A filthy nor-wester and unsettled weather the past couple of days has kept fishos off the water and stirred up our inshore shallows once again. The forecast for the next few days looks to be dominated by westerly winds of varying strengths spawned by a big low between us and the Kiwis combined with troughs to our west. The movements of these types of weather patterns are often difficult to predict, so ensure you check the latest forecasts and be wary of storm activity. Presently, it looks like the early mornings will be the go over the coming weekend. Tomorrow’s full moon will have the impoundment barra fishos chafing at the bit, and realistically the dams look like a preferred option for the next few days.
The Hervey Bay Game Fishing Classic has been run and won, with congratulations to champion boat (over 7.5m) "Pole Dancer", and champion boat (under 7.5m) "Paddy Cat". The event drew a great fleet of about 45 vessels from north and south vying for the great prizes and honours such a competition offers. The billfish scene was basically non-existent inside the bay, with only minimal captures outside compared to recent efforts from local crews. Lots of blue marlin were raised, yet they proved to be rather lethargic and difficult to tempt.
The neap tides for the event may well have had a lot to do with the lack of enthusiasm from the marlin, but the inactivity of these large apex predators meant that the "lesser" pelagics were particularly active on the surface and featured heavily on the catch cards. Large numbers of mahi mahi from 4-20kg were caught on trolled skirts, along with stacks of yellowfin tuna to 35kg and plenty of wahoo in the 20kg range. These species were found across a wide range of depths from 20-200 metres and are a certain indicator that the East Australian Current is in full swing offshore.
Spotted mackerel were found in great abundance off Wathumba last weekend, with schools spread north and south of that general area. As crews came back in to re-stock on metal slugs it was interesting to hear their different stories and the varying results. Some crews had a ball, catching big numbers of sizeable spotties on 20 gram slugs in pinks and whites, whilst others had similar catches using 40 gram silver Twisties and Knights. Interestingly, over the same period, some crews (including pros) found the spotties incredibly difficult to tempt. These reports reflect the need to go armed with an array of lures to match the hatch and that timing is ever important. Given that fish do not feed constantly all day, you might find unwilling fish early, then come back to have them chew their heads off in the afternoon (or visa-versa).
Unfortunately the highly sought after baby black marlin that so often move into Platypus Bay waters this time of year have been very scarce. We will still likely see a few blacks turn up over summer, but these darn northerlies are doing little for that cause. Stay tuned for updates each week as the season progresses.
Our inshore reefs produced quite a few quality reefies for those that could avoid the sharks last week. The current weather pattern certainly looks a bit ordinary, but those keen on a feed of trout, cod, tuskfish and sweetlip may be able to sneak out in the early mornings to places such as the Roy Rufus arti, the Urangan Channel and other areas once the westerlies lighten up. The shallow reefs fringing Gatakers Bay could see a few trout taken on trolled hardbodies early in the morning if the winds drop out and turns to the southwest.
Queenfish have been turning up along our beaches to the west of town around the creek mouths. Some of these queenies have been over a metre and have been smashing stickbaits off the surface along with a variety of plastics and vibes. Reports of masses of herring moving into the Burrum River mouth last week suggest it may also be worth a look for queenies.
If there is one fish that thrives in these muggy blowy nor-westers it is the mangrove jack, and the four rivers of the Burrum system are full of them. These rivers offer good protection from the winds too, with high banks in many places and the rivers’ winding nature always has spots out of the wind. This weekend’s big tides will restrict lure fishing opportunities to the periods of lower flow around the tide turns, however bait fishos will be able to anchor up and fish baits of mullet and herring back into the many snags and rockbars.
Apart from the jacks, you will find a few flatties in the lower reaches and perhaps some queenfish chasing the abovementioned herring schools. Whiting are possible from the flats out the front on foot with micro poppers and stickbaits if the weather backs off enough to enable access.
Great Sandy Straits & Mary/Susan Rivers
The protected waters of the Mary and Susan Rivers and the Great Sandy Straits will offer plenty of opportunities for those chasing salmon, jewies, grunter and flathead over the full moon period. Take a range of soft vibes, small prawn-style and paddle-tailed plastics and shallow hardbodies to cover all options lure-wise. If you are inclined to troll, then shallow divers such as B52’s and Bombers are great producers when it comes to threadfin and blue salmon, and both species are possible from the large gutters in the vicinity of River Heads. The periods either side of low tide will be best when chasing the larger estuary predators in the channels, though if the wind backs off you can try the fringe of the mangroves up on the flats for salmon and grunter.
There are a few banana prawns on offer for those looking for live baits. Try the larger feeder creeks leading into the Mary and Susan, but be prepared to get dirty as the prawns are not running, they are more residential prawns washed out by that fresh a few weeks ago. Don’t expect to bag out by any means, though enough decent sized prawns can be found if you steer clear of the mini models.
This bout of filthy weather should be just the trigger to get a few mud crabs on the move. Their activity peaks with each full moon and if we get a storm or two then even better. Make sure you have your name and address marked on your pots, as required by law, and ensure you have enough rope attached to allow for the big tides. Looking for scratchings from active crabs along the muddy banks at low tide will be a fair indicator of recent crab activity, though working out where commercial and other crabbers have been of late can be challenging. Check your pots every couple of hours if possible and move them if they are not producing. Make sure you use fresh baits (mullet and fish frames are popular) and turf the old baits out away from where you intend to place your pots.
Urangan Pier and the Town Beaches
Sneaking into our local creeks flicking lures for jacks would be about the best option for shore-based anglers looking for a fishing fix out of the wind. The jacks should be active, but you will need to contend with the current, so time your efforts around low and high tide. Beelbi, O’Reagans, Eli and even Pulgul Creek hold some nice jacks, with estuary cod and flathead the likely bycatch.
Flats fishos could try the Booral flats during the westerlies, as the offshore wind will offer good access to these grounds. Those working micro poppers and stickbaits on the surface will find good whiting, bream and flathead, as will bait fishos working the same flats with worms, yabbies or small prawns. Don’t be too surprised to see some larger fish busting into the whiting and mullet, with threadfin salmon and bull sharks the likely suspects.
The Urangan Pier was producing a few flatties and queenfish prior to this latest blow, but the water is filthy out there again and will take a few days to settle. The tides are right for an assault on the whiting along our local beaches if conditions allow. Whilst the water may be quite dirty, remember that the whiting use this to their advantage to forage unhindered in the shallows and many of their favourite food items are dislodged by the wave action.
Here’s hoping for an improvement in the weather real soon.
Good luck out there y’all.