Our apologies for the somewhat fortnightly nature of our "weekly" fishing report of late.
Reflecting on the past week or so we can safely say that the fishing has been quite good when the weather allows. Pelagics and reefies are all responding to the cooler autumn temperatures and their activity is enhanced further with the bigger building tides. Having said that, the week ahead sees neap tides around Tuesday’s quarter moon, but if you check the tidal variations for this time of year you will appreciate that even the neaps have a reasonable amount of "run", so don’t be put off by the old adage of "no run, no fun" at this time of year.
It looks like that big high in the bight is going to weaken just enough to give us a reasonable weekend of 10-15 knot winds tending either side of southerly. The week ahead looks quite good also, with typical autumn weather bringing southwesters in the morning, easing to lighter southeasters later in the day.
The Bay & Offshore
It looks like Sunday will offer a chance for appropriate-sized boats to get up beyond the bay to the Gutters and the reefs off Rooneys. Coral trout are the dominant catch on livies or heavily-weighted tea-bagged plastics up that way at present, but this is also a great time of year for red emperor if you can find some without the sharks in attendance. Grass sweetlip, parrot and scarlets will colour up the esky for those fishing baits over the fringing reefs, weed country and flatter grounds. Spanish mackerel, schoolies and cobia are making their presence felt, particularly over parts of the Southern Gutters. Trolling larger Laser Pros, X-Raps and other high-speed minnows can account for an easy bag of spanish, and will also enable crews new to the area the opportunity to sound out new country.
There are plenty of tuna schools scattered across the whole of Hervey Bay from the Burrum Coast to Platypus Bay and further north at present, so as usual, go armed with a range of small metal slugs, 5 inch Zman Jerkshads and a variety of stickbaits so that you can match the hatch when you find them feeding on different bait schools.
Last reports from over the Breaksea Spit were sensational, with a great variety of reefies on the chew including the mighty red emperor. The reduced East Australian Current this time of year enables us to get out onto the shelf line where some great pearlies, jobfish and snapper can be found, and for those with "deep drop" electric reels or winches, an even greater variety of jobfishes and bar cod from waters beyond the 100m line. Moving around to avoid the sharks is paramount for success, as they seem to eventually turn up nearly everywhere of late.
The close reefs off the Wide Bay Bar have been productive for a few snapper, sweetlip, cod and moses, whilst red emperor are the most desirable species out wider amongst a mixed catch of snapper, pearlies and amberjack.
Snapper are now the main target for our inshore reef fishos, and they are slowly filtering in onto our deeper reef ledges and artificial reefs. The Roy Rufus has produced an odd knobbie, but more commonly squire in that great-eating 45-60cm size. Lightly-weighted 3-4 inch plastics in prawn-style, grub, paddle-tail or jerkshad will all work on inshore snapper at the right time, whilst the larger 5 inch+ models can work, but are typically a better option up in Platypus Bay and beyond. Moon ledge is another great area to target snapper this time of year, and you can expect to find them at the Burrum 8 Mile, Outer Banks and numerous other inshore reefs north of the bay islands.
Bait fishos targeting snapper need to keep one thing in mind – bigger baits catch bigger fish. All too often folks rig paternoster style with small pieces of squid or cut pillies etc, to find that all they can produce are small fish and pickers. Around here, you should use whole pencil squid, pillies, pike, herring, yakkas, whiting or large banana prawns. Some of these baits will work in most locations, whilst others are suitable only where that bait source can be found in the area you are fishing. Rig your baits to "swim" and not spin in the current and keep your baits off the bottom. Running sinker style rigs with just enough lead to get you to the bottom but not hold bottom are just right. When anchored, this will see you changing sinker size several times throughout a tide cycle. A good snapper will smash a live bait as well, and similarly to using any large dead bait, you just have to be prepared to let him run with it before setting the hooks. Snapper are a clean fighter, so tight drags are not necessary, with sharks your only real threat once hooked.
Coral trout and cod are still taking live baits over the turn of tide over many of our gnarlier reefs, and whilst they will taper off soon, there are still good-sized grass sweetlip to be found around our deeper ledges and soft coral and rubble country. Scarlets continue to be the "bonus" inshore species this year, as better than usual size and numbers of these tasty critters have been frequenting many deeper inshore reefs.
School mackerel have turned up in good numbers recently. They can be found over any reef system holding a supply of herring, as well as around our shipping channel markers. They can prove to be quite mobile, but have been particularly active around the Fairway, NU2 wreck, Outer Banks and Moon Ledge of late. Some larger broad-barred mackerel have also been active, with reports from the Roy Rufus and the fringes of the bay islands.
Queenfish and small GTs have been chasing down plastics, metal slugs, stickbaits and poppers around the bay islands. Those pesky long tom can be an absolute pest at times right up in the shallows, but can also be a source of great fun and laughs for the kids as they slash at your lures and dance all over the paddock once hooked.
Mack and longtail tuna are working schools of small herring and hardiheads throughout our shipping channels right down into the Straits. Expect them to be extra flighty inshore, so either be patient (read frustrated) and wait for them to swim by your stationary vessel, or try motoring past keeping your engine revs and direction constant and let fly with a lure on the move.
The first reports of any decent catches of winter whiting have finally filtered through. It sounds like the grounds off O’Reagans Creek and those near the Fairway Buoy have been the best producers so far, with bag limits for a couple of local crews. The consistent southerlies and cooling waters will see winteries move into other grounds in those areas soon, including the NU2 and Gatakers.
Great Sandy Straits & Mary/Susan Rivers
Jewfish have been the main catch from the deeper waters around River Heads in recent times. Live baiting has accounted for many, though word is that the local bull sharks have tuned into the activity and the attrition rate is somewhat sad. Jewies can also be found along some of the better ledges along the western side of Fraser for those tea-bagging plastics or vibes, or for live baiters fishing the tide turns at night.
Bream numbers are increasing weekly around the rock bars in the lower reaches of the Mary and Susan rivers, and in coming weeks there will be some incredible bream fishing on offer from South Head, North Head, Beaver Rock and other rock bars. Topwater fishing for bream during the higher tide stages over the adjacent flats can be a visual feast, with the occasional surprise from trevally, blue salmon and large flatties.
Down the Straits, the main reports have been of a few threadies in the creeks working drains and draining flats, along with grunter in the deeper holes and a few flathead starting to move around the creek mouths. Queenies, trevally, broadies and blue salmon can also be found working over the flats and along ledges along Fraser’s western shore.
The Burrum and its feeder rivers have been fairly quiet of late, with mainly just small numbers of your bread and butter species on offer. Bream numbers will increase in the lower reaches in the near future as they gather to spawn. The odd large grunter has been possible from the heads, though it has been mostly pike and undersized spanish keeping the kids entertained around the ramps.
Out the front, there are sand crabs on the move north of the river outside the green zone off Woodgate. There is a lot of commercial crabbing gear in the area, so it will pay to work out which way they are walking the crab to stand any chance of a good haul. You cannot beat whiting frames for sand crab bait, but mullet and reef fish frames will do. Make sure you use the larger heavier 4 entry crab pots for sandies out in those depths (10-17m), and remember that recreational crabbers must have a rope and float attached to each pot (not multiple pots on one string).
A few school and spanish mackerel have been reported from the Burrum 8 Mile recently, though word is you have to skull drag them in to beat the sharks. Snapper will be worth targeting there when the tides get bigger, but only really late in the day into the evening or at dawn.
Local Beaches, Creeks and Urangan Pier
Some surprisingly good whiting have been biting down at the Urangan Pier and along its adjacent beaches over the past few days and nights. Expect them to be an even better proposition in a week’s time with bigger tides. Bream numbers are steadily improving at the pier, with the better fish coming to herring baits at night. Speaking of herring, some decent schools have moved back around the pier, bringing a few school mackerel with them. A couple of longtail tuna have turned up lately also, taking live herring swum wide of the pier under a balloon. Add the chance of a flattie or two on live pike/herring, and it looks like the pier is worthy of a visit at present.
The dreaded green toads have been a nuisance at times off the pier and along our town beaches. Avoiding them is not easy on the beach, so head out and fish the flats off Eli Creek or down along the Booral Flats for whiting and flatties. Micro poppers and stickbaits are the best bet for lure anglers chasing whiting up on the flats, followed closely by a 2 inch Gulp worm rigged on a super light jighead for those that prefer a sub-surface presentation.
We trust the above information will give you plenty of ideas for future fishing trips, but as always, feel free to call in and talk to the lads about the best ways to secure a feed of fresh fish or better that PB.
Good luck out there y’all.