It is hard to find superlatives good enough to describe this week’s weather here on the Fraser Coast. Light winds bordering on dead calm have greeted boaties all week and the sensational weather is set to continue right through the coming weekend. In a word .... yeehah!!!
We can thank a succession of high pressure systems that have been marching across the country, hovering over land as we want them to do this time of year. Until one drops south into the bight (which looks like happening in a week or so) we will continue to revel in the picture perfect conditions.
Couple great weather with building tides and recently reduced water temperatures and you have the recipe for some fantastic winter fishing, albeit in relatively warm conditions right now. The full moon this Monday will see fairly significant run in the tides, particularly at night.
Offshore will be the destination for a large part of the local fleet, with such great conditions likely to see many spoilt for options. Whilst plenty of crews have already geared up and headed to ports to our north to access the southern GBR, plenty more will head over either the Wide Bay Bar south of Fraser or the Breaksea Spit to the north. Others will choose to steer west of the spit and head northwards to the epic grounds in the vicinity of Lady Elliot Island.
The grounds east of Breaksea Spit have been firing big time for reefies and pelagics alike. The crew on gun local charter boat "Getaway" (Time & Tide Charters) have been having a ball on back to back trips recently, with plenty of variety as expected. They have snuck in a bit of trolling for quality spanish mackerel and some big yellowfin over the shoal country but have focussed moreso on the reef fishing due to the slight current and great conditions.
They have found outstanding red throat to 6kg or more, but the sharks have been worse than ever in that sort of hard country. Quality venus tusk fish continue to add colour to the eskies in a big way and they should be on fire over the full moon period. Big hussar on the right grounds have been a bonus, both bait-wise and for their eating qualities, but it is the big scarlets and green jobfish that the crew are keener on catching.
They recently had a crazy session on the green jobbies where 35 fish were landed in a couple of hours ranging from 8-12kg. The sharks got a few, but being night time they weren’t as bad as they might have been. Slipping out wider and fishing the shelf in 110m they have found plenty of rosy jobfish and pearl perch on the chew, but snapper haven’t come on consistently as yet.
Word from gun (now local) gamefishing charter vessels "Mistress" and "Kekoa" suggests there are stacks of juvenile black marlin on offer for light tackle enthusiasts just off the north eastern tip of Fraser. It sounds like you could simply cross the 4 mile bar crossing, steer to starboard and set a spread of 5-6 inch skirts or set up for switch-baiting and head southward, and you will track down the marlin in around 20 metres of water. The pro crews have been scoring up to 10 billies (landed) per day, which whilst they are only little tackers in the sub-15kg range, are a stack of fun on the light gear.
The grounds close offshore from the Wide Bay Bar are still producing good numbers of big spotty mackerel, some nice spanish and big numbers of longtail and mack tuna. Snapper are starting to appear in closer too, and big sweetlip, scarlets and cod are likely from some of the close stuff. Out wider and it will be reds, snapper, amberjack, pearlies, parrot, moses and hussar that feature most in reef fishos’ catches, and so far the shark activity has been less the further you venture from the bar.
Some pretty impressive catches came from up Lady Elliot way recently, and there should be no reason for any less action this week, though crews heading that way will need to contend with the bigger tidal flow. Red emperor have been the major prize, but bag limits of big parrot, quality red throats and trout have all been on offer. Spanish mackerel are a sure thing in parts, as are some big schools of school-sized cobia.
Reef fish will be the primary target for the smaller boats heading out wide to the Gutters and Rooneys this week. Snapper have been slow to get going, in part due to the water temperature only just creeping down to 20C, but they should start to move in over the coming moon. As the water cools further (which seems somewhat unlikely this week) the yakka schools will turn up en-masse and the snapper will be right behind them.
For now, you can expect a great mixed bag that could consist of snapper, squire, scarlets, trout, cod, parrot, reef jacks and perhaps even a red emperor, but are pretty much guaranteed to get plenty of grass sweetlip if you get even close to a bit of reef out that way. The sharks have been bad (as you all know), but with so many boats likely to be on the water you could get shark-free moments where other crew/s have the noahs occupied elsewhere.
Live baiting will account for a lot of the better quality reef fish, but will also entice the big cobia that are starting to become more common at both the Gutters and Rooneys. Whilst you may find small cobes schooled up in numbers (often averaging 6-12kg), you are just as likely to encounter those 30kg+ brutes that will stretch your line and test your stamina. Cobia to 50kg are possible from Hervey Bay waters over winter, so be prepared for all comers and don’t discount that big black slow-moving missile as a shark as so many so often do.
Expect to trip over a few spanish out wide this week too, particularly if loitering around any of the bigger reef systems in the area. Drag some high speed lures such as X-Raps or Laser Pros around early in the morning if you are so inclined and keep an eye out for bait schools whilst you are at it. Be prepared to cease trolling and drop a plastic if the tell tale arches of snapper and trevally appear around said bait schools.
There are still longtail and mack tuna here in the bay, though seemingly not in the same numbers as a few weeks ago. As anticipated, a few clued-up fishos have been scoring nice longtail by working plastic jerkshads deeper in the water column and this same approach could see you score snapper, scarlets, trevally, mackerel or cobia depending on your location.
Snapper will be target number one for many a keen fisho inshore this weekend. Building tides pre-full moon should see your chances improve significantly, though the calm conditions in the middle of the day may prove challenging. A dawn-buster session or (even better) a late afternoon/evening session is more likely to see you come in contact with a few big old knobbies.
Popular spots for snapper include the Burrum 8 and 12 Mile, the Outer Banks, the Simpson arti, Roy Rufus arti and Moon Ledge, without mentioning numerous other inshore ledges, holes and rubble grounds that will draw the odd snapper and a feed of squire at times. A source of baitfish will be key to attracting the snapper to any given area, so scope the area for bait and choose appropriate baits or artificials to offer them what they are there to feed on.
Many of us have had success on snapper with soft plastics in the past, so there isn’t much new that we can tell you here, but for the newcomers or snapper virgins, here are a few simple tips and ideas:
Firstly, you do not need to use heavy gear inshore. Basically, your graphite rod needs to be able to work the weight of the chosen jighead, so a 3kg, 4kg or 6 kg rod is ample inshore where jigheads of 1/4oz, 3/8oz or 1/2oz are commonly used.
That goes for the grounds within Platypus Bay as well, where a lack of current and generally shallow (sub 25m) water allows the use of the lighter gear. Head wider and beyond 25m of water and you will need to deploy jighead weights from 1/2oz to 1oz and therefore require an 8kg or 10kg graphite rod to work those heavier jigheads and indeed set the bigger hooks in the fish.
Secondly, the size and type of plastic you attach to the jighead should reflect the likely bait source in the area. Common plastics for snapper in these parts include GULP shrimp and jerkshads; Zman curly tails, jerkshads and 3-4 inch paddle tails; Squidgy prawn and paddle tails; Boom Baits in all varieties; and Ecooda Shrimps of both sizes. The list of possible snapper plastics could go on, but to keep it simple just ask us in store and we will rig you up correctly once we know your general target area.
Thirdly, keep your leader fairly light. 50lb might be a suitable leader for bait fishos in many cases, but try 20-30lb when using lures for a better presentation and more strikes. Use fluorocarbon if you prefer, and this will allow you to lighten your leaders even further.
Fourthly, cast your plastic ahead of the drift line that you have set up to drift over your target. If your plastic hits bottom without being eaten, then deploy a series of slow/fast jerking lifts depending upon the chosen plastic. Quite simply, if the plastic has a built in action (tail) then slow lifts letting it fall back will work, of it resembles a prawn then keep it near the bottom, and if using a jerkshad then jerk it more rigorously.
Micro jigs will account for a swag of snapper again this season, and offer fishos a crack at fish holding station in high current or deeper areas. Trevally will certainly be a major bycatch on these little slow-pitch jigs, but so will coral trout, parrot and scarlets and any number of other species if you drop them in their vicinity.
There is an easy feed of mackerel out there at present, with the whiting grounds out from Gatakers Bay, the Fairway, Burrum 8 Mile, Outer Banks and other inshore marks south to Kingfisher that are holding any quantity of herring likely to turn a few up. You can always troll the shipping channels if you prefer , and could also change lures to a super deep diver such as a Dr Evil, Crazy Deep Scorpion or 20+ Classic once you wander near any of the abovementioned snapper country where you should slow your speed down to a couple of knots in the hope of a big knobbie snapper.
Bait and lure fishos alike will chance a trout or cod over the tide turns locally, and a few sweetlip and blackall are on the cards for the bait fishos. After dark sessions will produce best for all bar the trout and will certainly offer a better chance at snapper. Sharks have been particularly bad around the deeper inshore reefs lately so keep this in mind and be prepared to move on if being taxed.
The best of the winter whiting action continues to be centred around the Gatakers Bay area. No doubt the insanely good weather will see the whiting fleet scatter looking for greener pastures without needing to fish the more protected waters. For those looking to try other areas, whiting will turn up off the NU2, off Torquay, Toogoom, south of Round Island and west of Woody Island at some time, not to mention all the great whiting grounds down the straits. We will keep you attuned to the grounds that are fishing best on a week-to-week basis.
Sand crabs are still on the move in the western bay. Pros are working their gear just outside the Woodgate green zone and the crabs have been potting well from there south to just wide of Gatakers. You won’t find a better sand crab bait than winter whiting frames, so why not deploy a heavy crab pot or four whilst you get your bag of whiting.
Mary/Susan Rivers & the Great Sandy Straits
Jewfish, bream, flathead, summer whiting, blue salmon and threadfin salmon are all good targets for those venturing up the Susan or Mary rivers or their tributaries. This warm spell might even see a brief spike in barra captures. With so much herring in the systems at present it shouldn’t be too hard to work out what bait or lure imitations to use.
Heading down the straits could see you tangle with all or some of the above with the addition of mini GTs, diamond trevally, queenfish, mackerel and cod. We haven’t heard of any tailor from down that way as yet but it won’t be long and they will start to turn up soon.
Don’t head down that way without a selection of squid jigs. Even though the tigers haven’t been about in any numbers locally, word from further down the straits suggests they are a worthy target.
Urangan Pier, Local Beaches and Creeks
Longtail and mack tuna have been regular visitors to the deep end of the pier recently and have been prone to scoff a well presented live herring. Bonito have turned up in numbers this week and are suckers for metal spoons and slugs. Mackerel have been less frequent captures this week, but there are still schoolies and broadies in the general area so they could return at any time.
Bream are on the cards for bait fishos both day and night, and some large flathead have been sight-fished with live pike and herring this week. Make sure you have squid jigs in your kit if heading out the pier as a few big locallies have turned up recently. Chances are a few jewfish will turn up over the full moon as well, so work out how to catch live pike and be ready for a night session.
The big tides should produce a good feed of summer whiting from our local town beaches. Good catches have been reported already this week, with some impressive numbers for this time of year. The whiting should get even better as we get closer to the full moon. Whilst they have been having a fair go during the daytime, they should be an even better proposition on the rising tide after dark.
We mentioned it plenty of times over recent weeks, and it probably isn’t on the to-do list given the exceptional weather, but Lenthalls is absolutely firing for both bass and barra at present. The current spell of warm weather will go a long way to enhancing the bite, particularly from the barra, so get on out there if you feel like a freshwater fix.
Good luck out there y’all.