The past week’s weather was fairly ordinary, with only the past couple of days fishable in anything other than protected waters. Predicting this week’s weather is nigh on impossible at the moment, as even the weather gurus seem to change their forecasts every few hours. Needless to say we are in for a wet weekend ahead as a low pressure system to our south and its associated trough dumps its load prior to what will become ex-TC Owen barrelling down the Bruce Highway perhaps Sunday/Monday.
The tides are certainly a lot more predictable, and we are entering a neap phase at present with a quarter moon Saturday. With the full moon a bit over a week away, and a major weather event on the horizon, many eyes will be on the dams as this combination can be outstanding for a major aggregation of impoundment barra. Of course, too much rainfall and associated run-off in the catchments could totally change the current excellent dam conditions, so everything is crossed that this does not occur.
Strong winds, wild seas and strong currents spawned by northerly winds have kept reef fishos away from the Breaksea – Sandy Cape area offshore, however, the crew on gun local charter boat "Getaway" (Time & Tide Charters) had an absolute blinder on their most recent trip offshore. They bagged out in no time on big rosy jobfish to 9kg in around 100-120m of water on the shelf then found great snapper in similar depths, with one knobbie going a genuine 1m in length. They followed this up with swags of big pearl perch and put the crew onto a heap of big amberjack to 1.4m and a few kingfish on knife jigs.
Back in on the shoal country they found some beaut school reds, some nice red throat lippers, big cod and plenty of quality venus tuskfish. They proved that having an outfit at the ready to flick out a pillie to a passing mahi mahi is handy and scored a couple of dollies sight-casting to cruising fish. They also had a crack at the Spit Bombie for GT’s but have found that area too quiet of late, with better fishing to be had on the northern shoals for these bruisers. If heading out that way then don’t bother doing so in northerly winds as this simply strengthens the offshore current and drifts you along too fast. Word is the sharks are pretty bad out there, though at their worst over the quarter moons and the darks.
Locals or intending visitors looking for a reef fishing trip to remember could be well-served adding your name/s to Time & Tide’s list of punters for "fill-ins" for their 3 day trips. They generally take a crew of 10, but at times can have vacant spaces up for grabs. Check them out on Facebook for contact details and up to date pics of their latest captures.
The crew on gun game boat "Mistress" have been back out there chasing marlin and just yesterday scored a grand slam of black, blue and striped marlin from Fraser’s offshore waters. Incidental heavy tackle bycatch has included yellowfin tuna, wahoo and mahi mahi in recent times, with the mahi mahi dominating the bycatch this week. These other sportfish offer a great alternative, along with the usual smaller blacks, for those wishing to venture offshore with lighter tackle.
As soon as the weather improved several crews made their way up into Platypus Bay chasing spotted mackerel and were not disappointed. Good schools of surface-feeding spotties can be found throughout the bay feeding on their favoured tiny baitfish, and are easily spotted from a distance due to the obvious surface commotion and attending terns. As always, small metal slugs in the 20-40gm range are all that is required to secure a quick feed of spotties. If catch and release is more your thing then try not to handle the spotties as they simply do not handle well. Mack tuna schools are quite common at present, often joining in semi-mixed schools with the spotties to gorge on the hapless bait balls. Be wary of bull sharks and their many cousins as shark activity continues to increase as we head into summer.
Working plastics and micro jigs over and around the Platypus Bay reefs and further south around the Outer Banks can see you into some line-burning action from big golden trevally. Sharks are often in attendance around these schooled up fish as well, so move on if they find you. Given the reprieve from angler effort in recent times, many reef systems should have "re-stocked", so you can always try your favourite haunts for a feed of sweeties, scarlets, trout and cod.
Our inshore reefs and shoals are alive with quality grass sweetlip at present and their numbers should continue to grow as we head into summer. Sweeties are quite easy to catch, favouring baits of squid, prawn, hardiheads and flesh baits and are aggressive feeders that will often take small plastics with GULP versions being most successful. Target the deeper reefs and their fringes during the neaps and leave the shallows for the spring tides if chasing sweeties. You can expect cod and trout on livies over the tide turns, though you might find the baitfish a bit hard to find if you are new to this game. Tea-bagging soft plastics can be equally as effective and saves the hassles of procuring the live baits.
Big GT’s have made some of the Roy Rufus shipwrecks their home for the time being. They are not an easy topwater option in these areas due to boat traffic, so try pre-dawn and post-dusk periods if blooping poppers is your favoured method. Big live baits will certainly get their attention most times, though the resident sharks and monster cod will be a problem. GT’s have also been smashing poppers and big stickbaits around the bay islands’ current lines, though they are better targeted in these areas over the bigger tide phases.
Queenfish are turning up all over the place inshore at present, which is fairly typical when the pencil squid are running. Don’t be surprised to find queenies in the shipping channels seemingly in the middle of nowhere but look more-so at Fraser’s western reef ledges and around the bay islands to target them more specifically. Again, they are a better target with more run in the tide when fishing the shallower areas.
Great Sandy Straits & Mary/Susan Rivers
There have been reports of a few quality threadfin salmon in the lower reaches of the Mary, the Susan, Little Susan and Bengstons Creek. A couple of decent threadies have been caught from the River Heads area as well, and they are the primary target for many fishos heading down the Straits. If we get any serious rain/flooding from the impending weather event then the salmon will be one of the big movers, so look for them out the front of the heads if the wet season kicks in early.
A few decent grunter have been reported from the lower reaches of the Susan recently, taking small herring and live prawns. Grunter are absolute suckers for small plastics as well, so use enough weight to hold bottom and hop your prawn-style plastics over any shelly or gravelly ground within the rivers, or through the holes and along the ledges in the creeks down the Straits.
If it is mangrove jacks that you are after then you will have to head over to Fraser’s western creeks for a crack at them. Hot muggy days with the sandflies driving you mad are about perfect and you can either choose to flick small lures, or fish baits of small livies or mullet fillets. Either way you will find a bit of bycatch in the form of estuary cod, flathead, small jew and others.
Those chasing a feed of mud crabs for Xmas should be looking to drop the pots in over the next week. Any significant rainfall will be likely to push the muddies out of the back waters, and the full moon in a week or so is bound to see them on the move as well.
Most are reporting slow fishing from the Burrum Heads area, though there have been a few grunter taken over the bigger tides at night further upstream. These grunter will likely move back out of the rivers if the wet comes on strong, so keep this in mind if that eventuates. In the meantime, there are swags of jacks throughout the four rivers up that way, so if you can get there before the rain events then lucky you.
Urangan Pier and the Town Beaches
Pencil squid seem to be the most sought-after critter out at the Urangan Pier at present. Night sessions are the go when the weather allows and the waters are clear enough. Big numbers can be attained if done right with small squid jigs and the aid of artificial lighting to attract the squid. If you don’t have an LED light-bar or lantern to suspend above the water, then the next best thing is chemical light sticks or LED strobes attached to your rig.
All this squid action should be drawing the attention of a few queenies out at the pier, though they can sometimes be a better night time proposition. When the waters clean up the big GT’s return to the pier and will test even the best and heaviest of tackle when surrounded by barnacle-encrusted pylons.
Our local beaches have been fairly quiet of late, with just a few whiting and the odd flathead for those putting in the effort. The Booral Flats are a better proposition for those who like to play in the mud and have appropriate footwear for the task. Our local creeks continue to produce some excellent mangrove jacks from the mid and upper reaches with the usual bycatch.
For those of us that love our impoundment barra fishing, the next few days will see anxiety levels peak as we watch the rainfall figures for the Kolan and Boyne catchments. If you have the opportunity, then get yourself to your favourite dam as the barra typically will be going off with a weather event like ex-TC Owen approaching. Barra will often school during these times and use the creek and gully courses to make their way towards the river course in response to their natural instinct to head downstream to spawn. Find areas that see a major watercourse come close to a large point or shallow flat and you could find serious numbers of barra aggregated. Recent reports from the dams suggest that a lot of fish have already moved out of the back reaches.
If fishing over the coming days, be storm-safe and keep an eye on the radar and latest weather reports.
Stay safe, and good luck out there y’all.