Another Great Weekend on the Way
Last weekend’s sensational glassed out conditions were replaced with a stiff southwester Tuesday that has been blowing around 15-20 knots ever since. We are again in the midst of another cold snap, typical of this sort of weather pattern and certainly expected this time of year.
The wind is forecast to drop out just in time for the weekend, with 10-15 knots of southwest/southeast Friday and Saturday, and light and variable winds Sunday. A fairly strong southeaster is on its way for next Tuesday, that will blow for most of next week and likely bring a few showers our way.
A stable barometer and building tides as we approach next Tuesday’s new moon should see a much-improved bite from our reef, pelagic and estuarine species. This will be in stark contrast to the crappy tides and dropping barometric pressure that resulted in such a poor bite last weekend.
Snapper and Pearl Perch Closure Now in Force
A quick reminder that snapper and pearl perch are no-take species in Qld waters for the next month, courtesy of a closure that concludes at midnight on Saturday 15th August 2020.
It will no doubt be tempting for some folk to head out and target snapper over the coming weeks as they are typically at their best this time of year. However, for this closure to have any effect, and to possibly alleviate the need for more drastic restrictions in the future, we would encourage all fishos out there to avoid snapper as best they can, and certainly not to target them specifically.
It would not be at all difficult for the authorities to assume a fisho is targeting snapper if they are observed using snapper-specific techniques in known snapper haunts where very few, if any, other species frequent this time of year. So, for the sake of the future well-being of the species, and with a view to just how much improved the snapper fishery might be post-closure, simply do the right thing and leave them alone.
The same goes for pearl perch, though of course they can be a little harder to avoid in our offshore waters as they often school nearby to other species in depths over 50 metres. Good handling and release tactics will hopefully see the pearlies survive an encounter with fishos, so long as the sharks aren’t in attendance.
Sandy Cape’s Baby Blacks
The waters just to the east of Sandy Cape got a bit congested last weekend with a fleet of budding game fishers out there chasing the baby black marlin that have been so prolific in the area recently. Catch rates were substantially down when compared to previous weeks, possibly due in part to the excess boat traffic, but just as likely due to the neap tides and lack lustre bite from the billfish.
Whilst the bite wasn’t real flash, there were still boats that raised half a dozen fish for a couple landed. The impending dark of the moon should see a much-improved bite for those that can make their way out over the bar. Larger game vessels often stay offshore this time of year, parking in close to the island for the night whilst the winds are light or offshore.
Tough Fishing Out Wide and Offshore
The weather might have been glorious last weekend, but the fishing was far from exciting for most crews that ventured out wide or offshore. Not surprisingly, the dropping barometric pressure from an approaching trough shut the fish down in a big way. The neap tides didn’t help either, minimising water movement and making for tough fishing.
There was a modest mixed bag of reefies gracing the eskies of those that ventured over the Breaksea Spit, but you know you’ve had a tough day when parrot and hussar are features of your catch. Better conditions will see the shoals, shelf and grounds north and south all come alive with a huge range of reef fish, though it looks like the weather will be a limiting factor for offshore fishos this week.
Those that ventured up to the Gutters reported a particularly poor bite last weekend in the morning. No surprises there either, as a falling barometer on a neap tide has always spelled poor fishing for those waters. Those that managed a feed, ending up bringing home a mix of fringe-dwellers and lesser-quality reefies than what they had hoped for.
The coral trout fishing was tough, no matter whether you used live baits or lures, and the sharks made things even tougher if you could manage a hook-up. Even the reasonably reliable grass sweetlip were a struggle to find and the snapper bite was lack lustre at best. The odd crew that hung around later in the afternoon and into the evening picked up some more desirable reefies including red emperor and nannygai.
Things will be vastly better leading into the coming new moon, but this dark moon phase often sees the sharks at their worst. Keep this in mind if heading out that way and be prepared to steer clear of the gutter ledges and seek out other rubble or flatter country elsewhere in the area. Many are venturing further north in the search for greener pastures, but with the increased boat traffic up that way the easier-found country is suffering a similar fate to the Gutters.
Those eager for a little arm-stretching sport out at the Gutters will find there are some rather large cobia and a few spanish mackerel haunting the ledges drawing the bait schools. Trevally are very common bycatch during the colder months and many species can be encountered in a day’s fishing.
The 25 Fathom Hole produced a few snapper on occasion over the past week or two, though given that there is little else worth chasing there this time of year, it might take some explaining to the authorities as to why you are there during the snapper closure.
Baitfish Aplenty in Platypus Bay
From Rooneys to southern Platypus Bay there are now stacks of baitfish schools and a few predators hot in pursuit. Yakkas are the most prolific baitfish up that way, but schools of herring, pike, sandies and a handful of other bait species are commonly encountered. There has even been the odd school of surface-feeding slimy mackerel up around Rooneys.
All this baitfish draws in a range of predatory species from cobia, mackerel and trevally to snapper and scarlets. Finding the bait schools, and even occasionally attending predators on the sounder was the easy part last weekend. Converting those arches on the sounder to fish on the deck was incredibly tough by most accounts though.
Typically, this time of year would see a pilgrimage of small boats to the grounds off Wathumba and Rooneys chasing the snapper that come in to feast on the bait schools after dark. Given that they are off limits for the next month, those chasing a feed will have to track down some scarlets, grunter, cod or mackerel.
Sportsfishos, or those looking to entertain the kids, will find no shortage of eager trevally over the new moon tides up that way. Seek them out around known reefs, weed or rubble patches holding baitfish, or pull up and sound around any large baitfish schools you might encounter whilst traveling between spots.
You might also find cobia of all sizes, tuna, queenfish, spanish and school mackerel feeding around some of the bait schools up that way, and also closer inshore. Speaking of cobia, there are several larger models exceeding 30 kilos caught from the bay each and every winter. These bigger fish are great sport and a true spectacle for the novices or kids onboard, but you might want to think twice about keeping such large cobes.
Plenty of School Mackerel Inshore
School mackerel have been making a pest of themselves as far as local inshore reef fishos are concerned, snipping off live and dead baits or worse still, lures meant for reefies and snapper. They are turning up all over the southern bay and down the straits.
Prior to this latest blow, local areas holding numbers of schoolies included any shipping channel beacon that was holding herring or yakkas, the Outer Banks, Maringa Bombie, Moon Ledge, Mickies and Christies Gutter. Down the straits, the Kingfisher Bay Resort jetty and nearby ledges and reefs, Ungowa and River Heads all have their share of mackerel at times, though legal schoolies have also been found up on some flats and even inside the Mary and Susan Rivers.
Estuaries Gin Clear and Cold
Cold, clear waters down the straits and in our creeks and rivers makes for tough fishing for some species such as barra, jacks and threadies, but turns on a range of other estuary dwellers. Deeper waters are home to mulloway jew and blue salmon that are easily caught on soft vibes or plastics once found.
Good sized jewies were once quite prolific in some areas, particularly around River Heads, the jetties and some of the ledges along the western side of Fraser, though nowadays it seems it can be a struggle to find legal-sized models. River Heads remains one of the better locations to tangle with a sizeable jew on the right tides.
Love them or hate them, tailor will be increasingly common down the straits over the coming months. Some will turn up at River Heads, some will make their way into the river, and places such as Kingfisher and Ungowa with their prolific bait schools will see schools of tailor at times. They can be actively targeted with simple trolling methods, spinning with spoons or slugs, or bait fishing with live baits, hardiheads or pilchards.
The clear waters offer great sight-fishing opportunities for those that wish to venture up onto the flats, either within the rivers or down the straits. Obviously, flathead will be a prime target and they are starting to turn up in reasonable numbers in some areas. Other species you will find on the flats include whiting and bream, queenies, trevally and occasionally blue salmon.
It is a similar scene in the many little creeks down the straits, and also around town, with the above species, plus grunter, threadies, cod and jew, all making an appearance at times. Sight-fishing the shallow creeks and flats is one of our truly enjoyable and rewarding winter fisheries that offer a great mix of peace, solitude and action all in one.
Latest Winter Whiting Hot Spots
Given that it has been a tad too blowy for the winter whiting fleet the past few days, there is some chance that fresh schools of fish have moved in to any number of the regular whiting haunts. Having said this, the last reliable reports of quality fish were from the grounds near the NU2 beacon and down the bottom of Big Woody.
The dreaded green toads have been in abundance west of Woody, taking a serious toll on tackle and the whiting themselves. The NU2 grounds weren’t suffering nearly as badly recently. We haven’t heard much out of Gatakers Bay of late, though last reports suggested there were whiting being caught off Toogoom.
Winter Fishing in Local Impoundments
Bass fishos have been having a great time out at Lake Lenthalls in recent weeks. Quite sizeable bass have been schooling up in the deeper waters off the points in the main basin of the lake, or around sunken structure and drop-offs within the lake’s arms.
Trolling diving lures has been scoring plenty of quality bass. Trolling lipless crankbaits (hard vibes) is also quite a productive technique for those that enjoy fishing from a moving boat. The same lures are more traditionally cast over and allowed to sink to schooled fish spotted on the sounder. A simple lift and fall technique of varying lengths and intensities depending upon your chosen lures will usually get a positive response from active bass.
Lenthalls’ barra population has been a bit hard to tempt whenever the cold snaps come through, but head out there after a couple of sunny days and warmer nights and you are in with a chance. Barra to 90 cm have been caught this winter in small numbers, either accidentally by those trolling for bass, or by those actively targeting them around the shallow lily banks or sunken log piles.
Many crews heading to Lake Monduran at the right times have enjoyed sensational barra fishing this winter. The lake is in outstanding condition, sitting at around 58% and dropping, with clean, clear waters devoid of weed and algae.
Big numbers of barra are being found up in the warmer shallow waters, particularly during the afternoon. Fishing shallow bays and points where the wind has been blowing the warm surface waters has been rewarding anglers with multiple captures of fat barra. Given that the lake has dropped so dramatically since summer, there are a plethora of shallow flats, new (or about to be new) islands and gullies that just scream “barra” to an educated eye.
Rob Howell who owns and runs Lake Monduran’s caravan park and other accommodation facilities, as well as guiding clients on the lake via his “Guidelines Fishing Charters” business has been having great success putting clients and visitors onto numbers of sizeable barra lately. Multiple catches of healthy fish in the 80’s and 90’s are the norm when conditions are right. There has been a couple of metre plus barra caught in recent weeks, so we can all look forward to tangling with these more challenging sized fish in months to come.
Time your visits to the lake to coincide with settled weather where the wind direction has not changed for a couple of days. Variable winds make for tough conditions in winter, as they do in summer. Rob says that the lake has been fishing particularly well during spells of southwesterly weather lately, and though the nights will be cold, the days will be sunny and pleasant.