Well, so much for the big rain event we were supposed to get last weekend. There were a few localised heavy falls around Maryborough and Howard but not much here on the bay. Again, it has been another frustrating week weather-wise with only the past couple of days fishable for anywhere other than the rivers and Straits. Looking ahead, Sunday’s full moon will coincide with a cool change and associated stiff southeasterlies that will taper off Xmas day. The southeasterly looks set to dominate the week thereafter, so inshore activities will be the go for boaties.
The previously prolific spotted mackerel schools seemingly disappeared last weekend from the Platypus Bay region, as many crews ventured up that way to find no surface activity from spotties at all. Inclement, cloudy weather was certainly a factor, as spotties (and tuna) use the sun’s reflection to ball up the bait at the surface. Local commercial fishermen claim the recent schools of spotties moved on, but there are further schools to the north of Fraser on their way into the bay. Spotties should again be an easy target for the family fisho looking for some exciting high-speed action for the kids after Xmas.
Tuna numbers have been increasing throughout the bay over recent weeks. Mack tuna schools still dominate numbers-wise, but a few small pods of large longtail are being sighted and caught within Platypus Bay. Small slugs that are most effective on the spotties and mack tuna will still draw a longtail, but best you go armed with a mix of stickbaits and Zman Streakz soft plastics as well to boost your chances with the longtails. Chasing surface-feeding pelagics is not an activity restricted to Platypus Bay by any means, as that area is simply a calmer option for small boats in winds either side of easterly. All the same species can be found throughout the central and western bay as well, so keep that in mind if the weather comes good and you are heading out that way.
Marlin have been scarce in Platypus Bay so far this season. Of course that can still change with each wave of baitfish and predators that enters the bay, so it may pay to take the appropriate tackle with you if heading out over summer. Billfish numbers outside Fraser have been outstanding and we would expect marlin to be a worthwhile target both sides of the bar north of Fraser once the weather settles again.
Big golden trevally have been active over reefs in the Platypus Bay area and further south off Coongul and the Outer Banks. Micro jigs, vibes and plastics will all work on a given day, as will live baits if you aren’t into artificials. Goldies would not be classed as a food fish around here, so catch and release is the go. Looking for the schooled-up goldies on your sounder is a good ploy rather than fishing blindly. Don’t be surprised to score some bycatch in the form of squire, trout, cod, scarlets, mackerel and other trevallies especially if keeping your offerings near the bottom.
Remember to be shark-savvy whether fishing out wide or inshore as bull sharks and their many cousins are prolific throughout Hervey Bay waters and they are super-aggressive. Be alert when handling fish boat-side and fish destined for release should be speared back into the water. Reef fishos should move elsewhere as soon as a shark turns up. The sharks have long been attuned to following boats as they have become used to stealing an easy feed. It is distressing to hear fishos recall multiple taxings from our reefs as these sharks are devastating our reef fish populations. Make no mistake, many of these sharks are huge and are relentless with seemingly insatiable hunger.
Those looking for an easy feed inshore would be well-served chasing grass sweetlip. They have been in great numbers and size around many reefs between Coongul and Kingfisher. They are aggressive feeders that will take a range of baits and even soft plastic GULPs and micro jigs. This week’s bigger tides will see them active along the shallow reefs such as those fringing Woody Island, the Urangan Channel and Pt Vernon. Low light periods and night sessions produce the better quality and numbers.
Coral trout and cod will be active over the turn of tide, favouring live baits in the deeper areas. Up on the shallow reefs, both species will take a dead bait of herring, hardihead or even a pilchard, just make sure you make the effort to present the bait straight and "limbered up". Shallow reefs such as those off Pt Vernon, Round and Woody Islands will be worth a troll early in the mornings while the bigger tides dominate. Choose lures that will swim within a metre of the chosen depth and troll faster for trout or slow right down if cod are your target. Tea-bagging the deeper reefs with heavily-weighted plastics or micro jigs is deadly, but don’t go under-gunned.
If the sharks weren’t bad enough on the Roy Rufus arti, right now you also have to contend with big GT’s and XOS spanish mackerel equally as keen to smash your hard-earned reefies on the way to the boat. If you want to avoid these big predators then steer clear of the shipwrecks. If you want some sport, then you know where to go.
GT’s and big queenies are a great option around the bay islands if you can get there over the bigger tides. Poppers and stickbaits are best up over the shallows and along the drop offs, with plastics, vibes and fast-sinking stickbaits better in the deeper waters. If new to this game then look for eddies formed off the points of the islands and look for baitfish gathered in the area. Time your efforts around the low tide period to increase your chances. These same fish can be found at some of the ledges along the western side of Fraser and at times around some of the local beacons.
Flats fishing would be a great option over the coming week if only the weather would allow. Queenies, GT’s and golden trevally are the main targets for those with a stealthy approach and lightly-weighted lures. The flats between Moon Point and Bogimbah Creek are traditionally most popular, however, the bay islands’ flats, the Booral Flats and those further south down the Straits can be equally productive, with additional species such as flathead, salmon and grunter also likely. Heed the regulations regarding go-slow zones and stay out of the green zones.
Great Sandy Straits & Mary/Susan Rivers
Localised heavy falls of rain around Maryborough have added a small fresh to the upper reaches of the river, but this will have little impact downstream other than to dirty the waters and help boost the prawn activity. Threadfin salmon are the main target around the lower reaches of the Susan and Mary, and would be particularly good targets in the drains over the big ebb tides. Timing is everything when targeting drains, as you need to be there just as the baitfish and prawns are being forced out by the receding waters. Flick small plastics, mini vibes and blades or twitch small hardbodies out of these drains into the passing flow. The salmon can often be seen feeding in these areas, but often these are the tougher fish to catch, with the unseen fish sitting deeper off the edge that will intercept your lure.
It is a similar scene down the Straits, with the larger creek systems all likely to produce threadies in a similar fashion. Look for grunter down that way as well, though seek them out in the deeper holes or over gravelly bottom with small plastics, small vibes or prawn imitations. Of course baits will work on all species, with small livies best for the salmon, whilst yabbies, prawns, herring or small squid are all suitable for the grunter.
The ledges along the inside of Fraser, such as Ungowa and those south of Kingfisher are likely to produce a real mixed bag if you change techniques to suit the fish that favour that terrain. Expect a mix of species including jew, salmon, grunter, sweetlip, cod , trout, GT’s and/or queenfish depending upon your chosen location/s.
We’ve been selling a lot of crab pots and crab pot bait this week as keen crabbers set their pots in anticipation of a Xmas feast. Recent rains combining with this weekend’s full moon should be the perfect recipe for a haul of muddies. Crab numbers have been at an all time low in recent times, and with commercial operators struggling it is no longer a case of only "A Grade" crabs being taken and "B Graders" left for another day. Let’s hope this situation improves for Xmas.
The water authority let water go out of Lenthalls Dam preceding the expected heavy rains last week, and though the floods didn’t eventuate, local heavy falls put a very minor fresh in the upper reaches of the Burrum. We have not had any reports from the Cherwell, Isis or Gregory regarding fresh water flows though would expect that some minor run-off could have occurred there also. Prior to these flows, all four rivers were producing excellent mangrove jacks, both in size and in numbers. The jacks can certainly handle a fresh, though they may be a bit harder to tempt on lures in the dirtier headwaters. Deeper holes containing rocks or snags will be worth a look for jacks in these conditions, with the mid reaches likely to be most productive.
Urangan Pier and the Town Beaches
A few big bruiser GT’s have been active out towards the end of the Urangan Pier. They are typically not a lure option out there due to the height of the pier and the inherent difficulty in presenting a lure, though a sinking stickbait would be worth a crack for anyone with appropriate tackle. These GT’s are usually targeted with either big live baits such as legal mackerel or with "throwdowns" which is a local pier rat term for slipping a hook into an unweighted dead herring amongst a constant berley trail of whole dead herring. Regardless of technique, these GT’s will test you amongst the pylons, with many of the bigger fish landed over the years "tricked" into swimming away in free-spool before engaging in a battle some distance from the hazards of the pier. It is fair to say that luck will out-fish skill any day.
Pencil squid have been drawing plenty of attention out along the deeper section of the pier at night, with big numbers possible from time to time. Enhance your chances with artificial lights suspended above the water to draw the squid or LED strobes or light sticks on your rigs. Another neat trick is to shine a UV Torch on your jigs to make them glow longer than standard lights will. Small 1.5 – 2.0 size squid jigs are the go, with a range of colours working.
If you try the town beaches at Urangan and Torquay over the incoming tides at night you should manage a feed of whiting over the full moon period. Day time efforts have been less productive of late, probably due to the heat.
Eli, O’Reagans and Beelbi Creeks have produced some excellent mangrove jacks in recent times and that should be set to continue. A bit of dirty water in the upper reaches of these little creeks might push them further downstream, though these creeks clean up quite quickly. The flats out the front of these creek systems may be worth a look for queenies and the odd flathead, along with some nice whiting when the weather allows.
Merry Xmas to you all and here’s wishing everyone a safe and fishy festive season.