The cold snap last weekend was a bit of a shock to the system, with single-digit temperatures a bit hard to take for May. Cold windy mornings gave way to awesome calm afternoons though, offering many a chance to get out on the bay. Unfortunately, the weather for this weekend (show day long weekend locally) looks like 20 knot south-southeasters for the duration. Mid-week will see a vast improvement, and at this stage there is a chance that the following weekend will be a good one.
Building tides for the next week leading into Thursday’s full moon will see activity peaking from a range of reef and pelagic species, as well as from our bread and butter species. Boaties and land-based anglers alike will have plenty of options over the coming week.
The Bay & Offshore
When the weather improves it will be worth a visit to our wider grounds, with the Southern and Northern Gutters producing a good mixed catch of reef fish. Coral trout and cod are smashing tea-bagged plastics and micro jigs as well as livies fished hard into the reefs during the slower parts of the tide. Grass sweetlip are particularly abundant up that way as well, though we no longer see the big numbers of those larger 4kg+ models that were so common a few years back. Throw in a mix of snapper, scarlets, parrot, hussar and moses perch and you end up with a somewhat colourful and tasty catch. The much sought after red emperor are a good chance this time of year, yet only if you can find some without the dreaded sharks in attendance. Cobia, spanish and school mackerel are on offer for those willing to put in some time trolling, livebaiting mid water or vertically spinning.
Over Rooneys way it is a little more subdued variety-wise, but you stand a better chance of finding bigger snapper and schooling squire and scarlets at this time. Expect to tangle with the odd cobia, spanish and schoolie from these reefs as well, and keep an eye out for surface-feeding schools of yellowfin tuna that have been reported from the Rooneys and Gutters areas in recent weeks. Heavily weighted jerkshad style plastics and both surface and sub-surface stickbaits will account for the yellowfin, as will a live yakka if you run into them without the right lures.
Speaking of tuna, there are still schools of longtail working the surface throughout Platypus Bay and the central bay. Closer inshore, it appears that most of the tuna schools are of the less desirable mack variety, but what they lack in prestige and eating quality they certainly make up for in heart and downright doggedness when hooked. As always, no matter where you hunt for tuna, go armed with a good variety of offerings to match the hatch as their diet varies as they hunt down different forms of bait as they travel. A selection of metal slugs from 20-50 grams, some 5 inch ZMan Jerkshads matched to heavy jigheads, smallish stickbaits and a few vibes will cover all the bases.
Many of the Platypus Bay reefs have been consistently holding large golden trevally recently, and these brawlers will happily scoff a metal jig, micro jig or plastic worked from the bottom up. Of course, livies will out fish other baits when it comes to goldies. Scarlets and squire are a good chance from the reefs up that way, particularly for those fishing into the evening. A few rogue knobbies will be a chance at this stage, but you can expect more snapper in coming weeks as more schools move into the bay.
That lazy southwesterly chop early morning can be rather off-putting for those hitting the inshore reefs, and for some reason the snapper aren’t keen on it either. Don’t be surprised to work hard for very little during an early westerly only to find the fish firing up as soon as the breeze shifts onshore. Results from the past week reflect this, with best catches coming from the mid day tide turns and late afternoon sessions. Snapper catches will improve this week as the tides build. No matter what historical catches suggest you might score from your favourite spots, there is a good chance that it will only be at its best if there is a good bait source in the area. This applies not only to snapper but to all other migratory species as well.
Blackall and sweetlip will be active at night and to a lesser extent during daylight, with some of the better catches possible from the Channel Hole and ledges along Fraser’s western shore. Sweeties this time of year are typically of a good size, but they won’t be around for much longer. Similarly, coral trout that have been firing inshore lately will become a little lethargic inshore as our waters cool further. Hopefully the flaming sharks will move on too, as they have been absolutely devastating for months.
Mackerel are well scattered throughout the lower bay area, with schools turning up anywhere there is a decent bait source. It sounds like they have been quite active from Gatakers to Toogoom in the vicinity of the winter whiting schools.
Winteries have finally started to turn up in better numbers. Best reports so far have been from the O’Reagans Creek area back to Gatakers Bay, with other schools having been found out near the Fairway, the shipping channel off the NU2 and from a few areas down the Straits. Last week’s neaps saw catches vary day to day, and whilst many bag limits were reached, word is the size is 50/50 (ie: throw back 50 for every 50 worth keeping).
For those looking to chase winter whiting for the first time here are a few tips. Firstly, use your lightest tackle and rig with a simple paternoster rig and small whiting hooks in size 6 or 4, with a sinker just big enough to hold bottom. Take care to know where you are fishing though, as only one hook is allowed in a yellow zone within our marine park. Bait the hook with a small slither of squid or piece of tentacle about 20mm long and no more than 5mm wide, or with a similar piece of sandworm or prawn. You can always pump yabbies and use them, but winteries are so easy to catch it seems unnecessary.
Possibly the most convenient bait is the GULP Sandworms in either 2 inch or 6 inch cut into 20mm pieces. The GULP works every bit as well as natural baits most days and has the added convenience of being at hand at any time without the need for refrigeration. GH Signature Bait Jigs in size 6 cut into 2, leaving 3 hooks per rig, have gained an increasing following over the years, with the added advantage of catching whiting even without any bait attached. Of course they work even better with small baits pinned once through the end on a hook or two.
Lots of people’s idea of finding whiting is to actually find whiting fishers. Okay, so heading over and joining a cluster of boats will often score you a feed, but remember that they are possibly all following someone else and fishing for caught fish. Note the grounds being targeted and see if you can find an active school of fish somewhere similar. It is very easy to simply pull up in 3-5 metres of water, drift for a while and see what you catch, and if not sufficient then try a similar approach nearby. The bag limit is 50 by the way, and that is a possession limit. There is no size limit, but don’t end up being spotted at the ramp with a bucket full of tiddlers, as it could be embarrassing.
Great Sandy Straits & Mary/Susan Rivers
River Heads’ jewfish population has copped a hammering in recent weeks, but boaties can look for them elsewhere around deeper rock bars, deep holes and drop-offs. Soft vibes and plastics will account for a jewie when he is ready to feed, as will a live bait fished near the bottom during the run or even on the surface at night over a tide turn.
Blue salmon are increasing in numbers down the Straits, working the flats and adjacent channels as well as moving into the larger creek systems. Often that surface bust up you see that reminds you of tailor (only more boisterous) will be a school of blues smashing some poor old herring. Throw a soft vibe, plastic or spoon in their direction and hang on for the ride. Blues get pretty big in these parts, so a decent leader of 40lb or so won’t hurt.
Random catches of threadies are still occurring down the Straits for many targeting other species, so if you want to target them and can handle the wind, then head down to your favourite creek system and work the drain mouths and adjacent holes with vibes and plastics as the flats and drains drain. Not surprisingly, the local barra have been moving into their winter holding areas and have shown a burst of energy as the cold threatens their future feeding opportunities.
Whiting will come on the chew with the building tides, as will the bream which continue to gather in number in the lower reaches of the Mary and Susan. Quality bream in excess of 40cm (about 42cm is a kilo) are quite a common catch at present. A steady berley trail will go a long way to holding the schools of fish for the bait fishers. Mini topwater lures, mini blades, hardbodies and plastics will all account for bream at the right time, so take the light gear for a bit of fun and use stealth and finesse to your advantage.
Local Beaches, Creeks and Urangan Pier
This week’s building tides should see whiting biting along our town beaches, the Eli Creek flats, the pier, and the Booral flats. Target them during the latter part of the rising tide and the first of the ebb and use yabbies or worms for bait. Mini poppers and surface walkers are terrific fun for those chasing whiting, but the local flats are better than the local beaches for those using this technique.
Topwater lures are also the go for queenies and little GTs for shore-based anglers from a number of areas including the Eli flats, Pt Vernon, Pialba rocks, and Beelbi Creek at Toogoom. Timing can be crucial, as your target species will be most active when their favourite bait source is moving through the area. Try your smallest offering in the same areas in a slower stop start retrieve for a few bream and flatties. It will pay to pack a squid jig or two if wandering around these rocky areas as a few tiger squid are starting to get active.
The Urangan Pier is worth a look for school and broad-barred mackerel. Spinning spoons at full tilt or livebaiting with herring are the tried and proven methods for mackerel from the pier. Bream numbers are increasing and will continue to do so, with the best captures still at night. Flatties can be targeted in the first channel and out the end with live pike or herring. Again, take squid jigs if heading out the pier as you will be annoyed to look over the side to see an unmolested school of squid without a jig in your kit.
Here’s hoping for an improvement in the weather, and plenty of opportunities to wet a line in the near future.
Good luck out there y’all.