Some seriously hot spring weather last weekend gave way to a cooler change, and a few decent days followed for boaties. Light easterlies for the next couple of days will tend to the north over the weekend, with Saturday morning certainly the pick for anyone wishing to venture out on the bay. Sunday looks too rough for the bay, but will be perfect for those hitting the creeks and dams. Northerly winds will dominate the week ahead, providing perfect conditions for those looking to tangle with impoundment barra.
Be aware, the east coast barra fishery is now closed to taking (or targeting) barramundi until midday 1st February 2019, so your only option to get your barra fix is via the stocked impoundments. Speaking of closures, the final Coral Reef Fin Fish Closure for 2018 will be in force Monday 5th to Friday 9th inclusive, so the bad weather forecast for that period is probably not such a sore point. Of course, this closure only affects waters north of Latitude 240 50’ and only affects the taking of fish contained within the Coral Reef Fin Fish Plan anyway, so you can still fish to the south of that latitude and can still target other non-coral reef species north of that latitude.
Weather has certainly been a dictating factor offshore of late. The dreaded northerlies have restricted reef fishing opportunities and increased the offshore currents making it simply too challenging in anything other than the lightest of conditions. Some great catches of red throat, parrot and red emperor have been possible when conditions allow, but best to wait for the light southerlies for your ventures outside chasing reefies. Sharks have been relentless over all depths of water to the north, with some reprieve down along Fraser.
Game fishers have continued their great run on the blue and striped marlin along the shelf line (in 200-300m of water) from about the 4 mile crossing south to the Waddy Point Canyons. Bycatch has still been fairly minimal, with a few mahi mahi and yellowfin tuna turning up at times.
There has been a few more juvenile black marlin turn up in the Rooneys area, though numbers are still fairly low at present. Going on historical catches, they should be a great target over the coming few weeks, we just need those northerlies to back off. If you get a chance to head up that way and spend some time up in the shallows searching unsuccessfully, then turn your attention to the deeper contours leading around Rooneys and into Platypus Bay. We all want to have a crack at the sensational shallow water billfishery that the bay has become famous for, but there will always be a lot more fish spread out throughout the central and northern bay for those willing to do the miles.
Sportsfishos have reported increasing numbers of often quite large mack tuna throughout Platypus Bay, with a few schools of longtail mixed in. The tuna have mostly been feasting on small baitfish, so small metal slugs in the 20-40 gram range have been the most effective of late. Spotted mackerel have begun to show up as well, so the same slugs are the go for them. If looking for spotties and trying to avoid tuna, then look for fish “sipping” at the surface but not so much “slashing” and clearing the water, as spotties will rarely take to the air, but tuna get plenty of air time.
Some very large cobia have been turning up around bait schools off Rooneys and further south into the bay. They will take a range of lures, but are easiest to tempt with a live bait or a small (legal) reef fish suspended mid-water. School mackerel are making their presence felt on some of the reefs up Platypus Bay way, but still appear to be in better numbers closer inshore. If you are sounding around the reefs up that way you might just trip over some late season snapper and certainly schools of trevally of various types.
School mackerel have been reported from the Fairway this week, with some very nice fish in the mix. A few Spaniards have been there as well and it wouldn’t be any surprise to hear of grunter turning up for those fishing into the evening. Schoolies are likely from any of the deeper inshore reefs at present if those reefs are holding schools of herring. Queenfish have been fairly active inshore of late, hunting down baitfish along the dirty water lines and around the current lines off the bay islands. As it warms further those big brute GTs will roll in in bigger numbers and will take up residence on the arti’s shipwrecks and at points and drop offs around the bay islands. Bigger tides late next week will be much more conducive to chasing queenies and GTs than the current neaps, so tune up the popping gear and get ready for the bigger tides over the warmer months.
Grass sweetlip will be the main catch for bait fishos inshore at present, and their numbers and size will increase as we move into summer. This time of year is when you can expect to find them in good numbers along the fringes of the shallow reefs around the bay islands and Pt Vernon. Use sturdy lines (even handlines if you prefer) and light sinkers to deploy baits of squid, large prawns, hardiheads or flesh baits to the bottom and time your efforts to coincide with low light and dark periods. They will also turn up in numbers in Urangan Channel this time of year (particularly at night), but please don’t anchor in the direct line of harbour boat traffic.
Great Sandy Straits & Mary/Susan Rivers
The neap tides suggest the whiting will be a bit quiet for a few days yet, but will come on again as the tides build to the new moon. The Turkey Straits and the flats and creeks along the western shores of Fraser will be some of the more popular areas to target the ‘ting. The old timers will know that at this time of year, the summeries will become a more viable daytime option than they were over the cooler months.
That slight fresh in the Mary has had its impact on the river moving a lot of the fish downstream. Word is, the commercial netters are well entrenched along the strip of river this side of Beaver Rock so it is likely the barra copped a bit of a hammering and the salmon will continue to cop it. Fortunately the barra season will save the remainder of the barra for now and the salmon numbers are quite high so plenty will make it past the nets. Look for salmon in the Prawn Gutter out the front of the heads, in the lower Susan River and throughout the Straits. That bit of colour in the water will suit the salmon perfectly allowing them to feed more actively during the day.
Some nice grunter are on offer for those venturing down the Straits. Baitfishos will get them on prawns, small squid and herring, but lure fishos can have a ball on grunter with small soft plastics in the deeper channels and holes within the creeks and in the channels that lead to these creeks. Flathead are still turning up in quite good numbers down that way, and particularly along the western side of Fraser. Expect a few jewies to turn up at Kingfisher and Ungowa if they haven’t already done so.
The neap tides should see minimal action from whiting, but the impending northerlies will stir up the shallow waters along our town beaches and may just bring on a decent bite during this period. With the recent minor freshes in our creeks and rivers we would expect grunter to be moving along our beaches at times as they move away from the freshwater. They will be best targeted at night and could be found along the harbour rock walls or the piers at times.
The Urangan Pier has been quiet at times, though there is a stack of herring out there at present and a few queenies and mackerel have turned up now and then. The nasty big GTs rocked up a bit ago but won’t hang around if the water gets too dirty. Pier fishos might score a flattie or two on a live bait early in the flood tide over the neaps. Those chasing whiting should score a feed from about mid week onwards fishing the last of the flood tide in the shallows at the beach end of the pier. Keep an eye out for large garfish during the next few weeks, as they could be quite an easy catch from the pier and groynes during the run out tide.
Lenthalls: Lake Lenthalls has gone quiet again, with very few fishos heading out that way since the rains a couple of weeks ago.
Monduran: Lake Monduran has fished well in recent weeks and should be a “special” for this weekend. Whilst there is nothing special about the moon phase, the weather is certainly looking good with plenty of sunshine and a fairly consistent easterly tending to a northerly during the weekend. Arm yourself with a selection of suspending hardbodies, soft vibes and large paddle tailed plastics, some decent leader and a SIPS permit and give it a crack. If the great conditions and the seasonal barra closure isn’t enough incentive to get you up there, then check out the fantastic free Golden Barra competition that kicked off at the lake today.
Awoonga: 3.5 hours up the Bruce Highway and you will find yourself at Lake Awoonga. Put simply, this lake is going off! Even those of us lucky enough to have fished it back in the glory days prior to the floods have been impressed with the sheer numbers of barra on offer and the absolute beauty of the lake. Get there as soon as you can, as at present the visibility in the lake is absolutely outstanding, with 2 metre visibility enabling you to often see the barra approach and snatch your lure in plain sight. They might not be metre plus fish (yet), but with average fish around 75cm and a few better models up to 90cm or more on offer they are a ton of fun.
Those with side scanners simply have no excuses, and for those who don’t then do yourself a favour and drive/drift your boat right up into the skinniest little gaps and bays in the weeds during the middle of the day when the sun is high and you can literally watch the barra cruising about. Come back to these spots near dark and the barra will climb all over your walk-the-dog-retrieved stickbaits. The same lures are effective early evening and early morning over the tops of the weed banks and shallow bays. It is important to work your suspended hardbodies deep into the water column during the day to counter the water clarity and either a steady constant twitching retrieve or a sharp jerk and stall will produce. Slow-rolled-plastics are equally effective along the weed walls, with Squidgy Slick Rigs and Berkley Hollowbellies scoring plenty of fish. Soft vibes will work around the snagless points and bays as well. Seriously, do yourself a favour and go check it out – it is awesome!
Other Lakes: The fishing grapevine is abuzz right now with stories from pretty much all of Qld’s stocked impoundments to our north. Callide is fishing well at night for fish to a metre or so. Teemburra is going off with stacks of fish over the metre and few huge models, with topwater producing some of the best action available. Peter Faust has fired up and produced some astounding numbers and sizes for regulars and visitors alike. Basically, if you have the chance at a barra road trip right now, then you are in for a hell of a good time. The “Barra Tour” results this month will surely be nothing short of extraordinary.
Good luck out there y’all.