Good weather over the past week has seen some sensational fishing throughout the bay and beyond. The forecast for the week ahead looks quite good again, with mostly 10-15 knot southeasters for this weekend and much of next week. Some forecasters are suggesting storm activity and certainly a few showers, so keep an eye on the sky and/or radar. Neap tides will mean significantly less current, which can see a reduction in some fish activity, but also means less exaggerated wave action and easier fishing in our rivers and on our deeper local reefs.
Expect plenty of boats at our busy boat ramps, and expect delays and a bit of sheer chaos at Urangan Boat Harbour as boaties try to come to terms with our new boat ramps. This topic sure is a hot one in our local boating and fishing community, but the words most commonly used to describe the new facilities are certainly not printable here.
The Bay & Offshore
Sensational conditions outside Fraser have seen great marlin fishing for a lucky few, tagging striped, black and blue marlin on the shelf in waters between 200-500m. Big dollies and big yellowfin have also featured from the same grounds and shallower shelf waters. Schools of smaller yellowfin and Spanish mackerel have been the main catches for those trolling the shoals country. The East Australian Current has been peaking at round 3 knots in shelf waters this week, yet a local charter operator has done well on bar cod and pearlies along the shelf and scored some good red emperor and mixed reef fish on the shoals.
The 4 mile bar crossing is in very good shape at present for those heading out that way, with enough water for even low tide crossings at present. As always, novice skippers beware and travel with other more experienced boaties if possible.
Back in the bay, it’s all been about the pelagics over the past week. Hervey Bay is frothing with surface action at present, with scores of mack and longtail tuna tearing into hapless bait balls across the whole bay from the waters off the Burrum in the west to Platypus Bay in the east and almost everywhere in between. Large spotted mackerel have featured in many catches as well and are quite common at present, which is a late bonus for our waters.
Reef fishos up the island have found scarlets, grunter, sweeties and squire on the chew, though last weekend’s light nor-wester did little to excite the reefies. No surprises there, so if you found fish last weekend that wouldn’t bite, you just might get a better reaction this week with the winds from the right direction and a bit more stability from the barometer.
The Gutters country and the reefs off Rooneys produced mixed bags of reefies, though the sharks took a terrible toll in many cases. How long can our reef fish withstand this devastation from these relentless predators?! They have become a consistently greater problem every year since being protected and if things continue as they are, then sustainability of our reef and pelagic species will surely become little more than a distant memory.
Coral trout and estuary cod continue to be the main targets for inshore reef fishos. Catches are not as good as they might be, but you can thank the noahs for that. Many of us have gone to great lengths to protect our reefs and keep them healthy by releasing larger cod over the years, and it is even more appropriate for us to do so now. We can only hope that they are getting back to their reefs past the sharks after release.
Some good catches of grass sweetlip have been reported from soft coral and fern grounds off Woody and further south, though mainly at night and only till the sharks move in. Blackall, some good squire and the odd nice scarlet continue to feature from our local artificial reefs as well.
Tuna schools have been turning up throughout the local shipping channels, and whilst often a bit flighty, can often offer a chance at an even bigger longtail than those found up the island. For the larger fish like those around the 25kg mark caught this week, look for very small numbers of larger fish well away from any known reefs (as the local bull sharks won’t give you a chance if you hook up anywhere near our reefs and ledges of late).
School and broad-barred mackerel have both been active, and can be targeted in many ways. Those not knowing where to find them when it comes to the reefs they so often haunt, would be well-served putting a couple of 120 Laser Pros out the back and going for a leisurely troll around our shipping channels and beacons, or along the drop offs around our bay islands or Gatakers Bay. Chances are you might find more than just mackerel, with queenfish and trevally also possible from some areas.
Great Sandy Straits & Mary/Susan Rivers
At the time of writing, the River Heads western ramp is still open. If anyone finds to the contrary in the near future, we would appreciate you letting us know so that we can warn our fellow boaties.
Prawns have been the big drawcard down that way of late, and a bucket limit has been an easy feat. Word is that a popular gutter near the heads failed to produce prawns Monday after being consistent all weekend, with the likely reason being something to do with the drag marks left in the mud overnight. The creeks down the Straits and the gutters and drains in the lower Susan and Mary will continue to prawn well, though the neaps will see less movement from the prawn schools.
The Mary and Susan have been rather quiet of late for larger predators like salmon and barra. Having said this, the small tides this week offer a good chance to seek them out in the feeder creeks and upstream snags. Those chasing these species will likely do better out in the Straits at present, particularly for the sambos which have been visible in places chasing small prawns up on the flats and around the drains of the creeks to the south. A few decent blue salmon have showed up on the Booral Flats, and we can expect more from this species as our waters cool.
Big bream are an easy catch in the rivers at present, and numbers will increase in the lower reaches in coming weeks. In the meantime, target the rock bars and eddies around creek mouths with fresh baits of mullet, prawns or yabbies if bream are your thing. Grunter have been turning up down the Straits in the holes in the creeks and near rock bars, taking a mix of baits from yabbies and small prawns to small squid and herring.
Burrum River System
A lot of the Burrum system has been a bit challenging of late, though the mid reaches are the area to concentrate your efforts if chasing jacks and barra. The unseasonal heat from last weekend’s nor-wester turned on both species, though it seems the bait fishos may have scored best, with some great jacks taken on fresh mullet, while live prawns and poddies produced a few barra. This week’s small tides will offer a good chance for those looking to target these species with lures.
Woodgate produced a feed of banana prawn for those willing to make the effort, but they weren’t schooled up and it took a bit of searching and way too much work to get a bucket of only average prawn by Woodgate standards. Maybe this week will be better if we get a light offshore breeze in the morning when the tide isn’t too high.
Local Beaches, Creeks and Urangan Pier
The Urangan Pier has been very quiet this week as far as major predators go. There could be many reasons for this, but one offered by local pier regulars is that a group of spearfishermen have been constantly working the pier pylons taking the better fish and spooking the rest. Complaints by pier regulars and visitors alike to both Fisheries and to Council have not changed the status quo, but tempers are getting frayed.
Bream are starting to turn up but only in small numbers yet, with best catches coming at night. Look for a flathead or two in the first channel over these neap tides and feed it a live pike early in the flood tide when they will be most active. Take a squid jig with you if heading out the pier, as tiger squid could turn up any time.
Quite a few good whiting made their way into creels along Shelley Beach and around the groynes this past week, after what has been a run of fairly small fish. Perhaps the onshore northerly brought in a few better fish. Don’t expect too much from the whiting during the neap tides unless fishing at night. Dundowran beach and the flats out the front of Eli Creek have also seen a few whiting feature in catches, along with the odd flathead.
Local creeks offer a good chance at targeting bream, small trevally and queenfish on micro poppers, stickbaits, blades and plastics at present, with the topwater presentations surely the most fun. Jacks and barra are also real possibilities on the right gear if you can get access to the right water.
Good luck out there y’all.