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Weekly Fishing Report - 13th January 2022

A birds eye view of the floodwaters pushing out of the Mary and Susan River - courtesy of Michel Scotts.

Before we get on with our latest fishing report, firstly, let us apologise for the lack of reports in recent weeks. During our busy sales periods, we simply don’t have enough hands on deck to attend to extra-curricular activities as we focus on prepping the store and serving our ever-increasing customer base.

On that note, we trust that you all had an enjoyable festive season and have made the most of the somewhat limited opportunities to test out your shiny new fishing tackle. Thank you to all our local and visiting fishos for your patronage during the Xmas holiday period. Here’s hoping for a vastly improved year of fishing ahead, and the way things are shaping up, 2022 should be substantially improved on the recent drought-ravaged years.

Lighter Winds as We Approach the Full Moon

There is plenty of frustrated boaties out there just busting to get out on the bay after what has been a fairly windy and wet Xmas period. It is fair to say that our weather patterns since the start of spring have been reminiscent of the “standard” patterns of old. That is, dominant northerly winds and frequent storms in the spring time, followed by extended periods of strong southeasterly winds spawned by the passage of intense low-pressure systems and ridges formed along our coastline in summer. The result of such a weather pattern is a proper wet season, which we can say has certainly kicked off with a bang.

Looking at the current forecasts, it would appear that you frustrated boaties out there have better conditions to look forward to during the week ahead. The current 15 knot southeasterly breeze will maintain similar strength tomorrow, before easing overnight and paving the way for a glorious start to the day Saturday.

The breeze will tend from the north or northeast Saturday afternoon and maintain a gentle 10 knots from the north on Sunday. Slightly stiffer breezes overnight might whip up a little northerly swell, particularly for Monday, but the wind should be barely more than 10 knots if that. Tuesday looks like being another ripper day, with very light winds from the northeast.

The breeze will tend more easterly mid-week and blow some showers onshore, with the chance of more rain and storms by week’s end as the next round of stiffer southeasterly wind takes hold.
A waxing moon leading into Tuesday night’s full moon means we are entering a period of very productive tides right now. The weather is good, the tides are great, but we must warn you that the boating conditions are potentially quite hazardous. There is a huge amount of floating debris well-scattered throughout the bay and the straits. Boaties beware and keep a good lookout at all times. Boating after dark should probably be avoided at this time.

An epic shot of an aerial spanish mackerel - Chris Hersey

Short Term Pain for Long Term Gain as Massive Rains Impact the Fraser Coast

Even those living under a rock would be fully aware of the massive rain bomb that smashed the Mary River catchment last week. We won’t bother repeating the stats, as the latest news reports have attended to that. However, what we can do is offer is a little insight into what we can expect in the near future as a direct or indirect result of these massive freshwater inflows.

Firstly, let’s look at what areas have been impacted locally. Obviously, the Mary River catchment copped the brunt of ex-TC Seth, resulting in major flooding and devastation to townships and farmlands along its length. As at the time of writing, BOM has downgraded their flood warning to ‘minor’ at Tiaro and ‘below minor and easing’ elsewhere. The river peaked a couple of metres above standard height at Maryborough yesterday and is expected to maintain similar levels for the next few days.

Petrie Park at Tiaro was inundated with flood water, this is well above the boat ramp towards the top of the hill.

The Brolga Theatre managed to stay high and dry.

We cannot find information relating to the Susan River and Bunya Creek, but could suffice to say that these waterways would have been impacted by the rains and backed up waters from the Mary. Regardless, any of the tributaries of the Mary River should be avoided for the time being.

Approximately 300ml of rain fell in the catchment above Lake Lenthalls which saw the dam wall over-topped by around 2m of water. The water flowed through reasonably quickly and the lake is now back to its 100% capacity. It is highly likely that the majority of the lake’s mature barramundi made their escape from the impoundment, which is a crying shame for Lenthalls fans as it was just starting to produce large barra consistently.

Minor flooding of the Burrum, Cherwell and Isis Rivers, along with major flooding of the Gregory River has all now subsided. River heights are now basically back to normal. We can only hope that enough flow pushed through these rivers to scour out some of the holes that have been filling with sand in recent years. If the flow wasn’t sufficient, then it is likely that the sand shifted was only deposited elsewhere, so take extra care when navigating these rivers in the future.

Good falls to our north, that resulted in significant flows in the Burnett and Elliott Rivers are good news for prawn-lovers from our stretch of coastline. In months to come, we will be reaping the benefit of these freshwater flows and feasting on banana prawn quite regularly.

To our south, heavy falls inland and along the coastline resulted in flooding events in the Tin Can Bay / Rainbow Beach area. These waters have since subsided, but the future benefits both within the southern Great Sandy Straits estuary and the waters offshore of the Wide Bay Bar will be welcomed.

Here in Hervey Bay, we received very little rainfall from ex-TC Seth. Minor stream rises from locally heavier falls were insignificant, and as usual, we locals get to enjoy the fruits of major flooding events without the pain and inconvenience suffered by our neighbours.

What we do need to be ultra-careful of in Hervey Bay waters is debris. Sticks and large logs aren’t the only issue, as the likes of pontoons, gas bottles, tanks, boats, and even dead cows are very real hazards to boaties right now.

The Lamington Bridge and Granville Bridge both had access cut until floodwaters subsided.

Widespread Evidence of a Major Mary River Fish Kill

The sheer volume of freshwater that fell in such a quick time frame was obviously too much for many of the piscatorial inhabitants of the Mary River. Evidence of a major fish kill is now widespread, from the banks of the river itself, to the many foreshores and channels of the straits, our local beaches and even Urangan Harbour.

The ferocity of the water flow likely resulted in the demise of some fish, but it seems just as likely that the sheer volume of tiny water-borne detritus that “muddied” their waters adversely affected their gills, depriving them of oxygen and simply “choked” many to death. All estuarine species have some inbuilt ability to handle brackish conditions, yet the massive influx of freshwater and their inability to outrun the flood would have likely resulted in the demise of some species less-tolerant of fresh water.

From what we hear, there are floating lines of dead fish across the top of the banks (ie; the Fairway to Coongul). Catfish outnumber other species it seems, yet they are joined in this macabre scene by the carcasses of many bream, flathead, grunter, large bony bream, threadfin salmon and the odd barra. Floating mats of dead fish trapped in the back eddies of the Urangan Boat Harbour are an unsightly and smelly mess that some poor bugger might have to clean up if nature doesn’t do so.

A mixture of species from mullet and bream to grunter, effected by the recent floods.

Any fish kill is a sad event, particularly when it includes any of our popular target species. It is particularly sad to hear of dead barra and threadies, yet we can console ourselves with the thought that they likely spawned during previous rain events and their tiny progeny are out there reaping the benefits of the flooding.

Mud crabs and sand crabs that escaped the flooding will be feasting on the carcasses of the dead fish as they sink to the bottom in the near future. The crabbing for both species should be outstanding in coming weeks. The sandies will be further offshore in the bay, with the grounds out wide of the Burrum and throughout the central bay north of the banks being great areas to lay your pots.

The muddies will be looking to escape the freshwater and will therefore be easy targets for crabbers laying pots along the foreshores of the straits or even along beaches adjacent to creek mouths. The dirty waters inshore will enable crabs to comfortably shuffle along in areas they would normally avoid being exposed in, so don’t limit your efforts to just the creeks.

It is also worth noting that crocodiles also tend to move about in post-flood waters, taking advantage of the same dirty inshore water to seek alternative areas to hunt and reside. Many people still doubt the existence of crocs in our waters, regardless of the anecdotal and photographic evidence of recent times and the fact that the Qld government forks out plenty of taxpayer dollars to fund a crew to track down these critters in our area.

There were whispers of croc sightings at both Burrum Heads and River Heads just prior to the big rain event. How reliable these sightings were we do not know, but feel it is yet again timely to warn everyone to take that little extra care around our estuaries and nearby flats. The risk is miniscule in these parts, yet still very real.

James and Shaun with a couple of nice barra from a recent Mondy trip.

Inshore Fishing Post-Flood

Prior to the flood, our shallow fringing reefs were fishing reasonably well for coral trout, sweetlip and cod. Large grunter were also found by some fishos, mostly along the reefs fringing Pt Vernon. Catches this summer were shaping up vastly better than the last couple of seasons, largely due to the reduced water clarity from earlier rains reducing the spearfishing effort.

The latest influx of dirty water is a bit of a game changer for the time being, but the shallow reefs will still be home to an exciting array of species. You will still find grunter mooching along the outer fringes of the reefs, and these fish will often venture up into shallower waters with the tide, particularly at night.

Big numbers of mangrove jacks, dislodged from our rivers and creeks will take up temporary residence on some of the gnarlier shallow reef systems locally, but will also aggregate along the many deeper drop-offs along the inside of Fraser Island and down the straits. Bigger mature jacks will make their way out to our wide reefs and eventually even offshore, in the meantime stopping over at some of the deeper reef systems in our inshore waters.

Whilst it ever-surprising at just how often you catch coral trout in dirty waters, the majority of the better class of fish that were lurking in the shallows will now head for our deeper reefs. The many reefs within our local shipping channels will see an increase in trout numbers soon, if not already.
Remembering that the greater density of saltwater compared to freshwater means that the fresh stuff will effectively “float” over the salty stuff, you can rest assured that even though our inshore waters appear filthy and very fresh right now, there is much saltier water down in the depths.

Species such as grass sweetlip, blackall, tuskies, cod and the aforementioned trout will all seek out more comfortable water when the shallows are too fresh. Even a number of large grunter will do the same. Give things a few weeks to settle down and a few reefies will again reappear in the shallows, but given that the majority often transition to the depths this time of year it should be obvious where you should be focussing your reef fishing efforts.

Trollers able to avoid the debris might trip over a few surprises post-flood. Many displaced fish, or other fish taking advantage of the dirtier waters to shift house could be found along subtle channels or in waters well away from any significant reef systems. Super deep divers are the go, with reef fish or the ex-estuarine predators the targets.

There will be some very interesting fishing down the straits in coming weeks. Many fish dislodged from the rivers will take up residence in their favoured habitats and gorge themselves on the many forage species displaced by the floods. Some candidates worth pursuing will include jacks, jewies, threadies and barra (though not before February). Some time thereafter, other species such as queenfish, GTs, flatties, grunter, bream and whiting will be worth hunting in the lower reaches of some creeks, but for now look for them in cleaner waters.

Jelly prawns will explode in numbers in coming weeks, forming seething masses of tiny bodies along the muddy foreshores of most creeks and also back in the rivers. This is the feasting bonanza we look forward to every wet season. Not just for the abundance of predatory fish that the jelly prawn attracts, but also for the fact that these tiny little prawns turn into tasty morsels dipped in your favourite sauce in about 8 weeks.

Kristie with a nice barra and bass from a trip to Lake Monduran.

Cleaner Waters Out Wider in Hervey Bay

The demarcation line between dirty and clean waters is basically following the northern edge of the “banks” as at the time of writing. North of this line is clean clear water, but there is still large logs and other debris beyond the banks.

Many fishos have lamented the poor spotted mackerel season we have had this summer. There are still spotties in the bay, but the schools have been quite erratic, turning up in droves some days and being nigh on impossible to find on others. The onshore breeze over the past few days would traditionally suggest you would find spotties and tuna up in Platypus Bay without venturing too far from the island. This season however, we suggest you head up that way but have a plan B to head out wider to the central bay if they do not show up.

Those that did get out amongst the spotties and tuna this season all related stories of big sharks stealing their catches and making their lives difficult. This is unlikely to have changed, with the bigger numbers of sharks typically found around the biggest aggregations of pelagics. Many sharks are likely to react to the plume of floodwater advancing up the bay and be heading down to meet it. At least they might clean up a few of the dead fish.

It is not only the sharks seeking to feed along these dirty water lines either, with many reef fish and pelagics alike reacting to the abundance of food that such a plume will bring their way. There are numbers of spanish mackerel out near the Fairway at present, hunting along the clean side of the flood plume. Golden trevally and their cousins will work the deeper bait schools beneath the plume at some stage, as will queenfish if they are not otherwise occupied chasing baitfish in the shallows.

Reef fishos can take advantage of the good weather this weekend and head north to the Gutters. Offshore doesn’t look terribly inviting just yet, with a fair swell still pushing onshore from a cyclone way out in the Pacific. If you do head for the Gutters, then we suggest you put your best efforts in around the tide changes. The afternoon tide will have vastly less run than the morning one for those planning to fish during the run.

Trout, cod, grass sweetlip, scarlets, jacks, tuskies, reds, spangled emperor, moses perch, blackall and hussar are all possible from the Gutters this time of year – sharks permitting of course. Expect the noahs to be bad once the boat traffic increases. Luckily for some, the weather (and ongoing shark issues) kept the majority of boaties away from the Gutters earlier this summer, enabling those that made the effort to sneak a good feed or two over the gunnels without overpaying the tax man.

Kealen with a couple of nice blueys from a recent spearfishing trip. Only take what you need, this species play a vital role in maintaining our reefs.

Beaches Quiet – But That Will All Change Soon

Logan and Mckinley getting into some whiting at the Urangan Pier over Christmas.

There is very little to report from our local beaches or the Urangan Pier at present. In the very near future though, once the saltwater/freshwater mix is suitable, we will start to hear of big grunter taking baits of prawn or yabby from the town beaches and the pier. Threadies will also make an appearance, albeit in small numbers. They will most likely turn up along South Beach or the Booral Flats more-so than right in town.

Jewies will return to the usual spots and will also turn up in bigger numbers at River Heads once the main volume of floodwater has passed by. Look out for jelly prawn along our muddier “beaches” and flats in coming weeks and loosen up the light gear for some of the best topwater whiting fishing on offer in these parts.

The Fraser Coast Regional Council begin the cleanup of our local beaches.

Squidders chasing pencillies will struggle whilst the water is at its dirtiest from the pier, but they may see a return visit before the season winds down. Otherwise, squidders will need to head out in a boat and look for the squid lurking beneath the flood plume, or even better, further north in the clean water.

All in all, this big flooding event is a god-send for Hervey Bay fishos. We have been in desperate need of such an event for many years, so its timing could not have been better. We will all reap the benefit of this event in the weeks, months and indeed years to come. And guess what - we are still only at the start of our wet season – there could be more to come.

Good luck out there y’all.

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