Looking at the Easter weather forecasts is a little depressing for the long weekend, but Hervey Bay and surrounds offer a diverse range of fisheries and we are blessed with some great options in quite sheltered waters.
Good Friday looks okay for boaties looking to venture out locally, though the closer inshore grounds, or the protected southern parts of Platypus Bay will be the go. The rest of the Easter break looks fairly ordinary with winds of 20 knots+ from the southeast tending east then northeast as we progress through Monday. Forecasts are conflicting (of course) but it looks like we are in for some showers and possibly light rain at times.
Now, whilst the above sounds like doom and gloom, we have our fantastic estuary systems that are totally fishable in the forecast conditions for those with the right sized (smaller) boats. Looking further ahead, at this stage it looks like we are in for a spell of light winds (albeit a little damp perhaps) from mid next week, with Anzac Day looking glorious.
Friday night’s full moon heralds the month’s biggest spring tides, peaking with about 3.5m of tidal variation. Keep this in mind when choosing a potential fishing location as the bigger tides have a dramatic affect in some areas. Basically, wave heights will be exaggerated during periods of "wind against tide" and the higher tides will put more water up on the flats that will create more surface area to generate bigger seas in some areas.
The Burrum Heads Amateur Fishing Club is again running its popular Easter Classic this weekend. This fishing competition is a fantastic event for the whole family that is very well patronised by big numbers of competitors every year. Whilst the weather might see a drop in numbers this year, those that attend are bound to have a great time with heaps of activities for the kids and prizes galore.
Much of this past week has been dominated by moderate southeasters and early morning southerlies, but quite a few crews got out on the bay inshore and up the island. The wide grounds and the offshore grounds are being rested again, courtesy of our sometimes overly protective Mother Nature.
When conditions allow, a run up the island chasing tuna should be very productive. Platypus Bay is alive with surface-feeding mack and longtail tuna easily tempted with a Zman Jerkshad, stickbait or metal slug. The surface activity would normally diminish somewhat during rainy spells and heavy overcast conditions though so keep that in mind.
Plenty of school mackerel bycatch has been reported under the tuna schools up that way recently, and sessions targeting them over the reefs holding schools of baitfish have been productive. The schoolies are even thicker and bigger out wider and spanish mackerel have been abundant in some areas.
Several species of trevally can be found lurking under the tuna schools as well, and they are a real easy target for those working micro jigs, vertically jigging metals, or hopping plastics and vibes over the reefs north of the banks. Goldens, GTs, diamonds, brassies, long-nosed and gold spots are just a few of the many species of trevally on offer, and their numbers will swell as winter approaches.
Those looking for a feed of reefies up that way are likely to encounter some nice scarlets and squire over the Platypus Bay and Rooneys reefs. Fishing dawn, dusk and into the evening with fresh or live baits will see better quality fish come aboard. Other species like sweetlip, grunter, cod and cockies will be active with the full moon, so if you are not catching fish then you aren’t in the right spot.
The sharks continue to wreak havoc on the tuna schools and are equally fond of big trevally and quality reef fish, so do the right thing and drive away from them when they find you.
Big Woody Island offers good protection from a southerly wind for those looking to sneak out early for a fish on the Roy Rufus arti. The only problem with this scenario over coming days being that the wind and tide will be opposed and that will make the waves a bit squarer and bigger. Once the tide ebbs, the seas will be less gnarly but the winds will build from the southeast so take care if venturing out that way.
The arti is holding a few decent squire, with proper snapper around the 70cm mark possible. The sweetlip are quite thick out there on the bottom for those fishing baits of squid, with cod and trout also possible over the turn of tide on livies or lures.
The big problem on popular spots such as the Arti, Moon Ledge, the Outer Banks, Bogimba, the Channel Hole, Boges Hole, Mickies etc is the sharks. They are basically unbeatable when you hook a quality fish and will continue to eat every fish you try to pull up, so lift anchor and move some distance to another spot and try there. When the weather is good and there are plenty of other boats you can get lucky at times as the other boats have the sharks occupied while you sneak a few fish on board. If you are the only boat out there in rough weather guess where all the sharks will be.
Our shallow reefs don’t suffer the same shark issues. Gatakers Bay and Point Vernon reefs will be popular over Easter due to the protection offered by the lay of the land there. These shallow reefs fish best at dawn and dusk and are better on the bigger tides, so should produce over Easter. Berley is a great idea in these shallows and will draw and hold the likes of bream, sweetlip, blackall, squire and grunter. Baits of banana prawn and squid will be effective, but fish sturdy lines with very little or no weight from an anchored boat.
The same areas will offer a crack at some coral trout and cod. The same baits above, hardiheads, pillies and whole herring will work for these guys, with live baits even better. Trolling diving hardbodies is a great option early in the morning. Troll slowly for the cod and speed things up for trout. Choose lures that will swim within a metre of the bottom, stitch up your drag and hang onto your rod.
Given the reports of sand crabs off the Burrum recently, it would seem reasonable that there will be some sandies off to the west of Gatakers Bay. Suitable waters there are only about 7 metres deep but make sure you have ample rope attached to your pots to contend with the current and the wind.
Small numbers of reasonable winter whiting have been found out off Gatakers somewhere. Chasing a feed of these tasty little critters could be the go for the family fishos looking to entertain the kids. The fish are not schooled up as yet so drifting will be the go if the weather allows. Winteries will increase in numbers as winter approaches and will be a viable target any time from now on. We will provide a detailed "how to" on chasing winteries in a future report.
Burrum River System
As mentioned above, the Easter Classic fishing comp is on this long weekend, so unless you are involved in the comp then Burrum Heads will be a place to avoid. The boat traffic to and from the local ramps will be excessive, so head to other ramps on the river if looking to access this river system over Easter.
The locals out that way have been lamenting the general lack of fish in the rivers of late, but that being the case there are still fish to be targeted if you put in the effort. The big full moon tides will make lure fishing a bit challenging upriver, but will offer bait fishos even better chances at a range of species.
Barra can still be found, albeit well scattered, throughout the Burrum, Cherwell, Isis and Gregory. Low tide will be best for those fishing around snags and rock bars, but those tuned into barra fishing on the flats will use the higher tide phases to seek them out along the drop offs and channels within the vast flats of the lower/mid reaches.
Jacks are a very good option for both bait and lure anglers, with most success likely to come during the slower stages of the tide. Whilst our waters have cooled significantly recently, the temp is still around 25C and the jacks are still active. Night sessions with live baits, mullet strips and pillies will be most effective, so long as you can avoid the mud crabs and pike eels. If venturing out for a jack session at night, arm yourself with an array of small surface poppers, stickies and fizzers. Paddle-tailed and prawn-style plastics will be just as good and can be worked throughout the whole water column. You don’t have to target snags at night for jacks as they will be out and about nearby actively hunting under the cover of darkness. Similar to daytime fishing, check out the big bright moon and its shadowing effect on the water and target the "shadow" edges.
Grunter, big whiting and bream will all be popular targets for Easter Classic competitors, and some of the locals should have these fish wired. For those unfamiliar with this fishery, look for the whiting early in the flood tide up on the shallow sand flats that are foaming and bubbling as the tide rises. Driving the boat up onto the flat until you bottom out, deploying the anchor and sitting quietly while the whiting move past is a successful local technique. Yabbies and tiny prawns will be fine as bait, but the whiting gurus wouldn’t bother fishing without live bloodworms.
The best grunter might be found at night near drop offs on the sand flats, particularly up towards the mouths of the other feeder rivers. Yabbies, prawns and small herring are gun baits, but they will take strips of mullet or gar, hardiheads or pillies. They don’t appear to be in the rivers in any numbers, but quality grunter beyond the 60cm mark are possible.
Look for the bream around any rock bars you find, and be prepared to put up with the small cod and moses perch bycatch till you find the better fish. Berley will help when the tide slackens and the bigger fish should be upriver where the small prawns and baitfish are most abundant.
Mud crabs went from scarce to scary last week, with great numbers of quite large crabs walking into pots in the Burrum and its feeder rivers. Some guys scored really well on big rusty bucks with multiple crabs crowding pots at times. Given the potential of this situation continuing (and the inherent theft of crabs and pots) it may well pay to check your pots a bit more regularly.
Prawns have been fickle for want of a better word. Big "Woodgate Class" prawn were found in the Gregory at one stage, but then seemed to clear out or bury when the rains came. This river is still the better bet for those that know it, and for those that don’t – be careful of the many rock bars. The upper reaches of the Burrum are still alive with small prawn along its shallow muddy banks during the lower stages of tide but the better quality prawn has been M.I.A. this week.
Mary/Susan Rivers & the Great Sandy Straits
The big full moon tides will restrict most fishing activities to the lower reaches of the Susan and Mary rivers. Barra are a possibility around low tide around rock bars, but threadfin salmon are a better bet around the drains and creek mouths. The last of the ebb and first of the flood will be the go for both species. The strong winds over Easter will stuff up many of the flats fishing opportunities, but any flat out of the wind will be worth a look if baitfish have gathered there.
Bream are increasing in numbers around the rock bars in the rivers and pikey bream are still favouring snags in the big feeder creeks. Flathead are starting to turn up more frequently as our waters cool and are a viable target around rock bars, drain mouths and adjacent muddy flats.
Look for flatties and grunter up over the shelly, gravelly bottoms in the lower Susan or up the Mary around the Beaver Rock area. Good bream will be found up that way too, as will small bull sharks. Blue salmon are starting to feature again and are a common catch outside the creeks of the straits, within those same creeks and near rock bars in the lower stretches of the Mary.
The way the crabs fired elsewhere this past week suggests they should have done the same down the Mary/Susan. The best way to find out is to drop in some pots and check them. The full moon offers the best time of the month to target them, so you will stand a better than even chance of crabs for Easter. Determining where the pros have been running their gear and avoiding these areas would seem prudent. When the weather allows, running some pots into the creeks either side of the straits should be worth the effort.
Prawners are still frustrated at the lack of prawns in the rivers. This situation will change at some stage and the trigger just might be the big full moon tides this week. They are said to bury over the moon at times after throwing their shell, but when they re-emerge from the mud they will be looking to move and feed. You will secure a modest feed if you are feeling energetic and keep throwing your cast nets around likely feeder drains and muddy banks either side of low tide. There have been some nice big prawns down there, it is just the volume of which that has been frustrating.
Urangan Pier, Local Creeks & Beaches
Some great muddies were potted in our local creeks last week and they should be active right through the full moon and beyond. Check your pots regularly as theft is an issue. Prawns are a chance for those willing to risk their nets in these snaggy little creeks. Fishing-wise, you might find some bream, the odd flatty, cod, jacks or barra in these creeks and queenfish and GTs will be a great target near the mouth or out on the adjacent flats.
The town beaches have been popular with holiday-makers vying for a few whiting and flathead. Best time for the whiting will be from mid-tide till high, then for an hour or so of the ebb. If you can get out of the wind (say Eli Creek flats) then micro poppers and stickbaits will be the go during the early flood. Flatties are more likely to hang around structure, so try Torquay Rocks at low tide, the piers, groynes or the gutters along the Pialba stretch of beach.
Bream are starting to turn up at the Urangan Pier. Catching a heap of herring, then butterflying, filleting or cutting them into pieces suits the local bream fishos. You can also offer them frozen baits, but go for the tougher baits if fishing during the daytime to withstand the onslaught of pickers. At night, when you will have the best chance, you can use softer baits of prawn or yabbie if you wish.
Pelagic activity comes and goes out the pier, but going on recent weeks it should be worth taking the heavier gear in the hope of tuna, trevally, mackerel and queenfish turning up. Shark fishos often deploy baits out the end at night.
If the weather has you beat, and you have a boat with a four stroke (or an E-Tec), then Lenthalls could be just the place to take the kids for some bass and barra fishing. The bass have been super active of late and are happily taking trolled hardbodies on a regular basis. Big numbers are possible and the kids should have a ball. Kayakers can also revel in the calm waters of the dam with its speed restrictions and small size being most suitable for kayaks.
The barra have been active as well, and will take a trolled lure if you like, or better still, target them around the lillies and snags with suspending hardbodies or weedless-rigged plastics. The dam’s access restrictions (gates open at 6am and close at 8pm) mean full-on night sessions are not possible, but you can still sneak in a topwater session on either bass or barra at dawn and dusk.
Happy Easter to you all and good luck out there.