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Weekly Fishing Report - 18th November 2021

Kurt Rowlands with a nice juvenile marlin caught on fly off Fraser Island. Making the switch and watching the eat is a pretty cool experience. 

Glorious Weather This Weekend

After some tremendous and much-needed rain late last week, we’ve enjoyed a fairly decent spell of lighter winds and clear skies for the week just gone. The forecast for the weekend ahead looks fantastic, with a light northeasterly breeze barely reaching 10 knots inshore and even better offshore.

Make the most of this latest spell of good weather whilst you can however, as come Monday, the wind will tend more northerly and increase to around 20 knots for the working week. We can probably expect a few showers and the odd storm mid-week as well, so the estuaries and lakes will be the go for anyone keen to wet a line after the weekend.

Friday night’s full moon sees the tide heights peak yet again, though with highs barely over 3.6m and lows bottoming out a smidge under 0.7m, the tidal flow won’t be too dramatic (at least not compared with what is coming over the next new moon). Apparently, there is a partial lunar eclipse tomorrow night, set to start at 5.19pm (before the moon rises) and conclude at 8.47pm.

Tri from Fraser Guided Fishing putting another client onto a beautiful giant herring. If you want to catch one of these speedsters, Tri is the man!

How the Recent Rains Affected our Fisheries

They said it would come, and this time they weren’t crying wolf. The met bureau’s prediction of days of good rains for our district late last week were finally realised, with great falls received throughout the Fraser Coast and Burnett. We had to wait until the last of the weather system passed overhead for our share, but when it came down it came down in buckets.

At least 100mm of rainfall fell across the whole district, with double that in parts. Easily the best falls of rain we have enjoyed in about 3 years. All this came at a time not long after localised storms and showers had soaked the ground, which meant that when the heavy rains fell, there was plenty of local run-off. The degree of run-off varied dramatically, with River Heads, Maryborough and Hervey Bay seemingly enjoying substantially more run-off than the Howard – Burrum Heads area.

Much of the Great Sandy Straits recorded heavy falls and localised minor stream rises. Fraser Island too copped the brunt of some of the heaviest falls, particularly in the northern region. Tremendous rains all round, at a time when we needed it more than ever. So, here’s hoping for follow up rains and a decent wet season come summer.

So, how does all this rain and freshwater inflows affect our fisheries? In the longer term, the flush of freshwater through the estuaries will mean we should enjoy a fruitful prawn season this summer-autumn. Follow-up rains, and ideally, some decent flooding events will still be needed for a bumper season, but we will soon be feasting on fresh greasy, then banana prawns, from our local creeks and rivers.

Spawn from the small number of large banana prawns that were sneaking about under the radar in the upper reaches of our rivers recently will soon flood the shallow muddy margins of our estuaries in the form of masses of “jelly prawn”. This phenomenon creates a feasting opportunity for all manner of estuary fishes from the smallest whiting to the biggest threadies. Something to look forward to in coming weeks.

The estuarine baitfish, such as mullet, yorkies, biddies, pony fish, glassy perch, and later on the herring, will all thrive in the nutrient-rich waters as a result of local stream rises. Aggregations of juvenile baitfish, plus juvenile prawns are major triggers for significant feeding events for their predators both within and just outside these estuary systems. Once the saltwater pushes back against the influx of fresh, we can expect some vastly improved fishing from our local rivers and creeks.

Threadies will revel in these semi-post-flood conditions and will swim downstream initially, then push back upstream looking for jelly prawn in waters to their liking. Grunter will swim out of the freshest waters and will be found in numbers out in the straits and the lower bay. Mangrove jacks can handle the fresh and will feast therein for a time, whilst mature fish will likely migrate downstream and eventually out of the rivers on their way to the reefs to see out their days.

Jewies will move to the estuary mouths and nearby deeper waters and feast on the baitfish etc washed out with the fresh. Whiting will be found up in the skinny water on the flats adjacent to the mouths of our creeks taking advantage of the discoloured water, the jelly prawn eventually, and the improved feeding opportunities post-fresh.

Thankfully, this initial rain event fell at a time when the barramundi season is closed. They would otherwise be a very easy target for netters and would not get the opportunity to spawn. There will be large barra moving about both within and outside our rivers now, and these important breeding stocks MUST BE LEFT ALONE.

Our local inshore shallow reef systems should also benefit from the recent rains. The coloured waters offer greater cover, comfort and enhanced feeding opportunities for a range of reef species, plus displaced estuary species such as jacks, jew and grunter. Expect a decent run of grassy sweetlip in particular in the shallows in coming months.

Of course, keen crabbers are already out in force chasing their beloved muddies post-rain. As we all know, the bucks resting up in their burrows will be flushed out as they aren’t fans of freshwater. How much rain any given catchment received and the resultant freshwater inflow will dictate how far the crabs will move. Many crabbers will place their pots along the muddy verges in the lower reaches or just outside these same streams in an attempt to intercept active crabs on the march.

Experienced crabbers will all know to check any legal bucks for their meat content this (or indeed any) time of year. For those new to the game, you can google the process, or simply test the crab’s “fullness” by squeezing the edge of its shell. If soft, the crab is empty and must be returned to the water. It is a waste of the resource to keep crabs that have minimal meat content. Shiny clean green crabs are a visual indication that they have just moulted and are empty. Rusty, barnacle-encrusted big old bucks are the ones you want to see in your pots.

Giant trevally at this size can provide plenty of fun on light to medium spin tackle. Pic: Fraser Guided Fishing

Marlin Fishing Better Inside Than Outside Recently

Improved weather just recently has enabled local game and sports fishos the opportunity to get out chasing billfish. This weekend looks fantastic and will see quite a crowd converging on the marlin grounds in the northern bay. Recently, Hervey Bay’s baby blacks have been turning it on at times up towards Rooneys, though the bite has been a little sporadic in close to the island. Seeking out schools of baitfish out wider has resulted in more sightings and hook-ups for some crews.

Being flexible and quick to react to differing bait sources has been key to getting the bite from little blacks raised behind the teasers. Some crews have commented that they needed to resort to the smallest skirts they had to tempt the fish when they were found lurking around suspended bait schools. A few live baits in the tank and a rod rigged and ready to pitch them at lit-up fish can pay dividends for boats with enough crew onboard.

Word from over the Breaksea Spit is that the blue marlin fishery has been a bit tough. Most boats are raising a fish or two, but at present getting more than a couple to the boat puts you at the top of the pack. A lot of smaller fish appear to be in the mix as well, and apparently, these fish are a little reluctant to take many offerings on heavy tackle.

Crews have observed a lack of baitfish in large tracts of water over the shelf, and a general lack of other pelagic predators such as mahi mahi and tuna. Undoubtedly, there will be a few crews venturing wide again this weekend, particularly given the sub-10 knot forecast. It will be interesting to hear if there is any improvement in the status quo on the billfish front.

There's plenty of mac tuna around at the moment if you want to have some fun throwing metals or plastics or even chasing them on fly. 

Deep-Droppers Scoring a Good Feed Over the Shelf

Many crews heading wide have no interest in marlin at all. They are after reef fish from either the shoal country east of the bar and Fraser, or from the deeper waters along the continental shelf. Again, the brilliant weather will see quite a few boats out wide, many of which will be deploying the latest and greatest in deep-dropping tackle to haul up the denizens of the deep.

Feedback from a couple of crews that ventured wide last week suggest that an easy feed of large pearl perch is on offer in waters from 100-200m deep. A little deeper can see you hauling up flame snapper, rubies and other jobfishes, along with bar cod of varying sizes.

The current out wide has been quite fishable of late, varying either side of around 2 knots from the north. The slight sea breeze should see drifts fairly good and with minimal swell, the trip to and fro should be quite comfortable. Overnighting outside seems to be outside of a lot of skippers’ comfort zone for some reason, but they are missing out on some incredible action that can only be enjoyed after dark.

There has been a bit more current back in over the shoal country in recent times, and with the full moon in the mix, you can expect a significant current towards the northern end of the bar as the big ebb tides push out from Hervey Bay. Work the periods of slower tidal movement and you can score a great mix of tropical reefies, so long as you can escape the sharks.

Nocturnal sessions in the “shallows” east of the bar can see you connecting to some of the biggest and baddest brutes of mangrove jacks you will find in this country. A jack of 5 kilos is a great fish anywhere, but you can tangle with 8 kilo and even 10 kilo fish offshore at times. Technique can be the difference between losing or winning battles with fish of this calibre over their favoured terrain, as it will take some serious brute force to stop any fish that mean close to home. And by the way, jacks to 16 kilos have been caught from the shoals over the years by a very lucky few.

Staff member Dane with a nice pearl perch from a recent deep drop trip wide of Fraser Island.

Inshore Bay Fisheries Set to Fire over the Full Moon

Those that head up the bay are highly likely to encounter masses of mack tuna feasting on baitfish pushed to the surface. There has been stacks of macks in the central bay and along the line from Coongul to Rooneys just lately. In closer to the island in what we call “the pocket” between Rooneys Point and Station Hill, you can find a few schools of middling longtail tuna around the 8-10 kilo mark. The macks have been a bit easier to tempt than the longtails of late, so go armed with plenty of differing lures so you can match the hatch and trick the fish on the day.

We are on the cusp of the arrival of the first of the summer’s spotted mackerel. It would be highly likely that there are already schools of spotties somewhere just north of the bay, on their way to our waters. If you venture up north this weekend, then keep an eye out for the tell-tale sips and slashes of schools of spotties feeding on their way south.

Those chasing a feed of reefies could do quite well over the full moon. It will be a matter of finding an aggregation of fish that no-one else has, which is an increasingly challenging task with our exploding population of eager fishos and sharks. Chasing scarlets and squire under the glow of the moon could be productive in the central or northern bay, with jacks a great target late in the evening out wider.

The Gutters and Rooneys reefs will be popular for those chasing trout, sweetlip, cod and the like. The weather and coral reef fin fish closures, along with the persistent and unbeatable shark population, has kept most fishos away from these grounds in recent times. There will be a decent feed on offer for the mobile fisho. Expect the sharks to be bad and get even worse as the spotted mackerel and more tuna flood into the bay in coming weeks.

Closer inshore, the deeper reefs in our shipping channels could produce a good feed of sweetlip, the odd squire and perhaps a trout or a few cod. There will be school mackerel out there lurking around any schools of herring throughout the shipping channels, as well as around many of the reef systems up in Platypus Bay.

Grunter will be a popular target this weekend. The full moon will see them move in and feed over a handful of select rubble grounds in the lower bay. They could even be found around the bay islands post-rain and will be a very worthy target species for those probing the channels and drop-offs down the straits. Soft vibes and prawn imitation plastics will be the undoing of many grunter during daylight hours, whilst squid, herring and prawn baits are hard to beat after dark under the glow of the moon.

Urangan Pier and Local Beaches

A swag of school mackerel were caught from the Urangan Pier late last week just before the rains. We haven’t heard whether or not these fish have hung around since, but it would seem prudent to pack a couple of Flasha spoons and/or gang hooked rigs if heading out that way for a look.
Those bruising big GTs have been handing out lessons to anyone able to hook one between the pylons out near the end. A lot more GTs are lost than landed, but they are possibly the ultimate land-based target in these parts for anyone with tackle up to the test.

We should start to hear of the arrival of large queenfish along the pier some time soon. Their arrival typically coincides with the annual pencil squid run. In the meantime, nocturnal pier fishos have large sharks to contend with, or perhaps the odd jewfish out near the deep end.

Our town beaches have been fairly quiet, with the best of this season’s whiting now gone for the most part. You could still score a modest feed of whiting over the full moon tides if you persist, but you may need to be mobile and willing to keep shifting to try different stretches of beach.

The flush out from our local creeks should have a few whiting gathering along the adjacent flats, so the likes of the Toogoom, Dundowran, Eli Creek and Booral Flats could well be worth a look.
If plying our beaches for whiting or flatties, you might get real lucky and pick up a few grunter. This is ever more likely after any significant rain events, so be prepared and don’t panic if your “whiting” hits the after-burners.

John Tidcombe with a solid Lake Monduran barra.

Full Moon Crowds into the Barra at Mondy

Friday night’s full moon will mean big crowds at Lake Monduran. The awesome weather right now and the seemingly continuous bite from the lake’s big barra will see swags of fish caught in coming days. The barra have been on the chew all week already, scoffing all manner of lures either cast or trolled. Metre plus barra are now regular captures, with Mondy’s average fish typically around the 90cm mark.

The trolling scene in the main basin is like stepping back in time. There are literally dozens of boats doing the rounds of the basin at times, with rarely less than a dozen any afternoon even during the week. The northeaster this weekend will likely see those trollers shift their focus to Bird Bay or the western fringes of the basin and A Bay. Come Monday however, the return of the north west wind will see them all jostling for position along the buoy line near the wall and nearby waters.

Those of us that favour casting will need to eek out a spot or two away from prying eyes and hunt down loose schools of barra in the bays or off the points. The barra have been on the move with all the rain of late and thousands upon thousands have made their way to the bottom end of the lake. The river and creek courses are their highways and great numbers can be caught when they are intercepted in the early evening along these courses.

Barra can still be caught from the edges, and from the bays and gullies, but the trees in deeper water in the river proper should not be overlooked. Night sessions in deep water can be extraordinary, with very large fish up to and possibly exceeding 130cm becoming increasingly common encounters (though rarely landed of course). Winning battles with fish of this calibre in the sticks is a lake’s greatest challenge and losing so many is what keeps some of us going back time and time again.

Good luck out there y’all.

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