year, but there will be ample opportunity for land-based fishos to have a crack at some whiting along our beaches during daylight over the coming week. Try the rising tide in the mornings after a night of northerly winds in areas such as Shelley Beach or from the Urangan Pier.
Big summeries will be worth a crack for those fishing the mid-lower stretches of the Burrum system. Night sessions are best, yet again, and targeting skinny water up on the sandbanks as the first of the flood tide creeps in is often most productive. Which sandbanks to target can be a little daunting in a river so full of sandbanks, though let’s just say look for the banks with the foam caused by the bigger flood tides.
Boaties chasing winter whiting won’t be at all fond of the northerlies, but might look to make the most of the periods of southwesterly. Latest reports suggest the channels west of the bottom of Big Woody are worth a look, as are the grounds off Toogoom and Woodgate. Fish sizes have been a bit ordinary in many areas, so be prepared to steer away from small fish and go in search of better quality.
Options Down the Great Sandy Straits
Thankfully for we locals, the Great Sandy Straits offers plenty of options when the northerlies and westerlies make the open bay undesirable. The big new moon tides will see vast flats drained with the ebbing tide, offering ample ambush opportunities for a range of estuarine predators. Equally so, the big flood tides over the same period will offer the forage species plenty of fresh ground to cover.
So, whiting fishos can chase their ‘ting up on the flats or up the creeks with the flood tide, then look for some grunter or bream foraging along the mangrove lines whilst the tide is high. Blue salmon will make their way well upstream in the creeks, or up onto the mudflats, with the flood tide and will then fall back into the holes or feeder channels as the tide recedes.
Flathead can be caught all tide, but are certainly easiest to target during the latter stages of the ebb tide and first of the flood. Flathead numbers have been at an all-time low of late, so hopefully more fish appear soon. Some crews have found a few flatties by escaping the crowds and sneaking up the less-fished creeks down the straits, but even in these areas, numbers are far lower than what should be expected during the peak season.
Female flatties are in roe right now and will be spawning any time over the coming months. Let these bigger fish go and even let the mid-sized females go when they are seen to have swollen abdomens, heavy in roe. Find enough smaller fish and you have the makings of a great feed if you are so inclined.
The sea mullet run is under way, so you will see schools of large “bullies” moving out of creeks and rivers and heading for the spawning grounds. This fact will not be overlooked by the local jewfish population that will be taking up station in likely ambush points around rock bars and drop-offs where they can smash the mullet during the evening tide changes.
Threadfin salmon and barra will be enjoying that little bit of warmth in the air right now (as we are) and will become increasingly active as our waters warm. That westerly last weekend dropped the water temperature to below 16C in the creeks (in the mornings at least), making for tough fishing for these species. Yet only days later, the same fish have come on with a spurt of activity that has seen some quality fish landed.
The straits is not just about estuarine species this time of year, as plenty of reef fish are on offer and if there is enough bait to draw their attention, then also various pelagic species. School mackerel are certainly about, making a nuisance of themselves often enough. Small GT’s, goldies of various sizes, queenfish and tailor are all possible if you seek out the hardihead and herring schools.
Reef fish such as squire, grass sweetlip, blackall, scarlets, trout and plenty of estuary cod can be found along a few of the ledges on the inside of Fraser. Heading down towards the southern end of the straits offers a crack at even more reef fishing options, together with the potential of large longtail and cobia if you find yourself as far south as Inskip Point.
Latest from the Local Impoundments
This spell of warmer weather has no doubt got plenty of barra fans considering a trip to one of our local lakes. Both Lenthalls and Monduran have never looked better when it comes to water quality and there are great numbers of barra stocked in both.
Lenthalls has produced small numbers of reasonable sized barra this winter for the local die-hards. Surface lures worked across the shallows has brought on great strikes and quite a few follows from fish obviously seeking out warmer waters in the shallow wind-blown fringes. Fish beyond 90cm are possible from Lenthalls nowadays, and there couldn’t be an easier barra lake to fish in the state of Queensland.
Suspending hardbodies and paddle-tailed plastics will always account for the biggest numbers of barra in Lenthalls and are great lures to work around lily pads and laydowns. Trolling diving lures can also score on these barra when they move back off the edge into deeper water, though rarely in the same numbers as other techniques.
Bass fishos have been able to pick up plenty of quality bass hopping vibes around schools of fish found in deeper waters off the points and bay entrances. Trolling small deep divers is also highly productive throughout the day.
Lake Monduran has been a bit challenging in recent weeks, but finally a few barra started to bite over the past week. The remarkably clear waters in the lake right now might have something to do with the recent lack of action due to the clearer water not holding the residual heat as well as water full of water-borne algae. It sure will offer incredibly visual fishing in the near future however, so let’s hope it stays clear.
Being basically devoid of weed due to its rapidly falling water level, Monduran offers shallow-water impoundment barra fishing rarely experienced in other lakes. Being able to work lures in waters under a metre in depth and watch as big fat barra boof your offering in clear view will be the stuff of dreams this season. Surface strikes on all manner of surface lures will take even this great fishery to the next level.
Mondy will be super popular this spring, so if you want to avoid the crowds and score some quality winter-time barra action then this next week or so of warmer northerly winds should offer you just the chance you need. Local guide, Rob from Guidelines Fishing Charters, says there are big numbers of barra stacked up in the back of the little bays just waiting for the right conditions to fire up. Once they do, it will be champagne fishing indeed.
Good luck out there y’all.