Good Weather Never Lasts Forever
Overflowing boat ramp carparks again last weekend suggests that the majority of local and visiting fishos got out and enjoyed the sensational weather. Unfortunately, the light winds couldn’t last forever, and we are currently in the midst of a spell of moderate southeasterly weather combined with showers and light rain.
This trend looks set to continue right through till Sunday, when a very brief lull in the winds will allow boaties to hit the water for the day. It looks like a stiff southwester will take hold that evening, dominating the weather early in the week. Perhaps Wednesday will offer another brief reprieve from the winds, as a rather stiff southerly is forecast to kick in from next Thursday.
Obviously, all these predictions are reliant on the weather gurus getting it right, so things could well change. The barometer is going to take a dive again for the early part of the week, likely making for a tough bite. Monday’s first quarter moon phase heralds the latest set of neap tides, though there is still a fair degree of tidal variation in the neaps this time of year.
Big Pelagics Regular Captures in the Northern Bay
Like it or not, if you are hunting fish around the reefs and bait balls in the northern bay this time of year you are likely to encounter some rather large pelagics. From the Gutters to Rooneys and further south into Platypus Bay, there have been some very large cobia taking baits and lures, often meant for reef species.
Targeting cobia is a fairly simple affair, so long as you can track them down. Look for them around prominent ledges and reefs holding substantial amounts of baitfish or aggregations of juvenile demersals. They will rise to a berley trail, though their inquisitive and confident nature will often see them just swim up to a boat, where they can then be easily tempted to eat a well-presented bait, livie or lure.
Bobby Jeynes on Hot Reels Pro Fish Charters has put clients onto some great cobia recently, the best of which was estimated to weigh around 30kg. He has also managed to find plenty of quality spanish mackerel out around the Gutters area of late, adding another level of excitement to the usual reefies and trevally. A couple of red emperor are always a welcome addition to a charter boat’s esky and Bob’s prowess as a reef fisher certainly comes to the fore when it comes to the trophy species such as reds, scarlets and trout.
Driving away from snapper has been necessary since the implementation of the current snapper/pearl perch closure. There are bound to be snapper caught inadvertently in bay waters during this closure by reef fishos and sportsfishos whilst targeting other species.
Of course, there are some out there that cannot help themselves and have still actively targeted snapper on what could be regarded as fairly “snapper-specific” techniques. This activity should be discouraged if we want the best outcomes from this latest closure, as if the snapper stocks aren’t seen to improve, then we might expect much more drastic restrictions in the future.
Trevally numbers have swelled with the colder winter waters and whilst the average size of fish has taken a serious dive out at the Gutters and off Rooneys due to shark attrition over recent years, there are still some sizeable specimens on offer. Those favouring the sporting aspect of fishing can have a ball with big goldies, the odd reasonable GT, occasional XOS diamonds and plenty of bludger, long-nosed and brassy trevally along the bait-laden prominent ledges at the Gutters.
Reports from the Platypus Bay reefs suggest a similar scene, with good-sized goldies quite common, and plenty of brassies, though the other species are certainly of a smaller average size in those waters. Again, find the bait schools around or over some piece of reef or weed bottom (or sometimes just out in the paddock around mobile bait schools) and drop jigs, plastics or vibes into their midst for a ton of fun. Don’t be at all surprised to hook up to a longtail or large mack tuna down deep this time of year.
Where Have All the Mackerel Gone?
One week they are a pest in seemingly plague proportions and the next week they are hard to find. That is the latest story when it comes to our local run of school mackerel. They were turning up anywhere that held any amount of baitfish in recent weeks, yet reports from around the latest new moon suggests the majority have vacated our local waters. The odd fish is still turning up at River Heads and a few were mooching about in Urangan Channel recently, but the numbers have certainly dwindled.
Mackerel fans fear not however, as that run of small fish was just the first wave. Recent reports from Bundy suggest they are enjoying a good run of fish up that way and these fish will be on their way south to our waters. The Burrum coast should see a better class of fish turn up shortly, and Gatakers Bay, then our local shipping channels and reefs will come alive with the next run of schoolies.
In the meantime, if chasing a feed of mackerel, you could try the bait rich reefs out from Arch Cliffs, the Outer Banks or perhaps the Burrum 8 Mile or Fairway Buoy. Trolling high-speed hardbodies can be a great way of tracking down the mackerel when they are scattered. Once a school of fish is found, you can then drift through the area sinking metal spoons to the bottom and cranking them back at full noise.
Baitfish Scarce Down the Straits
Whilst baitfish numbers are swelling in the northern bay and throughout Platypus Bay, the general lack of baitfish down the straits is quite noticeable. There are schools of small herring in some of the creeks down that way, but the vast schools of herring and hardiheads we would expect to see in the main channels and their nearby verges are seemingly scarce.
The lack of baitfish in an area will certainly impact on the number of predatory species that would otherwise inhabit the same waters. Hence, the mackerel, tuna, tailor and trevally that should be abundant have been quite hard to find. Jewfish, and even flathead seem to be in concerningly low numbers for this time of year in areas that have been ever-consistent for eons.
This situation is likely to change as the tides and appropriate moon phases draw bait back to the area, but this could well be a direct result of the two-year drought we have experienced locally. If the latter is the case, then the southern straits should be in a far healthier state, as they benefited from substantially more rain than the northern waters last summer.
One bait species that is in good numbers in some areas down the straits is garfish. Schools of quite large gar can be seen up on some of the healthier flats over the higher stages of the tide. Anchor in the vicinity and get a berley trail going and you can score a feed (for those that favour the gar flavour) or perhaps some primo baits for the impending marlin season.
An appropriate float, some tiny hooks and small pieces of prawn or yabbie and you are in for some light tackle fun on these acroba