Our local show day public holiday tomorrow (Friday) has landed on top of a great spell of weather, with Friday looking good and the rest of the weekend outstanding. The lighter winds forecast for the weekend will certainly be welcome, and the showers we’ve enjoyed all week will clear by Sunday giving way to light southwesterlies early next week.
We are about to experience a period of very small neap tides, courtesy of this Monday’s quarter moon phase. These neaps will see the bite taper off for a range of species inshore, but will also offer opportunities for fishos to get out wider amongst the reefies and will make for easier fishing conditions in our rivers.
Whilst we have had no reports from our offshore grounds due to the weather this week, we would expect plenty of crews to take advantage of the forecast and head wide this weekend. 1770 is the planned departure point for a few crews heading north, but others will make their way out over the Breaksea Spit and further north towards Lady Elliot Island.
Some exceptional reef fishing is on offer out wide at present, but you will need to assess the conditions once you get out there. Reports from offshore in recent weeks suggest the East Australian Current has been a bit spasmodic, sometimes being minimal and at other times too strong to fish the deeper waters. Gear up with a view to fishing the shelf line for pearlies, snapper and jobbies, but be prepared to scale back on the leads and retreat to the shallower shoal country (30m-60m) if appropriate.
If the current is slight and the winds abate as they should, then a couple of drifts over the big schools of fish that hang over the top lip of the shelf should see bag limits filled pretty quickly, meaning you may well find yourself back in on the shoal country topping up with some coral reef fin fish anyway. Such a huge variety is possible from these grounds that could include red emperor, scarlets, red throat, green jobbies, maori cod, coronation trout, parrot and the bait-thieving masters – the tasty little hussar.
Now whilst the above scenario may seem way too simple, and it possibly is, you might just have one major stumbling block to contend with and that is - the sharks. They have been bad outside over the shoal country of late, so do the right thing and shift some distance if they find you. The shark attrition can be a shocker fish-wise, but they will also take their toll on your tackle too, so take plenty of spare sinkers and think about rigging with heavy balls on running rigs in lieu of paternosters so that at least you get your sinkers back when they bite you off.
Pelagics-wise, the offshore scene has been a bit tame by our standards lately, though if you look for big amberjacks along the shelf line or above the bigger pinnacles in closer you will get the arm-stretching you may so desire. Other than that, you may find a few schools of spanish or cobia over the shallow reef country, but better to wait for bigger tides if looking for offshore GTs.
The good weather will see a convoy of vessels heading to the Gutters vying for a feed of reef fish. Coral trout will be the main target for many, be it on live baits or tea-bagged plastics and micro jigs. The small tides will make this task so much easier for those un-accustomed to anchoring on narrow ledges, but the sharks will take their toll.
The Gutters and Rooneys reef systems will also offer a crack at other reefies, with a mixed bag likely to be dominated by grass sweetlip, cod, trout, squire and scarlets if you get lucky. Night or pre-dawn sessions could produce a few early season snapper, though big blackall and spangled emperor will have you thinking you’ve got a good knobby if you let your baits make it to the bottom.
Expect to pass plenty of mack tuna schools and a few longtails in the central bay if heading north, and drop in on the 25 Fathom Hole for a glance for any snapper that may have turned up. If you aren’t staring at vast schools of yakkas when you sound around the Fathom Hole then you might as well keep travelling. School and spanish mackerel are likely around the hole at present, but they will make short work of your snapper plastics.
A lot of crews in smaller boats will spend their time over in Platypus Bay looking for their sportsfishing fix. Longtails have been thick till now, but are due to start tapering off. Do the miles and you will find some surface action, but remember that the tuna will tend to start feeding deeper in the water column this time of year as they turn their attention to larger forms of food such as yakkas and herring.
There has been increasing numbers of mackerel up that way, with a mackerel trifecta of spanish, broadie and schoolie all possible in a day session. Keep an eye on the sounder when passing over reefs and bait schools and you will find plenty of various trevally species of varying sizes to drop your plastics and jigs to. Again, the sharks are bad, and particularly fond of loitering around bigger aggregations of fish or boats, so be warned.
Reef fish are copping a hammering from the sharks throughout the whole bay and their toll is starting to impact very heavily on our fish population. The best we can do is to drive away from them when they turn up and avoid feeding them unnecessarily. If you have a great little spot somewhere that no-one seems to know, then do your best to keep it a secret or the sharks will turn up there too when others find it and the boat traffic increases.
If you are lucky and are fishing a shark-free piece of Platypus Bay then you should score a feed of squire and scarlets and perhaps some grunter, sweetlip, cod or trout (depending on the nature of the structure below). Neap tides will do little to trigger a bite from any proper snapper, but you never know your luck at night in a berley trail. Traditionally, it is a bit too early for any significant migration of snapper to that part of the bay, but they won’t be too far away.
A few snapper have made their way inshore since our waters cooled recently, though still only in very small numbers. Nice squire to a few kilos have been more frequent captures around our reefs but they too will be more active when the tides build again. Sharks have taken a terrible toll to this point and we can only hope they rack off when the water cools further.
The neaps will mean fairly easy fishing for a feed of grass sweetlip around the reefs within our local shipping channels, with night sessions likely to produce bigger fish more consistently. The sweeties will soon start to move on but some of the better models will hang around right into winter. Blackall will stretch your lines if fishing soft baits of prawn, squid or strip baits around heavy reefs and if you get lucky you might stumble over a few good scarlets.
Normally the turn of tide will be the prime time for a bite from trout and cod, but these smaller neaps will offer a crack at them throughout much of the tide phase. Anchoring accurately and deploying live baits on fairly heavy tackle will do the job on the bigger/wiser fish, but a tea-bagged plastic or vibe will still be the undoing of many.
Mackerel have really turned it on inshore this past week or two, and are wreaking havoc on reef fishos dropping plastics and jigs for more desirable species. Those partial to a meal of smoked mackerel are spoilt for choice right now with both broad-barred and school mackerel being well represented throughout much of the southern bay. Places to start looking include the Burrum 8 Mile, the Fairway, the Bait Grounds, the Simpson Arti, the Outer Banks, Mickies, the wrecks on the Roy Rufus Arti, the ledges of the Channel Hole and Boges Hole.
Live baits, pillies on gangs, squid strips and whole squid will all attract their share of mackerel, though you can also troll high-speed diving lures or get real energetic and spin them up on the trusty old Flasha Spoons.
There have been a lot of grunter spread over grounds in the western bay, mainly centred around the Fairway beacon. The bigger models are certainly a more common catch at night and more-so when the tides are bigger, but you can still score a few over the neaps. If you don’t find them, then either search wider or set up a bottom-set berley trail in the vicinity of schools of herring/yakkas.
Queenfish and golden trevally have also been common captures from the lower western bay of late, from the waters in close to the edge of the Point Vernon reefs to the Bay Islands. Stickbaits and poppers provide the most fun when it comes to catching queenies, but the goldies are more likely to take a deeper presentation of plastic, vibe or micro jig. Mackerel are also quite prolific in these western waters and will take a trolled lure, metal spoon or a live bait.
Numerous schools of longtail tuna have been passing through our local shipping channels and down the Straits this past week or so. This is likely part of their migratory path, with reports of quite big longtail frequenting the channels out from Poona and from down near Inskip Point, but this also coincides with the movement of vast schools of small herring that have passed through our local waters recently. Whatever their reason for their being there, there they are, and although very very flighty they are well worth preparing for, even if that means just having a spin outfit at the ready for when they pop up within casting range.
The local winter whiting fishos have been restricted to the grounds fairly close to Gatakers Bay of late, partly due to the windy weather, but also due to the good returns they are achieving from those waters. The size has been good of late, and the winteries are responding well to the same old proven baits of GULP worms, small squid strips, frozen beach worms and for those that think it is necessary – yabbies.
Burrum River System
Sand crabs have been on the move out off the Burrum Coast in recent weeks. Numerous reports of some lowlife/s cutting open crab pots have soured what has been an otherwise productive fishery for those willing to gear up for crabbing the deeper water. Good numbers of sandies have been possible, even though the number of pots in the water is increasing.
Up off Woodgate there have been some good quality winter whiting of late and quite a few schools of mack tuna. Will the prawns turn up there with the southwester next week? Who knows. They certainly didn’t show on the last westerly blow, and this has been one prawn season that has had everyone guessing and hoping for a miracle.
Mackerel have been on offer for trollers, spinners and bait fishos alike, be it from the shipping channel, the drop off out the front or the 8 Mile.
The Burrum Heads area has finally started to produce a bit of action, with a few decent early season tailor turning up in the river with the recent full moon. A couple of good barra were taken on live baits from the local shoreline, with big queenies also smashing live pike. The full moon saw a run of decent bream move down into the lower reaches that should keep a few of the locals happy, and it won’t be long before flatties again feature frequently.
Mary/Susan Rivers & the Great Sandy Straits
Jewies are on the target list for those fishing the River Heads area, the deeper holes and rock bars in the Mary’s lower reaches or along Fraser’s western ledges. The neap tides will make them a viable option in the deeper water out in the mouth of the river, but you will want to time your efforts to coincide with the turn of tide. Deploy vibes, soft plastic prawns or paddle tails, or drop live baits and you are in with a chance at the jewies, plus a bit of likely estuary cod bycatch.
The neaps will see threadies school up in the deeper holes in the rivers and they will be easy targets for those dropping soft vibes. You might even score a barra or two, but that task is getting a bit tougher as our waters cool so make the most of these times.
Flatties and grunter are a chance from the shallower gravelly banks within the lower Susan and the big gutters in the lower Mary. Bream are increasing in numbers too as they migrate downstream to spawn. Target the bream around the rocky shores of South Head or around the rock bars within a few miles of the heads.
Urangan Pier, Local Creeks & Beaches
The Urangan Pier is offering land-based fishos a crack at some bigger fish at present, with school, spanish and broad-barred mackerel all making an appearance recently. These neap tides should be good for more pelagic action, and the chance of queenies, golden trevally and passing schools of longtails makes it a hotspot if you are lacking in the boat department.
Bream numbers are on the increase too, but it will be those fishing at night that will score best over the neaps. Flathead will become a more common capture as winter approaches and they are particularly susceptible to a live pike pinned to the bottom during the early flood tide.
The small tides won’t do much for our local town beach fisheries, except perhaps for a few flatties around Torquay Rocks, the Groynes or the gutters along the Pialba stretch.
Beelbi Creek at Toogoom is the spot to head if you are looking a bit of shore-based surface action. Queenies, both large and small, and a few fun-sized GTs have been smashing poppers and stickbaits worked across the creek around the back of sandbanks and over the deeper holes and gravel runs.
As expected, Lenthalls is firing for bass at the moment, with very good fish taking a range of lures. Their diet seems to be changing however, as lures that worked a month ago are barely getting a sniff, with smaller vibes and plastics now dominating. The barra are a strong chance as well, but the bass fishing has been so good, with such big numbers of often sizeable fish, that quite a few fishos have given the barra a wide berth in favour of the bass. Go Figure ....
Good luck out there y’all.