After another few windy days the weather has finally come good and we can look forward to a couple of great days on the water. Saturday looks outstanding, with very light winds from the E-NE, though a change is forecast for some time Sunday. You might sneak in an early session Sunday morning, but be prepared for a shower or two. A quarter moon Friday means neap tides for the next few days, so deeper reefs will be popular, as will our local rivers.
The Hervey Bay Game Fishing Classic will be underway as you read this. Today’s briefings etc will get all the crews sorted for the comp which will start tomorrow morning and run for 3 days, finishing on Sunday. Most crews will be making their way to Rooneys Point today, where mother ships will be onsite for fuel, food and fun times galore. Given the increasing exposure of Fraser Island’s sensational heavy tackle bill fishery in recent years, we would expect some great captures of blue, black and striped marlin from offshore waters for the crews on the bigger vessels, whilst the smaller boats will be busy inside chasing blacks, sails and a mix of other pelagics. Good luck to all competitors for a safe and successful tournament and we look forward to hearing the results filter back onshore over the weekend.
Obviously increased boat activity in the "pocket" at Rooneys due to the aforementioned game comp might have some impact on fish movements in that area, however, a number of local lads have geared up to head up that way chasing baby blacks over the coming days. To date the inshore marlin fishery has been quite slow with only one weekend producing multiple captures so far. Improved conditions and significant bait gatherings and increased pelagic activity in the north eastern bay are sufficient reasons to give the marlin a crack. A lack of sightings on the flats above Wathumba in recent days suggest you may be better off heading a bit wider in search of billies.
If heading up the island, keep an eye out for bird activity that will be signposting tuna and spotted mackerel schools. This week’s southeaster helped bring the fish a lot closer, so start looking as soon as you clear the banks on the way up and have your smaller 15-40 gram slugs at the ready. Reports from the past couple of days suggest the fish are somewhat mobile, turning up in one area today and another the next. Good schools were found north of Arch Cliffs right through to Rooneys. The spotties up the island have been quite small apparently, with whispers of quite large spotties coming from the western bay. For a few general tips of catching Hervey Bay spotties check out last week’s fishing report on our website.
Expect to run into a few schools of longtail tuna and the far more prolific mack tuna out in the open bay and up inside Platypus Bay. Again, small slugs will do the job in most cases, but be prepared to change lures to match the hatch when they don’t react favourably. Stickbaits and 5 inch plastics are still favoured by many locals for longtails, and with some models pushing the 30kg mark reported this week, it will pay to have these lures rigged on your "heavier" gear. Add a few big cobia and trevally over the Rooneys reefs and the chance of school and Spanish mackerel and you are in for an exciting/exhausting day on the spin gear. Just remember that Spanish Mackerel are a no take species in Platypus Bay (east of a line drawn from Coongul Point to Rooneys Point) due to their tendency to carry ciguatera poisoning.
It looks like plenty of crews will be trying their luck at the Gutters over the next couple of days. Weather has kept fishos away from those grounds for a few weeks now, so chances are the fishing could be quite good. Coral trout will be the number one target for many, but a mix of reefies could include red emperor, snapper, sweetlip and cod amongst others if you can avoid the dreaded sharks.
Our inshore reefs have been fairly well rested due to bad weather of late as well, so try the deeper ledges and drops offs for trout and cod over the tide turns with plastics, vibes or live baits. Sweetlip numbers continue to increase inshore and they should be a good target down between the bay islands over the soft coral, sponge and fern grounds. You can drift these areas quite productively, though anchoring upstream of your target area and bouncing tough baits of squid, strip baits or whole dead baitfish is even better when you know the fishes’ whereabouts.
Places like the Roy Rufus arti will produce a feed of trout, cod, sweetlip and perhaps a few pelagics like cobia, golden trevally and mackerel. Big grunter are a good target offshore of the Burrum over reefs such as the 8 Mile and also at the Fairway. Admittedly the grunter will be better over bigger tides, and certainly at night in any case, but this time of year you have to go when the weather allows.
Our local inshore flats are starting to produce a few large pelagics, with queenfish and golden trevally the main captures of late. Stealth is certainly key to success, though save this activity for the larger tides for best results. Stick with fairly light gear for this fishery and keep your lure presentations light weight so as not to spook your targets on splashdown.
The shallow reefs are also much more productive over the larger tides too, though you could try the reef fringes during the low light periods for sweetlip, cod, trout, tuskfish and perhaps grunter. The relatively fast-flowing Urangan Channel and other similar nearby grounds are a better option during the neaps, though you must ensure you stay clear of harbour-bound boat traffic. Sweetlip, blackall, tuskfish, cod and trout are all likely from these waters.
Sandcrabs have been making an appearance west of Gatakers Bay of late, so if heading out that way it may pay to drop a few pots in with mullet or fresh fish frames (they really love whiting). The flats south of the harbour and Round Island may also see sand crab activity given the recent fresh from the Mary. Ensure you place your pots in water that will leave them covered at low tide, as sandies will simply die if exposed to the air. Also ensure that your pots are sufficiently weighted to avoid drifting. You may have noticed pot floats in and around the harbour mouth in the past from crabbers using pots that were too light for the area.
Mangrove jacks are still the main target species in the Burrum system and so they should be. If you haven’t chased jacks before, then do yourself a favour and give them a crack. They are pound for pound one of the toughest adversaries in our waters, they look great, taste even better and are a highly successful species not over fished in our waterways. All four rivers of the Burrum system are well stocked with jacks and the neap tides will offer you prime opportunities to tangle with them. The slower tides will allow you to work small hardbodies, softies and prawn imitations over the rock bars, along the drop offs and rocky ledges, and under the timber snags and moored boats. If you want the ultimate jack buzz, then bust out the small 70-90mm poppers and stickbaits and work them at a medium pace over the same nasty terrain or the shallow timber-strewn flats in the pre-dawn or post-dusk twilight. Crank your drag up to match your tackle’s weakest point (ie; hooks, line or rod) and hang on. In fact, bugger that idea, seek out tougher hooks, beef up your line and use your favourite barra rods, as you don’t get any second chances with jacks.
Great Sandy Straits & Mary/Susan Rivers
There is stuff all jacks in the Mary/Susan system, but stacks within the creeks dotted along Fraser Island’s western shores. A couple of days after the smallest neaps will see the tides just about right for chasing jacks over there, wherein the flood tide won’t creep too far into the mangroves keeping the jacks within casting range as they feast on the baitfish moving upstream with the tide.
The lower reaches of both the Mary and Susan will be worth a look for threadfin salmon. They didn’t school up at the heads over the new moon, with just scattered fish coming to those working vibes or live baits. The larger feeder creeks in the lower reaches will be some of the better spots as they are well-endowed with drains and rock bars that attract the threadies. Deeper holes within these creeks are also worth a go with vibes, and don’t be put off by the dirty water as the threadies specialise in these water conditions.
You will find threadies down the Straits as well, though due to the vast flats down that way, experienced locals often favour the bigger tides to drain the flats and concentrate the fish. Blue salmon are still about in small numbers and will take a range of lures and baits, both dead and alive. Flathead are still fairly abundant down the Straits around creek mouths and drains during the lower stages of the tide. Grunter can be found in the bigger cleaner creeks and in the channels outside the creek systems of the Straits. They will take a range of small plastics, with none better than a GULP Shrimp, or baits including yabbies, prawns, herring and small squid. Fish fairly light for grunter and let them mouth the bait and move off with it before striking.
Urangan Pier and the Town Beaches
That filthy dirty water associated with the northerlies a week or so ago has cleaned up nicely and fish are starting to move back to the Urangan Pier and along our beaches. Some nice flatties have been taken on live baits under the pier over the past couple of days. To catch a flatty you first need to jig up a herring and return it to the water pinned through the lips with a decent hook and leader. Let the flatty eat the bait, strike and keep on the fish till exhausted at the surface. Plenty of anglers have been surprised by the strength and turn of speed of a flatty when it is trying to get around a pylon to bust you off. Early incoming tide is one of the better times to target flatties.
Queenfish have been reported out along the pier this week, with fairly large models the norm. Live baits of herring are well proven, but a range of soft vibes and plastics will also draw their attention when worked erratically through the water column. The higher stages of tide are often best for queenies, though they are also a common visitor to the pier during the night.
Recent large tides saw big numbers of whiting along the beach at Torquay, but unfortunately they rarely made the 23cm minimum. The current neaps will do little for whiting activity, but they will be worth a try again later next week. A few flatties have been turning up around the rocks, groynes and jetties along our beaches, with the chance of a grunter or two for those fishing after dark.
Shore-based anglers looking for a crack at a jack could well try our local creeks. Both Eli and Beelbi produce some outstanding specimens at times and have reasonable access for those who don’t mind getting muddy feet. Forget the middle of the day though, and target them around the low light periods. Small poppers and stickbaits can be sensational in these little creeks after dark, and you can always excuse those brown stains on your shorts as mud when you get home.