We trust you all got out sometime over the past week and enjoyed what was perhaps the most perfect weather and moon/tide combination we have seen in a long, long time. Total glass outs greeted an absolute flotilla of vessels leaving local ports that varied little from here to the widest of our offshore grounds.
The string of consecutive high pressure systems that streamed eastwards across our country were the cause of the sensational weather, but, as predicted, one high had to drop south eventually. We are now experiencing a change of weather that will see stronger winds from the southwest, south and then southeast for much of the week ahead.
The passing of last Monday’s full moon sees us now enter a period of diminishing tidal variation as we approach the neaps early next week. Couple this with the less-than-ideal weather forecast and this week might be better spent renewing some brownie points or at best fishing our protected inshore waters.
Apart from some nerve-wracking moments under a thick blanket of fog leaving port, all crews heading out wide revelled in the superb conditions and made great time as some pushed their fuel range to the limit. Reef fishing reports varied depending upon whether the sharks were an issue or not, but in all cases the bite was good and the reefies really turned it on.
The grounds up towards Lady Elliot Island produced a mixed bag of reds, red throat, parrot, jobbies, trout, cod and spanish mackerel. The shelf east of the Breaksea Spit was a bit hit-and-miss for some, but produced quality pearl perch and rosy jobfish, as well as the odd arm-stretching amberjack for those dropping big slow pitch jigs along the 100m line.
The Sandy Cape Shoals country and the ridge lines in depths around 50 metres fished well if you could avoid the sharks. That was not an easy task by many accounts however, but some decent catches were made by those that moved around and tried various depths in the slight current.
Red emperor, scarlets, green jobfish, brown maori cod, estuary cod, pearl perch, snapper, parrot, red throat, moses perch, spangled emperor, coronation trout, spanish mackerel, cobia and hussar were all on the chew and certainly made for some colourful eskies upon return to port. Unfortunately for way-too-many crews the sharks took a terrible toll and their catches reflected barely a shadow of what might have been.
Surface action appeared fairly non-existent whilst travelling out wide. However, just south of the bar and less than a mile east of Sandy Cape and it was a totally different story with baby black marlin going crazy over spreads of micro pushers trolled through an area averaging only 15 metres of water. Multiple hook-ups were commonplace and some crews scored quite big numbers, but the billies were only very small, with most barely 10kg.
The Northern and Southern Gutters were popular with quite a few crews, but the sharks made short work of a lot of quality fish and many were left bewildered at the brutal attrition these oversized whalers are inflicting on our fishery. Trout, reds, scarlets, snapper, spangled emperor, parrot and sweetlip were all possible, amongst a plethora of smaller reefies, spanish mackerel and trevally.
The overall return-for-effort at the Gutters has diminished so considerably in recent years that those grounds are largely ignored by many of the locals who now venture much further afield looking for less-fished territory. It will take an influx of baitfish (namely yakkas and juvenile hussar/perch) to bring numbers of quality reefies, snapper and trevally onto the Gutters to improve the fishing out that way. Till then, you can nearly bet your catch will be dominated by grass sweetlip, small trout and the smaller lutjanids.
Rooneys reefs offered those overnighting a crack at some nice squire to a few kilos, but any word of snapper up that way hasn’t made it back to us. Our water temperature is still hovering around 20C throughout the whole bay and the general lack of baitfish has been very noticeable. Yakkas are finally starting to make their way into Platypus Bay, but still only in small numbers as yet.
Some of the reef grounds off Rooneys produced some very nice scarlets as well as the squire, along with big grunter, cod and a few reef jacks. Trevally can be a pain for reef fishos at times, as can the big school mackerel, tuna and cobia.
Platypus Bay reefs are yet to produce any decent hauls of snapper but we can only hope that that situation changes as the yakkas and herring move in en-masse. The next new moon might be worth a try for knobbies for those venturing up that way if the weather plays the game.
Trevally become the major target for a lot of sportsfishos heading to Platypus Bay this time of year and a huge variety of trevors is possible in a session. Big goldens and diamonds are the glory models, but smallish GTs, long-nosed, brassy and gold-spotted trevally are very common. Obviously slow-pitch jigs (and fast-pitch models) will account for plenty of trevally, as will soft plastics, and any of these options can produce scarlets, grunter, trout, cod, parrot and squire/snapper in the right locations.
Tuna activity appears to have slowed right down out wide at present, with nary a ripple on the surface to give them away. Small pods of longtail have been making brief forays to the surface in the eastern bay, with mack tuna more likely in the west off the Burrum coast. Mackerel are well scattered and are best targeted where a good bait source (yakkas or herring) are found in the vicinity of reef or weed.
Baitfish inshore are quite scarce in some places at present, with areas such as the Roy Rufus Arti, Channel Hole and Boges Hole virtually devoid of baitfish, whilst other areas such as Moon Ledge, the Burrum 8 Mile and the Outer Banks are holding less than their usual quota. This will surely be only a temporary situation that will change as our waters cool further.
The lack of baitfish has resulted in a slow start to our snapper season, and very few proper knobbies have been reported inshore this season. Decent squire are a reasonable chance from the usual spots however, with fish to 3 kilos or so offering good sport on the light gear and a great feed.
Sweetlip numbers have diminished as expected, but those that you find in close this time of year will be usually be quite large. Blackall are making up for the lack of sweeties for those fishing at night, even though most wouldn’t consider them a suitable addition to the esky. You will have to make up your own mind about that one, but there is no denying a blackall’s pulling power when they get a bit of size about them.
Mackerel have been moving through the lower bay of late, with the old adage "here one day, gone the next" ringing true quite often. Latest reports suggest a few are still frequenting the Burrum 8 Mile, Fairway, Outer Banks and the whiting grounds off Gatakers Bay.
Speaking of Gatakers, it remains the staging ground for the best of our winter whiting fishery so far this season. Bag-outs have been commonplace and quality fish are on offer amongst the usual stream of throw-backs. Very little effort has been made south of the Urangan Harbour so far, but these grounds are likely to fire at some time soon. The weather this week will restrict smaller boats to the Pt Vernon / Gatakers Bay area once again.
Mary/Susan Rivers & the Great Sandy Straits
Jewfish are the major target for nocturnal fishos out at River Heads. Pencil squid have been turning up in small numbers and offering primo baits for those chasing the jew. It has been a similar story over at Kingfisher Bay Resort, with jewies over a metre being quite common in both locations.
Boaties that don’t want to put up with the BS around the pontoons/jetties can target jewies in any of the deeper holes in the lower reaches of the rivers at present and down the Straits as well. Live baits will get their attention, as will fresh whole squid. Lure fishos are best trying soft vibes and prawn or squid imitations over the turn of tide.
River Heads has also been visited by a few mackerel this week, so land-based fishos can consider spin sessions from the rocks out the front when the tide is rising. Flasha spoons are possibly the best, and not only due to local familiarity, with Halco Twisties also a great high speed spinning option for those with the right gear. Tailor shouldn’t be too far away either.
Tuna have been busting up around the heads and even upriver a mile or so. They are often intent on chasing gar, but with so much herring in the rivers they would seem likely tuna fodder also. Good luck running them down as they are super-mobile when in the river.
The dodgy weather this week will see more boaties visit our rivers and straits. Blue salmon and threadies are both a chance for those fishing vibes in the deeper holes, as are mini GTs and the abovementioned jew. Flathead will be more common around creek mouths, drains and rock bars from now on and will scoff any small plastic, vibe or hardbody if presented in the right manner.
Mud crabs were on the move over the full moon period but may taper off the closer we get to the neaps. The warmer water conditions have kept them quite active and their fresh scratchings along the banks are a dead giveaway of their presence.
Tiger squid numbers are still low and unlikely to increase dramatically this winter. At least those that are still here are large, with squid well over a kilo and a half quite likely when you find some. Even though they are a bit scarce, make sure you have a selection of jigs with you inshore anyway as you just might trip over a couple in your travels.
Urangan Pier, Local Beaches and Creeks
Longtail tuna have been frequenting the waters off the end of the pier again recently, albeit without any great consistency. A few mackerel were caught this week, but again no big numbers. Bonito were apparently absent this week but are likely to be back any time, so make sure you have a selection of spoons and twisties if mackerel, tuna and bonito are your thing.
Bream numbers have been disappointing out at the pier this year, though you can still score a few good’ns if you put in the effort. Flatties should again be worth a crack over the ensuing neaps for those dropping live pike or herring in their vicinity after spotting them with their polaroids. Take squid jigs with you out there too, as you never know when a few tigers (locallies) might turn up.
Surprisingly good catches of whiting have come from our town beaches over the recent full moon. The quality hasn’t been too bad and some have managed a couple of dozen fish for their efforts. Anywhere from along the Torquay – Urangan strip is worth a go. Use beach worms, live yabbies or GULP 2 inch Neris Sandworms during the rising tide for best results. Of course, you can expect the whiting activity to taper off as the tides get too small.
Lenthalls continues to impress with some serious bass, in both quality and quantity, coming from this calm little lake. Knife jigs, small vibes and blades and trolled hardbodies are scoring large numbers of bass from relatively open waters. A lot of the bass are averaging 40cm, with a few nudging the 50cm mark. Smaller fish are also likely but the size mix is very healthy.
One of your best chances at a winter barra is also from this lake, with barra beyond 80cm scored recently. There hasn’t been as much effort put in on the barra as has been on the bass either so they are fairly fresh fish that are willing to have a crack at most offerings coming within their range. Target them around sunken timber and lillie gardens when the water’s warmth is peaking, or late in the afternoon.
Good luck out there y’all.