Kealen from Big Cat Reality Charters with a nice dogtooth tuna caught on a jig
Perfect Week to Sort out your Christmas Shopping
What an incredibly wet, windy and cold start to summer 2022! And unfortunately, the week ahead doesn’t look much better. Perhaps we fishos should write this week off fishing and boating-wise and sort out our Christmas shopping and pre-holiday maintenance instead (?).
After such an extraordinarily cool and wet spring, that little spike in temperature last week was basically “wasted” when followed by such a cold change and wet weather. Our waters have cooled once again and will rely on a return of extended sunshine and lighter winds to warm again and re-invigorate our summer species.
That won’t happen this week. The forecast is basically all gloom, with 20-30 knots of southeaster today, tending southerly tomorrow as the deep low offshore passes by on its southbound journey. A Gale Warning has been issued for waters offshore from Fraser Island for today and a Strong Wind Warning for Friday; whilst Hervey Bay waters are deemed worthy of a Strong Wind Warning both days.
The southeaster returns Saturday at 20-25 knots for the bay and up to 30 knots offshore. Sunday is only slightly better in the bay at 20 knots south-southeast. More of the same Monday. Tuesday could be interesting, as another low-pressure system forms off our coast. If it stays well to the east (as the favoured modelling suggests) then we might enjoy a better day or two mid-week. If it drifts closer, then beware the next round of wind and rain.
Moon-wise, we might not see much of it until mid-week, but it is waxing, growing in size and rising later daily as we approach next Thursday’s full moon. The bigger tides next week are only fairly moderate when compared with other times of the year, with highs peaking at 3.75m from lows a smidge below 0.70m. Great tides for so many fisheries – if only we could get out there.
Compliance Issues Worth Considering
With so little to write about on the fishing front this week, we will use this opportunity to remind you all of a few basic compliance issues that are all too common these days.
Firstly, there is the issue regarding crab pot and crab theft. “Share-farming” has always been an abhorrent issue in our waters (and elsewhere too), and seems to be heightened during holiday periods. You can take measures to diminish your chances of losing pots and crabs, but the grubs get away with it all to often. Report any suspicious activity to Qld Fisheries, and use your phone to record evidence if deemed appropriate. Download the Qld Fishing 2.0 app on your phone and this will help.
Not all pots lost are “stolen”. Far too many crabbers fail to mark their pots appropriately and Fisheries Officers remove them from the water, deeming them to be unattended. The incidences of abandoned crab pots in our waters are frustrating, not to mention dangerous to wildlife and boaties. The rules are straightforward (refer the app or Fisheries Qld website).
In essence, you must have your name and address on a tag on the pot itself, as well as your surname on the pot float; or another tag with your surname on it on your rope above high-water level if tying to a tree, wharf, boat or other fixed object in lieu of using a float. Ensure you have a crab measuring device on board too.
Over-harvesting of forms of “seafood” locally has become an increasingly common issue in recent times. Some people have been taking far too many creatures from our local sand and mud flats. This issue was seemingly never a problem in the past but is raising concerns nowadays.
Razor Fish have been harvested so heavily from the flats in the Burrum Heads area and elsewhere that they are now almost non-existent. Bivalves such as mud whelks have been plundered from local mud flats, and done so in such ridiculous numbers that the mind boggles.
Molluscs and gastropods have a combined possession limit of 30 at any given time in our local waters. The possession limit applies to all bivalve molluscs and gastropods such as pipis, mud whelks (snails) and cockles. Possession limits include any that have been collected previously and have not yet been consumed. For example, if you have 15 at home, you can only take and keep another 15.
Other creatures are also being taken with obviously no consideration for the health or sustainability of our foreshores. Every creature is afforded protection of some form by our governors, so if you are keen to take such critters from our shores then familiarise yourself with the rules (via the app or online).
If you witness people over-harvesting from our foreshores then you might opt to inform them personally or contact Fisheries. We must nip this issue in the bud, before our healthy foreshores are affected by the mass removal of creatures inherently important to such parts of our ecosystem.
The other big issue this time of year regards the annual barramundi closed season. Big breeder barra are actively targeted during the closure every year by people ignorant of the damage they are doing to the future of our barra fishery. Don’t be one of these people.
As a reminder, only barra above the dam walls of Qld’s stocked impoundments can be targeted during the closure. Fish below such weirs and dam walls, fish in pondages and any tidal waters must be left in peace. Enough said. There is two months of the closure remaining and with the wet season looking so substantial, the future potential of our barra fishery looks much brighter.
Nath with a solid longtail tuna caught on the flats on fly.
Big Blow Could Bring Even More Pelagics to the Bay
“East Coast Lows” are typically a phenomenon of the wet season of late summer and autumn. Such events at that time of year would see mass migration of tuna species into the waters of Hervey Bay. Whilst avoiding the big seas offshore, these pelagic predators also get to reap the bay’s bounty of baitfish sheltering from the blow. There is every chance that such an event will occur now.
The bay was already alive with masses of mack tuna, plenty of longtails, and the first of the annual invasion of the spotted mackerel hordes had also arrived in the northern bay. Given that these species tend to feed into the wind, those fishos first to venture up into Platypus Bay may well find fish closer to the island and further south than preceding the big blow.
This might also be the case for the baby blacks. There were still good numbers of marlin being caught most days prior to the blow, and every reason to be confident that they will still be here when the wind eases. Again, marlin encounters are highly likely in the south eastern bay in the near future.
Staff member Josh with a nice juvenile black marlin
How the fish react to the cooler temperatures and wet weather is yet to be seen, but with the masses of tiny flying fish and other “rain fish” seeking protection close inshore to Fraser, a run up the island as soon as the opportunity arises should be interesting. There was tuna on the flats prior to the blow, and the odd marlin poking about in the skinny stuff too.
The better spotties were found out wider in the bay last week, with masses of very small models hammering the mini flying fish closer to the beach. There is likely to be great numbers of spotties on offer from now on. Sunny skies will see them return to the surface and push the baitfish against the reflective surface of the water, instead of balling them up deeper during inclement weather.
Schoolies, broadies and any Spaniards in the bay should be largely unaffected by the latest weather event. Undoubtedly, they have moved around somewhat, but shouldn’t be too hard to track down. The late mail before the blow suggested the Burrum 8 Mile, Fairway and Outer Banks were all great options. Sizeable spotties had also made an appearance along the latitude of these sites.
Daniel Goodwin, swimming another juvenile black marlin. Keeping them in the water with the boat in gear is much better than hoisting them out of the water and enhances the colours of the fish for photos.
Reef Fishing Often Fires After a Blow
Movements of larger reef fish such as reds and scarlets are often noted after blows such as this. Indeed, those first to fish likely grounds closer inshore than their usual stomping grounds might trip over a couple of true trophies. The reefs off Rooneys and certain isolated sites in the central bay come to mind.
Otherwise, reef fishos can look forward to reaping the rewards after this blow passes. Many species like coral trout, grass sweetlip, cod and blackall are likely to take up station on deeper reefs offering protection from the violent seas. Inshore, this means our shipping channel reef systems such as the various artificials, wrecks and deeper ledges are worth a look.
Some beautiful markings on this coral trout, destined for the dinner table.
Word from locals trying to extract a feed from such reef systems recently is that the sharks are once again a major issue. A lack of boats in recent days might see them scatter briefly, so take advantage of the first of the better weather and score a feed before they return.
The bigger tides closer to next week’s full moon would normally be highly productive for those fishing our shallow fringing reefs. This blow is likely to have sent a lot of fish deeper, though others will remain in residence. An abundance of fodder dislodged by the big seas won’t go un-noticed by roaming species such as tuskfish, grass sweeties and blackall.
Any snapper left inshore should be responsive after this blow. The chances of connecting to a proper knobby are slim, but squire between barely legal and a couple of kilos or so are quite possible. These fish are rough water specialists and can be a surprise package from the fringes of the shallow reefs at times such as these.
It's always a bonus getting anything red past the sharks this time of year.
Try Lower Reaches of Rivers Once Wind Settles
Grunter were moving into the Burrum River in recent weeks and are likely to be worth pursuing in the lower reaches once the wind settles. The channels and fringes of the sand banks, and even more-so, the gravelly-bottomed stretches up around Buxton are worth a look. Night sessions will produce the best fish for the bait fishos, but those favouring softies and vibes can seek these fish out on the drift through likely areas.
The mangrove jacks are probably a bit shell-shocked by this untimely cold snap. They were firing quite well prior, and will do again. Wait for better weather, some sunny days and go hunt them down. Bait fishos might tempt them in the meantime, but the bite would likely be lethargic at best.
The lower reaches of the Mary system are where you can hunt down a few threadfin salmon again soon. The big tides will drain the large mudflats and the big gutters the drains spill into will be home to roaming threadies. Trollers can find them with shallow-diving hardbodies, whilst others can hop plastic prawn imitations, paddle-tails or soft vibes past rock bars, drains and fallen snags.
Grunter are possible from the River Heads area, though better numbers are likely down the straits. There has been a few moving back into some of the creeks, but you need to identify the saltier creeks and avoid the systems running too much freshwater. The same goes for the jacks over along the inside of Fraser.
Any jewies in the area are probably revelling in the cooler conditions right now. River Heads itself, the ledges along the inside of Fraser and possibly Kingfisher Bay Resort’s jetty are all worth considering when you can get there. Queenfish and smallish GTs have been roaming the waters of the straits and turning up along many ledges where hardiheads, gar and herring are abundant.
The local crabbers are just starting to pull a few muddies again, after what has been a very slow couple of months. Still not big numbers by any means, but at least there has been some on the move. This next full moon is likely to see a peak in crab activity, particularly if there is any localised freshwater run-off to shift them from their upstream holes.
We haven’t heard from anyone prawning this past week. Chances are there is a feed on offer. The rains and colder water could favour keen prawners, so make sure you have a top pocket or drawstring cast net on board when you next visit our rivers or creeks.
2 for 1 deal on coral trout, caught whilst trolling a hardbody.
Too Windy at Pier, So Try Protected Beaches
30 knots of wind is simply too much for pier-goers. Once the wind eases though, it will soon get a visit from a few local regulars. Runs of school, broad-barred and spotted mackerel in recent times, as well as the appearance of the odd large queenie and a few tuna, had plenty of folks making the long walk to the deep end.
Sharks have entertained a few nocturnal fishos of late. Most heading out there after dark will be hoping for pencil squid to show up in the near future. The bright full moon won’t help that cause initially, but periods of darkness (even cloud cover) are likely to see more responsive squid if they show up.
Those who simply must fish and don’t have a boat can have a crack at the town beaches out of the wind once it eases back to 20 knots. Whiting will be a chance on yabbies or beach worms, but vastly more appealing to many would be the larger grunter. Night sessions or timing your attack for the first of the flood tide should see best results on these flighty beach fish.
Even queenfish or GTs can make an appearance along our beaches if there is enough baitfish sheltering from the wind. It is quite often beach walkers that witness such events, with not a fisho in sight.
It goes without saying that Fraser Island’s surf beaches are unfishable right now. Dangerous surf conditions will prevail for some time. It will be interesting to get word of beach traveling conditions, gutters, rock exposure and the like after it settles. The tremendous extended tailor season has certainly been impressive recently, so stay tuned for updates in coming weeks.
Mondy Tougher than it Should Be
This time of year should have Mondy’s big barra breaking hearts or adorning brag mats on a regular basis – but not this year. Even with warm spells and cranking northerly winds, the lake’s barra are being exceptionally hard to tempt some days. This latest cold snap and wet weather is a total turn-off for the fish and the fishos that pursue them.
If the next low-pressure system passes by far enough offshore, then we might see improved conditions for the full moon late next week. If the sun comes out and the waters warm even somewhat then the fish will respond. So far, the rains have only risen the lake a small amount. It is currently sitting at 101%, which is about 10cm over the wall.
The Daiwa Double Clutch 115SP is a solid lure choice for our impoundments and you can swing some fairly heft hardware off it, unlike a lot of other lures out there.
The barra just started to respond to weedless frogs again as the rain approached, so this option will be well worth considering for anyone heading there next week. A lot of the barra move up into the skinniest of waters when the lake rises and frogs offer a very exciting means of tempting them.
Barra either side of a metre were tempted with weedless paddle-tails and suspending hardbodies last week. Mixing up retrieves - particularly with the suspenders - was necessary to get the bites. Some times you need a pause and constant twitch, whilst at others it is the most violent and erratic twitching and jerking motions that you can muster that tempt the next fish.
Fish came from deeper channels amongst smaller tree tops at times, and from along weedy or grassy banks at others. The heat cranked for a few days last week and the lake reached a surface temperature of up to 32°C in some pockets, with 28-30°C a good average. Go for a swim and sink your legs down a couple of feet though and the water was still quite cold. This is possibly why the barra are being so fickle this season – the core of the lake and the surface waters are at odds and not mixing.
If you want a smaller profile lure, the Daiwa Steez Current Master is another great option!
There is absolutely no doubt that the lake’s barra are feeling the pressure from we fishos and they are responding negatively in many areas. Fish hanging out in the more obvious and therefore most commonly fished country are spooking when they sense your boat and sounder. Electric motors whirring away on spot lock can alarm them even further and see them vacate the area quick smart.
Fishing “on the plonk” isn’t quite what many might assume it is, but can be a deadly addition to your repertoire. This takes out the electric motor and can see you pick up a lot of fish if you choose the right spots to settle on. There is plenty of conjecture as to whether transducer pings unsettle the fish. Whether yay or nay, the off button is hard to push when you are used to all those pretty barra pics swimming past you on your screen.