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Weekly Fishing Report - 24th February 2022


Paul with a solid golden trevally caught using a metal twisty with Tri from Fraser Guided Fishing.

Wild Weather Worsens with a Wet and Windy Weekend

Wild, wet and windy weather is about to batter the Wide Bay and Fraser Coast. At the time of writing, there is a massive rain band just offshore that the forecasters are claiming will cross the coast and dump massive falls in the hinterland to our south. Big rainfall totals are anticipated over the coming two days, with serious flooding a very real possibility.
The upper Mary River catchment has already received in excess of 300ml of rain over the past 48 hours and the river up above Tiaro is in moderate flood. Downstream from there, the river height is still considered “minor”, though the waters from upstream are on their way and will likely be impacting the reaches above Maryborough by the time you read this.

The current flooding in the Mary is of no real concern – it is welcomed in fact, for the betterment of our fisheries and the long-term benefits that result from flooding events. However, the potentially disastrous flooding event that may occur if the majority consensus of weather forecasters is correct and this latest rain event clips the Mary River catchment is of significant concern. No doubt, our friends in low-lying parts of Maryborough are a little anxious at the moment.

Now, as far as the weather forecast for potential boating or fishing activities is concerned, it is a little difficult to predict. Some modelling suggests that the trough and low will swiftly move south and leave calm waters in its wake, whilst another suggests it lingers south of us and the wind will maintain or even gain strength.

The most likely scenario would suggest southeasterly winds of around 15-20 knots for this weekend, along with a few more showers on Saturday. By Tuesday, the wind should drop out significantly, leaving light and variable winds for the middle of the week. Obviously, if planning on a boating trip, check the latest forecasts, as they are changing quite frequently.

Today’s last quarter will see the moon continue to wane towards next Thursday’s new moon. The current spell of neap tides will strengthen as the week unfolds and see substantially greater water movement over successive days. Things could get extra nasty if potential peak flooding occurs during the spring tides in a week’s time, so for our neighbours’ sake upstream in the tidal reaches of the Mary, let’s all hope this isn’t the case.

Northern Bay Produced the Goods Last Weekend

Whilst the weather doesn’t look too flash this weekend, this shouldn’t concern a large number of fishos, as they should be still well stocked in fresh fillets from their forays last weekend. We haven’t heard any reports from crews that headed over the bar, but some of those that headed due north and fished the Gutters and surrounds did quite well on a mix of reefies and mackerel.

The spaniards along the ledges of the Gutters are proving either annoying or a bonus, depending upon your view. They are taking live baits before they get anywhere near the bottom in some places, and are putting a serious dent in some crew’s lure collections. Spaniard fans can simply troll high-speed hardbodies such as Laser Pros, Halco Max’s or X-Raps and will soon trip over these speedsters if they follow the contours of the Gutter edges.

Large school mackerel are equally annoying (or a bonus) over parts of the rubbly country up that way, and are prone to the same bait/lure-intercepting tactics as the spaniards. They will also turn up when you least want them to on patches of yakkas lurking on the bottom out in the paddock. Spin these mackerel up on spoons or large slugs dropped to the bottom and cranked back vertically if you are feeling energetic.

Fraser Guided Fishing producing the goods again!

A couple of crews scored a decent haul of reef fish from the Gutters without too much attention from the sharks. Coral trout were the main actor, with the usual cast of sweeties, cod, squire, tuskies and the like setting the scene for the dead bait fishos. Not everyone was so lucky however, with tales of woe regarding the sharks still commonplace. The lack of effort on these northern grounds due to weather constraints of late has meant less sharks for now, but expect that to change as soon as the better weather and boating traffic returns.

North of Rooneys Point, there were reports of large numbers of decent-sized spotted mackerel. Surface bust-ups were commonplace and a fish a cast was the go at times, much to the delight of any kids onboard. Again, the sharks were less of a problem than generally anticipated around the spotties, though it was a vastly different story south of Rooneys.

Hervey Bay Pelagic Scene Livens Up

Last week, we aired concerns over the apparent lack of pelagic fish in Platypus Bay. As it turns out, you cannot make too many assumptions based on limited information. Word from regulars working that part of the bay suggested very low numbers of tuna and other pelagics in recent weeks. Well, that situation certainly turned around in a hurry, with reports of acres of tuna and swags of other pelagics scattered throughout the bay.

The Arch Cliffs 6 Mile was central to a lot of the action. Huge schools of mack tuna have attracted numbers of big sharks, whilst smaller schools away from the main action have been relatively shark-free. Again, the same thing has applied with the longtail tuna, with larger aggregations being shadowed by noahs, whilst solo or small packs of larger fish could be targeted with less shark attrition.

It's good to see more longtail tuna making there way into the bay. Pic: Fraser Guided Fishing

The baitfish attracting all the tuna and other pelagics is varied. There are big numbers of tiny baitfish being balled-up by the mack tuna, longtails and spotties. Nearby though, and throughout much of Platypus Bay, there are numbers of flying fish skipping out of the water everywhere. These flying fish are favoured targets for the longtails and for any marlin still in the bay.

Speaking of marlin, there are still a few scattered throughout the bay. At least one billy was sight-fished off Arch Cliffs last weekend, and there has been whispers of other random encounters elsewhere from those spinning for tuna.

Another fan of the flying fish, larger herring and gar is the good old queenfish. These guys are turning up in loose schools over reef systems holding baitfish, as well as out in the paddock as they pursue their favoured food sources.

Stickbaiters can have a ball this time of year, as they dance their favourite stickies across the surface in pursuit of queenies and longtails. Best you monitor your sounder for signs of noahs before risking your most expensive stickbaits these days however, and have plenty of other options such as jerkshads, slugs and spoons in the arsenal.

Kurt Rowlands from Hervey Bay Fly & Sportfishing putting clients onto longtail double hook-ups.

There was insane mackerel action out at the Fairway this week, with three species well represented. The area was lousy with schoolies, and some guys spun-up ridiculous numbers of these fish. You would kind of hope that they are doing the fish a favour and either flattening barbs or retrofitting single hooks to their spoons to minimise the damage done to fish destined for release. Most will move on after they have their limit of course, which it sounds like won’t take too long at all at the moment.

Quite a few spaniards also got in on the act out around the Fairway and they too took a liking to spoons spun at speed. Trollers also picked a few fish off by skirting the fringes of the rubbly grounds in the area, concentrating on patches of baitfish or mackerel spotted on the sounder.

Large broad-barred mackerel were also in attendance, rounding out the inshore mackerel trifecta. Broadies too, are suckers for metal spoons sunk to the bottom and spun back at speed. Like their cousins, they will also scoff a well-presented hardbody trolled around them. Bait fishos can offer a humble pilly or live bait rigged on a set of gang hooks and expect to catch all three mackerel species, with live baits sourced from the spot being numero uno.

The only regular pelagic genus that we didn’t hear too much about, was the good old trevally. Chances are that there have been goldies lurking around the reefs in the southern Platypus Bay area, the Outer Banks area and up towards Rooneys, but we just haven’t heard of any recent captures. The local guides target these critters regularly and are forever putting up pics on their social media streams, so perhaps their recent photos will tell the story.

Jiggers flipping slow-pitch jigs, hopping vibes, vertically spinning spoons or dancing plastics above the bait-laden reef systems will be the ones connecting to the goldies and their cousins. They shouldn’t be too surprised when their target goldie takes flight and turns into a large rampaging queenie these days, and should be ever-wary of sharks.

Grunter and Coral Trout Leading the Field of Inshore Targets
Our shallow fringing reefs were certainly popular over the recent full moon tides. Coral trout were the main target for many, either bait fishing with pillies, hardiheads or livies, or otherwise deploying select lures. Trollers picked up fish early morning, running lures that swam just above the reef. Those preferring to cast and retrieve opted for a mix of prawn imitation plastics, paddle-tailed plastics, soft vibes, swimbaits and glidebaits.

The edges of these shallow reef systems have been home to quality grunter since the recent floods, and they are now well scattered. You can find grunter along the fringes of the bay island reefs, the Pt Vernon reefs and elsewhere. Beach fishos should not be too surprised to hook large grunter whilst soaking a yabby for a whiting along our foreshores, especially after dark.

The deeper inshore reefs are proving quite productive of late, so long as you get lucky and avoid the sharks. This certainly isn’t an easy task nowadays, and is even tougher on well-known reefs. Again, coral trout are a major target species, for either those favouring live baits or those tea-bagging softies, vibes and slow-pitch jigs. Cod bycatch can be prolific, so please do our inshore reefs a favour and let the larger cod go unharmed.

Glass out conditions and dinner in the esky, more days like this please! Pic: Hervey Bay Fly & Sportfishing

A feed of grass sweetlip should be quite an easy affair if you can avoid the noahs. You will find sweeties in quite good numbers around many of our inshore reef systems, both deep and shallow. Of course, the shallows won’t be nearly as productive over the neaps, and the deeper reefs will be easier to fish without as much run.

You might pick up other reefies inshore, such as scarlets, blackall and tuskfish. Grunter are a strong chance from select sites in deeper water, such as the Burrum 8 Mile, the Fairway and some artificial reefs. The odd jack has surprised an occasional inshore reef fisho, whilst those that know their reef jacks know all too well where, when and how to target them this time of year.

Estuary Scene Ever-Changing

Just when our estuarine waters were starting to settle down and the fishing was on the improve – along comes another flooding event. Yes, the long terms benefits are great and certainly make up for a little short-term frustration. If, and it is still an “if” the Mary River floods in a big way again, then such a flood will again impact not only the river but the lower bay and Great Sandy Straits.

It would seem likely that the southern end of the straits, down Tin Can Bay way, will cop some pretty heavy rainfall, on top of rains already received in recent days. The mid sector of the straits is also in the firing line too, so localised flooding of smaller streams can have immediate impacts on the local fishing, prawning and crabbing scene.

This hasn’t quite happened as yet though, so let’s take a quick look at the latest from our estuaries. Firstly, the Burrum system, where all four rivers are still running quite dirty from recent rains and minor flooding. Although the netters have been active, you should be able to find a few barra lurking in the mid-lower reaches. The sandbanks can hold barra in dirty water flows, so don’t be too fixated on the usual snags and rock bars etc and suss out other possible feeding stations for these dirty water specialists.

The Burrum system’s healthy mangrove jack population will be super active. The threat of rain, the humidity and warm nights all contribute to prime jack feeding opportunities. Again, the lower-mid reaches are likely to produce the bigger numbers, with the rock bars in particular being prime sites for jacks. Picture mullet racing about or milling around over shallow rock bars in dirty water and you might imagine how jacks can use these conditions to feed in shallower waters than usual.

The threadies were just starting to show along the muddy verges and around the drains in the lower reaches of the Mary River. We will have to wait and see how this latest rain event plays out, but if nothing major happens, even the impending moderate flooding will flush out copious quantities of jelly prawn and trigger a major feeding spree from the threadies downstream.

Thready fans could be better served heading down the straits when the weather permits. Monitor the rains and work out which creeks are impacted, and look for threadies (and barra) feasting on the baitfish and prawns flushed out by the flooding. Our estuary predators are now well-acclimatised to the brackish waters and will seek to capitalise on new feeding opportunities as they eventuate.

Grunter can be found within some creeks, both along the mainland and along the inside of Fraser. Even better-quality grunter can be found out in the feeder channels in the straits, and these fish will often move up onto nearby flats under cover of darkness or stained waters to feed.

The ledges along the inside of Fraser, as well as some rocky reefs within the shipping channels of the straits should be home to schools of jewfish. Live baits will soon attract their attention, as will soft vibes and prawn imitation plastics. Trollers can pick up the odd jewie, and even the odd barra trolling deep divers slowly over these grounds, but they will have to endure a lot of estuary cod bycatch.

Fraser’s western creeks have been giving up some quality mangrove jacks of late. This scene will continue, though localised flooding might have some impact. A mix of species has been possible from certain creeks, from whiting and bream, to grunter of varying sizes, the odd barra, threadies and small jewies.

Prawning and Crabbing Bonanza

Plenty of keen crabbers have enjoyed the spoils of the local flooding several weeks ago. It looks as though there will be another crabbing bonanza in coming weeks as the latest flush of freshwater pours down the Mary and inundates the many creeks of the Great sandy Straits.

Mud crabbers have been picking up quality crab as they marched back up the creeks of late. Even moderate flooding will again see the crabs flushed back out, and the flats and verges outside the creeks come alive with active muddies once again.

Sand crabbing out in the bay is highly productive right now. The weather is keeping effort to a minimum, so when you get to soak some pots out off the west coast or in the central bay, you should score well.

Prawners are watching these rains with baited breath. Cast netting for banana prawns in our local rivers and creeks was just about to kick off, and likely already has for the clever prawners out there doing it and keeping it under wraps. You would be mad to head out on our estuaries in the near future without an appropriate prawning cast net on board.

These rains and the dark of the moon should trigger a series of prawn runs. The more mature (larger) prawn will come from the systems that received the earliest rains. If you recall where these early rains fell and can identify the creeks, then see you there soon.

Good luck out there y’all.

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