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Weekly Fishing Report - 18th March 2021

Rain, Glorious Rain

Farmers and townies alike are rejoicing as we finally received some much-needed rainfall over our district. Crispy dry lawns turned green overnight from fairly heavy falls last weekend and light showers since. The rains were widespread, but heavy falls were much more localised.

Maryborough copped 100mm Monday, and some rain gauges in the Takura – Nikenbah area registered substantial falls as well. The same period saw only 30mm out at Howard, with a bit more here in town. We were lucky Saturday though and scored up to 75mm in some parts of Hervey Bay township.

What this means for local fishos is that some areas experienced real gully-raker events, whilst others got a good soaking with next to no run-off. Gauging the impact of rains on any given estuary system will be necessary to determine the whereabouts of the fish and the likelihood of any crustacean activity in that river/creek.

Apparently, we can look forward to more rain, showers and thunder storms over the next week. Some weather sites are predicting storms for the weekend, so keep this in mind if venturing beyond sheltered waters. Check out the synoptic charts and you will soon see that mass of rain slowly drifting easterly across the continent that will likely impact our area mid next week.

Wind-wise, the latest forecasts suggest fairly light winds Saturday, mostly from the SE/ESE, with a much stiffer wind from the same direction Sunday. Raincoats and brollies will be a must. The wind is said to ease as the working week unfolds, tending more from the north later in the week.

For any wannabe druids out there, the Autumnal Equinox falls this Saturday the 20th. A waxing moon and a first quarter moon phase next Monday mean another period of neaps, so there will be very little tidal flow for the near future. This will allow any substantial inflows of freshwater to flow over the salty stuff without resistance from big flood tides, so any flow into the Mary and Susan Rivers is likely to push down quite quickly.

Hervey Bay Fly & Sportfishing getting it done in the rain!

Latest Reports from the Bay Prior to the Rain

A summary of the local fishing scene prior to this rain event would be headlined by the masses of tuna flogging the bay’s surface to foam. It seems much of the tuna biomass vacated the eastern extremities of Platypus Bay in favour of the open waters in the central bay last weekend. At the same time, reports of acres of tuna ripping into tiny baitfish throughout the local shipping channels and the upper straits were common.

Many sportsfishos switched their focus from tuna to trevally and queenfish and were rewarded with captures of large specimens beneath the bait schools being harassed on the surface by tuna. The sharks once again proved relentless, with very few crews able to escape their attention whilst pursuing pelagics.

Tri from Fraser Guided Fishing has been getting clients onto some great jigging action. Big golden trevally are suckers for a jig or plastic.

There's been some good size GT's getting around this week. Pic: Hervey Bay Fly & Sportfishing 

Out wide, a few crews scored a feed of reefies from the Gutters when they could avoid the sharks. Modest catches of coral trout and a mix of other species such as grass sweetlip, tuskies, squire, blackall and cod were possible, but you certainly needed to be mobile and rarely could score more than a fish or two per spot before the noahs crashed the party.

Spanish mackerel and big schoolies are roaming the bait-rich grounds out along the ledges of the Gutters and are ever-frustrating for reef fishos whilst delighting others that enjoy fresh mackerel in the smoker. Trolling for these mackerel at dawn can be highly productive, with vertical spinning and live baiting techniques hard to beat throughout the day.

Tuna schools busting up nearby typically make an experienced reef fisho nervous if they venture too close. Chances are that if the sharks aren’t shadowing the reefies you are trying to extract from the coral, then they will be loitering around the nearby tuna schools. Having said this, keep an eye out for yellowfin tuna busting up out that way this time of year. They can be a lot of fun on stickies, big plastics or larger slugs for the casters, and will soon intercept skirts or diving minnows trolled across their path.

Dad had to give young Calin a hand posing with her first longtail tuna on a recent charter with Fraser Guided Fishing. It's always great to see kids pick up the passion early on in life, here's to many more firsts.

Dad's turn now, Dan with another Hervey Bay longtail. Pic: Fraser Guided Fishing

Triple hook ups on longies with Hervey Bay Fly & Sportfishing.

Back closer inshore, there has been a few coral trout caught from numerous coral encrusted ledges, bommies and artificial reefs. March is prime time for coral trout inshore in these parts, and a good feed was super easy before the shark issue got out of hand. Nowadays, we can still pluck a few here and there when we get lucky, but being mobile and moving on when the sharks home in is a must.

Eastuary cod are also on the chew big time and will scoff live baits or lures meant for trout quite regularly. In fact, you will need to catch and throw back several cod, one after the other, before a trout gets a chance on several spots in the lower bay. Cod are often the main capture when trolling deep divers around reefs and ledges inshore.

Grass sweetlip continue to be the mainstay for bait fishos inshore. Most of the deeper reef systems within the local shipping channels will give up a feed of sweeties this time of year. The sharks love them too though, so again, be prepared to move on and find another patch when necessary. Add blackall and the chance of a decent scarlet or squire/snapper, particularly after dark, and a feed is on the cards if you persist.

There are ample school mackerel and quite a few broadies hanging around bait schools and reef systems inshore and up in Platypus Bay. Spoons spun at speed are their undoing for the energetic, whilst live baits, whole squid baits and pilchards will soon secure a feed for the more relaxed fishos. Trollers are doing quite well also, with schoolies and spanish taking a liking to a range of lures trolled at 6-8 knots.

Peter Herbst from EJ Todd with a nice inshore trout caught on a Live Target Fleeing Shrimp. The guys landed plenty of trout on this trip with the Fleeing Shrimp getting the runs on the board.

Pete even picked up his TFO fly combo and pinned his first longtail on fly.

Estuary Predators on the Move

Hopefully we will get more widespread heavy rains that will bring on a degree of flooding in our creeks and rivers. The good falls in the Maryborough area were a great start and will trigger estuary predators such as barra and threadies to move into ambush positions where they can gorge on any baitfish or prawns flushed out into the river. Some fish will move up and feed, whilst others will follow the water down.

Grunter will move down and feed as they go. There are already good catches of quality grunter from areas outside the rivers, including offshore from the Burrum, the deeper edges of the reefs fringing Pt Vernon, and out in the straits both north and south of River Heads.

The lower reaches of the Mary River and particularly the River Heads area should be quite interesting in coming weeks. Threadies, barra, jew, grunter and even fingermark will be visitors to these waters as the fresh pushes down from upstream.

The fishing within the creeks down the Great Sandy Straits will be determined by the amount of rainfall in the respective catchments. Look for mass aggregations of baitfish (and hopefully prawn) to find the best of the creek predators. Mangrove jacks in particular will revel in a minor freshwater inflow and will feast on the mullet within many of these creek systems.

Unfortunately, another apex predator in our local estuaries will be super active. Bull sharks are a real nuisance to bait fishos at present, taking all manner of baits meant for more desirable species. Of course, they are also equally keen on stealing your prized fish too, and even a little 4ft bully will try and bite a chunk out of a decent threadie or barra.

Luke from Luke Fallon Sport & Game Fishing got Scotty from Kekoa Sports Fishing onto this beautiful saltwater barra. Nice work guys!

Post-Rain Crustaceans

Perhaps the best thing we can look forward to as an immediate result of this rain is increased activity from our local mud crab population. Muddies will be active within all local estuaries during events such as this and should be an increasingly easy target as the amount of rain increases.

For now, the mid-lower reaches of the Mary and Susan systems will be worth a look, as will their feeder creeks. Should more serious flooding occur, then the flats out the front along the Booral foreshore, the Prawn Gutter, Shell Gutter and Shoulder Point will see crabs marching past. Some of Fraser Island’s short little creeks likely received enough rain to run fairly fresh, so prospecting for muddies along adjacent mangrove lines around the creek mouths would seem appropriate.

The minor freshwater inflows into our rivers and creeks should stir up what mature prawn is contained therein. There has been a modest feed on offer from the rivers of the Burrum system and from local creeks. Should we get more rains then the chances of a proper prawn run are vastly improved. However, it may only be short-lived this year as compared to others due to the belated wet season rains. May is looking good if we get some more rain this week.

At least now, the small inflows should have flushed out some prawn, so suss out the smaller creeks, drains and muddy verges. Those with drawstring style cast nets will likely score best in the current scenario around shallow drains and muddy banks until the prawns gather and move out into deeper waters where top pockets nets will be more effective.

This week’s neap tides will not drain the backwaters of the gullies/drains/creeks, but the next set of bigger tides closer to the full moon certainly will. There are interesting times ahead for prawners, it is just a matter of how keen you are as to whether you get out now for a look or wait for the better runs later on.

Hervey Bay Sharks Threatened with Extinction

We are betting the above headline grabbed your attention if you’ve been out fishing in Hervey Bay waters in recent years. Once again, we are left bewildered at the air time that scientists and so-called shark experts get on the TV and radio telling us that our shark population is in decline and how many species are threatened with extinction.

These broad-ranging statements are dangerous. Active fishos make up only a proportion of our population, and those that don’t fish, that have possibly never even been out on the water (poor beggars), likely believe these generalised statements when so many other docos also make air time telling us about the plight of our sharks.

As we all know, the over-abundance of large, fully-protected sharks in our waters (and for that matter the whole of Australia’s marine waters) has affected a disturbing in-balance in our ecosystems. These large apex predators are hungry and must feed. They do not discriminate, and will devour all and sundry forms of fish life (and humans as the shark attack statistics will attest).
Undoubtedly, there is some truth to the latest scientists’ claims, that yes, there are likely to be several species of sharks in major decline. The reason for this is more than likely predation from the very same oversized beasts that are destroying our reef fish fisheries.

Anecdotally, many of you could recall encounters with small sharks of various kinds that were devoured by a larger shark of the same or different species before it could be released or cut free. Similarly, chat to any commercial fisher from the area that used to rely on netting small sharks in the bay for an income and they will likely tell you that they have given up that game due to the consistent destruction of their nets by larger sharks tearing the smaller ones from the nets.

We all know what’s going on out there on the water. The real truth might be a hard pill to swallow for the governors that introduced regulations several years ago that have resulted in the current situation. Perhaps nothing will or can be done about it now, and given that surfers, swimmers and spearos getting bitten doesn’t seem to trigger any action other than signage and brochures, what chance do we fishos have of getting heard. Food for thought.

Good luck out there y’all.

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