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Weekly Fishing Report - 14th January 2021

Weather Improving – Calm Days on the Way

Well, we can pretty much write off the past week as a loss fishing-wise due to the crappy weather. Strong winds hampered boaties for the whole week, easing just enough over the past day of two to enable eager holidaymakers to get out in the more sheltered spots.

The future looks much brighter however, with the wind dropping right out tonight. Light winds will greet boaties tomorrow, with a gentle afternoon sea breeze. A 10-15 knot northerly might upset the apple cart Saturday, though Sunday should be vastly better with the return of lighter onshore breezes.

The early part of next week looks terrific. Light winds are likely to lead up to a brief southeast change mid-week prior to the return of another spell of very light winds. We might see a shower or even a storm or two early in the week, so keep an eye on the radar and the sky when out in exposed waters, especially when it is calm and hot.

Last night’s new moon saw the peak of the bigger tides for the time being. The days immediately following a new moon are typically very productive for reef fish and pelagics, though the bite might wane with the tides as the week wears on.

We’ve obviously got precious little to report on from the past week, so leaving that one in the rear-view mirror, let’s look at what you might hook into over the week ahead.

Offshore Trips Look Promising

The impending spell of light winds will likely see a number of offshore-capable vessels heading for the fish-rich grounds north and east of Fraser Island. Crossing the Breaksea Spit and bottom bashing for reefies over the shoals and the fringe of the continental shelf should see a good mixed bag.

The prevailing current in the areas you choose to fish, combined with the movement of baitfish through the area will certainly impact on your level of success. Even in these highly productive offshore waters, the fish rarely bite well all day, so be prepared for the odd slow period and be prepared for the major bites when they occur.

Prior to this latest blow, reports filtering back in from north of Fraser suggested that the southern shoals and the shelf to its east fished well. The sharks weren’t a huge issue in that area at the time, but this might only be due to the lack of boat traffic this summer. Make the most of the reduced shark numbers if you get the chance, as they will undoubtedly return once they home in on the increased boat activity.

Staff member Dane on the job!

Grounds further north were seemingly less productive, or quite shark-infested prior to the blow, but this situation may well have changed. Again, baitfish movements will have a major bearing on the productivity of a given area, amassing volumes of nomadic reefies, pelagics and sharks where the bait is most concentrated.

For those that are interested, Spanish mackerel have turned up en-masse on many bait-rich grounds from Lady Elliot to Sandy Cape. This is a great time of year to target big GT’s on poppers or stickies over the Sandy Cape Shoals or Spit Bombie when the current is pumping. Yellowfin tuna can be trolled up out a bit wider, or even targeted with topwater lures if they bust up within casting range.

The list of species you can expect from our northern offshore waters this time of year is expansive. Some of the more sought-after fish from the shallower shoal country include red emperor, large scarlets, red-throat, reef jacks and blue maori cod. Box-fillers such as brown maori cod, coronation trout, venus tuskfish, hussar and moses perch are always welcome and add that extra bit of colour to the esky.

Whilst snapper are still certainly possible from the deeper shelf waters in summer, it is more common to encounter schools of pearl perch and rosy jobfish along the 100m line. Those deep-dropping out wider again might tangle with any number of deep-water reef fish from bar cod and trevalla to the many members of the jobfish clan.

Christie with a cobia or black king.

Avoiding Sharks Can Be Tough in Hervey Bay Waters

Reef fishos will likely head for the northern grounds of Hervey Bay during the next week. Be warned that the sharks are a major hassle on much of the common country up that way. The Northern Gutters, Southern Gutters and Rooneys reef systems have all suffered tragically from shark predation in recent years and the problem is getting worse year by year.

There are still good fish to be caught up that way, but you must be prepared to put some distance between you and the sharks when they find you. You should make haste when you do so, as skipping from one ledge or spot to the other at any speed other than full noise will typically see the sharks in hot pursuit. Unfortunately, the good old days of anchoring on a ledge at the gutters and hauling in quality reefies one after the other is but a distant memory.

There are numerous smaller, less frequented and quite often very productive pieces of rubble, reef and weed in the northern bay that can see you haul in a great feed without the sharks. Spend some time on your charts, or the latest in digital mapping technology on offer online and then put in the hours on the water to find your own little honey holes. When you do, keep these precious spots to yourself and hope no-one blowflies you when you are there, as boat traffic equals sharks nowadays.

Very few of the latest crop of reef fishos plying our waters ever anchor these days. The sharks have made it pointless in many areas of course, but the common use of soft plastics and slow pitch jigs tea-bagged over the reefs on the drift has negated the need and hassle of anchoring. Coral trout have always been the biggest sucker for this technique, but scarlets, snapper, cod and even red emperor can be tricked into eating the right artificials.

It's always rewarding seeing the young guns get in on the action.

You can see why they get the name tuskfish.

Corallies are prolific on our inshore reefs this time of year and are best targeted on the big tides.

Changing Scene for Sportsfishos in Platypus Bay

Prior to the latest blow, there were masses of spotted mackerel and mack tuna scattered throughout Platypus Bay. Commercial fishers chasing mackerel over the last couple of days are saying that the surface waters of the bay have dirtied from the strong south-southeasters. It would normally be a northerly wind that would dirty these waters, but they are suggesting that the wind has blown ash from the recent Fraser Island fires out onto the bay.

The pros struggled to find any surface activity between the harbour and Rooneys Point. This is somewhat strange, given that the recent blow should have drawn baitfish and their pursuing pelagics further southeast into the bay. Let’s hope that this supposed dirty surface water and lack of activity is only a temporary phenomenon and we see the return of surface-feeding spotties and tuna now that the weather is settling.

In fact, regardless of the comments above, the likelihood that the spotties and tuna will return to their usual surface-feeding antics is very high. The only way to know for sure is to get out there and go looking for them. Arm yourselves with a good array of metal slugs and jerkshad-styled plastics and head up the island or out into the central bay looking for wheeling birds and the usual surface commotion.

Deeper in the water column there have been good numbers of spanish mackerel around some of the reef systems in the central bay. The spaniards are moving inshore as they do every year at this time and if they haven’t yet made their way into the local shipping channels then they won’t be far away. A lot of this run of spaniards is made up of smaller 5-10kg fish, deemed a reasonable risk for those inclined to keep them for the table. Larger fish are simply too risky with ciguatera so prolific in that species from our waters.

Golden trevally are a prime candidate for anyone dropping slow pitch jigs, plastics or soft vibes around the reefs in southern Platypus Bay. They are also possible around the inshore shipwrecks, where the larger GT’s have been wreaking havoc lately. Quite large queenfish can be found around the eddies formed off the bay islands and even more-so along the drop-offs along the western side of Fraser.

Keep your eyes peeled for birds when chasing pelagics.

Inshore Reefies Will Be on the Chew Day and Night

Our local reefs have had a reprieve from effort over the past week, with the only exception being Gatakers Bay. The deeper reefs in the shipping channels should fish well for grass sweetlip, cod and the odd coral trout. Blackall, scarlets, tuskfish and squire are also possible, depending on the chosen spots and baits.

Expect a crazy amount of boat traffic this week as frustrated holidaymakers and locals alike get out there enjoying the glassy conditions. Daytime sessions should see a good bite when the moon and tide is right, with the dark nights this week producing bigger and better sweeties, blackall, cod and squire.

Squid will be a bonus for those fishing during the evening. They will be drawn to the lights of your boat if your set-up throws enough light on the water. If not, then perhaps you could consider setting up a squid light like the Perfect Image Squid LED that you can attach to your boat’s battery and submerge off the transom.

Squid is an obvious bait choice with the annual migration of pencillies well under way. So many folks are chasing these squid nowadays that some of the previously most productive grounds are now littered with boats. This increasing effort obviously has an impact on how quickly you can secure enough squid for your needs, so consider finding your own patches away from the crowds. Pencillies are very widespread and prospecting for them is very simple indeed.

The bag limit for pencil (arrow) squid is 50 per person - in possession; this takes into account what you already have in your freezer at home. It is quite alarming just how many people are ignoring this bag limit, or claiming that there is no limit. Refer to the Qld Fisheries website and scroll down to the bait species bag limits section for confirmation if you wish.

Tiger squid also have a bag limit of 20. This is not specified by Fisheries, but they declared that any species not otherwise listed with a specific bag limit is deemed to automatically default to a bag limit of 20. Fisheries’ decision to not specifically list tiger squid and avoid the confusion is somewhat perplexing. Keep this default limit in mind when it comes to other bait or less desirable species as well.

A nice pan size inshore trout.

Estuary Options Aplenty

As the wind eases and we see a day or two of sunshine and light northerlies we will return to warmer conditions and our estuary species will respond with vigour. Mangrove jacks in the Burrum system, along with their brethren in Fraser’s western creeks will become increasingly active. The tides this week will favour the creek fishos in particular, with lows early and decreasing highs early afternoon.

The Mary and Susan Rivers will continue to give up modest numbers of threadfin salmon to those live baiting or working the drains during the ebb tide. Big sambos over the 120cm mark are not nearly as common this year as they have been in recent years, but they are still about and quite easy to catch if you can find them. Use heavy leaders, or go easy on the drag if using light leaders or these bigger fish will soon rub you off.

Young Nate dog landed a mangrove jack down at the flatty hole on a bit of chook.

There are some excellent-quality grunter poking about in the lower reaches of the rivers and out in the Great Sandy Straits. The bigger tides just passed would have seen them feeding across the flats as well, but look for them along the drop-offs, feeder channels and up the creeks as the tides get smaller.

There is a real mixed bag of tasty critters, or a ton of fun for sportsfishos on offer down the straits. You can choose to chase reefies such as cod, sweetlip, blackall and even scarlets along the many reef ledges, or chase pelagics such as queenies, GT’s or mackerel around the baitfish schools. Jewies are a chance from some of the deeper ledges and reefs, whilst threadfin and blue salmon will be chasing baitfish washed out of the creeks with the ebb tide.

A feed of whiting is possible from within the smaller creeks or their feeder channels. Don’t be surprised to find the better whiting in deeper waters adjacent to the mudflats in summer. Flathead are likely to scoff lures meant for threadies around the drains, but they can be actively targeted by hopping plastics or vibes across the bottom of the deeper holes in the smaller creeks.

Take the cast net and go on the hunt for banana prawns up the back of the creeks. The low tide will be early and late over coming days which is a little frustrating and also demands excessive amounts of Bushmans insect repellent to keep you sane. We still need a heck of a lot more rain to get any sort of decent prawn run this year, but for now you can score a modest feed with enough effort.

Mud crabs continue to feature on the menu for those getting their pots into the hard to access creeks and mudflats. There are way too many pots in the water in some easily accessed areas, making you wonder why anyone would want to drop their pots in so close to others. Guard your pots whilst on the water and cross your fingers that they are still there on your return if soaking them overnight.

Enjoy the great spell of weather this week and be a little patient at the ramps as it is going to be hectic.

Good luck out there y’all.

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