Break Out The Woolies – Its About To Get Chilly
The past week has been a bit tough for boaties, with only the past day or two offering any respite from the consistent south-southeasterly wind. Look outside or check the radar right now and it’s a fairly gloomy picture, with light showers and cooling conditions.
As the trough bringing the showers passes overhead tomorrow it is forecast to leave us with a few days of brisk southwesterlies and cloudy skies, plummeting the local air temperature over the weekend. Saturday looks quite nasty indeed, with a forecast maximum temperature of a very chilly 13C. Single digit temperatures overnight won’t be very welcome either, but at least here in good old Queensland these cold snaps are fairly short-lived.
Whilst the forecast has changed daily it looks like we are in for a spell of much improved weather by early next week, albeit with winds still from the south west. A very large high should swing north out of the bight next week and drift our way bringing some very clear, settled days with light winds (we hope).
One thing is certain – this weekend is going to be very wintery indeed. Saturday’s new moon will see a decent tidal flow that will get the fish on the chew in many areas. These same tides over the dark of the moon will see migrating winter species commence or continue their journey to their winter feeding/spawning grounds here in the bay.
Fraser Island Open To Day Trippers
After contacting government officials to confirm the continued restrictions surrounding Fraser Island for last week’s fishing report and being told that the 100m exclusion zone was still in place, the authorities thereafter decided to repeal their restrictions and open the island to day trippers the very next day. This effectively relaxed the exclusion zone restrictions as well, meaning we can once again head over to the island by boat and enjoy its beautiful western beaches, creeks and many fishing opportunities.
We are still restricted to travel within a 150km radius of our home residences for the time being, but living where we do, we fishos can hardly complain, with stacks of awesome fishing opportunities within our restricted area.
Inshore Options in Southwesterly Winds
Many of us will stay home and accrue a few brownie points this weekend, in readiness for improved weather. Those that don’t suffer from the cold and the misery of drizzling rains might well get a crack at a few fish inshore where the landfall protects our waters from the westerly, so let’s have a look at a few options for the diehards.
The big tides will see an increase in activity over our shallow reef systems. Gatakers Bay offers great protection from the south, but no so much from the west. It will be fishable, though the strong gusty winds forecast in the mornings might well be avoided in favour of afternoon sessions.
Winter whiting fishos have been putting in plenty of hours around Gatakers these past couple of weeks. Results have varied dramatically, with a few good days seeing the local whiting guns threatening their limits, whilst the neap tides saw very little action at all. Most are managing a modest feed, but many are scoring less than 30 whiting for their efforts.
Drifting in high winds is a fruitless and frustrating affair, so be prepared to anchor and move often if you choose to head out there while the winds are up. Once things settle down there should be some good hauls of winteries as the little tackers revel in the cooler conditions.
Should the whiting not fire, or you get enough and still wish to fish on, then you might consider vying for a feed of grunter, sweetlip, squire or blackall back in on the reefs fringing the point and the bay. Coral trout and cod are also possible for those who target them, with trolling diving lures a reasonable option amongst the wind and waves.
There have been enough school mackerel off Gatakers harassing the whiting fishos to suggest they might be worth targeting. Spinning spoons or trolling will score for those favouring artificials, whilst a gang-rigged pillie or live bait will be the undoing of the odd mackerel for those anchored up. Remember the yellow zone and one hook rule if fishing in close to Gatakers (a set of gangs is deemed to be one hook by the way, but you cannot have more than one line in the water).
There has been stacks of mack tuna in the western bay of late, as close in as just off Gatakers and Toogoom and up off Woodgate. The cloudy skies will do little to keep them feeding on the surface, but nonetheless it will pay to have a spin outfit at the ready should you find yourself within casting range of these little balls of muscle.
Those with capable vessels, used to traveling a bit wider when the weather allows, might find they can access reefs protected by the bay islands. The Roy Rufus arti is an obvious choice for anyone hoping to score squire/snapper, with cod, trout, sweeties and blackall all likely to chew well during the slower periods of the tide. The sharks will be bad, particularly if there is no other boats to draw them away, so don’t waste fish feeding them if you can avoid it.
Anchoring in close to Woody Island along the drop off of its fringing reef can see you knock off a few of the abovementioned species, though you will need to vary your techniques for the shallow waters. Obviously, lightly-weighted baits are the go and moving often will improve your chances, (unless you deploy a berley trail and draw the fish to you). Trolling the drop off or above the reef at high tide can pull a few trout and the odd cod, but smaller fish are most likely this time of year.
Speaking of trolling, the art of towing deep diving lures around the fringes of our deeper inshore reefs is becoming increasingly popular and right so. The tried and tested Dr Evil lures will dredge down as deep as 35 feet (with the tide) and have been the undoing of some serious inshore predators.
Snapper are the main target for those trolling deep this time of year, demanding a slow speed of below 4 knots and a keen eye to locate bait schools or roaming snapper on the sounder. Estuary cod of all sizes will scoff a deep diver if it gets close enough and they have been known to rise a surprising distance from the bottom to intercept the lure. Coral trout, golden trevally, mulloway jew, flathead, GT’s and queenfish have all been caught deep trolling inshore and those trying this option up the island can add other species to that list.
As the winds ease early next week, many will be able to venture wider and snapper will be a viable target species amongst many others. There have been no consistent reports from any particular areas as yet, but it won’t be long before the grounds off the Burrum, the Fathom Hole, the wider reefs off Wathumba and the Rooneys reefs start to produce some nice knobby snapper and a good feed of squirey versions. A few good snapper have been caught out at the Gutters recently, so it won’t be long and they will be a regular feature in local catches.
Westerly Winds and Banana Prawns
This southwesterly wind will have a few local fishos thinking about the viability of a prawning session. Our whole season to date has been a complete flop locally, though there are small pockets of water within our estuaries that have proven to be holding decent, albeit somewhat small, schools of banana prawn. This westerly may well see prawn on the move in our local creeks and rivers, but venture north or south of here and there has been great prawning on offer.
As we’ve been mentioning, head south of the Sheridan Flats down the straits and you won’t have too much trouble locating a feed of prawn. Anywhere from Tuan to Tin Can seems to be quite productive this season, courtesy of the substantial rains they enjoyed compared to our pocket of coastline.
Head up to Bundy and word is the Burnett has been giving up bag limits of quality bananas for weeks. Given that the prawn that makes its way to Woodgate is reputedly ex-Burnett River prawn, we might look forward to the mature bananas from that river making their way south some time soon. Will that be over this set of “darks”? Who knows? Only those that make their way to Woodgate for a look will know for sure.
Winter Species Firing Up in Our Rivers and Creeks
Stiff westerly winds are hardly ideal for fishing our local river systems for those of us that frequent these waters chasing our tropical predators. Sure, you might find a lethargic barra or threadie willing to chew (briefly) but it will be the likes of bream, flatties, jew, blue salmon, mini GTs and tailor that you will find keen to chew.
Blue salmon numbers will swell heading into winter and they will often be responsible for the surface bust ups that you see upriver during the colder months. What they lack in eating qualities they certainly make up for in fighting prowess and speed, turning on quite the show on light tackle. They will scoff many offerings from trolled divers to soft vibes, blades and soft plastics – just pick up the pace of your retrieve on what you might use for their bigger cousins.
Flatties are already turning up frequently in catches, particularly for those hopping plastics or twitching small hardbodies out of drains chasing threadies. They too can be trolled up over gravelly bottom or along banks strewn with timber or rock bars. They move up on the flats out of the wind when the tide rises too, so can be readily sight-fished in skinny water up along the mangrove line.
Our local bream tragics will be out there in full swing over the coming months. This latest cold snap, on top of a couple of more subtle cool changes recently, will have out substantial bream population on the move. As the bream gather in schools and move downstream, they feed voraciously in readiness for spawning within and beyond the mouths of our rivers.
Vast schools of bream can be targeted up on the many mud and gravel flats around River Heads, around the rock bars and eddies of South Head and around the North Head peninsula itself. Many schools will make their way to the rocky verges of the Pt Vernon area and around the bay islands. Similarly, down the straits there will be ample rocky/gravelly outcrops that will draw quantities of spawning bream in coming months.
Target a feed of bream with a steady berley trail and lightly-weighted baits on light tackle if you wish, or deploy the finesse gear and sneak up on them with all manner of light plastics, mini-vibes or topwater offerings. Whichever option you choose, you may be surprised at the quality and quantity of bream on offer in our waters and wonder why we don’t make more noise about it. The fact that we have such a plethora of other, often more prestigious and sizeable target species is possibly the answer, but there is no denying you can have a ball with our local bream if you so wish.
Speaking of more prestigious, some might consider the mulloway jew fits into that category (and some of us maybe not), and with captures of jewfish more and more common in recent weeks we can expect a reasonable chance of tangling with them if targeted. River Heads will see numbers of jewies caught in coming weeks, as will a few deep ledges along the inside of Fraser. They also turn up over inshore shipwrecks, but good luck trying to land a sizeable jew in waters frequented by oversized bullsharks.
Tailor will soon become a regular visitor to our estuarine waters, harassing the vast schools of hardiheads, gar and juvenile herring. Often it is the waters of the Burrum River that draw first blood on the tailor front locally and it would come as no surprise to hear that they have already arrived up that way. The westerly winds will get them on the move, so look out for their surface antics and attending terns in and around our rivers.
Tailor can be quite prolific in places down the straits heading into winter and can be quite the pest for those using plastics to target other species at times. Trolling for tailor is productive for a few locals, who deploy smaller 100mm diving lures and target them around river mouths, drop offs and the swirling currents eddying off the bay islands.
Winter Species Turning Up At Urangan Pier
It can be cold walk out along the planks of the Urangan Pier during a brisk southwesterly, but going on recent reports the fishing is on the improve so it might be worth the effort. Bream numbers are increasing, though most of the fish are only quite average at around 30cm or so. Night sessions are most productive over the full moon, but you can score quite well during daylight over the “darks”.
Attention to detail will make all the difference for a budding bream fisho, so make sure your baits are streamlined and they “swim” in the current without spinning. Locally sourced bait is the best, as that is what the bream are feeding on whilst they are gathered at the pier. This means simply jigging a supply of herring and deploying them live (if small) or perhaps butterflied with the hook hidden somewhere near the head of the bait.
For those that cannot jig bait, or prefer not to, it would be hard to beat strips of quality mullet fillets and/or mullet gut when it comes to tempting bream. Berley is only really useful around the turn of tide and not typically necessary when the fish are already under your feet.
Every day is different on the pier, with some mornings seeing a few small mackerel rounding up bait out the end, whilst other days it will be just a passing school or two or tuna that will get the local fishos excited. Not all the action is confined to the deep end of the pier either, with sight-fishing for flatties and squid quite productive at times in the first channel.
Evening sessions live baiting for jewfish has seen the odd local score a decent jewie or two, so those favouring the luring option might consider soft vibes or large prawn-styled plastics if looking to tempt these nocturnal hunters.
Good luck out there y’all.