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Weekly Fishing Report - 22nd July 2021

A solid giant herring caught on Charter with Tri from Fraser Guided Fishing. Tri knows where these speedsters frequent and has a great track record catching them consistently. 

Freeze, Thaw, Repeat

This latest cold snap has been rather uncomfortable, plummeting our air temperature to pretty much as low as we get in these parts. Thankfully, it will only be short-lived, with warmer conditions to look forward to in coming days.

The warmth will be courtesy of a brief spell of northwesterly wind late Friday into Saturday with associated cloud cover keeping our nights warmer. Cooler conditions will return again Sunday with up to 15 knots of southwesterly. Light winds early in the working week will see crowds at our boat ramps yet again, with variable winds mid-week stiffening slightly.

In essence, this week’s weather forecast leaves us with a sense of déjà vu when compared with last week. Hopefully the wind won’t be as strong or the chill so extreme. The moon is full Saturday night, with tides peaking at a smidge over 4m during the evening. There will be plenty of run in the tide, so keep this in mind when considering your options. Newbies to the bay should be wary of getting stranded when the tides drain our flats and estuaries, particularly when the tide is high.

Any colder this week and we might have to resort to ice fishing...brrrrr

Avoid Targeting Snapper

The weather over the full moon is hardly conducive to fishing the bay, so perhaps mother nature is helping to protect our snapper stocks as well as the government. We all know that the snapper closure is in place until after the 15th August and would assume that everyone will do the right thing and avoid targeting them.

That assumption may be a little naïve of course, as already there has been fines issued to crews that have returned to local boat ramps with snapper during this closure. Hard to believe, but true apparently.

So, the challenge for reef fishos this time of the year is being able to get out for a fish and score a feed for the family without catching snapper. Inshore, our coral trout and cod are somewhat lethargic, the vast majority of our grass sweetlip population has moved on, and few would bother with blackall.

Scarlets will bite well over the full moon for those that can track them down. A good feed is possible from reefs within Platypus Bay if the sharks aren’t in attendance. The isolated, lesser-known reefs in the western bay are likely to produce even better scarlets, along with quality grunter for those fishing after dark.

Head north to the Gutters or Rooneys reefs when the weather improves after the weekend and you will have greater variety on offer. Word is that the sharks are still woeful up that way, even now, but being mobile and willing to suss out smaller less-pressured areas up that way can see you score a decent mixed bag.

The big tides will have the likes of red emperor, spangled emperor, grassies, tuskies, moses perch and hussar foraging the fringes of the reefs, with the greatest action likely after dark under a bright moon (for all but the tuskies of course). Big angry reef jacks will also be on the chew at night for those that know how to target them.

Coral trout and cod are certainly a chance for those choosing to teabag plastics, jigs or vibes over the gnarlier reef country. This activity will be limited to the turn of tide period due to the enhanced tidal flow. Large scarlets are a great target over the full moon for those seeking them out on isolated low-lying spots away from the crowds.

Snapper typically bite well over the full moon of course, so avoid float-lining along the fringes of the reefs at dawn, dusk and into the evening and you might avoid them. It would be an absolute tragedy to think that our protected spawning snapper were being targeted in such shark-infested waters, as fish released would have little chance of survival.

A lit up golden trevally caught recently with the crew from Hervey Bay Fly & Sportfishing.

We would assume that no-one will bother visiting the 25 Fathom hole during the snapper closure, as there is very little else there apart from snapper this time of year.

Sportsfishos have an abundance of trevally they can mess with out at the Gutters, or over in Platypus Bay. If the kids are onboard, set them a challenge to see how many different species of trevally that can catch in a day. Move about targeting different schools and you can run up quite a tally.

Don’t be surprised to have tuna scoff softies of jigs deep in the water column this time of year either. Throw in the chance of cobia from little rats under 10kg to giants up to 50kg and you have the makings of a fun day out.

Tri from Fraser Guided Fishing has still been finding some nice longtail tuna hanging deep.

Offshore Windows Opened All-Too-Briefly

A couple of local crews made the most of the brief weather windows this week and bolted for the horizon east of the Breaksea Spit. Deep-dropping was the go, deploying electric reels and bent-butt rods in waters deeper than 300m. By heading that bit deeper (beyond 250m) the chances of hooking snapper or pearl perch is diminished, and other tasty deep water ooglies can be targeted.

Apart from the usual candidates taking baits, such as bar cod, ruby snapper and flamies, there was a rather extraordinary capture reported by one local crew. There should be a picture hereabouts of what appears to be a gummy shark dragged up from the depths. These critters were once popular targets as far north as the Qld-NSW border, but this is the first we have heard of in our waters.

Chris was quite amazed to pull up a Gummy whilst deep dropping off Fraser Island.

A quick dash offshore might be possible again early next week. The shoal country east of the Breaksea Spit is likely to give up a mixed bag of reefies if the sharks can be avoided. Deep dropping is more popular nowadays though, with those that can afford the gear heading wider to target fish in waters that are for the most part, free of sharks.

Sneaking over the Wide Bay Bar and heading wide offshore chasing reds could pay dividends. If you can hang out there after dark on small, isolated rocks or reef patches holding bait, then your chances of scoring reds is enhanced. It will be very hard to avoid snapper and pearlies in closer this time of year, which is why heading wide is the go. Other species such as tuskies, hussar, moses, reef jacks and cobia out wide can add some tasty variety to the box.

Crossing the bar and heading north along Fraser Island in close looking for jewies is an option over the full moon. The westerly winds make for easy traveling to waters that rarely see any boats. Apparently, there are wonky holes not far off the beach that attract hordes of baitfish at times and can draw in the jewies. Slack tide spent drifting live baits or tea-bagging plastics or vibes in the channel inside the bar off Inskip could also see you connect to a few jew.

Don't be afraid to drop a jig in the deep water, there's plenty of tasty ooglies out there. The NEW Mustad Wingman jigs have been dynamite and are in-store NOW!!

Flathead Season Unfolds

The July full moon could be seen as the start of our local flathead season. Yes, flatties are a year-round option in our part of the world, but the period from now through until our waters warm with the northerly winds of October is prime flathead time. This goes for our rivers, the Great Sandy Straits, our local creeks and beaches.

Last flathead season was the worst in recent memory. Flatties were scarce, even down the straits where they should have been abundant. Let’s all hope that this year shapes up better, but going on recent observations, that could be wishful thinking.

Shop regular Bryan Iszlaub caught and released this 85cm flathead on a Daiwa Double Clutch hardbody, nice work mate!

The locals and tourists at Burrum Heads have been scoring a few flatties in recent weeks, with most of the action coming from the lower reaches of the Burrum. The area just outside the Gregory River mouth is a great place to start your search, due to the stretches of shallow rock, sandbanks and channels woven through the area.

You can catch flatties all the way upriver to the bridges at Howard if you like, targeting a mix of muddy banks, shallow rock bars and gully mouths where the baitfish are most abundant.

The lower reaches of the Mary and Susan offer a crack at flatties too, particularly around gravelly areas, shallow rock bars, drains and rills draining the larger flats. The big gutters not far from River Heads will hold flatties so long as there is bait present, and there will be flatties caught from North Head itself in coming weeks.

Heading down the straits in the past used to see us revelling in champagne flathead fishing. They were easily found as they scooted out of the way of the boat, or were otherwise spotted lying in ambush just waiting for a baitfish to come within pouncing range. Flathead lies in the mud or sand at low tide were also a dead giveaway as to their presence, offering insight as to where they will again take up station when the tide rises.

The past tense was used above to describe what we used to enjoy. Flathead numbers were once so high that cricket scores (of released fish) were quite possible. We are quite concerned that this year may see a repeat of last year due to the lack of rains for so long now and increased fishing pressure. Only time will tell, and the period around this full moon will be quite telling indeed.

Better flathead fishing is likely along the western side of Fraser Island around creek mouths, coffee rock outcrops and the large gutters and draining flats south of Moon Point. Even north of Moon, around Coongul Creek and other creeks along the beach, you will find a few flatties if others haven’t beaten you to them. The coffee rocks under the cliffs up the island attract a few flatties too and can be fished from the boat, or from the beach.

Landlubbers wandering the banks of our local creeks should find a few flatties. Stick to the lower reaches and creek mouths and target all waters, including the deeper holes holding baitfish, along with the muddy verges and gravel banks. Obviously, the Urangan Pier flathead are an option for live baiters, or otherwise the fringes of the harbour rock walls could see a few caught when the tide is right.

Techniques-wise it doesn’t get any simpler than targeting flathead. They are suckers for so many different presentations, both artificial and natural. Bait fishos will score best with live baits, be that hardiheads, herring, prawns, poddy mullet or pike. As fun as that may be for some, there is no denying the great joy and sense of satisfaction of fooling fish with lures.

You can troll for flatties if you like, using shallow-diving lures capable of just barely touching bottom in your chosen target depths. Smaller hardbodies do the most damage, and we are certainly spoilt for choice nowadays. You can even troll plastics if you wish, which are possibly a better option for those entertaining the kids, with the added bonus of easier release of unwanted fish.

Our gun reel repairer Mark with a nice dusky flathead.

Trolling with the tide is the go, as the flatties will be lying in ambush facing into the tide. Bycatch can include flounder, small cod, large bream, trevally and blue salmon, amongst others. Big green toads can be a nuisance in some areas, as can pike and small tailor.

Undoubtedly the best way of catching flatties in numbers is with soft plastics. Positioning the boat to enable you to cast into drains and rills and work the lures back with the draining waters will soon see you connected to any flathead in the area. Once the tide bottoms-out, there will likely be a lull in activity, then the fish will burst into action again as the tide starts to rise. Re-position the boat several times and bounce from spot to spot and you will soon rack up a tally if our season is a good one.

Vibes will also pick up flathead when used in deeper waters. Look for schooled up herring or hardiheads hovering over broken ground and hop the vibes along the bottom below. Expect plenty of bycatch if other predators are present.

Even topwater offerings such as smaller stickbaits will attract the attention of a flathead in skinny water. Many customers recount stories of sizeable flatties snatching their little whiting or bream stickies off the top. Some win the battle; others lose due to light leaders being shredded.

Mark even pinned a nice blue salmon on a Bassday Sugapen 120F stickbait.

What Bites in a Westerly Wind?

A westerly wind and a full moon equates to challenging fishing for the majority of local fishos, and for good reason. However, if you forget about the glory reef and estuarine species and focus on those that revel in the chilly inshore waters, then you have options aplenty.

Jewfish are a great fish that keep a few fishos out in the night chill. You can pick them up in the vicinity of River Heads, Kingfisher Jetty, Ungowa and a few other reefs and ledges down the straits. They are also possible from deeper rock bars and snaggy holes in our rivers for those hopping vibes during slack tide or trolling deep divers in the run.

Bream are on the chew big time and can be found in the lower reaches of our rivers, or around rocky outcrops and shallow reefs in the southern bay and straits. Our bream are in spawn-mode this time of year which sees the bigger fish gathering. The Urangan Pier is the most popular land-based site for bream fishos, but the Urangan Harbour also gives up quality fish on both lures and baits.

Gatakers Bay and Pt Vernon reefs are prime areas for boaties chasing bream. As mentioned in previous reports, you can anchor up over the reef, kick-start a berley trail and haul them in one after the other. Large bream over a kilo (42cm) are relatively common if you get it right. The bigger full moon tides are primo too, so if you are desperate for a fish and frustrated with the southwesterlies, then maybe bust out the light gear and give the bream a crack.

Grunter would have to be one of the tasties fish in the estuary and are great fun on light to medium tackle.

Tailor respond well to westerlies locally and can be actively targeted in the Burrum system or down the straits. In either case, you are looking for aggregations of baitfish such as hardiheads and/or herring, birds dipping or fish slashing at bait on the surface.

Winter whiting will be worth pursuing when the weather allows. Those that ventured up off Woodgate recently scored top-quality whiting. The full moon should see another good run of fish up that way again. The best winteries we heard of this week out of Urangan came from within the channels between Booral and the bottom of Woody Island. Word is that the winteries have also been on the chew out of Poona down the straits.

The winter whiting’s bigger cousin, the sand whiting (or “summer” whiting) have started to show up on the flats after dark in the upper straits. Those willing to put up with the cold can score a great feed of quality ‘ting over the bigger tides over coming months. The westerly winds won’t suit many whiting fishos due to their favoured locations being exposed, but that wind will trigger them to gather all the same.

Good luck out there y’all.


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