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Weekly Fishing Report - 21st January 2021

Some days you have to hold your tongue out just right, but when the fish switch on it's happy days.

More Great Weather for the Week Ahead

Successive days of super calm, hot weather and glassy seas were enjoyed by masses of boaties over the past week. The cool southeasterly change that kicked in yesterday puffed a little but the wind will ease again by tomorrow morning.

Expect fairly light winds up to 15 knots from the east or southeast for the weekend and the early part of next week. The wind is forecast to swing back into the north by late next week, which is likely a pre-cursor to the next rain event as a trough approaches from the west a little later.

Tonight’s first quarter moon phase means tiny neap tides and little tidal flow. A waxing moon for the coming week will see the tides build towards next Friday’s full moon. As the tides build, the pelagic activity and flats fishing will improve, along with the reef fishing, but until then you will need to target deeper waters or certain species that thrive in the lack of tidal flow.

Robert and Riley with a nice double header of coral trout.

Strong Current Offshore

The offshore scene has been changing week by week, with the strength of the East Australian Current (EAC) dictating success in any given area. The EAC was ripping over the Sandy Cape Shoals country and the waters to the east and south last weekend. 3 knots of current is challenging at best, and makes the deeper waters almost unfishable.

Checking SST charts prior to an offshore trip is advisable, as the hottest surface temperature is typically found where warm tropical waters are pouring down from up north. This time of year, reef fishos need to find the slower, cooler waters or eddied waters to enable them to fish the bottom successfully. On the other hand, game fishos and sportsfishos chasing pelagics will often target areas of stronger current or the edges of the current where baitfish are accumulated.

Some crews found the offshore reef fishing quite tough due to the current east of Breaksea Spit. Further north, the current wasn’t nearly as bad, but the sharks were a major hassle. Spanish mackerel, GTs, mahi mahi and yellowfin tuna have been worth pursuing for those that are either into that scene or otherwise get all the way up there and realise the current is too strong for bottom bashing. Always pack a heavy casting rod and/or the trolling gear when heading offshore.

Winds of 15-20 knots offshore in coming days will likely keep all but the biggest boats and hardiest skippers inshore. By mid-week there should be lighter winds, but the easterly could keep the swell up a little. If the EAC is still pumping when the winds swing into the north, then forget the offshore scene for reef fishing until the current eases or the southeaster returns.

Cobus getting in on the deep dropping action.

How cool are the colours on a coronation trout.

Reef and Sportsfishos All Cursing the Shark Menace

The fantastic weather last week made for great high-speed boat trips to the wider grounds north of the bay. Unfortunately for most, the fishing was quite tough due to the ever-increasing shark menace and diminished numbers of reef fish. Grounds such as the Gutters and the Rooneys reef systems suffer badly from shark predation and are fast becoming less and less productive.

The government is happy to spend taxpayer dollars on telling us to be “shark smart” but don’t seem too interested in taking on the imbalance their policies have created. The “smartest” thing we can do is avoid fishing shark-infested reef systems altogether, or at the very least continue to move on from spot to spot when the noahs turn up.

Interestingly, more than ever, local fishos are making the pilgrimage up the Bruce to launching points such as 1770 and Turkey Beach. The fishing on the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) is generally better in any respect, and there is so much more country throughout the shipping channel and out amongst the Bunker and Capricorn Group. Sharks can - and always have been - an issue on the GBR, but they are easier to avoid with so much productive country on offer. Use the techniques you have perfected fishing Hervey Bay waters and you will soon bag a great feed out on the GBR.

Reports from those that managed to beat the sharks locally reflect the suite of reefies on offer this time of year. Coral trout responded to live baits or tea-bagged plastics and jigs, whilst grass sweetlip were the main catch for those bouncing dead baits back along the bottom. Estuary cod, blackall, moses perch, spangled emperor and venus tuskfish added a bit of extra colour to the box, with many of the better fish coming over the side after dark.

Venturing away from the main reefs and searching the paddock for isolated signs of life can score some great scarlet seaperch. Find the motherlode and it is a fish a drop until you fill your bag and move on. Easter will see the scarlets follow the baitfish down into the northern bay waters, but for now it is the deeper country further north and out wider that they favour.

That's one angry looking trout!

Spotties and Tuna Out Wider in the Central Bay

Surface activity in Platypus Bay was fairly minimal over much of the past week, but it was a different story out in the central bay. Schools of spotted mackerel and mack tuna were fairly abundant, ripping into balled up baitfish schools.

The most common baitfish being attacked have been quite small, necessitating the use of smaller metal slugs. The most successful sizes seem to be in that 20-30 gram range at present. Carry a mix of sizes all the same, as quite often the tuna and mackerel will chase down different-sized baitfish and you need to match the size prey they are feasting on.

The sharks continue to crash the party all too often, so use the heaviest gear you can that will still cast the small lures. Shorter fights, less lure losses and less fish destroyed by sharks is the aim of the game nowadays. Legal-sized spotties can easily be skull-dragged to the boat and swung out of the way of the sharks, but the dogged fight of the bigger tuna can be a different story.

High-flying queenies are providing endless fun for the bigger kids up in Platypus Bay. They will take a huge range of lures from stickies and poppers to any number of softies and vibes. Many of the bigger schools are hanging out deeper around baitfish schools, but find the queenies cruising the beach or the flats and you are in for some line burning fun and games.

Monster giant trevally are still about in small schools around many of our higher inshore reefs. Shipwrecks and the other large concrete artificial reefs are obvious hangouts, but they also favour the ledges along the inside of Fraser and the swirling current lines around the bay islands. Wait for the bigger tides to get the best reaction from the GTs and go armed for bear as some of these brutes will break the 40kg mark, your back and your heart.

Jigs and trevally go hand in hand. Pic: Hervey Bay Fly & Sportfishing.

Nice markings on this spanish mackerel caught on a day out with Hervey Bay Fly & Sportfishing.

Best Reef Fishing Inshore After Dark

Our inshore reefs have copped a hammering from the extra effort from so many holidaymakers and locals on holidays. Grass sweetlip continue to dominate catches, both day and night, with night sessions typically producing the best numbers and size.

The sharks are shocking around many of the popular inshore hotspots such as the Roy Rufus arti. Interestingly enough, when there are dozens of boats on the arti, you stand a better chance of landing a few fish than when you are out there without a crowd. With a little luck on your side, so many other boats in the area can distract the sharks whilst you slip a feed into the esky.

Coral trout and estuary cod are particularly active this time of year. Finding decent trout is so much harder nowadays due to their popularity with everyday fishos and sharks. Being such suckers for a well-presented soft plastic or jig, or a live bait from a well-positioned boat makes the poor old trout a very easy target.

It would seem great to see so many undersized trout being caught around the local reefs as these critters grow fairly fast and will soon be legal, but the truth is that these little tackers wouldn’t even get a look in if there were healthy larger trout in the vicinity. The next couple of months will see the peak of inshore trout action and will see better models moving about, so only take what you need and consider the future of this heavily-pressured species.

Blackall are avid feeders after dark and some very large specimens can be found around many of our inshore reefs. Forget places such as the arti, but look at the ledges down the straits further and the weedy/ferny type bottom in the shipping channels. Quite sizeable blackall can even be caught in the mouth of the Mary River, along with squire, cod and jewies if you offer them baits of fresh prawn or squid.

A blackall that made it past the sharks on a charter with Hervey Bay Fly & Sportfishing. If it was a red fish it would have been a very different story when the men in grey suits arrive.

Young Riley with a nice snapper.

Barra Season Opening Only a Week Away

Boat traffic on our rivers and down the straits has been at an all-time high. Many are returning to the ramp fishless, which is a pity, given that others are scoring some great estuary species. Quality grunter are turning up in the creeks down the straits and over the gravel patches in the Mary. Our shallow fringing reefs in town are also giving up some sizeable grunter and their numbers should swell in those areas in coming months.

Threadfin salmon continue to frustrate plenty of hopefuls who either struggle to find them or fail to get them to bite when they do. Be assured that threadies can be a frustrating critter when they are fixated on eating jelly prawn in the drains and along muddy banks. Persistence and small lures are key when you can see them feeding in the shallows, whilst soft vibes are still your best tool when seeking them out in the deeper holes.

Zara with her first ever barra, caught at Lake Monduran on a charter with Lake Monduran Guidelines Fishing Charters.

Mitch with a nice chrome looking Mondy barra.

Trollers can expect to trip over a few threadies in the Mary or down the straits at present, particularly if trolling shallow divers close to the bank. A few fish will turn up in the big gutters near River Heads and South Head, as well as up on the adjacent flats. Try two different lure profiles – a stout version that resembles a herring and a long slender version that replicates a garfish. Don’t set your drag too tight and be prepared for a great battle if you’ve never hooked a thready before.

The heat last week got the jacks out and about smashing small lures, live baits and mullet strips. The Burrum system continues to produce some great jacks, as do the many creeks down the straits and along the inside of Fraser. Night sessions are ideal for those that can manage it, but early starts or late finishes can also see you tangle with numbers of the red dogs.

Skipping weedless soft plastic frogs under heavy cover for jacks has become so popular nowadays that you will struggle to find any frogs on the shelves in tackle stores. We have a few again, but those looking for white ones will have to wait.

The skipping technique is an excellent skill to master and will ultimately give you great joy and a few heart-stopping moments when the jacks attack, but don’t expect the biggest models from overhanging mangroves. It is fair to suggest that you will encounter a lot more smaller models in this terrain, whilst fishing deeper or perhaps skipping beneath certain man-made structure will see you connect to the trophy models.

The east coast barramundi season will open in a week’s time. For those that have restrained themselves and avoided old pink eyes throughout the closure – well done. Let’s hope your restraint is rewarded with many great barra captures once the season opens.

Good luck out there y’all.

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