Pack a Brolly if Heading Out This Week
If you got lucky and snuck out during the all-too-brief spells of better weather this week, then chances are that you did quite well. Good reports have filtered in from successful fishos from a range of locations locally, with the making tides triggering a great bite from a range of our winter species.
The weather forecast for this weekend has been deteriorating daily, with the latest suggesting that we are in for a soggy weekend, with even more showers predicted for the coming week. Saturday in particular, looks fairly damp with consistent rainy periods. The winds might only seem quite light, but you had better consider the effects of wind against tide if planning on venturing too far in smaller vessels.
It looks as though a moderate south-southeasterly breeze will dominate the working week, blowing a few showers onshore. As tomorrow night’s full moon wanes, so will the bite thereafter for many species, so perhaps not all is lost. Even sneaking out before the moon to get the last of the best of that bite might be a little too challenging for many with a northerly wind in the mix for the next couple of days.
Last year’s snapper season in Hervey Bay was atrocious. This winter is already looking somewhat better, with quality knobbies being reported from numerous locations throughout the bay. Even smaller squire numbers seem to have improved, so let’s all hope this trend continues.
Perhaps that brief snapper closure last winter had some positive effect. Our bigger fish are suckers for so many techniques, are reasonably easy to find and catch, and are so highly sought after that the reprieve from angler effort during their peak spawning period is bound to have some long-term benefits. By the way, there will be another closure for snapper and pearl perch in Qld waters from 15th July to 15th August inclusive, so keep that one in mind for the near future.
Over the last week, quality knobbies have been found out wider in the central and western bay, with a few scattered schools doing their best to avoid the sharks over in the east. The southern bay produced some great fish too, amongst reasonable numbers of squirey snapper beneath the bag limit cut off of 70cm.
The Gutters and Rooneys reefs will now be home to snapper for the remainder of winter. Finding the sections of reef holding quantities of bait will soon find the snapper (and trevally and cobia), which should be targeted at dawn, dusk or into the evening for best results.
Over in Platypus Bay it is a matter of finding a suitable bait-laden ground that hasn’t also got attending sharks. Daylight drift sessions with plastics and jigs is fine for most of us nowadays, but night sessions are the go for the bait fishos. A steady berley trail will help to draw and hold the snapper, but don’t overdo it as you will only attract the vermin. The trevally clan are building in numbers in Platypus Bay too, so sportsfishos can have a ball sinking appropriate artificials to the schools found on the sounder.
The 25 Fathom Hole gave up some excellent snapper last week. Simply drifting through or past the hole hopping plastics and jigs will pick up the bigger fish. Try bait fishing there during the daylight and you will be eaten out of the boat by undersized or barely legal squire and other tiny demersals. Sunset and night time is the go for bait fishos, particularly over the bigger tides around the new and full moon.
For those new to our area, be aware that approximately 2 nautical miles NNE of the 25 Fathom Hole is the sunken wreck of the HMAS Tobruk. This is a No Fishing Zone, yet strangely enough, divers have said that there is the remnants of fishing tackle all over the wreck. There are buoys floating above the wreck to indicate its position and enable dive boats to moor, with an extended fishing exclusion zone surrounding the site.
Google HMAS Tobruk and you can get the actual co-ordinates, so it won’t be hard to avoid. Check out the You Tube videos from the divers and you will see plenty of drool-creating demersal species lurking beneath the structure. Do not be tempted to fish there though, day or night, as it is well-monitored and anyone low or foolish enough to be tempted would only draw scorn from the local community anyway. As fishos, we can only hope that this prime breeding and feeding site will see quality fish protected in that area that will filter off to other accessible grounds.
Closer inshore, there were quality knobbies reported from the Fairway, Outer Banks, Simpson arti, Moon Ledge and the Roy Rufus arti. No mention from the Burrum 8 and 12 Mile reefs, but chances are that a few fish have also turned up there for a night feed this week. In all cases, those that succeeded in any of the above areas found the baitfish to find the snapper.
Plenty of other inshore locations produced a good feed of squire, including the Urangan Channel, NU2 shipwreck, Boges Hole, the Kingfisher Bay ledges, the Black Buoy, Mickies and the drop-offs fringing the bay islands. As with the other snapper hotspots mentioned above, the sharks were an issue for many, so play the game and please keep mobile to avoid feeding too many fish to the noahs.
Dane with a nice bay snapper caught on a soft plastic.
Logan with a late afternoon squire.
A nice double hook up on snapper caught on soft plastics.
Logan with a bit of snapper by-catch, a nice grunter.
Dane managed to pin a nice jewfish (mulloway) on one of the last casts of the session.
We’ve mentioned trolling for snapper so many times recently that you are likely sick of reading about it. The fact is though, that many newbies to the bay benefit greatly from a few trolling sessions with snapper as their main target. The reefs locally are haunted by huge sharks that rarely let a big snapper past them nowadays, so trolling nearby areas from a vessel that doesn’t draw the sharks’ attention as it hasn’t stopped or anchored, so often sees big snapper hooked, fought and landed that would have been quickly devoured if hooked via other techniques in that area.
Trollers should certainly concentrate their efforts over any furry bottom that is holding baitfish schools, though they can also simply follow the hidden contours of the many channels and ledges that lead into and out of the various reef systems in the area. Many new spots will be found, and bycatch of estuary cod, coral trout, mackerel and trevally will be welcome additions to the esky or photo album.
The local favourite, the Classic Dr Evil is still pulling the best fish in these parts, but a few crews have been dredging deep with the 100mm and 120mm Nomad DTX Minnows and scoring as well. The DTX certainly offers a speed advantage for those looking to cover a bit of territory and will be well received by any pelagics it swims past. If planning to troll the drop-offs along the fringes of our shallow reefs, then you have a few well proven local faves such as Predatek Spoonbills, Tilsan Barras, 4m 90mm Scorpions and 80mm Warlocks that can all pull squire, trout, cod and mackerel.
The NEW Molix RT Fork Flex and Daiwa Bait Junkie Jerkshads have been dynamite on the snapper this season.
Soft plastics have been enticing snapper for many years now, and many tackle companies focus a lot of their R&D on this species. Old faves such as GULP and Zman jerkshads will continue to score, but new players are refining their modelling with snapper in mind. Try Daiwa’s Bait Junkies, Gobblers Jerkshads or the nifty new RT Fork Flex from Molix if you are looking to mix it up or tempt wary fish.
Herring and small yakkas are easily mimicked with soft vibes, and whilst plenty of models have pulled snapper in the past, it is the new Vertrex Swims from Nomad that are tricking the bigger fish in deeper inshore waters this season. The Swims rely on a meandering swim action on the drop, whilst its sister vibe, the Vertrex Max vibrates hard with any lift of the rod tip and is a great candidate for grubbing close to the bottom when the fish are super wary mid-water.
Occy jigs of many styles had their day in the sun in recent years, but struggled to keep up with other more popular imitations. Enter Daiwa with their Kohga jigs and they changed the game. Tested in the snapper heartlands of New Zealand and since applied to Aussie waters, these unique little jigs have revolutionised snapper and reef fishing for many.
Kohgas won’t appeal to everyone, as, like other occy jigs, they work best with minimal rod work - but their effectiveness cannot be denied. Where the Kohgas excel, and possibly should be a natural addition to a family fishos kit, is for the other half of the fishing family that comes along for the ride, loves to catch fish, but struggles to put up with the barrage of “advice” being offered by the skipper.
Simply tie on a Kohga to a suitable (reasonably soft) rod, plant the rod in the rod holder and kick back and wait for the fish to hook themselves. The colours might just appeal to some of the fairer fishos out there too. If you need some convincing, then check out the many You Tube clips online.
Daiwa Kohga jigs and soft vibes like the Nomad Vertrex definitely have a place in the snapper fishos tackle arsenal and can be deadly.
School Mackerel and Trevally Feasting on Local Baitfish
Mackerel fans are excited by the arrival of numbers of schoolies into the bay recently. The bait schools in the waters off the Burrum coast, just out from Gatakers Bay, the Fairway, the Outer Banks and a few other inshore reef systems have all felt the impact of these fun little speedsters. Great fodder for the family fisho, so easily caught by so many means.
Trollers are still favouring Laser Pro 120s, but Barra Classics, RMG Scorpions, Rapala CD Mags and X-Raps are all worth a troll. Once the fish are found, you can quickly resort to spinning spoons, or can anchor up or drift through the area with gang-rigged pilles, live baits or whole squid.
The winter “run” of trevally is well under way. The Gutters reefs have been flooded with hordes of trevors of various types. A scene that is somewhat mirrored off Rooneys and over in Platypus Bay. If you are into eating trevally, then certainly target the very common long-nosed variety, but most only target trevors for sport, so the more photogenic diamonds and goldies are considered more appealing. Other members of the clan, such as bludgers, brassies, GTs, gold spots, turrum and others all pull just as hard and can keep you guessing as to what’s coming up next.
The thumping fights from trevally after trevally are often interrupted these days by big runs from large cobia or spanish mackerel in the northern and central bay. Those yet to tangle with a big cobe are in for a treat. They can gain huge proportions in these parts, with fish to 30kg somewhat common and monsters exceeding 50kg out there for the “lucky”. Fight these bruisers gently, with nice smooth rod work and as little drag as you dare and they will come to the boat in no time. Fight them hard, jerk at them on locked up drags and you are in for an intense battle.
We’ve had no word of tuna at all this week. There will be a few longtails and macks out there in the bay somewhere, but chances are that they have changed tactics for the winter and are feeding deeper in the water column on yakkas and herring.
Tri from Fraser Guided Fishing has been finding some good schools of queenfish, trevally and even some late season longtail tuna. Above images: Fraser Guided Fishing
Winter Whiting and Crabs on the Move
It seems as though the winter whiting off Gatakers Bay have moved on. A few were found off O’Reagans Creek briefly, but it is time to seek them out yet again. Try the waters from Toogoom to Burrum Heads, based on our most recent reports of decent hauls of quality ‘ting off the Burrum.
Of course, a few whiting turned up west of Woody Island as soon as we claimed there were none there. Some crews are still failing to find any number down that way whilst others score a good feed. Bag limits have yet to be mentioned. Toadfish can be a real issue down that way, so keep that in mind and be prepared to go through a bit of tackle and bait.
The sand crabs are still potting well off the Burrum coast. Outside the Woodgate green zone and down south towards Toogoom continues to produce decent numbers. There are a few in closer off Pt Vernon and Urangan, but only small numbers.
This full moon is likely to see the last of the best of this season’s mud crabbing. The rains this weekend can only help to get them moving. Recent reports suggest they have made their way back upstream in our estuaries, with good crab now in the upper reaches of our major rivers.
It's always worth carrying some squid jigs on board this time of year. Tri from Fraser Guided Fishing picked off a few for the dinner table.
Cold Waters Favour the Winter Species in Our Estuaries
River Heads fishos have been scoring a few pencil squid off the pontoon and boat ramps at night recently. These make for exceptional live baits for jewies and have been the undoing of many fish again this season. Boaties have a vastly greater advantage, being able to anchor and/or drift the area with live baits or lures and can seek out the jewies between there and South Head with a decent sounder.
The clean water again this winter has seen a smattering of decent squire, blackall and even tuskies in the river mouth. Night sessions are the go for the squire and blackall. Squid are the obvious bait, but large prawns work equally well when the tide isn’t raging. Expect plenty of small estuary cod as bycatch.
We are yet to hear of any school or broad-barred mackerel at the heads, but they should not be too far away. Tailor are also likely to make an appearance soon, with quite reasonable numbers showing up regularly down the straits. Look for an influx of hardiheads as the trigger to draw in the mackerel and tailor.
Blue salmon are the most common large predator down the straits at present. Threadies are still a chance, as they are all winter, but being a dirty water specialist, they tend to feast at night time in winter and can be a real challenge to tempt during the day. Look for them in the deeper holes in the larger creeks as they school up and try soft vibes, small plastics or small live baits.
The latest word form the Burrum system has been of a few flatties since the neaps, with a few tailor in the lower reaches and bream around the mouth. There is likely to be a few decent summeries on offer over the full moon, but few would venture out chasing them this time of year. Still no word on the trevally or queenies in the Burrum, but stay tuned.
Tiger squid have been making their way into the Burrum, so always have jigs on board if heading up that way. Our local squid have copped a bit of a flogging, but there is still a feed on offer for those willing to seek them out away from the usual hotspots. It won’t be long and the clearer waters pushing down into the straits will see the squid scatter throughout the labyrinth of channels, islands and reefs down that way.
Our new reel repair guru Mark is a die hard fisho and has been getting into some nice fish like this blue salmon (above) and quality dusky flathead (below).
Full Moon Bream Action on the Pier
Landlubbers taking a wander out towards the end of the pier over the next few nights should score well on the bream. Locals have reported better sizes, with numbers also improved. Kilo plus fish are still all to rare, but most are happy with the run of bream in the mid-thirties.
The recent neap tides saw plenty of flatties caught. They are absolute suckers for live pike in the first channel, or out the end along the slope of the sandbank. They can be a bit tougher to catch over the spring tides, compared to the neaps (when they can be readily sight-fished).
Pier fishos should always keep the 75cm maximum flathead size in mind, particularly when considering landing the fish. Gaffing and releasing an oversized flatty is just poor form and should be avoided. Size her up from above and if deemed too large then handline her up once she is worn out, break her off, or better still, ask someone with a drop dilly to lift her up for you.
Chances are there will be a couple more jewies landed from the pier over the full moon. Live baits out towards the deep end are the go after dark on the tide changes. For a bit more of a challenge though, try to drag one out from the between pylons on a soft vibe or large prawn imitation if you reckon you are up to the challenge.