Great Weather Pre-Christmas
Well, so much for all the rain. We missed out yet again, with the biggest falls making news to our south. We enjoyed a reasonable soaking, certainly sufficient to bring our lawns back to life, but not enough for any decent inflows into our streams.
It has been rather muggy since, and we might see a storm or a shower or two today, but looking ahead the weather looks sensational for the lead up to Christmas. We can look forward to light northeasterlies pretty much daily ‘til the jolly fat man arrives and even then, we might only see a subtle southeast change to cool things off.
The big tides brought on by the new moon have now passed and the tides will wane daily as we approach the first quarter moon next Tuesday. The neaps around that period will see very little tidal movement.
Given that this will be our only report for a couple of weeks as we strive to look after our customers during our busiest time of year, this week we will focus on a general overview of what various fisheries and species will bring you the most Christmas cheer.
A good size juvenile marlin caught off Fraser Island with Fraser Guided Fishing.
Urangan Pier – Something for All Members of the Family
We are lucky around these parts to have numerous landbased fishing options. Unfortunately, shore access to our river systems is very limited, but other areas make up for that. The first and most obvious spot is the famous Urangan Pier. This 900m long structure offers landlubbers access to deep waters at the end and to a host of large pelagics and other estuarine species.
The big drawcard out the end of the pier at present is the monster giant trevally that lurk between its pylons. These big bruisers can exceed 40kg, but most GTs landed are typically in the 15-25kg range. Queenfish, spanish and broad-barred mackerel are all possible this time of year, along with school mackerel and the odd golden trevally or school of passing tuna.
If pelagics aren’t your thing, then you can always try for a flathead on a live bait in either the first channel or along the slope out the end. Over the bigger tides there will be some whiting on offer near the beach end of the pier, particularly if the northeast sea breeze gets up in the evenings. Expect the whiting to be mostly small, being more entertainment-value for the kids than a source of your next seafood banquet.
It's always good to see the youngsters get into the sport! Pic: Fraser Guided Fishing.
You can opt to head out along the planks at night and lower a light from the pier to attract some pencil (arrow) squid. The pier’s lights draw the squid in from Urangan Channel, and your own light will attract your share of these critters to your position. Tiny squid jigs rigged paternoster-style are the go, and you are allowed a possession limit of 50 pencil squid.
Night sessions on the pier can occasionally produce other estuary species such as mulloway and grunter. The jewies are typically targeted with live baits beneath the pier out towards the end, whilst the grunter are fairly uncommon and are a more incidental capture for those fishing for other species in the first channel at night. Grunter are more often encountered after local flooding events.
Fishing for sharks is popular from the deep waters at the very end of the pier at night. Some absolute monsters have been hooked over the years from a range of species including tigers, lemons, bulls and various whalers. White spotted and common brown shovel-nosed sharks are also regular captures. Now, before you get too excited, remember that any shark over 1.5 metres in length is fully protected nowadays, so any large sharks accidentally caught should be released unharmed as quickly as possible.
A solid golden trevally caught on a stickbait fishing with Tri from Fraser Guided Fishing.
Our local town beaches can be the source of hours of enjoyment for the smaller kids in the family. Whiting are again the main target species, often found in the best numbers along the Torquay – Urangan stretch of beach. Concentrate around the big stormwater pipes that cross the beach at Torquay, or at the rock groynes during the flood tide and particularly the early ebb.
Most of the whiting will be undersized this time of year, but a modest feed can be gathered, particularly at night. Small bream, dart and flathead will also make up a mixed catch that will keep the kids occupied for hours. Simple running sinker rigs with a small long shank hook baited with worm, peeled prawn or yabby will be all that is required.
For something a little different, you could gear the kids up with a small float and tiny hooks, and bait these with small pieces of prawn or yabby and go target garfish from the rock groynes or the beach end of the Urangan Pier. The gar respond incredibly well to berley, but don’t over-feed them. The first of the ebb tide is often best for these gar.
When baitfish, such as hardiheads and gar gather along our beaches in any serious numbers it often draws the attention of pelagic predators such as queenfish, mackerel and trevally. This was the case recently, so keep this in mind if fishing the beach.
By the way, our town beaches are zoned “yellow” within our marine park, so only one line with one hook attached can be used from the beach. You cannot have a live bait out in a rod holder whilst you fish with another rod nearby.
There is also a local by-law that prohibits the use of cast nets or drag nets along our town beaches, and from our piers. Basically, draw a line from the tip of the north wall of the Urangan Harbour to the deep end of the Urangan Pier, then to the deep end of the Scarness Jetty, then to Pt Vernon, and netting is prohibited in the waters beneath that line.
There are shallow reef systems just off Torquay and Scarness that are within casting range of a shore-based fisho at low tide. You will need to get wet to get to the inside edge of the Scarness reef, but the effort might pay dividends in the form of flathead, bream and cod over the bigger ebb tides. Those with kayaks or other small beach-launched craft can have a ball chasing all manner of reef fish, grunter, flathead and mackerel around these very same reefs. Given that very few boaties ever venture anywhere near these reefs, the fishing can be surprisingly good.
A regular catch on the reefs but the colours and markings are always sensational. Pic: HBFS
Local Creeks and Mudflats for Serious Estuary Species
Without a boat, you can still chase the likes of mangrove jacks, flathead, cod and grunter in our local creeks. Beelbi and Eli Creeks offer the best access and fish, but even Pulgul can see a few flatties caught around its mouth if you are willing to get your feet wet. O’Reagans Creek also offers a crack at jacks and flatties. In all cases, the state of tide will dictate your access options and what species you might catch where.
The beach flats and mud flats beyond the mouths of these creeks offer beach-goers access to schools of whiting, the odd flathead, grunter (occasionally at night) and even a salmon, queenfish or trevally. Sharks and stingrays are frequent visitors to these shallow flats, and stonefish can be found in any creek or mudflat around rubbly areas, so keep these things in mind.
The Booral Flats out near the airport are easily accessed and offer great fishing for those wearing the right footwear. The vast mudflats are home to schools of quality whiting and plenty of flathead and bream. You will need to walk out onto the flats and fish the first of the rising tide for best results. Be careful not to get caught out, and watch out for mud crabs, stingrays and small bull sharks when the tide rises.
Sportsfishing Options for Boaties
Platypus Bay will be popular over the Christmas period, particularly next week given the great weather forecast of light northeasterly winds. There are still quite a few baby black marlin up in the northern parts of the bay, with the waters off Wathumba Creek and Rooneys Point giving up quite a few billies recently.
Those looking to entertain energetic youngsters are spoilt for choice this time of year, as the masses of surface-feeding pelagics have arrived and are ready to rumble. Hordes of spotted mackerel have turned up and can be found right throughout Platypus Bay and the central bay. Big schools of mack tuna are also prolific in the same areas, and longtail tuna numbers have been increasing of late as well.
Mac tuna can be prolific through the central bay and Platypus Bay this time of year. Pic: HBFS
Grab the kids a good selection of small metal slugs, some heavy-rigged jerkshad styled plastics and a few sinking stickbaits and you have the spotties and tuna covered. The next trick will be sneaking up on schools of fish to get within casting range without spooking them. This task is far easier with the spotties than it is with the tuna.
The sharks are a huge problem nowadays, so try your best to hook fish short-range and get the fish in the boat as quickly as possible. The kids will love the spectacle of the masses of tuna and spotties gorging on the baitfish with massive sharks shadowing every hooked fish, but make sure you take no chances when handling your catch boat-side.
Scooting up the beach along the inside of Fraser might see you trip over some larger longtails up on the flats, or perhaps even a marlin or two. Queenfish and large GTs are also commonly sighted along the beach flats, particularly around schools of hardiheads or garfish gathered around creek mouths.
Giant herring are a great sport species and can take line burning runs. Take care handling them or even leave them in the water if possible to ensure a healthy release. Pic: HBFS
Queenies can otherwise be found lurking in the eddies formed off the bay islands, as well as along some of the ledges along the inside of Fraser. Stickbaits, poppers, plastics, soft vibes and even metals will score queenies when they are in the mood, so mix it up and have some fun. They don’t handle too well after a lengthy fight though, so do your best to get them back in the water quickly.
Big GTs will smash a popper or large stickbait in the same back eddies and current lines around the bay islands when the bigger tides push volumes of bait-laden water off the nearby flats. They also turn up along the same ledges as the queenies at times, not to mention numerous local shipwrecks and occasionally even around the odd beacon.
A Feed of Fresh Reef Fish for Christmas
The wider grounds have had a good spell lately due to the dominating northerlies, though the light winds will see a few crews try their luck in the northern bay. The Gutters is likely to give up a few coral trout, grass sweetlip and a mix of other reefies, but expect the sharks to be particularly bad up that way. It will be a similar story over Rooneys way.
Some of Platypus Bay’s reefs are home to scarlets, squire and grunter, along with the odd cod and trout. Night sessions up that way produce vastly better than daytime sessions for bait fishos, with the added bonus of squid turning up under your lights. The sharks are a serious issue yet again, so don’t hang around once they find you.
The scattered reefs in the western bay can be very hit and miss, but offer a mix of squire, scarlets, cod, blackall and sometimes grunter. Mackerel and juvenile fish can be a real nuisance at times, but when the quality fish decide to feed they typically dominate for a while. Popular spots such as the Burrum 6 and 12 Mile are rarely productive during daylight, with best catches coming at night.
Closer inshore, the numerous reefs within our local shipping channels offer good numbers of grass sweetlip at present. Cod and coral trout are possible on live baits or tea-bagged plastics over the turn of tide, though those unfamiliar with our waters might find catching live baits a little challenging this time of year. Hard-pulling blackall, blue parrot and the odd scarlet are also possible from some of the better reefs in the area, not to mention the chance of large reef jacks and even jewfish.
Down the Great Sandy Straits there are numerous ledges and submerged reef systems that are home to some surprisingly good quality reef fish. Cod dominate the scene down that way, but blueys, sweetlip, blackall and scarlets all inhabit these areas. Some country down that way is home to jacks, fingermark and jewfish as well as passing schools of grunter.
Rivers Need a Flush
Although we missed the best of the rains, there were reasonable falls in the Mary River catchment that has since seen a small flow over the Mary River Barrage. This small inflow of fresh water is hardly the flush out that the river needs, but is a good start.
Threadfin salmon have been quite hard to track down in the Mary for many this season. Aggregations of fish have been harvested regularly and the remaining fish scattered, however, this minor fresh in the river should see the threadies on the move and a lot easier to locate. They will soon be highly visible as they feast on jelly prawn and tiny baitfish flushed out with the fresh.
Quality grunter have been on offer in the lower/mid reaches of the river, typically found feeding over and around gravelly bottom. The grunter will steer clear of any dirty water coming down the river, so we should see even better numbers gather in the lower reaches sometime soon.
It is a similar scene in the creeks down the straits, with the major target species being threadies, grunter and jacks. There will always be a few flatties about, though you will find them a bit deeper during the heat of summer. Decent schools of whiting can be found over the shallow mudflats along the inside of Fraser, biting best over the bigger tide phases.
Up in the Burrum system it has been all about the jacks. This incredible system of four rivers offers what must be some of the best quality jack fishing in the south east. Snag-riddled banks, rock bars and deep rocky holes all produce at times. The rain will get the bait moving and the jacks will respond, attacking passing mullet, prawns and herring from their shady hangouts.
You can pick up some nice grunter in the Burrum, particularly after dark. Snodger whiting were on offer during spring, and although the masses have moved on, there is still the chance of a few 40cm+ fish from those rivers. A few threadies will be working up and down the rivers with the tides, most obvious early flood tide as they swirl and smash the bait along the muddy banks in the upper reaches.
Crustaceans on the Move After a Fresh
That minor fresh in the Mary, and perhaps even better localised run-off down the straits will see some much-awaited movement from the local crustacean population. Mud crabs will smell the fresh and start to make their way into the main flow of the creeks and rivers. Of late, they have been camped well up in the mangroves, often beyond the reach of boaties and their pots.
We can only hope that there has been enough rain to get the crabs moving early and that they can join the seafood smorgasbord. Fraser Island’s western creeks will likely offer the best crab for now, and who knows, they might even taste a little smokey.
After the poorest prawn season in recent memory last season, we are looking forward to better things this year courtesy of the La Nina and increased rainfall. There has been a modest feed of quality banana prawn on offer locally in recent weeks for those willing to get dirty. By that we mean, prawning up the back of the feeder creeks in amongst the sticks and debris where the prawns hold up waiting to grow out and run.
Any local fresh will see prawns moving out into the main stream becoming readily accessible. They will still bury back into the mud for periods and seemingly disappear, only to re-emerge when the water quality, tide and moon are just right. You should be able to find a feed of prawn for Christmas if you put in the effort, but will need to focus on the feeder creeks, larger drains and adjacent areas.
You can score a feed of prawn out in the Burrum, the Cherwell, Isis or Gregory. Quality prawn has appeared and buried again quite a few times in recent months, you just need to be there when they are up and about. The numbers have been only modest up until now, but hopefully that will change once they get a sniff of freshwater.