Staff member Dane with a nice GT caught on a Duo Fumble stickbait, on his latest trip with Big Cat Reality Fishing Charters. More photos at the end of the report.
Building Tides and Stable Weather
The broad-ranging wet weather event forecast for last weekend turned out to be just passing bands of storms late in the day Sunday, followed by a few half decent falls Monday afternoon. We trust you all monitored the updates following our relay of Thursday’s weather forecast and made the most of what turned out to be a vastly better weekend than predicted.
Those lucky enough to avoid working during the week have enjoyed a couple of sensational days, with light winds and sunny skies. More of the same will see out this week, with a subtle southeasterly change kicking off the weekend.
The bureau is suggesting a light southeaster after dawn on Saturday, that will tend east-southeasterly during the morning and reach up to 15 knots. Expect lighter winds inshore and a fairly consistent 15 knots in the northern bay. Sunday looks like more of the same, only slightly stiffer inshore and possibly 15-20 knots out wider.
If you are heading south for the weekend, then the winds will be even lighter. Those heading north will experience stronger winds. Southeasterly winds of around 20 knots are likely for the start of the working week locally, blowing a few light showers onshore as a ridge forms along the Qld coastline.
The tides are building once again, as the waning moon approaches next Wednesday’s new moon phase. Pretty interesting tides ahead, with a good pelagic bite anticipated, along with enhanced activity from our inshore reefies, our estuary-dwellers and crustaceans alike.
Young Jake, with a 115cm barra caught whilst camping at Trinity Islands Holiday Park.
Chase Tuna While the Sun Shines
Sunny days and light winds are perfect for tuna chasers, so make the most of the next couple of days. Longtail tuna numbers are increasing each week, and as many have found during the week, they are feeding hard and easy to tempt.
They are typically school fish of a manageable size. This is a good thing in a way, as your chances of landing the 20-30 kilo barrels of late autumn would be rather limited with the number of sharks shadowing the tuna schools at present.
Mack tuna schools are also abundant, and many large macks are in the mix. These bigger mack tuna may not match the longtails in the prestige stakes, but they sure as heck fight every bit as well. Get the kids hooked up to either and they will have a ball.
Coxy with a nice longtail tuna caught on a soft plastic
Metal slugs are a must-carry for tuna chasers at present. Smaller baitfish profiles are working best when the tuna are gorging on smaller “rain fish”, (and the slugs don’t hurt the pocket so badly either should you encounter a few sharks). Jerkshads rigged to heavy jigheads are also very economical and work a treat when the tuna want to chase something a tad larger.
According to crews returning from Platypus Bay in recent days, there is actually still a few spotted mackerel in the bay. If you can track them down, and enjoy a feed of fresh mackerel, smoked or otherwise, then they will be worth throwing some metal slugs at as well. It is certainly late for spotties in Hervey Bay, but like marlin and all other pelagics, there is always a few stragglers.
A nice school size longtail caught with the crew from Hot Reels Pro Fish Charters.
Mackerel, Queenfish and Trevally on the Chew
The surface-feeding species such as spotties and tuna are magnets for packs of whaler sharks that shadow these schools as they wander the bay. When such activity draws the sharks away from the reefs in an area, a savvy sportsfisho might take advantage of the situation and target the schools of trevally and mackerel that inhabit the reefs.
Golden trevally are quite prevalent on a few reef systems, notably those bait-rich reefs within Platypus Bay and the many reefs of the Outer Banks area. The goldies are quite prominent on even a basic depth sounder, and certainly stand out like the proverbial on new age technology. Drop a slow-pitch jig, or work a plastic erratically back from the bottom and you will soon find yourself connected.
School mackerel are also present over many of Platypus Bay’s reef systems. Spinning vertically with spoons such as Flashas, or more slender profiles with plenty of “kick” such as Halco Twisties works a treat for schoolies (as well as spaniards and trevally). You can opt to fish with baits such as pillies or livies, or otherwise go for a troll around the reefs and any hungry schoolies will soon track you down.
Beer battered mackerel for dinner after a day out with Hot Reels.
Don’t forget that the spanish mackerel closure is still on, so they are off limits in all local waters until next Wednesday, 22nd March. Spaniards caught in Platypus Bay waters can not be kept at any time due to the extraordinary ciguatera poisoning risk.
There are a few mackerel wandering our local shipping channels, chasing small herring and pencil squid. Trolling narrow-profiled divers at around 6-7 knots will help you track them down. Otherwise, look for schoolies around our inshore artificial reef structures, particularly the Simpson or the shipwrecks of the Roy Rufus. The Fairway has had mackerel visit its waters reasonably regularly of late, so a return visit over the dark of the moon would not be surprising.
Big GTs will snatch a schoolie or even a small spaniard mid-fight if they are in the area, and going on recent reports, there are still some big models haunting local ledges, artificial reefs and wrecks. These brutes are very much a summer spectacle in our inshore waters and will begin to wander off during autumn. Seek them out around high-current areas with plenty of baitfish or other small fish.
Stories of queenfish encounters abound, and it seems as though they are turning up in the shallows all over the lower bay. The western shores have had their share in recent weeks, with sizeable queenies mixed amongst smaller models at times. Creek mouths and subtle beach gutters have drawn them at varying stages of the tide, whilst any schools of baitfish making their way across the nearby flats are in real jeopardy.
The bay islands would typically be popular starting points for many queenie fans and rightly so. The current lines that swirl off the island points creating back eddies and walls of water that hold or otherwise disorientate baitfish are the focal points.
A nice, inshore coral trout trolled up by Luke on a Nomad DTX Minnow.
The queenies are easily spotted on your sounder if they are not obvious on the surface. Recent observations suggest that a lack of life along vast stretches of these islands could be detrimental to productive queenie sessions, so scout the islands if you wish, but be prepared to shift focus and try the western flats or the eastern ledges.
Another fun fish that is featuring in photos and yarns of late is the mighty giant herring. Those of us with a little grey in the beard might still call them “ladyfish” but whatever tag you want to give them, they are a ton of fun on light tackle. Large herring are metre beaters and go like the clappers.
Being one of the fastest fish in our waters, giant herring typically suffer from burn-out rather easily and are always exhausted when brought to the boat. They certainly do not handle well, so if you must hoist one from the water for a happy snap, then do your best to do so quickly with wet hands. They are suckers for a range of plastics, are super-acrobatic, and are known to actively feed at night. Recollections of past nocturnal bait fishing sessions where a “snapper” took off at blistering speed jumping all over the paddock come to mind.
Phosphorous and Reef Fishing the Dark of the Moon
There will be peak feeding periods in coming days for virtually all of our reef fish species. Building tides will create opportunities, particularly on and around our shallow reefs. The “bite” in such waters can lack lustre over the neaps, so return visits to waters that proved unproductive last week might see vastly improved results.
Coral trout will be a major target species for many. They are still taking trolled hard bodies regularly. Dawn sessions are best, but you can still tempt the odd trout later in the day if you focus on the turn of tide period. As mentioned before, some of our shallow reefs were heavily plundered throughout the summer holidays so think elsewhere and apply the same tactics and you will score better fish than the undersized juveniles so prevalent in the hard-hit areas.
Lachlan with an coral trout from a recent inshore soft plastic mission.
Grassy sweetlip are quite abundant around the fringes of many inshore shallow reefs. Pre-dawn sessions will see you hooking the better-quality fish, as will early evening sessions. A bit of berley might otherwise keep them in the area after sun up - just make sure you deploy the berley low in the water column with a weighted dispenser.
The fringes of the bay islands, the ledges along the western side of Fraser, Urangan Channel and the many isolated old ballast dumps and weedy-ferny-spongy-bottomed grounds are home to plenty of sweeties. They are quite prolific in the deeper water inshore as well, but beating the sharks can be challenging if not impossible.
Although not a local shot, this gives you an idea of what bioluminescence can look like.
Night sessions over the dark of the moon can be hampered by a phenomenon we fishos know as “phosphorous”. This bioluminescence is caused by excess nutrients that explode the number of dinoflagellates (algae) in the water. That glowing wake behind your boat at night on a dark or moonless night is the first giveaway; the second being your bait or lure glowing as it descends in the water.
Incidences of phosphorous are blamed for a “cautious” bite or the lack of bites quite often. The glowing effect of the dinoflagellates disturbed by your line, leader, sinker, lure, bait etc can make the presence of your hardware obvious and generate the appropriate caution from the fish. They too are very visible as they move, so hunting just became very challenging for them.
The degree of phosphorous in a given area can vary, so if you are fishing an area and everything is glowing like a Xmas tree, then you might consider moving elsewhere (where nutrient levels are likely to vary). Shifting from Platypus Bay to waters north of Rooneys or visa versa, or an eastward-westward shift across the bay might diminish or alleviate the problem. Some nights over the darks it is just unavoidable.
Miles for Smiles Offshore
A few local crews made the dash up the Bruce for 1770 during the week to take advantage of the great weather. Talk of easy bag limits of trout and plenty of red throat have filtered back, and it seems that most of our regulars that are attuned to lure-fishing for reefies have scored a great feed without getting their hands dirty.
Tea-bagging prawn imitations and other softies, along with the highly-successful new Nomad Squidtrex has accounted for the trout, RTEs and plenty of other delectable reef fish. Jigging deeper waters with slow-pitch jigs has also scored quality red fish, with scarlets (large-mouth nannygai) leading the charge. We assume we will hear a few more tales from crews afloat up that way right now, and hopefully sharks don’t come into the conversations.
Back closer to home though, shark attrition is still probably the hottest topic for reef fishos. The Gutters and Rooneys reefs are still home to way too many big whalers and they are making life difficult for anyone trying to pull quality reefies. As we have harped on about so many times before – if heading for those waters, then look for smaller, more isolated lumps and lively bottom away from the main ledge country and keep mobile to avoid further decline to our reef fish stocks.
Word is that spanish mackerel are in big numbers out at the Gutters right now. Being bitten off is commonplace and they are hard to avoid. The other notable observation is the ridiculous number of annoying remoras in that area, making the task of getting baits to the bottom even more challenging.
Those able to make it over the Breaksea Spit before the weekend weather arrives should be feasting on quality reef fish fillets for some time to come. Brief breaks in weather prior resulted in great catches for a lucky few, with little attention from the noahs - which is great to hear.
Whilst everyone hopes to catch reds, and some actually do, the staples offshore are red-throat, large venus tuskies, coronation trout, maori cod, gold-spot wrasse and hussar in waters 50-65m deep. Green jobbies, cobia, scarlets, estuary cod and oodles of weird and wonderful reef fish add variety to what can be a wondrous day offshore. Heading deeper can see pearlies and even snapper compliment your esky contents, though the 100m line is notoriously sharky this time of year.
The current offshore will dictate what depth a crew might fish. Timing can be everything, particularly in the waters east of the northern end of the bar. If only for this reason alone, arming yourself with a suitable selection of slow-pitch jigs of varying weights before an offshore foray could be a real saviour. Heavy jigs plummet to the bottom, and keeping a more vertical presentation, can be a breeze compared to attempting similar things with baits and leads.
Those that can get up north of the bay to the waters west of the Lightship or south of Lady Elliot before the tides build too much should be in for a treat. Large scarlets, reds, trout, cod galore and plenty of grazers such as sweetlip and tuskies call this country home. Drifting with baits or lures works, but jigging with slow pitch jigs or heavily-weighted plastics really excels if you are keen to explore new ground efficiently.
Another Subtle Taste of Fresh for the Mary
We didn’t get much rain here locally last week, but the headwaters of the Mary River catchment scored some decent falls. There is a subtle fresh heading downstream at present, but nothing dramatic. These waters will meet the overflow from the Tinana barrage on their way downstream. This won’t do much for the lure fishos plying the Mary’s mid reaches, but will be welcome news for prawners and crabbers downstream.
By recent accounts, the fishing in the Mary system is quite tough at present. The bull sharks are prolific, but the estuarine predators that we seek are scattered and, in many stretches – rare. A few modest threadfin salmon can be found if you put in the hours, but reports of fish failing to stretch the tape to a metre do not impress anyone locally.
Balin with a thready pinned on a Chasebait Flick Prawn.
Barra-wise, there are fish to be found, just not in the numbers we would like. The Burrum is still the best bet for barra fishos favouring a river option. Should you wish to wander the Mary/Susan seeking barra this week, then focus on the lower reaches and work the tides to avoid periods of high current flow.
Good fishing can be enjoyed by venturing down the Great Sandy Straits. There are salmon and barra in many creeks, and salmon working open mud banks along the channels as well. Grunter are making their way into many of these creeks, so they can be targeted within or outside these streams.
Mangrove jacks are going ballistic in the creeks along the western side of Fraser. Time it right over the building tides before the new moon and you can enjoy champagne jack fishing. The low-grade heatwave we are experiencing right now will go a long way to enhancing that experience.
Balin with a mangrove jack that took a liking to a Chasebait Flick Prawn as well.
As mentioned, the Burrum system is a good bet for barra hunters, but they can shift their focus to jacks as well and be able to maintain the rage whilst the current is racing. Quality grunter continue to swim into the river and have made their way up to the mid reaches. There are quality whiting on offer as well, so keep that in mind for the bigger springs around the new moon itself.
Prawners are monitoring water movements at present, and looking to the new moon tides for a potential kick off for the banana prawn season. Going on the present heatwave and remarkably warm conditions over the past couple of weeks, this season’s kick off might be delayed a little. We will see.
Prawns can be found in our local creeks for those willing to cast nets in those waters. A good feed can be scored without the need for a boat either, so long as you don’t mind getting your feet muddy. Otherwise, try the creeks down the straits, or along the western side of Fraser (south of Kingfisher). Once the prawns start running in more open waters, the grapevine will let us all know.
Mud crabbing is still best down the straits as far as we know. The subtle hint of freshwater on its way down the Mary won’t go unnoticed by the river crabs, but from what we gather, the constant taste of fresh last year has kept many crabs out of the river – hence the better crabbing in the straits. Fraser’s western creeks are a great option for muddies as well and the impending bigger tides are likely to see them on the move over there.
Mick with a nice salty from the Burrum.
Something for the Landlubbers
Landlubbers continue to lament the lack of action out along the Urangan Pier. GTs were about the only major target for weeks on end recently, unless you get a thrill from tangling with sharks, rays and shovellies. We heard of queenfish smashing baitfish last week, yet have heard little else since.
Those wandering our town beaches are entertaining the kids with small whiting and dart, along with the odd small bream if they focus around the rocky areas. A modest feed of whiting is possible from our beaches, but you will need to venture out of town this time of year. Head for the Booral Flats when the wind is not blowing onshore, or try the beaches west of town towards Toogoom when the new moon gets closer and the tides higher.
Focussing your attention on local creek mouths, or the lower reaches of these same creeks could see you hooking into the odd flathead or two, or even a few queenies. Barra are possible from some of the beach flats in our area, and make their way into some of the smallest of streams at times.
Mick with a chunky dusky flathead.
Head upstream along these local creeks and your chances of catching a barra might increase further, whilst your chances of encounters with mangrove jacks just heightened. Quality jacks can be extracted from quite skinny water – if you are up to the task (otherwise it will be just another tale of being blown away). Small estuary cod can be a nuisance up the creek, so be on your game, as even these little tackers are quick to steal lures around structure.
Lure-casting rockhoppers might consider forays over our rocky foreshores this week as the tides build. There is still the chance of catching the odd coral trout on swimbaits, glidebaits or plastics if you favour the near-shore ledges. Being prepared for encounters with passing pelagics such as queenies, GTs and mackerel is also handy. The chances of such encounters are vastly enhanced if hardiheads, herring or garfish are hugging the rocks – so be observant.
Good luck out there y’all …… Jase
Dane returns from the Swains Reef Wilson Fishing trip
Staff member Dane just returned from a 10 days Swains Reef trip with the crew from Wilson Fishing, onboard Big Cat Reality Fishing Charters. The crew tested a variety of the latest and greatest tackle from Wilson Fishing and were greeted with some great weather and fishing. Stay tuned on Facebook for Dane's full trip report.
Dane with a long nose emperor caught on a Zerek Live Shrimp.
GT's love the Duo Fumble stickbait
Turns out the trout do too, that's a serious stickbait for a trout.
The new Venom V-Swim stickbait has been a great option for the reef fltas. The Ironman colour doing the number on this red throat emperor.
Ironman does it again, this time in the Venom V-Pop.
Trout can't resist the Zerek Live Shrimp hopped tight to structure.