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Weekly Fishing Report - 16th January 2020

Rain Glorious Rain

We’ve had a real mix of weather this past week, from light winds and sunny skies to good showers and up to 20 knots of breeze. The wind has dropped out again now and will be quite light for a few days, though it will turn to the north for much of the coming week.

The best news weather-wise is certainly the likelihood of a few decent falls of rain in the near future. The daily "chance of a thunderstorm" styled forecasts should be taken seriously by those in smaller vessels heading out wide, as what can be a calm bay can turn nasty indeed with nowhere to hide from a storm from the southwest.

Tomorrow’s quarter moon phase and its associated neap tides will see a reduced tidal flow for a few days, though this set of neaps is a little larger than many so the water movement locally should keep the fish fairly active.

Big Pelagics Out Wide

The high points of the Sandy Cape Shoals and Spit Bombie over the Breaksea Spit can produce mad sessions for those tossing topwater lures on specialist heavy spin tackle. Blooping big poppers for GT’s is fun for the more energetic adrenalin junkies out there. Whilst dancing big stickbaits across the same grounds will soon see some attention from the same big black brutes along with a few sky-rocketing spanish.

Varying currents can push through these grounds and will affect the movement of bait schools and their predators. Last weekend saw the current reduced to no more than 1.5 knots over the shoal country while out wider copped the more typical 3 knots. Assess these currents as best you can from SST charts online, then go see for yourself, but be prepared to alter your game plan as the prevailing currents dictate.

Find the bait along the shelf and you are likely to encounter mahi mahi and yellowfin, though at present you can stay "inside" if it small yellowfin that you are after. There have been ample schools of yellowfin across the northern bay from the Gutters to Porpoise Shoal. These fish are not large, averaging less than 15kg but are lot of fun on medium spin gear and offer a great feed of sashimi for anyone who just might have a little wasabi and soy sauce on board.

Tuna And Spotties Playing Hard To Get Some Days

The annual migration of tuna and spotted mackerel through Hervey Bay waters continues, though word from a few fishos this week has been that the tuna have been proving hard to tempt and the spotties hard to find. We are but a stopover point along the way for these migratory species and it is the gathering of masses of juvenile baitfish in bay waters that holds them here for periods.

Some say the local baitfish numbers are significantly diminished this year (courtesy of the drought and lack of nutrient), so if this be true then you might expect the predators to move on prematurely. In any case, we will soon wave goodbye to the spotties for another year, but the tuna are here for a good while yet. Reports from ports further south suggest there are plenty of tuna and spotties already south of the border.

Hervey Bay has a unique ability to draw and hold masses of pelagics and there are big numbers in the bay right now. Unfortunately the surface feeding tuna and mackerel are not always super active on the surface. Cloudy and rainy days can often prove fruitless for example, whilst bright sunny days will see more surface activity.

In these parts, tuna and spotties are typically fixated on tiny baitfish this time of year but as they migrate further south their diets change dramatically. This occurs in the bay too, more-so for the longtails, as the prevalence and arrival of other forms of food draws their attention. Mention of numbers of small flying fish in the central bay recently suggests it would be a good idea to start tossing a few small stickbaits for longtails.

Queenies, GT’s & Schoolies Inshore

Large queenfish can turn up anywhere inshore this time of year from up on the shallow flats to the shallow reefs, the deeper reefs, the channels down the straits and even into the feeder creeks. They are a ton of fun on light-medium tackle and are a clean fighter known for their speedy runs and aerial antics.

Look for them where baitfish are gathered, though they will often school up and sit fairly idle somewhere nearby waiting for the right moment to attack. They are quite visible rounding up baitfish in the shallows around the bay islands at times, often retreating to deeper water for periods. They also have a particular liking for pencil squid and will follow these critters as they migrate through the area.

Don’t be surprised to have a big bad GT tear up behind your favourite queenie lure in these parts either, though if you really want to tangle with the bigger models from this clan you had best gear up appropriately so that you can offer them the bigger stickies and poppers they so love to smash. These bruisers are gathering in numbers around the bay islands, the inshore shipwrecks and along the ledges inside Fraser.

School mackerel have been fairly common throughout parts of the local shipping channels. They are scattered due to the lack of larger baitfish in the vicinity of many of our reefs, so those that favour trolling have the edge on those that are more inclined to anchor and wait. Drifting with a pillie or squid rigged on a set of gangs mid-water will eventually see your drag squealing as you trip over the odd schoolie or queenie.

Night Sessions Better For Reef Fishos Inshore

The constant attrition from sharks both inshore and out wider continues. Most of our deeper inshore reef systems are plagued by oversized whalers and their brethren and many fishos are increasingly frustrated by their inability to get a simple feed of reef fish past them.

Gone are the days of simply kicking back and enjoying the fishing, slipping a few select reefies into the box and picking and choosing what you might take home. Nowadays it is more of a mad skull-dragging rush to get whatever eats your bait onboard before it gets devoured, knowing that if you are lucky enough to avoid a close call then there is little point in releasing the fish anyway.

This time of year would typically see great catches of coral trout and estuary cod from many of our inshore hot spots. Grass sweetlip are also abundant inshore, foraging around the fringes of the reefs and inshore shoals. Blackall make nuisances of themselves quite often and blueys are the main target for many, whilst some quite reasonable squire are about for those backing off on the lead.

If you exclude the trout and blueys from the list above, then night sessions are worth considering this time of year. Not only do these reef species feed more actively at night, but the sharks are more scattered, the air is much cooler and you can score a great bag of pencil squid while you are out there.

Estuary Dwellers Can Sense The Rain Coming

Spend enough years fishing our estuaries and you too might convince yourself that the local inhabitants can "smell" the coming rains. Movement of forage and predatory species alike prior to any major rain event is quite interesting for those on the water who see it first-hand. The forecast rains over the coming week may not be substantial at all, but at least there is finally moisture in the atmosphere and the fish and crustaceans will sense this.

Super muggy conditions will see a spurt of energy from our local mangrove jack populations. Whether you choose to fish the Burrum system, Fraser’s western creeks or perhaps even the previously jack-poor waters of the Mary or Susan you will find these angry red dogs ready to rumble. Afternoon sessions preceding an approaching thunderstorm could only be bettered by a dawn or dusk session on topwater purely for the exhilaration and sheer shock of the strike.

The threadfin salmon have been on the move for months now and are well-positioned for a major rain event if it were to eventuate. Look for them in the lower reaches of the Mary or Susan or in many of the creeks down the straits. They will be extra-active over the coming week if the rains come as their favourite food (jelly prawns) are flushed out of the backwaters of the drains.

Grunter are well spread throughout the same rivers and creeks and also within many of the feeder channels of the straits. There are a few flathead in the creeks too, though you might find them in deeper waters or sitting off drop-offs outside drains and small creeks.

Estuary cod, the odd jewie, blackall, smallish grass sweetlip, coral trout, blueys and even a legal squire or two are a chance for those soaking baits over the many reefs and ledges down the straits. Cod will always dominate down that way for those favouring live baits or whole squid baits and thankfully the noahs aren’t too bad down that way – yet.

Barra Season Opening Only 2 Weeks Away

The 1st February will see the much anticipated opening to another barra season. We can only hope that we get some substantial rains both locally and in our catchments prior to then to enable our beloved barramundi a chance to spawn prior to the post opening plunder.

Our wet season last year was a total non-event in these parts and this season so far has broken more drought-related records than we care to hear about. The barra were unlikely to have spawned last year without rains at the appropriate time.

So, whilst it is fair to say that the numbers of average-large sized barra in local waters is encouraging, regular river-goers will be all too aware of the general lack of small (undersized) barramundi at present - so things might be a bit tough in a few years time if we don’t get some serious rain real soon.

Good luck out there y’all.

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