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Weekly Fishing Report - 26th November 2020

Nov 26, 2020

Fraser Island continues to burn! Tri from Fraser Guided Fishing captured this image which shows the severity of the fires. Fingers crossed we'll receive some much need rain soon.

Once in a Blue Moon Opportunity

This coming Monday night’s blue moon offers us all a chance to achieve something so rare that it happens only “once in a blue moon”. Perhaps you might score the fish of a lifetime, a first of species or that bucket list critter that has been eluding you for so long.

The weather looks fairly good for the blue moon if you are an impoundment fisho or one who enjoys a tussle with jacks, but those looking to head out on the bay will find this weekend a better bet, before the northerly kicks in Sunday afternoon. Expect more light-moderate northerly winds for much of next week before the breeze swings back to the east.

One thing is for sure, the start to summer is going to be a hot one. Temperatures in the high 30’s will greet those heading to the dams (which is awesome by the way), whilst rising temperatures, increasing humidity and fairly light winds here on the coast will likely see you raise a sweat when fighting that big one.

Fraser Island on Fire - Literally

A bushfire on Fraser Island that has been burning for 6 weeks has so far burnt out one third of the island and is still out of control in many parts. The scenes of our beautiful island so scorched and the shocking damage to the local wildlife is hard to stomach, particularly when you learn that the fire started from an illegal camp fire. We get a little used to the sight of small fires on the island over the years, but this one is the worst in our living memory, apparently.

Latest word from a local on the island is that all camp grounds and resorts north of Eurong are closed. Kingfisher Bay Resort and Happy Valley are on watch and people are being warned not to venture over to Fraser if they can avoid it. At the time of writing, access to the island is still open, though it is hard to imagine why you would want to head over there.

Smoke, smoke and more smoke. Pic: Hervey Bay Fly & Sportfishing

Visibility on the island is at an all time low, both on the inland tracks and at times even on the ocean beach. Even boaties would struggle to access their favourite creeks on the western side with so much smoke in the air making breathing and navigating very challenging. Perhaps the local mangrove jack population is safe for a little while yet.

On the fishing scene, (not that we are advocating a trip to the island of course), the best of the tailor season is now done and dusted, however, there have been some big greenbacks and even the odd school of choppers found in recent weeks. Poyungan Rocks was one locale where the tailor turned up, but they will be highly mobile this late in the season.

Weed has been a major issue along much of the surf beach in recent weeks. When the weed has washed offshore or if you can drive beyond the worst of it, there has been a few whiting and dart on offer in the low tide gutters. Eugaries (pippies) and worms are quite plentiful for those seeking fresh bait.

Billfish on Their Way South

Game fishos plying the continental shelf waters outside Fraser Island have scored a few large blue marlin recently. Most of the blues have been found down south off Waddy Point. The blues have continued trucking south and have already turned up off Cape Moreton, so if you want a crack at any numbers of the big blue beasts you had better get out there soon.

There has been plenty of bycatch north of Waddy Point and off the shelf wide of the Breaksea Spit in the form of mahi mahi and yellowfin tuna. Find these speedsters and you are in for some fun times on the light tackle but the bigger blues have rarely been found in the same waters as the bycatch of late.

Mick Cassar was stoked to land his first black marlin. Light tackle is a great way to ease into chasing these great game fish.

Local gun game boat skippers have commented on the reduced numbers of marlin offshore this year and the consensus has been that the currents have changed courtesy of the La Nina pattern. You need to think “big picture” and look at the ocean currents to understand the movements of widely nomadic species such as marlin and their prey. SST charts are a great help for the novice and the old hands alike, so check the latest updates to find the best waters to target the billies.

Luckily the position of Fraser Island intercepts the southern-bound fish and steers the shallow-water-favouring smaller models inshore and into Hervey Bay waters. To date, our annual run of small black marlin has been quite reasonable. It took a while to get going, but the run of little blacks is now fairly consistent. Most of the action is centred around Rooneys Point and the northern-most sector of Platypus Bay.

Quite a few marlin virgins popped their cherry on their first little blacks this season which is always great to hear. Those keen to tangle with young stickface need to get their act together and get up towards the top of the island some time over the coming month or so for the best crack at this season’s little blacks.

The Spotties Have Arrived

The past fortnight has seen the arrival of numerous schools of spotted mackerel in Hervey Bay’s northern and central sectors. As is typical most years, the very first run of spotties to enter the bay have been quite large by local standards. Spotties around the 5kg mark are quite common at present, but we can expect vast hoards of smaller models to turn up with the main biomass of fish in coming weeks.

Our latest reports suggest the best of the spotties can be found out wide of Arch Cliffs. The fish in the area are feeding on “rain bait” but are not super-fussy at present, scoffing a variety of metal slugs in the 20-50 gram range. Ensure you take a selection of various-sized slugs so that you can match the general size of the baitfish the spotties are feeding on on the day, and of course, attach the slug to a high-speed outfit, as a speedy retrieve is vital.

Fraser Guided Fishing getting into some spotties on stickbaits.

We will talk more about spotties in future reports, but for now, those looking to find them should head along a line basically aimed at Rooneys Point and start looking for small birds and surface activity anywhere north of the Outer Banks. Little sips and slashes on the surface will indicate that the fish are spotties as opposed to the more boisterous splashes and porpoise-like water-clearing antics of the mack and longtail tuna.

Speaking of tuna, the macks are very thick in the central, eastern and northern bay right now. Quite a lot of large macks are amongst the schools too, with 10kg fish being very common of late. The longtails have not been nearly as common, but there are certainly enough black barrels out there to warrant the hunt.

Look for their darker bodies as they clear the water or scoot around just under the surface. They will mix with the macks, and some days it can be hard to avoid the macks to get a hook into a longtail. That scene will change in the near future.

It's time to dust off the smoker box! Pic: Hervey Bay Fly & Sportfishing

Shark Menace Again an Issue

The warming waters and the arrival of such masses of mackerel and tuna bring the dreaded sharks back to the bay. Sure enough, we are never really shark-free anymore, but at least they backed off a bit over late winter and early spring. That has all changed however, so we need to again be vigilant and willing to be mobile and move about to avoid the onslaught of the sharks.

Those chasing surface-feeding pelagics, or even sub-surface pelagics such as trevally will encounter some very large bull sharks, lemons, tigers and other whalers over the summer months. Extra care must be taken with kids around these creatures, particularly when landing or releasing fish boat-side. Spearing fish back into the water is a far safer option than swimming them whilst holding onto them.

Reef fishos will also suffer very frustrating losses to sharks, but just won’t see the culprits as often as those chasing surface-feeders. They can be hard to avoid on any of the commonly fished country within the bay (and even outside), so do the fish, and your sanity, a favour and go fish elsewhere when the sharks move in.

A Feed of Reefies on Offer Inshore

The mainstay of local inshore reef fishos this time of year is the humble old grass sweetlip. They can be found along the deep edge of many of the local shallow reefs such as those surrounding Pt Vernon or the bay islands, but are equally abundant around the fringes of many of the deeper reefs within the local shipping channels.

Night sessions are particularly productive for sweeties, allowing you to avoid the heat (and often the sharks as well). Try the Roy Rufus arti, the Channel Hole, Boges Hole, Bogimba Ledge or the Urangan Channel, or many of the other inshore reefs and fern patches that the sweeties tend to loiter and feed around.

Nannygai frequent Hervey Bay waters and are fare well on the plate. Pic: HBFS

Coral trout and estuary cod can be trolled up from the shallow reefs mentioned above, or from the deeper reefs in the shipping channels. Trolling shallow is easy enough, but must be done at dawn for best results. If trolling the deeper grounds, then dawn is fine too, but the turn of tide period is vastly more productive. Choosing lures that will get within a metre of the bottom is the way to go in the shallows, and in the deeper water, lures that dredge down to within 3 metres of the bottom structure will work.

If trolling is not your thing, then tea-bagging soft plastics or soft vibes over the deeper reefs should see you hooked up and groaning. Again, the turn of tide is prime time for trout and cod. Live baiting the same period on stout tackle will score the same fish, but many will discover that finding the baitfish can be very challenging this time of year.

Blueys, or black-spotted tuskfish are eagerly sought-after by many locals. Heavy handlines or heavy, stiff rods and braided line are mandatory to extract the bigger blueys from their lairs. Their diet includes crustaceans and molluscs, though crabs and large prawns are the favoured baits.

Check out the colours on this parrot fish caught on a recent charter with Hot Reels Pro Fish Charters.

Being able to lay claim to having caught a bluey over 10kg is something only few local reef fishos can attest, so for many line fishos that is the holy grail. Such a beautiful creature, with such power and determination deserves our respect, so dead shots of masses of big blueys is a bit hard to stomach nowadays.

Blueys inhabit a large range of reef systems within the bay and the straits, from the shallowest reefs to the gnarliest deep water bombies. Their population is under more pressure than it has ever been, so please take only what you need and consider letting the bigger breeders go. Sharks often home in on big blueys with relentless monotony on our deeper reefs, so don’t sit their wasting fish after fish if the sharks are an issue.

Good Grunter and Jacks in the Estuaries

So much hot weather recently, and plenty more to come, will see a continuation of the great bite from our local mangrove jack population. As stated at the start of this report, accessing Fraser’s western creeks may well be a little uncomfortable for the time being, but luckily, we can chase jacks throughout the many creeks along the mainland side of the straits, or up in the Burrum system.

The bigger tides will favour the creek fishos chasing jacks either side of high tide. Small hardbodies, plastics and prawn imitations will score, but all pale into comparison compared to a good session chasing jacks on topwater. Weedless-rigged frogs or small poppers are the go-to topwater lures in these parts. Walk-the-dog styled stickbaits will also score over shallow rocks or along muddy banks where poddy mullet congregate.

Bait fishos will score well on jacks this time of year. Fillets of freshly-caught mullet are the best bait for many of us, whilst small mullet, prawns, herring, pike and even pilchards will score quite often. Pike eels, baby cod and mud crabs can be a real nuisance to the bait fisho chasing jacks, though it is fair to say that if these other critters are getting to your baits first then chances are the jacks either aren’t on the chew or aren’t there. Move on, and move often when targeting jacks, as they can be quite sedentary home-bodies in much of the Burrum system.

Good quality grunter are turning up at night in the Burrum over the bigger tides. Parking near a drop-off to a large sandbank or yabby bank and fishing light with baits of yabby, prawn, strip baits or small squid should do the trick. Yabbies and prawns will often produce best if they are fussy.

Many of the creeks down the straits, the feeder channels and even the main shipping channels down that way are producing quality grunter above the 50cm mark. Grunter to at least 75cm have been caught from these estuaries over the years, but realistically, any grunter over the 60cm mark is worthy of a little bragging. Expect to find similar fish in the mid reaches of the Susan or Mary rivers as well.

Threadfin salmon numbers have been increasing slowly in the Mary/Susan and down the straits. Vibing deeper holes is still the way to tally up cricket score catches of bigger threadies, but you will find that drain-bashing starts to come into its own from now on into summer over the bigger tides. Look for the tell-tale signs of actively-feeding threadies working drains and muddy banks during the ebb tides.

Landlubbers Get to Tangle with XOS GT’s at the Pier

Frustrated pier fishos wandering into our store to gear up with heavier and heavier tackle in their attempts to extract the tackle-destroying GT’s from beneath the Urangan Pier is becoming an almost daily event. Huge bruising GT’s are scoffing appropriate live baits and trashing most hopefuls around the pylons in the blink of an eye.

You really need to be on your game and have everything go just right to drag one of these beasts from under the pier. A ute-load of luck won’t go astray either, as many a fisho has found over the years (for example; when a GT falls for the old free-spool trick and swims away from the pier into open water).

Other than GT’s, its been a fairly quiet affair out along the planks of late. A few queenies have turned up at times, as has the odd schoolie or two. There is still the chance of a decent flathead in the first channel or along the slope out the end. At times, there has been more people on the pier at night than during the day, with the annual pencil squid run kicking off a few weeks ago.
Road Trippin'

Regular customer "Moosh" recently travelled up to Mackay to fish with Paul Dolan from Mackay Fly & Sportfishing and had a stack of fun catching impoundment barra. He managed to crack the magic metre mark and was over the moon. If you're planning a trip up north, get in touch with Paul!

Good luck out there y’all.

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