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Weekly Fishing Report - 22nd April 2021

Chase Hooper with his first mongtail (micro longtail).

Anzac Day Long Weekend Looking Good

We’ve enjoyed some great weather over the past couple of weeks. The cooler nights and shorter days have triggered a response from a range of species and we can look forward to some great fishing as autumn unfolds.

The weather looks quite good for the Anzac Day long weekend, with 10-15 knots of southeasterly wind forecast for Saturday and Sunday, stiffening a little throughout the day on Monday. Moderate onshore winds around the 20 knot mark can be expected for the remainder of the working week, with a few scattered showers likely some days.

The tides are building as we approach Tuesday night’s full moon. Great tides for a crack at pelagics, reef fish, crabs or the flats-dwellers and estuarine species down the Great Sandy Straits. The stocked impoundments will also be popular this weekend, and rightly so, as the barra and bass have been biting quite well of late.

Hervey Bay Pelagic Action Aplenty

Visiting and local sportsfishos will be into the action over this weekend. The extra run in the tide will get the baitfish schools moving and the pelagics will be in hot pursuit. Scan the horizon looking for birds and white water from surface-feeding tuna and you will soon be hooked up and losing line.

The winds will likely see most crews enjoying the protection offered by Fraser Island, with Platypus Bay offering great quantities of both longtail and mack tuna. There has been even better tuna action out wider in the bay recently, but the weather in the central or northern bay won’t suit all boats this week.

Small metal slugs are still tempting both species of tuna, though the longtails are also inclined to hunt down jerkshad styled plastics retrieved at break-neck speed just under the surface. The sharks are a major issue around many of the tuna schools, so it would seem prudent to test the waters with slugs or jerkshads before deploying the more expensive stickbaits the bigger longtails love so much.

Poppers and stickies offer endless fun when chasing the bay’s queenfish, with the odd spanish mackerel snatching these surface lures on a vertical trajectory, offering a bit of added excitement to the surface sessions. Keep an eye on the sounder when working the bait schools, as numbers of golden trevally and other trevors can often be lurking beneath just waiting for you to sink a jig or plastic their way.

Cobia will become regular captures over the winter months, but for now are more likely out around the Gutters or offshore. Spaniards can be found in small numbers out around the Gutters, along with some quite large school mackerel. Seek out the areas containing the better volumes of baitfish to find these pelagics. This may be over fairly insignificant bottom or even out in the “paddock” as baitfish and their predators pass through an area.

Ben Jones aka GT Buster recently caught up with the team from Hervey Bay Fly & Sportfishing for a stickbaiting and popping session.

Fraser Island sure makes a picturesque backdrop when chasing tuna on the flats. Pic: Hervey Bay Fly & Sportfishing

Queenfish can be found right throughout the bay at present and will readily take a skipping popper or stickbait. Pic: Hervey Bay Fly & Sportfishing 

It's all smiles here with a nice school size spanish mackerel. Pic: Hervey Bay Fly & Sportfishing

Inshore Reef Fishing Better Leading into the Full Moon

Given the great building tides this weekend, most inshore reef species should be on the chew. You can go in search of scarlet sea perch up in Platypus Bay or up off Rooneys, and might trip over a few squire, large grunter and cod in the process.

The sharks are likely to be a major problem on any of the known reef systems, so move on as always when they find you. There are still way too many horror stories being relayed of crews sitting on spots losing fish after fish to sharks. The sharks won’t move on, so you must as you will never beat them.

Small numbers of snapper have been reported in recent weeks since the weather cooled. They typically bite well leading into the full moon, so perhaps a hunt for knobbies is worthy of a little time around the tide changes. Tasty squire up to a few kilos are more likely than the larger models at present, and they will fall for a huge range of well-presented soft plastics or slow pitch jigs.

The new Nomad Swim “soft vibes” were designed with snapper and the like in mind, so it will be interesting to see how they perform on Hervey Bay knobbies. Find snapper predating on schools of small herring this time of year and these great-looking little lures could be just the ticket.

Of course, trolling deep diving lures is now well-entrenched as a go-to technique for many locals in the hunt for larger snapper. The ever-popular Dr Evils are now joined by Nomad DTX Minnows as deadly snapper slayers, offering not only the opportunity to cover vast areas searching for fish, but also the bonus of hooking fish well away from reefs and loitering sharks. Expect some bycatch on these lures, from trout and cod to mackerel and big trevally.

As has been the case for months now, the humble old grass sweetlip is keeping fresh fish fillets on the table for the family fisho. These scrappy little guys will dwindle in number as winter nears, but typically the biggest inshore sweeties can still be caught right into the cold months. Night sessions will produce the best numbers and biggest fish, though they are readily caught around most inshore reefs during the daytime as well.

Tea-bagging soft plastics or slow pitch jigs over gnarly reef country during the slack water period of the tide changes will soon see you connected to any estuary cod or coral trout that may be lurking on that reef. Anchoring and live baiting can be even more effective, particularly for the larger, more cunning specimens. Please release all the big cod unharmed though, as they are very important to the health of our reefs.

If you can handle the weather out around the Fairway or the Burrum 8 Mile at night over the full moon then you just might encounter schools of large grunter and a few squire. Early morning or late afternoon sessions are also likely to produce if the fish are in the area. There have also been good numbers of school mackerel reported up that way recently. Find the bait to find the fish, and don’t be fixated on sitting on a given GPS co-ordinate or reef, as often species such as these will all roam when on the hunt.

There is plenty of baitfish on offer around local reefs, and their numbers will only swell further as winter approaches. Pike are prolific and are undoubtedly the best bait for many of the larger reef species. Herring schools will become more common, and the size of the herring will increase dramatically in winter. As our waters cool further, yakkas will arrive inshore in vast numbers.

We used to get droves of yakkas all the way into the straits once upon a time, along with hordes of surface-feeding slimy mackerel in the bay. Some yakkas still venture as far south as Kingfisher Bay, but nowhere near the numbers that we used to see. The slimies are considered almost a rarity nowadays, and were only occasionally reported up the island or out wide of the bay in late winter in recent years. It seems the masses of pilchards that used to invade the deeper channels such as off Moon Ledge and Rooneys Point are a thing of the past.

There are stacks of other baitfish species that will filter into our inshore waters, including some with local names such as “sand trevally” and “surface herring”, as well as some with big eyes, some with big mouths, some that look like a pilchard had its way with a herring and plenty of others. Some are great baits, alive or dead, some are not. In any case though, the bag limit for many of these baitfish is only 20, so keep that in mind.

We should start to see a few more snapper filtering in to the bay as winter approaches. Pic: Hervey Bay Fly & Sportfishing

Great Crabbing on Offer

The full moon period typically sees an increase in activity from the local mud crab population. Finding areas that haven’t already seen pots can be challenging, but there are always some small creeks, drains and feeder channels down the straits that others have not targeted. If in doubt, then drop the pots in and check them again within half a tide. If no crabs then move them elsewhere.

Successful crabbers have scored quite good numbers of muddies over recent weeks. Not all are “full” in all areas however, so check for “empty” crabs and return them to the water. Use fresh bait, and perhaps add a few drops of aniseed oil to the bait – a well-proven crab attractor that plenty of crabbers have sworn by over the years.

If you find the mud crabbing too challenging, then perhaps sand crabbing is worth a try. Right now, the sandies are quite prolific and likely to get even thicker. Scoring a bag limit (20 per person) of large sandies is fairly easy off the Burrum coast and also up in Platypus Bay. They can also be potted out in the central bay in big numbers, but it seems pointless to travel out there when such numbers are on offer in closer.

Large, heavy crab pots are the go for sandies (blue swimmers for you southerners out there). You are only allowed to attach one pot to a rope and float, so be prepared to invest in plenty of rope if planning on crabbing the deeper waters of the bay. Often, the crabs off the Burrum are in 15 metres or less, so 30 metre hanks of rope will suffice. Tie knots to reduce the rope length when necessary.

Many would confirm that whiting frames are the best baits for sand crabs. You can use fish frames or mullet if you prefer. Whippies, grinners and pinkies (yellow-lipped butterfly bream) also make for decent crab baits, being creatures naturally found over the sandy terrain that the crabs frequent. Be sure that you are not exceeding bag limits for any of these species though.

The prawning is still pretty tough by all accounts. The Burrum River or its tributaries still offer the best chance of a feed of banana prawns. Our local creeks are worth a try too, particularly Beelbi, but otherwise you would be better off heading down to the central or southern end of the straits at present.

Folks new to prawning our waters are often freaked out by the size of the leader prawns (black tigers) that can be found in our rivers and creeks. They grow pretty big, in excess of 12 inches and can be found in very small numbers in our local creeks. It seems that is often them puffing muddy water out of the holes you see along the banks at low tide. They are known to predate on the banana prawns, so maybe they are a bit hungry this year?

30cm/12" of leader prawn

Changing Scene in Our Estuaries

We’ve lamented the lack of wet season rains in reports frequently this year. The fishing in our rivers and creeks is not nearly as good as it might be, but do the miles and you can still find a few bragging-class fish. The cooler weather might seem like it would put warm water lovers like barra and jacks off the chew, but interestingly, the opposite can apply. The first cooler nights and the shorter days are inclined to trigger a feeding response as they know their metabolisms will slow in winter.

So, make the most of any opportunity to chase jacks, barra and threadies over coming weeks. The jacks will be active during the daytime, as well as at night, but their enthusiasm will soon taper off over May. The Burrum system certainly offers the biggest numbers, but they can be easier to track down in some of the smaller creeks down the straits and/or along the western side of Fraser.

Threadies in the rivers have been scarcer than usual this season, but there are still quality fish on offer in the mid reaches. Seek out the right quality water, with plenty of bait in the area and hop vibes through the deeper holes or work the drains and muddy banks with small hardbodies or prawn imitation plastics.

Some of the best barra we’ve heard about lately have been reported from down the straits. Hardbodies twitched through snags or over rock bars can score, as will vibes in the deep. Look for warmer pockets of bait-laden water coming off mudflats and fish the exit points where the barra lie in ambush.

The first of the blue salmon have turned up already. The fish reported so far have been found on the flats down the straits and south of Urangan. These aggressive speedsters won’t appeal to too many on the plate, but make for great sport on estuarine tackle. Expect the blue salmon numbers to swell during winter. They are suckers for soft vibes in the deeper holes in the creeks and rivers, but will rarely ignore a softy twitched and rolled across the flats.

Bream are on their way out of the rivers at present. It won’t be long and the rock bars, rocky islands and shallow reefs will be inundated with hordes of hungry bream preparing to spawn. In the meantime, anchor upstream of a likely rock bar in the river and berley them up, or drift the same areas flicking small lures on the light gear. The bream will become a serious target for many folks in coming months.

Impoundment Barra and Bass on the Chew

Latest reports from Lenthalls suggest that the bass have started to school in the deeper waters of the main basin. Trollers are scoring quality fish regularly, with a dozen fish deemed an average day this time of year. Hard vibes work a treat in Lenthalls and can be cast or even trolled.

Lenthalls barra typically bite well this time of year, so long as you are not fishing a cold snap. Late afternoon sessions on a warm sunny day are the go, looking for barra up in the weed-fringed shallows on suspending hardbodies and/or weedless-rigged paddle-tailed plastics. Break out the topwater lures on sunset or at dawn to add another level of excitement to your day chasing barra. Fish above 90cm are not uncommon, so be prepared for a tussle.

Lake Monduran barra have been biting quite well at times since the last full moon. They are never consistent, and probably never will be, but when they are keen, they are smashing lures with gusto. There are barra all over the lake, but a lot of fish have moved from north-facing bays to south-facing banks and bays due to the change in prevailing winds this autumn.

It is quite exciting to “discover” fresh fish in bays untouched for months, where the best sign of a lack of fishing effort is the plethora of sticky orb spider webs woven amongst the trees. You know you are on a good thing when the barra are drawn to your boat and not avoiding it like they tend to do in the heavily pressured areas.

Metre-beater barra are now quite common in Mondy, and the average fish are in the 80-95cm class. These fish are powerful and always a challenge around the timber. Surface lures are producing a few and will see some of the biggest fish caught in coming months. At the same time, suspending hardbodies, swimbaits and paddle-tailed plastics are hard to beat, with more action during the middle of the day this time of year than during the heat of summer.

Mondy will be popular over the Anzac Day weekend, particularly given the full moon falling on Tuesday. The weather isn’t perfect but quite acceptable, so keen fishos heading to the dam will be relying on the moon being the bite trigger in lieu of the weather. If it is anything like the last full moon, then good times ahead for many.

Good luck out there y’all.

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