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Weekly Fishing Report - 21st July 2021

Staff member Logan and his little apprentice Timmy, with a nice jobfish.

Heavy Rain, Gale Force Winds and
Dangerous Surf - Again

Checking out the latest from the weather bureau, the immediate outlook is downright nasty. A deepening low-pressure system in the coral sea is heading our way and will collide with an upper-level system approaching from the west. This event is rather unseasonal, but it is happening anyway, so be prepared.

The wind has already kicked in, with 20-30 knot southeasters battering our coastlines as of last night. That wind direction is likely to prevail as the low approaches, before turning southerly, then southwesterly as it passes by.

A strong wind warning has been issued for Hervey Bay Waters. Whilst downgraded from the forecast issued just yesterday, we can still expect 20-25 knots inshore and up to 30 knots in exposed waters. A gale warning has been issued for Fraser Coast Offshore Waters. 30-35 knots will increase to 30-40 knots as the low sideswipes the coastline.

Strong wind warnings for the bay and gale warnings for offshore waters pretty much put the kybosh on any fishing or boating activities until at least Sunday. If the low passes quickly as is forecast, then Sunday should dawn to a lovely day, with 10 knots or less of light southerly breeze and clear skies. 

Monday should be another great day of light winds. An approaching high-pressure system will then dominate and see a swing in wind direction through the west before tending southeasterly again late in the working week.

The forecasts have changed frequently whilst writing this report. Check the latest before heading out next week. Basically, forget offshore this week, forget the exposed surf beaches and stick to our inshore waters and estuaries when the weather improves.

It is some consolation that this weather event is coming at a time of neap tides. Tonight’s third quarter moon phase means minimal tidal variation for the next few days which will help to lessen the impact of the big surf and any inundation that might eventuate. We shouldn’t get too much rain, with the low staying well offshore (we hope).

Big Surf Will Shift a Lot of Sand on Fraser

Onshore winds and diminishing tides have done little for the surf fishos over on Fraser this week. They have still had plenty of fun, and caught a feed pretty much daily, but are now battening down or returning to the mainland as the big storm approaches from the north.

Dirty water in the surf gutters, suspiciously like flushed-out flood waters from the Great Sandy Straits, has formed a frothy brown foam on the waves in the building seas. The sands have been shifting of late too, washing up and over the rocks in places as the gutters shift along the beach.

These shifting sands will be nothing compared to what is about to occur, as 3-5 metre swells and consistently messy seas of similar intensity batter the surf zone in coming days. New gutters will form, others fill, whilst the sand is scoured-out from the rocky outcrops, exposing them once again.

The fishing has been a little patchy this week apparently. A decent feed of whiting has still been quite possible in the shore dump and shallow melon holes. Bream and tarwhine continue to loiter and feed around any rocky areas, and highly mobile schools of dart have appeared and disappeared from the bigger gutters.

The tailor have been fairly scarce recently. At least for the crews fishing the central section of beach. The odd jewie has featured, sometimes picking up a worm bait on the light gear meant for smaller species. Catches of very small, undersized soapies are quite common on a range of baits and are keeping fishos busy between bites from better fish.

The worming has been pretty good along the central strip this week. The eugaries (pippies) have all but disappeared from the sands in that stretch since the seas increased, and are vastly more common south of Eurong.

Beach driving will be very challenging over the coming week. Few fishos would venture to Fraser to fish during spells of such large and dangerous surf. Those “stranded” over there are likely considering their options for day trips to the western side with the wind at their back (if fishing is even on their minds at present).

Flats Fishing Fun on the Light Gear

Flicking light tackle will be nigh on impossible in coming days due to the winds and rain, but we thought we would mention the local flats fisheries as an option for landlubbers and boaties after the blow. The recent big tides post full moon flooded well up onto our local flats and into our estuaries. The fish followed, feeding as they do, and continued to frequent the skinny waters of the flats for a few days thereafter.

Cricket scores of bream, and quite large ones at that, were found over local flats by boaties drifting with the tide in stealth mode. The fish were super hungry, and ate a range of tiny plastics, blades and topwater offerings. As the tides waned, so did the breams’ enthusiasm, but this scene is set to repeat itself when the tides reach their peak with the new moon in a week’s time.

Mixing it up amongst the bream schools, were patches of quality whiting and a few decent flatties. The coloured waters denied the opportunity to identify target fish in many areas, but the bites came thick and fast all the same.

Indeed, the little bays and inlets punctuating the mangrove-lined shores of the straits has been the place to be for whiting and grunter fishos this week. This fishery is far from inspiring over the neaps for obvious reasons, so there is nothing lost for those that must rest these areas until after the blow.

Venture further down the straits and you chance encounters with queenfish of various sizes. The waters are still “dirty” so it is hardly the same joyful experience as sight-fishing to metre-plus queenies in gin clear water, but still a heap of fun all the same.

The flathead fishery has kicked off well this season. Flatties bit well leading into the full moon, though not so well a few days thereafter. Already, signs of the impact of fishing effort are noticeable in popular areas, so perhaps this blow will give them a rest and see fresh fish frequent these areas again post-storm.

Our town beaches gave up a modest feed of whiting for mobile fishos recently. The big blow might even stir up the shoreline enough to draw in a few whiting and bream during the neaps, but few would venture forth to find out. There is ample opportunity to fish out of a southerly wind along our north-facing beaches for those keen enough – but you really have to be keen in the wet weather.

We haven’t heard much from the Urangan Pier this week. Chances are there were still bream being caught, along with a few flatties and perhaps some passing schools of small mackerel.

Tough Estuary Bite to Improve Next Week

A fairly tough bite in our river systems after the full moon can be put down to dirty churned up waters and highly mobile fish. Once the waters settle over these neaps, you can expect a better response from the larger river residents.

There has been an influx of grunter into the Burrum system recently. Quality grunter are taking baits over some sandbanks and along the gravelly runs during the late afternoon and evening. The mid reaches are the go at the moment.

Yabbies, prawns and herring baits, all sourced from the river, are producing the better fish. Small grunter are still a nuisance in some stretches, but when the bigger fish swim through, the little ones don’t get a chance. Lure fishos tend to find the better fish quite quickly. Hopping prawn imitations or small vibes along the bottom soon tracks them down.

A few flatties can be found in the lower-mid reaches. Work the fringes of muddy banks where small prawn are lurking, or around small creeks and gullies on an ebb tide. Otherwise, look for flatties on the edges of rock bars or creeping up onto shallow banks during the flood tide.

Raiden & Ryken Jaimeson with a couple of nice blue salmon

Blue salmon are likely to be making their way into the rivers of the Burrum system at present as well. They are certainly well-entrenched in the Mary/Susan system and are a major feature of that fishery in winter.

Jewfish hunting the prawn schools in the Burrum and Mary systems are worth pursuing. Use your sounder and seek out the jewies around structure fringing deeper muddy runs and holes where large prawns are found in winter.

Speaking of prawns, there is still a feed of quality bananas on offer in the Burrum system for anyone keen to throw a net in the cold weather. The best of these prawns would rival Woodgate for size too, so well worth the effort for large prawn lovers.

You can also cast net a good feed from the creeks down the straits too if you wish. Smaller prawn is quite obvious as it pops up with the flood tide and swims back upstream on the fringes of the tannin-stained dirty water line. Watching bream, blues and mini-GTs tear into them on the surface is another dead giveaway of the prawns’ presence.

Scotty from Kekoa caught a nice grunter on a Palms Slow Blatt jig on a recent charter with Tri from Fraser Guided Fishing.

Big Reefies Turned it on North of the Bay

The glamour weather last weekend was not lost on the local boating fraternity. Many made the most of a decreasing wind forecast Saturday afternoon for a quick trip out onto the bay, whilst others waited for the glassed-out conditions that Sunday offered.

Mirror-like surfaces greeted boaties inshore, but north of the bay there was up to 10 knots of breeze to keep you cool in the warmer conditions. With snapper and pearl perch off the hit list for a month, many gave their likely grounds a wide birth in favour of more “coral reef fish” producing country.

Early starts are rarely productive this time of year for those chasing coral trout. The warmer conditions around a tide change in the afternoon making them vastly more responsive to lures bouncing past their lairs. Live baiters won’t have as much trouble tempting them early (or late), but of course you need to make the effort to gather the livies beforehand to test that theory.

Red emperor are still featuring in catches from the northern bay and beyond. Closer to the Lightship country, there has been some large sweeties, scarlets, tuskies and plenty of cod.
We haven’t heard from anyone who crossed the Breaksea Spit this week. Some won’t bother during the snapper/pearly closure, as that is a lot of fuel to burn to throw back what might be the most common captures up that way.

Deep dropping would seem a little risky over a lot of the commonly fished deep-water country, unless you know your target areas well enough to avoid the no-take species. Fishing waters 200m or more in depth is simply not a catch and release fishery.

Gutters fishos have had plenty of variety to tangle with this winter. Trevally are keen to scoff any lures sent their way, and a variety of baits too, so monitor your sounder screen and avoid them or target them as you see fit.

Big cobia continue to swim up berley trails or otherwise just pester boaties hauling in smaller fish they think might pass as tucker. Fish around 30 kilos are quite common and soon stretch your arms on any tackle.

Smooth rod-work and slick, yet not too heavy drags, will sort out a big cobe vastly quicker than ripping and tearing at them on locked up heavy tackle. You fight them – they fight back. Otherwise, they take it easy and cruise on up for a happy snap and release.

Whale Season is Upon Us

Vast schools of baitfish are known to seek shelter in Hervey Bay during these big offshore blows. Hot on their heels, (at least in the autumn when these east coast lows normally form) are schools of hungry tuna. It will be interesting to see if we have any sort of influx of tuna from such an event mid-winter.

Currently, there are big longtails scattered throughout the bay. They are in quite small numbers over a wide area, so are caught more often as bycatch when targeting other fish such as trevally or snapper on live baits and lures mid-water (and even on the bottom). They can still be seen sipping on the surface, but this is not as common this time of year.

Mack tuna schools still frequent bay waters, and indeed the straits. Maybe their numbers will swell once again after this blow passes by. There are massively bigger critters that also hunt our expansive baitfish schools that are likely attuned to the bay-bound migrations from offshore waters. Regular bay visitors that are highly likely to pay us an early visit during this blow are our beloved humpback whales.

The traditional “whale search” season kicks off now and whale watch operators are out daily in search of pods cruising into the bay. Although the true whale season doesn’t typically kick off for a few weeks yet, chances are there will be pods and individuals cruising by the Fraser Coast that will wander into the bay to get a spell from the big seas offshore.

Regulations for boating interactions with marine mammals are quite complex, we suggest you click the link below and fimiliarise yourself with the latest rules. 

Boaties must keep the whales in mind, and keep a good look out whilst traveling over the next three months. Sightings have been fairly common offshore recently, and will be everyday occurrences in the bay shortly.

Sure enough, Platypus Bay is the traditional playground for the humpbacks on their return journey to Antarctic waters, but boaties should not be complacent and be mindful of them throughout the bay and even the straits.

We have had numbers of whales turn up just outside Urangan Harbour over the years, as well as off Gatakers Bay, the Burrum and quite frequently within the channels of the Great Sandy Straits. We have even had whales enter the Mary River in the past (though you wouldn’t expect a repeat visit whilst the water is so dirty).

Good luck out there y’all …… Jase

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