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Weekly Fishing Report - 21st March 2019

We have certainly lucked out with the weather lately, with a spectacular week behind us and another few days of glorious weather to look forward to. Light winds and clear skies are forecast for this weekend, so get out there if you get a chance, as it looks like there is some potentially serious rain on the way mid next week.

Tonight’s full moon heralds the peak of the bigger tides for the month, with huge high tides reaching 4.20m from low tides around the 0.40m mark. These big spring tides will back off a bit over the weekend, but should certainly be taken into consideration when planning your weekend sojourn on the water.

Offshore

After their usual summer spell off the water and sprucing up the big cat for another full on fishing season, the super keen crew on "Getaway" (Time & Tide Charters) snuck out for a fish north of Fraser last week. As usual, they scored quite well with a real nice mix of reefies and pelagics whilst sniffing around a bit and testing the waters in a variety of depths.

They scored nice red throats and other mixed reefies up towards the Heralds and then worked their way south to the Breaksea Spit area. Generally speaking, the current offshore was quite slight, with even the added push of the northerly breezes barely demanding much lead to reach bottom.

Trolling between spots produced one big wahoo on a DTX Minnow and some very nice yellowfin on skirts over the shoal country, and apparently tuna schools were quite abundant on the surface in that area.

They broke out the electric reels and fished the deep stuff for a good haul of pearlies and rosy jobfish with only minimal attention from the sharks. They also fished a bit shallower around the 100m line for some very nice snapper.

The 50m line produced some more snapper to 75cm and mixed reefies, but the sharks were at their worst in that depth. It wasn’t just the sharks stealing fish that had the lads re-rigging, as they found quite a few unstoppables here and there that most agreed were big cod or other unknown ooglies.

Other crews that ventured out wide without going "outside" found red emperor topping a list of reefies that included coral trout, sweetlip, various cod, parrot and others. Big baits were a must to keep the pickers at bay and give the reds in particular time to hone in on the bait. Live baits produced well as expected, as did tea-bagged plastics if trout were the target.

The Bay

The Northern and Southern Gutters were popular with crews chasing reefies and also tuna. Some nice reef fish were caught, including coral trout, sweeties, parrot, spangled emperor, cod and the odd red emperor. Sharks were a very real problem along much of the length of the gutters around any of the commonly known grounds. Unfortunately this means much of the gutters country nowadays, so do yourself, the fish and the environment a favour and move on when the sharks track you down.

Yellowfin tuna were again a major drawcard for crews heading to the gutters and could be found busting up on the surface anywhere north of the 25 Fathom Hole. One great thing about yellowfin is their tendency to gorge on often larger forms of baitfish, making them a viable target for crews keen on trolling. Drag some skirts and/or high speed diving or lipless minnows around these visible tuna schools or along the gutter ledges looking for fish. You just might be amazed at how much new country you can find whilst trolling around out there.

Trolling aside, it was stickbaits that did the most damage on the yellowfin, with Nashy’s stickies leading the pack for locals and visitors alike. A few schools of longtail tuna were also found out that way, with stacks of mack tuna busting up well south of those grounds. We have been challenging the odd fisho to go for the tuna trifecta of yellowfin, longtail and mack all in one session lately, then some customers wander in and show us pictures of striped tuna caught over Rooneys way.

The bay is certainly alive with pelagics right now and they are well scattered. The central bay has erupted with big schools of spotted mackerel that are well and truly late for Hervey Bay waters. Chalk that one up as another plus for a long hot and dry summer. Whatever the reason they are here, they are here, so take a few metal slugs and spin them up if heading up the centre this week.

Back over Rooneys way and further south into Platypus Bay most crews have been chasing the hard-pulling longtail tuna. Word is there are plenty on offer, of various sizes, but they are favouring stickbaits and ZMan Jerkshads over metals fairly consistently. Be warned that the sharks are particularly bad around some of the bigger aggregations of tuna, so if you are struggling with the noahs it might pay to seek out smaller schools or even lone fish or perhaps try the shallow flats.

Another pelagic that has been notable this past week is the cobia. They are turning up in some of the usual places such as along ledges and deeper reefs, but also up on the northern flats where they can be sight cast with stickbaits or soft plastics. These bruisers can attain weights in excess of 50kg in our waters, but cobia in the 15-30kg class are most common, so be prepared for a battle if you connect to one.

Spanish mackerel have featured in catches out around the Gutters, Rooneys and also in closer around the Outer Banks and Arch Cliffs 6 Mile. Sure enough they are a nuisance to reef fishos, but those seeking them out are trolling them up on larger diving minnows, woghead-rigged gar and/or spinning them up vertically on larger metals slugs. Live baits and even the humble pillie will score plenty of Spanish, but you will have to decide between risking the bite-offs on mono leaders and gang hooks or potentially spooking them by using wire.

With so many Spanish around, it would be timely to once again remind everyone that they are a no take species from within Platypus Bay waters due to the high risk of Ciguatera fish poisoning. So basically, if you catch one east of a line drawn from Coongul Point to Rooneys Point then throw it back. Locals won’t risk eating the larger models from any of our waters as they are just too high a risk of poisoning.

Queenfish and golden trevally have been turning up all over the eastern bay of late. They can be actively targeted over reef systems or along the fringes of the flats, but are just as likely to turn up either near the surface or on your sounder screen when chasing the tuna schools. Both species will take a range of lures from stickies, plastics, vibes and micro jigs to metal slugs, spoons and in the case of the queenies; poppers.

Apart from the intense pelagic action from bay waters, there have been some great catches of scarlet sea perch from northern Platypus Bay, along with a few big grunter, grass sweetlip and cod if you can avoid the sharks. If overnighting up near Rooneys you should make sure you have some small squid jigs on board to take advantage of the pencil squid drawn to your boat lights.

Inshore

The big tides this week drew quite a few schools of tuna in to our local shipping channels. Some small pods of decent longtails turned up, along with separate larger schools of smaller mack tuna. Whatever the species, their antics are similar, ie; thrash the surface to foam until you get within casting range then disappear. "Flighty" best describes these highly strung speedsters when in local inshore waters, so best to be patient and stealthy and time your approach, or perhaps just go about chasing other fish and have a rod rigged and ready should they surface within casting range.

Reef fishos found the shallow reefs fired closer to the full moon with the bigger tides, whilst the deeper reefs produced better earlier in the tide phase. Coral trout were a major target in many areas, with those trolling the shallows early in the morning finding many smaller undersized models than keepers, but plenty of action on the right lures. The turn of tide over the deeper reefs saw trout chewing well, but the sharks had their way with way too many fish.

Estuary cod are similar to the trout in their tendency to scoff tea-bagged plastics and trolled divers, it is just that they like their tucker presented a little slower. Live baits are easy to come by this time of year and will be the undoing of both species until the winter waters slow them down.

Grass sweetlip, blackall and some very handy scarlet sea perch can be found around or over many of our inshore reefs systems. The scarlets will often favour the drop-offs, whilst the blackall will be in tight to the structure, and the sweeties scattered around the fringes. Having said this, all species, plus cod and squire will be actively roaming wide of structure seeking out a meal under the cover of darkness.

Some exceptional flats fishing was on offer over the big tides this week, though the cunning flats fishos would be most upset if we were to blow the whistle on this great local fishery. Suffice to say, the heavy showers this week put some colour into Fraser’s western creeks and some big predators are mooching about up on the flats taking advantage of the discoloured water.

The flats along Fraser and the bay islands are also home to some big numbers of whiting and bream at present. This fishery may only be productive over the bigger spring tides, or at least until the strainers thin out their numbers. Either way, if you get the chance in the next day or two whilst the tides have some size, then flick some micro poppers about up in the shallows for some fun on the light gear.

Mary/Susan Rivers & The Great Sandy Straits

The much-welcomed recent rains have put a little colour in our local creek systems throughout the straits. We are certainly not talking flood waters or run-off, just local colour caused by the heavy showers pelting the mudflats and leaching into the creeks.

This situation did little to make the threadies easier to track down as they are just as scattered as they have been all summer. At least when they decide to feed around the bottom of the tide they are visible, so you can wander the creeks, drain by drain, looking for the thready tell-tales. As always this time of year, find the jelly prawn in big masses and you will find the threadies.

Make your way into some of the more far-flung and harder to access creeks right now and you will find a few nice grunter, along with threadies and possibly barra. These creeks are seething with baitfish and small prawn pushed from the backwaters by the big tides and gathering along the mainstream banks just inviting the bigger predators to pounce.

The biggest tides this week made the jack fishing a bit tougher up inside Fraser’s western creeks, but on a whole the jack fishing has been exceptional for those willing to take on the sandflies and mozzies. The colour in the creeks now and the abundance of baitfish will take this fishery to a whole new level, as if anything the creeks were a bit too clear for some lure presentations till now.

The big tides made for fairly difficult fishing for much of the Mary and Susan Rivers; for lures fishos anyway. The water clarity in the lower reaches does little to get the casting arm twitching, so wait till the tides fall away to the neaps and try again a bit further upstream for barra and salmon. In the meantime, bait fishos and those flicking small plastics should be able to find some nice grunter in the lower-mid reaches of both rivers.

Prawning-wise it is only a small number of prawners having any success just yet. Those of us waiting for the big runs of prawn exiting the local rivers and creeks will be looking forward to the next new moon and perhaps some cooler weather, and will be keeping a keen eye on the wet weather forecast next week.

The recent showers and storms should have stirred up the mud crabs, particularly over the full moon period. A couple of local lads have done okay, pushing the boundaries and placing their pots beyond the usual reach of others. Sandcrabs have been active this week up on the flooded flats and in the adjacent channels. Numbers are not huge, but more than a few feeds is possible from well-placed pots soaked overnight.

Burrum River System

Prior to the latest set of big tides, the Burrum and its feeder rivers produced a few good hauls of prawns for those in the know. A bucket limit was a big ask, but achievable if your timing was just right. The prawns are still quite small by our local standards, but bigger prawn is on offer briefly before returning to the mud for much of the tide cycle.

The river predators are aware of the growing presence of the prawn and are well-positioned to take advantage. The mid reaches of all four rivers is where a lot of the better fish are lurking, so whether it be barra, jacks or grunter, check out these rivers and customise your fishing to target the various species.

For those familiar with these rivers it will be the night sessions that are most productive in coming weeks, whether it be for grunter up on the flats under moonlight or the jacks and barra around the rock bars and drop-offs smashing the prawns as they drift by in the night. For some insane topwater fishing, break out the poppers, fizzers and stickbaits and try a night session on the river. You will learn a lot just from the sounds and obvious fish activity that you will not encounter during daylight hours.

Good luck out there y’all.

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