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Weekly Fishing Report - 18th June 2020

Better Weather On Its Way

The current southeaster should blow itself out by the weekend, offering boaties a crack at open waters from sometime Saturday morning through Sunday. A lazy westerly is forecast for the early part of next week, bringing much colder and dry conditions.

The latter part of next week looks quite glamorous at this time, with very light winds leading into the following weekend. Sunday’s new moon will mean plenty of run in the tide and a good bite from a range of reef, pelagic and flats species.

Urangan Pier Fishing Well

An influx of pelagics out the end of the Urangan Pier has added a bit of excitement for the many local pier fishos. Spinning with Flasha spoons of various sizes has been producing a variety of species, as has live baiting with herring and pike.

Bonito have been quite prolific of late, particularly in the morning. School mackerel have also been common catches this week, though care should be taken regarding the size as there are lots of undersized fish about.

The odd spanish mackerel also paid a fatal visit to pier waters, but it is the random visits of schools of longtail tuna that get the locals really excited. The capture of a longtail over 20kg this week certainly got the chins wagging. Mack tuna have also been semi-regular visitors to the deeper waters out the end, sometimes making raids across the sandbanks when the tide is higher.

Bream fishos are in their element right now. Numerous bream are being caught day and night, with plenty above 30cm, and quite a few bigger models of 42cm (a kilo) or more. Night sessions have been really productive for the odd local bream fishos, scoring a bag limit and throwing back even more again.

Flathead are an easy target for live baiters in the first channel or along the slope out the end. Best tides are over the neaps, with the early incoming tide being when the flatties will move into their ambush positions and begin feeding. Once spotted, it is a fairly simple matter of quickly catching a pike, or a herring if you cannot get a pike, and lowering it (alive) in the vicinity of the flattie below.

You will often see the flathead move over and scoff your livie, and this is when a little discipline and patience is handy so that you do not strike before your hook is inside the flattie’s mouth. The same process of walking the planks looking for flathead during the ebb tide is also effective. Concentrate your search along the fringes of the sandbank mid-tide as the flatties will be lying in wait for baitfish forced out of the shallows by the receding tide.

Nocturnal fishos have been scoring the odd decent mulloway jew from the deeper waters out near the end of the pier. Live baits can be a bit trickier to obtain after dark, though not impossible. Pike are actually very active during the evening, but will be scattered and feeding as opposed to schooled up and seeking shelter as they do in daylight.

It is not terribly difficult to fool a jew into eating a lure around slack tide at night. A large prawn imitation works a treat, as do the very realistic squid imitations we have nowadays, or any number of the latest in soft vibes. Getting the bite is (potentially) the easy part, but keeping the bigger jew clear of the pylons can be the real challenge.

It would be foolish to walk out onto the pier this time of year without at least one suitable squid jig in your kit. Similarly to searching for flatties, you can wander the planks peering over the side and scanning the waters below for locallies (tiger squid) around the pylons or above the rubbly bottom. This is easiest in the first channel during the lower stages of the tide, though everyone knows that, so you will need some luck on your side to beat others to the squid.

Mackerel Galore Down the Straits

This past week has seen the arrival of numbers of school mackerel in the Great Sandy Straits. Shore-based fishos out at River Heads have been spinning them up on Flasha spoons and other metals from the boat ramps on the eastern side of the headland. There have been more undersized mackerel than keepers some days, so take care to release the juveniles unharmed.

Kingfisher Bay Resort’s jetty has also drawn hordes of hungry school mackerel. Spinning metal spoons will score, as will live baiting with herring, hardiheads, gar or pike. Undersized fish are again an issue over that way, though enough legal-sized fish can be caught to make the effort worthwhile. If heading over that way, you can also expect to score a heap of bream, a few flatties, the odd tailor and a jewie or two.

The schools of small mackerel are the pre-cursor to the masses of better-quality fish that will be making their way down the coastline in coming months. They are here to feed and grow and will therefore aggregate where-ever they can track down a favourable food source. Small herring will be their main target much of the time and many schools of these little baitfish can be found throughout the deeper channels of the Great Sandy Straits. Trolling smaller profiled lures capable of speeds of 6 knots or more will help you track down the macks in the more open waters.

Winter Whiting on the Move

As is typically the case, most of the winter whiting fleet has been concentrating their efforts out of Gatakers Bay so far this season. There are still whiting to be caught out that way, but the other local whiting grounds will see a shift in focus by many fishos in the coming week or two.

Launching at Gatakers and heading to Toogoom, O’Reagans or off Pt Vernon will likely continue to keep many in fresh whiting fillets, but the grounds south of Round Island and west of Woody Island will now be worth a try.

Launching from Urangan Harbour, you must be careful to avoid “planing” in the vast go-slow zone southeast of the harbour. Most of the usual winter whiting territory is out of this zone, though some grounds are within the zone.

Try drifting these areas till you find a patch of fish. You can then anchor up if you prefer (or if the weather demands it). Drifting initially locates the whiting, but you will score better on anchor when you find the motherlode. Expect a crowd to gather in your vicinity if they spot you hauling quality fish over side.

Areas to try include the channels and edges of the banks a mile or three south of Round Island, the waters about half a mile to a mile and a half up and to the west of the bottom of Woody Island, and the waters to the east-southeast and southeast of Round Island about halfway to Woody. The channels and its banks near the go-slow beacon a few miles south of Round Island is a great area to start if you struggle to comprehend the references above.

The whiting grounds off Woodgate will be worth a look for anybody up that way. A bonus might be to try the Woodgate Artificial Reef for mackerel whilst in the area. Additionally, you could even drop a few crab pots in out wider (ensuring you avoid the green zone) for a feed of sand crabs.

For those launching from River Heads there are whiting grounds out the front, in the big feeder channels dissecting the vast mud/sand flats and down in the Turkey Straits.

Those living in the little coastal villages down the Straits are spoilt for choice for winter whiting. Maryborough folk, locals and visitors alike all score well down that way, often without the maddening crowds of Hervey Bay. Places such as Boonooroo, Poona, Tinnanbar, Kauri Creek and south to Tin Can Bay are all likely launching points for avid winter whiting fishos this time of year. The added bonus of fishing that part of our coastline is the plethora of other species like flathead, bream, mackerel, blue salmon, tailor, sand crabs and squid that be targeted on any given day.

Fraser’s Eastern Beaches

Whispers from returning fishos that ventured over to Fraser Island over the past week or two suggest there has been a great run of early season tailor along the eastern beach. Choppers and greenbacks alike have been caught apparently, though to date no-one has been specific about the whereabouts of the catches.

Quality whiting have been found in the shallower melon holes at low tide, and tarwhine are taking eugaries around the rocky outcrops. There has also been a few decent jewies caught at night. Again, the whereabouts are closely-guarded secrets (as they should be) but word will get out in time for the annual influx of winter fishos heading for Fraser. Stay tuned for updates.

Masses of Baitfish Move Inshore

The lack of baitfish on inshore bait grounds and over our reef systems was quite noticeable in recent months. That scene has certainly changed now however, with hordes of baitfish making their way to our inshore reefs. Pike numbers have absolutely exploded, and they are not just on the deeper and shallower reefs, but also within many of our creek systems and up our rivers. These pike can be a bit of a nuisance for lure fishos, but are the numero-uno baitfish for local reef fishos.

Herring schools have also moved inshore and up the island. Yakkas are becoming quite abundant up in Platypus Bay and out at the gutters, but are yet to turn up at the 25 Fathom Hole. As winter wears on, these baitfish numbers will continue to swell, with yakkas in particular turning up in droves and hopefully moving further inshore.

Several years ago, we used to get a run of slimy mackerel throughout the coldest of the winter months. Seething masses of slimies milling around on the surface were the norm early each morning, whilst-ever the water temperature was below about 17C. In recent years however, if you catch a slimy in Hervey Bay waters it is almost a memorable moment.

Similarly, we used to have massive schools of pilchards turn up in the bay that would black out your sounder from top to bottom in 30 metres of water for hundreds of metres. These large biomasses of baitfish drew proportionately large numbers of predators, including sharks, that feasted for the duration of their stay. The deep-water channel off Moon Point and the deeper waters off Rooneys Point were two locations that saw these baitfish aggregations back in the day.

So, what has happened to change this annual migration of baitfish to our waters? Perhaps even the scientists don’t know, but there are plenty of theories out there. We have a few ourselves, but you will have to drop instore to join the debate on those. In the meantime, the annual influx of baitfish is followed by a range of predatory species, so regardless of what biomass of bait turns up we can now expect an improvement on the local fishing scene.

Snapper and Reefies on Offer Once Weather Settles

The abovementioned flood of baitfish to our waters will see our local snapper fishery improve dramatically. Inshore and out wider, you should now be able to chase snapper with some confidence. Check out your favourite snapper haunts and fish the ones that are holding the best supplies of baitfish.

Inshore it will be places such as the Burrum 8 and 12 Mile, Arch Cliffs 6 Mile, The Outer Banks, Moon Ledge and the Roy Rufus Arti that will be worthy for a visit. Up the island, the many broken reefs, weed patches and sink holes that hold baitfish will also be worth a crack. Softies and jigs will score a few knobbies during daylight hours, though night sessions with a steady berley trail will produce best for the bait fishos up that way.

There will be snapper out at the Gutters over the coming couple of months, though out there the evenings are also the best bet for bait fishos. Those preferring soft plastics and jigs can score at dawn and dusk along the ledges, but will need to scan the surrounds for roaming schools of snapper during the daylight. Apparently the 25 Fathom Hole was devoid of baitfish last week, so unless the yakkas have turned up since then, it might only be worth a passing scan on your way elsewhere.

Other than snapper, we would expect plenty of reefies to be caught during the spells of good weather over the coming week. Coral trout will be active out wide, and will likely get a bit of renewed enthusiasm inshore as well due to the arrival of more baitfish. Cod will still be active inshore, but will slow down a bit as the water cools further. Same thing for the sweeties inshore – they will move on shortly, leaving only a few better-quality models around the 45-55cm mark for those fishing baits close to the bottom around our deeper inshore reefs.

Scarlets will feature in catches from Platypus Bay and the central and northern bay as well as waters further north. There will be stacks of other reefies on offer, including reds, spangled emperor, grass sweetlip, parrot, hussar and moses perch from our wider grounds in the northern bay, along with cobia of all sizes, a few pesky mackerel and stacks of trevally.

We would expect a lot of crews to get excited by the weather prospects for late next week, with a view to heading out wide or offshore. It is a bit too early to make any serious predictions, but keep an eye on the charts and cross your fingers.

Good luck out there y’all.

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