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Weekly Fishing Report - 25th November 2021

Kurt Rowlands with a nice barra from a recent trip to Lake Awoonga.

La Nina Declared and a Wet Week Ahead for Us

Many fishos enjoyed last weekend’s glorious weather, heading far and wide in search of reef and pelagic fish. At the same time, quite a few headed for the barra dams, whilst plenty of fishos stranded onshore hit the pier and other local land-based hotspots. That great weather didn’t last however, with a bit of rain and wind since Monday restricting fishing activities somewhat.

We only had around 35mm of rain here in Hervey Bay on Monday apparently, but just to our north copped an absolute drenching. Falls in excess of 100mm were recorded around the Howard area and even more just north of there. They didn’t cop as much rain in the previous event, but all streams are flowing fresh up that way now.

The weather bureau is predicting big rains in coming days for our district. Friday could see the best of it, but most weather sites are suggesting in excess of 20mm of rain daily until mid-next week. Storms are very likely with the peak rain activity, but otherwise, once the trough moves overhead, the moderate northerly wind should swing to the southeast throughout Sunday and then tend lighter from the east or variable for the early part of next week.

Perhaps riding out the rain and northerlies onshore and then sussing out the latest from the bureau with a view to fishing Sunday or mid-week would seem prudent given the current synopsis. Even once the wind eases, the rains will continue, so expect to get wet over the coming week. Please do not take risks with floodwaters in our rivers and creeks. We don’t really have the hilly terrain that triggers flash-flooding as frequently as elsewhere, but the risk is still real in extreme conditions.

Tides-wise, there will be minimal current flow in coming days as we enter another neap phase courtesy of the half moon Saturday. This heralds the start of the third quarter moon phase, which means dark nights prior to a moon rise later in the evening. The neap tides and excess freshwater run-off will mean our streams will be fairly fresh, so keep that in mind if planning to head upstream in our estuaries.

Rains Lifting our Dam Levels but Barra Still on the Chew

Good rainfall in Lake Lenthalls’ catchment has resulted in a rise in water level of over a metre, on top of a lesser rise previously. In storage-level terms it has risen from 48% a couple of weeks ago to somewhere close to 70%, and is still rising. So far, the influx of water has been relatively clean, courtesy of the earlier rains greening the countryside and minimising the inflow of exposed topsoil.

There is every chance that the predicted rains this week could fill or over-top the dam, as even though Lenthalls is only a tiny lake, it fills very quickly due to its multi-stream catchment. Level 3 Water Restrictions are currently still in place in our council area, but perhaps these restrictions may be eased in the near future.

Fishing-wise, the cooler days and lack of sunshine has dropped the water temperature and taken the sting out of the intense barra bite of recent weeks. If you know impoundment barra though, you will know how they react to heavy inflows and would soon be hooked up regularly, even in cooler conditions. There has been a lot more people fishing Lenthalls this season than usual (but ain’t that the case everywhere). Groups of kayakers have been having a ball, catching bass and barra with all manner of lures on a regular basis.

Rob has been having a tonne of fun on the Lenthalls barra

If you were at Lake Monduran on Monday, then you would have experienced a rather significant downfall. It teemed down for hours and the lake rose over 100mm just from the local fall. Thereafter, the lake continued to rise from the inflows from every little gully and creek. It has risen at least 300mm from Monday’s downfall.

Being the owner of the only vehicle at the otherwise-crowded boat ramp Monday afternoon, suggests that perhaps your scribe was the only one to ride out the weather in a boat. Did those fishos sheltering from the weather miss out on much? Hell, yeah, they did. Apart from having to pump the boat out a few times and sit out the worst of the torrential falls, the barra went absolutely ape and smashed lures all over the joint. But hey, they bit just as well all day the day before as well, much the same as they have done for at least the past two months. Let’s all hope the impending rains don’t mess things up too much.

Minor floodwater inflows through the small gullies and waters tumbling down the many waterfalls scattered around the more mountainous terrain offer a unique fishery rarely enjoyed in Monduran. You must be there during or immediately after the rain event to reap the rewards, but when the barra stack up in these frothy inflows, the fishing is something to behold. An opportunity-missed this week perhaps, but something to consider for the potential rainfall event/s this week coming.

There was quite a crowd of trollers working the main basin and the nearby stretches of lake for “pelagic” barra cruising the deep water and its fringes. Apparently, the bite was good, and many hooked up regularly right up until the passing of the full moon. Thereafter, the bite waned dramatically, at least early in the night anyway, with the late moon-above period saving some persistent trollers from dough nutting.

Watching a barra scoff a frog imitation off the surface is something else, if you haven't done it before maybe pack a spare pair of dacks for afterwards.

Something else for Mondy fans to consider for the near future – the frogs. Spend any time on the water up there after dark and you will appreciate that they are almost deafening (at least in the echo-prone tight gullies). Duck your head underwater in the daytime too and you will hear a similar noise.

Frogs will now be high on the menu for Mondy barra and they are already scoffing artificial versions worked both slow and fast across the surface. Make sure you pack some frogs and give the lake’s edges and gullies a good working over for some of the most visually-exciting barra fishing you can do in a lake. Similarly, other topwater offerings such as poppers, fizzers and stickbaits will all come into their own for those fishing dawn, dusk or evenings.

The Zman Hard Legz frog rigged on a TT Chinlockz 6/0 worm hook is a great choice.

Reef Fishos Scored a Good Feed Up and Down the Coast

Last weekend’s great weather saw stacks of larger vessels heading for the horizon. A few locals ventured north to 1770 and scored well on trout and a mixed bag of reefies. Others headed south and scored quality red emperor, snapper, pearl perch and parrot over the Wide Bay Bar.

A number of boats headed for Breaksea Spit and fished shoal country and continental shelf waters east of there. Great hauls of large venus tuskfish combined with a good mix of reefies from the shoals that included the likes of coronation trout, maori cod and red throat, amongst plenty of others.

Those that snuck out to the deeper waters of the shelf and deployed the deep dropping gear found a mix of species in fishable conditions due to the light winds and slight-moderate current. Snapper and pearl perch were found in 200m by some, whilst others found bar cod, flamies and other jobfish a little deeper again.

Wayne and Sue Parr put together a nice bag of reefies on a recent trip over the bar

Pelagic Activity Increasing Inshore

The offshore marlin fishery is not nearly as well-patronised this season as in recent years. There are several, generally COVID-related, reasons for this as we have mentioned in a recent report. Without many boats on the grounds hunting the big blues and other billies, this season’s results so far seem somewhat subdued. It will be interesting to see how the ports to our south fair as the fish continue on their southerly migration.

Inshore, it has been quite the opposite scene. There has been an absolute plethora of smaller boats up in the northern bay any time the weather enables access. There have been quite a few little blacks caught inshore this year. Some crews have faired very well, with multiple captures recorded, whilst plenty more have failed to score. The inshore black marlin fishery is far from over as yet, so once the sun comes back out, if you are still keen on chasing young stickface, then head for Rooneys and give it a crack.

Whilst up that way, you are very likely to encounter many schools of mack tuna busting up on the surface. There has been increasing numbers of longtail up in the pocket recently, though where they turn up after this weather event is open to debate. Some fairly substantial longtails are in the mix up that way of late too, with the odd fish threatening the 20kg mark on the scales.

By the way, surface-feeders such as tuna can tend to swim and feed a little deeper in the water column during spells of inclement cloudy weather. Their usual tactic of forcing the baitfish to the surface to be disorientated by the glare of the sun is a failure in such conditions.

A good eating size spanish mackerel caught on a charter with Hervey Bay Fly & Sportfishing (outside of the exclusion zone).

We should be hearing about the first of this season’s spotted mackerel over the coming week. They are certainly due to arrive about now, if not already, and should front up somewhere across the northern bay. Again, like the tuna, they will fail to bust up on the surface in the same manner under cloud and rain as they will on a bright sunny day. Pack plenty of small metal slugs and keep your eyes peeled for birds and white-water commotion beneath when heading up the bay in coming weeks.

Mackerel fans have been enjoying a good run of schoolies up in Platypus Bay recently. They are a “pest” on many of the reef systems out wider too, such as off Rooneys and over at the Gutters. Sink a spoon or large metal slug and crank it back vertically over or nearby to any reef system holding baitfish and you will soon connect to a schoolie if they are there. Trevally will also get in the act as well, and even more-so if you jig your lure a few times during the initial stage of the retrieve.

You don’t have to drive all the way to the northern bay just to tangle with pelagics either. Our inshore school mackerel run has been substantially reduced this season for some reason, but there are still a few about in the shipping channels.

Queenfish will be in hot pursuit of the pencil squid that have just turned up. The mackerel will chase them too, annoying squidders no end as they bite off expensive squid jigs one after the other. Golden trevally and small to medium sized giant trevally up to 6-7 kilos are lurking along some of the ledges along the inside of Fraser. Queenies take up residence in some of these locations as well, and all three species will take advantage of the coloured waters to pounce on baitfish washed out of the local creeks.

It is not just the smaller GTs that have turned up inshore either, as the big bad bruisers in the 15 kilo plus range have also rocked up to plunder our juvenile reef fish, mackerel and anything else that will fit in their gob. These critters lurk around inshore shipwrecks, ledges and the fringes of the bay islands, and can reach mammoth proportions. A 15 kilo GT really isn’t all that big this time of year, with swags of 20-30 kilo models and quite a few even bigger monsters terrorising our local fish and squid populations.

Tim Thacker getting in on some of the billfish action off Fraser Island.

Great Sandy Straits Fishing Well After Rains

Recent freshwater flows from some of Fraser’s creeks and many mainland creeks down the straits have helped to aggregate and make the estuary predators a bit easier to locate. Flatties are ambushing baitfish and juvenile whiting on the flats adjacent to the creek mouths during the lower stage of the tide, sometimes sneaking back into the lower reaches as the flood tide pushes the saltwater back upstream.

There are stacks of quite large garfish milling about over the mudflats down the straits, which are cheeky little beggars that have been having a passing swipe at small lures worked across the surface in their vicinity. The gar are attracting the attention of queenies, trevally and salmon too, so if you see them skipping you can be assured there are predators in pursuit.

Mangrove jacks bit well last week and although the days will be cooler this week, the nights are warm and muggy, and they will still revel in the dirty waters flushing baitfish out of the creeks. There will be some really big estuary jacks on offer outside some of our creeks in weeks to come.

Even our inshore reefs will get a visit from larger jacks if we get substantial rains and flooding.
Grunter have been on the chew since the recent rains. There are still some creeks holding fish that only received minimal run-off, but in many cases, the best of the grunter have made their way out into the nearby channels. The neap tides are hardly conducive to the best of our grunter fishing, but you could find some in the lower reaches of creeks, near rocky outcrops, along deeper ledges outside the creeks or even up on the flats at high tide.

Our threadfin salmon population will be revelling in the freshwater run-off and the feeding opportunities that this scenario offers these dirty water specialists. The straits offers possibly the best hunting grounds for threadies at present, though you could very likely find a few in the rivers as well. The big gutters in the vicinity of River Heads would be worth a look, particularly for those that enjoy trolling shallow divers for their sambos.

Speaking of River Heads, the pontoon and nearby rocks continue to give up the odd jewfish after dark. There is barely a night that goes by without a number of fishos soaking live baits from the pontoon. Those with what it takes to catch jewies and sambos on lures, would be better served walking the rocks out towards the point or back to the north on the barge side. This exercise is best done at night, and when the tide is quite low, but when dirty water is pushing down the Mary, even daylight hours can produce fish from the stones.

We are told that bull sharks are a rather bad problem out at the heads at present. Undoubtedly attracted by the fish flushed out by the fresh, and taking advantage of the coloured waters, it is likely that much of the Mary’s significant bull shark population has made its way downstream. No place for swimming that is for sure, and something to keep in mind when landing and releasing fish.

Whilst on the subject of scary creatures, it is timely for a reminder, particularly for all the newbies to our area, regarding saltwater crocodiles. There are signs at our ramps, and sightings are often mentioned on local news, yet far too many people think there are no crocs in our waters. Take it from someone who has personally witnessed two crocs in our waters – two too many I reckon. One was in the Burrum and the other in the Mary. Plenty of other locals can recount sightings from similar waters, as well as from Eli Creek, the Booral Flats and down the straits.

Dirty waters and hot conditions see crocs move about way more freely than they might when it is cooler and the waters clear. There is certainly no need to panic about crocs in most waters in the parts, but you should still be wary and take extra care along the fringes of our estuaries. Those pumping yabbies on the banks or islands within the Mary system in particular, should perhaps steer clear of the waters edge whilst the water is filthy.

Dinner is sorted with Fraser Guided Fishing, a nice inshore coral trout

Pencil Squid Time at the Pier

The scene of huge crowds, standing shoulder to shoulder along stretches of the Urangan Pier after dark are a dead giveaway that the pencil squid have arrived. So too, the sight of numerous glowing green lights in the water or other white lights suspended just above the water (in order to attract the squid).

This early in the season the squid are only small. They will get bigger as the season progresses, but these pencillies (arrow squid) are a rather slender variety of squid at best, even when they get to maximum size. They are suckers for the smallest of squid jigs. Size 1.5 and 1.8 in the high-end squid jigs are the go. Not only are these better-quality jigs more attractive to the squid, but they last substantially longer than the el-cheapo versions.

A great feed, or a bag of fresh bait is easily secured when the pencillies are abundant. Their numbers will wane and rebuild at times relative to the moon phase, the tides and potentially the water quality. Given the insane number of people squidding nowadays, perhaps even human pressure could put a dent in local numbers in a given area.

By the way, there is a bag limit of 50 on pencil squid. This is a possession limit, which includes what you have in your fridge or freezer back home as well.

Live baiting with pencil squid from the pier will be a regular activity in future weeks. Jewfish are suckers for them, as are big queenies, cod and even flatties. The odd grunter is likely to turn up in the shallows with the squid around, but the lights will spook some of these fish, so do your live baiting away from the squid lights.

There hasn’t been too much mentioned regarding fish from the pier of late, apart from the mackerel a week or so ago. Queenies should arrive soon in pursuit of the squid. Big GTs have been lurking out the end and will hang around all summer if the water quality is good. Shark fishos have been slipping big baits out most nights and are tangling with some monsters at times – all released unharmed of course.

Good luck out there y’all.

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