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Weekly Fishing Report - 17th February 2022

A solid golden trevally caught on a jig with Tri from Fraser Guided Fishing.

Better Weather Ahead – Before the Next Blow

Boaties didn’t get much of a chance to hit the bay over the past week, with most activity limited to sheltered inshore waters or our estuaries and impoundments. Thankfully, things are shaping up much better for the immediate future, albeit only for a brief period.

Today’s great weather will be even better tomorrow, with barely 5 knots of breeze and a gentle northeast sea breeze mid-afternoon. Saturday looks like kicking off with super light winds before a southeaster cranks up around midday and puffs around 15-20knots for the afternoon.

Chances are the wind will tend a little more easterly Sunday, though start the day tending more from the south southeast and max-out at around 15 knots. An even lighter easterly is expected for Monday which should increase to an average 15 knots by nightfall.

Our next spate of southeasterly trade winds will build throughout the day Tuesday and blow a few scattered showers onshore. Expect around 20 knots by Tuesday night and at least that strength or possibly a little more for the remainder of the week.

Tonight’s full moon sees a peak in our tide heights once again. There is only around 3 metres tidal variation over the full moon this time of year, with the bigger tide in the morning. Expect a great bite from a vast range of species during the immediate period surrounding this moon, with the bite tapering off as the moon wanes thereafter.

Kurt Rowlands got into some fly fishing action over the shallow inshore reefs and picked up a coral trout and spangled emperor.

Brief Window for Reef Fishos Heading Wide

Chances are there will be a few local bosses suss of their staff pulling sickies tomorrow to take advantage of the all-too-brief window of glamour weather. It looks great for a quick dash out wide, or even better, an overnighter with a return before the wind cranks up late the next morning.

Even though the recent Mary River flooding is well behind us, there is still a very real issue with remnant flotsam that could be quite hazardous to boaters. There has been reports of a pontoon, drums, a telegraph pole and large trees from parts of the bay and beyond. Take extra care when traveling, and if you do spot something particularly hazardous, then you might even hail VMR and let them know.

If you get offshore and find any floating objects, then you should head over and investigate. Mahi mahi are well known for hanging around such flotsam and are typically super-eager to pounce on anything you throw their way. Make the most of your initial attempts at these dynamos, as the whole school can often lose interest and be hard to tempt once they witness a few of their compadres in distress.

A pontoon that was found floating west of Pelican Bank. Pic: Fraser Guided Fishing

Easing seas and a swell dropping to a smidge under a metre Friday suggests the offshore waters east of the Breaksea Spit are worth a look for those with offshore-capable vessels. Of course, we have had no reports from out that way recently due to the weather and the big swells.

Expect plenty of current, and hopefully plenty of reef fish as well as pelagics. With any luck, there will be less sharks than usual due to the lack of boat traffic lately. Topwater fans might enjoy a red-hot session chasing spaniards and GTs over the shallower shoal country. Big stickbaits and poppers and the go, though for those less energetic, trolling proven hardbodies such as Laser Pros, X-Raps and DTX Minnows will soon seek out the same critters. Do not be surprised to encounter marlin, and be ready for mahi mahi, wahoo or yellowfin if they show up.

For those that aren’t quite that adventurous, the Southern and Northern Gutters and the many reefs off Rooneys or further north will be popular. Red emperor will be a prime target, especially given the blowy weather of late, and that species’ tendency to turn up on reefs during the blows. We will get some feedback next week as to how those that venture up that way fare, but could predict the usual catches, such as coral trout, grass sweetlip, scarlets, reef jacks and the other usual reef species.

We could also predict a disastrous time for those trying to beat the sharks at a lot of these sites, so don’t hang in there wasting our precious reef fish. As always, move on and try to find less-pressured patches of reef or other ground (mud, weed etc) that sees less boat traffic and therefore no sharks.

Big Tide Prime for a Bay Assault

Many crews will likely favour the option of heading “up the island” to ply the waters of Platypus Bay for pelagics and reefies. Word is that there is good-sized longtails around the 15kg mark sneaking around up that way. A lot of these better-sized fish are in very small schools or even solo, so looking for the more subtle sips or greyhouding lunges of these fish can pay dividends.

Pelagics-wise, it still sounds as though things have been a little quieter than expected up in the bay for this time of year. Is there a trend developing here? Are our fish learning and resisting their urge to swim into and feed in areas where sharks are so ridiculously abundant? Probably not, given the fact that many TV docos have shown various pelagic species feeding in tandem with sharks in the wild. Yet, those same docos never reflect what happens when fishos join the party and how educated sharks react to hooked fish and an easy feed.

A nice school size spanish mackerel caught with Bobby from Hot Reels Pro Fish Charters.

Perhaps there is more fish up that way than what we are hearing about, as the weather hasn’t been too kind of late. There should be school mackerel, mack and longtail tuna, maybe a few late season spotties, some spaniards and maybe even the odd cobia and marlin. Queenies, golden trevally and a few others from the trevally clan are also likely, either along the fringes of the flats and beaches, over the reefs or randomly out in the paddock as they shadow mobile masses of baitfish. Undoubtedly, we will be able to draw a better picture next week when we hear how some crews fared this week.

Reef fishos heading up that way should find big grunter, scarlets and squire quite active over the big tides. Sharks will be a problem at many locations.

Back closer inshore, those chasing reefies will probably have to focus their efforts around the turn of tide unless they are well-practiced in fishing our strong tidal runs. Grass sweetlip are abundant, and can be found both shallow and deep. The fish in the vicinity of the reefs within our shipping channels are typically a better class of fish than those found in the shallows, but you have to beat the sharks in the deep, so the shallows get the nod for an increasing majority of fishos nowadays.

Queenfish are one of our iconic sportfish here in the bay and can put on a great acrobatic display. Pic: Hervey Bay Fly & Sportfishing

Coral trout and cod will be on the chew. They can be trolled-up on appropriate hardbodies, or picked off on a range of plastics, swimbaits or vibes from the shallow fringing reefs. The Pt Vernon / Gatakers Bay area has been very popular this summer and has produced improved numbers of coral trout in particular. It is quite obvious that the trout have rebounded due to the dirtier water and reduced spearfishing effort, so make the most of this fishery while you can.

Grunter have been a popular target in the same area. These great sport and table fish are not restricted to our shallow reefs though, with quality grunter likely from areas as far and wide as the Fairway and Burrum 8 Mile country to the shipping channel reefs, ledges and flats of the Great Sandy Straits, and even along our foreshores. Grunter are happy to take a range of baits from squid and prawns to herring, strip baits and small live baitfish. They are also suckers for well-presented soft plastics and really relish soft vibes in the deeper waters.

Cast Nets and Crab Pots Part of Everyday Arsenal

There will be a great feed of sand crabs on offer for those that drop heavily-weighted pots out in the bay. The grounds off the Burrum Coast and the lower central bay north of the banks are worth a soak. Find the right patches and your efforts need only be short-lived, as a bag limit of large succulent sandies can be easily achieved. The option for an overnight soak is the obvious alternative, with Friday night looking most appealing.

Mud crabbers fared well this week during the lead up to tonight’s full moon. Windy weather concentrated the effort a little-too-locally for the liking of many though, with pot theft and poaching seemingly rife as usual. The better weather will enable the effort to be spread throughout the straits and along the inside of Fraser Island. Try the creeks and check your pots frequently if you like, but with so many crabs active and on the march since the recent flooding don’t overlook the flats and feeder channels out in the straits.

One of our regular fisho's Shane sent in this pic. A typical view on QLD verandahs this time of year.

Prawners will start to look for a feed of banana prawn in our creeks and rivers from now on. Chances are there are small to medium sized prawn on offer in numerous systems. Many will wait for the big runs of more mature prawn, easily gathered with the right cast net in more open waters.
For now though, cast netting the muddy drains, banks and gullies within the creeks down the straits, our local creeks or our rivers can see you score a feed with enough effort. A lot of the prawn will be soft-shelled right now, making for what you might consider an inferior product.

They are hard to peel, either green or cooked. This issue appears to be a full moon thing for smaller prawn that are growing fast and shedding their shells when they bury over the moon.
We can expect a surge in prawn numbers and quality in coming weeks. Locals are likely to be a little cagey about their efforts and their results, and rightly so. We haven’t had to put up with the crap they have in the big smoke down south when the prawns are on. Having others mooch in on your hard-earned prawn is only a recent phenomenon in these parts, most notable in recent years. Our wildly expanding population of seafood-hungry residents will soon see a very different scene develop on our popular prawn grounds.

Obviously, a little respect and some etiquette will keep the peace as the prawn season unfolds. Those new to the game are in for a treat as there is great satisfaction in catching and cooking your own prawn. High-tech sounders certainly make the task of finding the deeper water prawn much easier these days, whilst a few tricks to tracking them down in the shallows are easily learnt. Again, more on this subject as the season unfolds.

Full Moon Impoundment Barra Action

Plenty of crews headed up the Bruce for a crack at Lake Monduran’s barra population over the past week. Their timing was great, with the lead up to the full moon, but the weather didn’t quite play the game. We’ve heard from a few crews that scored a couple of fish or so a day, but it sounds as though things were certainly a lot quieter than might be expected for this time of year.
Swimbaits, paddle-tailed plastics and suspending hardbodies cast and retrieved along the edges of weed banks or amongst the timber have all produced the odd fish. Accurately casting weedless plastics into the flooded terrestrial weeds fringing many bays and gullies also paid dividends.

Shannon Watson from Daiwa pinned this beautiful Mondy barra on one of the Daiwa Bait Junkie 6.2" Minnow. These plastics have a wicked action in the water.

We haven’t heard much from trollers. Undoubtedly, they are catching a few fish, but there hasn’t been a repeat of the exceptional trolling results from spring-early summer since the first rise in dam level. Why? Because those epic numbers were the result of masses of barra making their way to the dam wall in the hope of heading downstream in the impending rain events that followed. Those fish dispersed thereafter, and are now well-scattered throughout the lake.

An average Mondy barra is over the 90cm mark nowadays, and metre beaters are everyday captures. There are a few really large fish in the lake, some of which will better the magic 120cm mark, but they are quite scarce and certainly win more battles than they lose amongst the timber. Witnessing encounters with these larger fish first-hand during the latter part of last year it was a little surprising that there weren’t more captures out in open waters as the rains approached. Stories of spoolings and monumental bust-offs did the rounds and cemented the big barras’ reputation as heart-breakers and the ultimate impoundment challenge.

Another one bites the dust.

Lake Callide – Monster Barra Central

Now, whilst Mondy has a handful of truly large barra in residence, Lake Callide out near Biloela is loaded with these monsters. Big fat barra in the 125cm range are quite common captures nowadays, at least when compared with other lakes. For anyone looking to knock off a true bragging class impoundment barra, Lake Callide is your best bet within weekend-reach of Hervey Bay.

It is about a 4.5-hour drive to Callide, either the back way over a few short stretches of gravel, or up the Bruce turning left at Calliope. Accommodation is right next to the lake at ‘Lake Callide Retreat’. Steve and Kelly will offer you a warm central Qld welcome and you will be quite comfy with either their onsite cabins, powered or unpowered sites.

Callide got pretty low before the recent spring and summer rains. It has now recovered nicely though, holding at around 67% capacity. The lake used to be very unique, in that it had no aquatic weed whatsoever. This situation has changed in recent times however, with weed beds now fringing much of the lake’s perimeter in waters shallower than 6-8 feet.

Ty with a serious slab of Callide barra caught on a Barambah Bony Shad.

You used to be able to wander around the lake and fish from wind-blown shores and catch barra from the bank at will. At least you could at dawn, dusk and in the evening. The weed has changed this scenario, but bankside fishing options are still possible from the many rocky outcrops and points where the weed hasn’t taken hold.

Callide is quite a small lake, easily circumnavigated in a tinny in a day’s exploring. In recent times, casting and catching the lakes’ barra around its fringes has been overlooked in favour of the art of trolling. Now, we know trolling certainly doesn’t excite any hard core barra fishos, but it turns out that it is the most successful way of scoring the big open water barra as they feed on suspended schools of baitfish.

If you back yourself and persist casting, and modify your approach to suit the conditions, you will likely score the barra of your dreams. However, like many before you, you might find yourself trolling around hoping nobody spots you. Trollers typically seek out schools of barra shadowing bait schools in open water of the main basin, though there are fish scattered throughout the lake that can be targeted with numerous techniques.

Be warned, Callide barra can be fickle and hard to tempt at times, but aren’t all well-fed impoundment barra? Callide is certainly a family-friendly lake, offering plenty of action for all members of the family. Not only might you chance the barra of a lifetime, but the lake is producing big numbers of yellowbelly on a regular basis.

The Barambah Bony Shad producing at Callide for Daniel as well.

The yellas are taking Jackall Squirrels and (believe it or not) Molix 140 Shads, that were obviously meant for the barra. You can really score big numbers of yellas with vibes, both hard and soft, or troll deep diving hardbodies for great results. Beef up the leader a little more than you might for this species, as incidental barra captures are not uncommon.

There are lots of large freshwater longtom (alligator gar) in the lake that add little excitement for the kids. Lots of nips and subtle bites on your cast and retrieved lures can be attributed to these crazy looking critters. There is a healthy population of sleepy cod in the lake that can entertain the kids. Typically caught with worms on a hook, they offer little resistance so aren’t very sporty but fun for the kids all the same.

There is even a small number of saratoga in the lake, so another target for the fly fishos. The hardworking guys and gals from the Callide Valley Native Fish Stocking Association released another 10,000 yellas just recently, and word is another 55,000 barra are destined for release in 3-4 weeks’ time. Well done crew, thank you and keep up the good work.

Good luck out there y’all.

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