We trust you’ve all had an enjoyable Xmas and are now looking forward to wetting a line here on the fabulous Fraser Coast. With the monsoon trough now well-entrenched in the north and a lazy high pressure system sitting almost stationary this side of Kiwi land we can expect little change from the current spell of light-moderate east-southeasters for the foreseeable future. There may be a few days ahead that could see winds up to 20kn, but for the most part things are looking pretty good, with less than 15kn most days and sunny skies. We are entering another period of neap tides courtesy of this Saturday’s quarter moon, which should make it easier for our southern visitors who often struggle with our bigger tides.
The spotted mackerel schools wandered back in to the bay with a vengeance and are now wide-spread throughout much of Platypus Bay and the central bay regions. Reports of football field sized schools of surface-feeding spotties have filtered back to port, and with the current wind direction they will continue to push further into the bay. Holiday-makers looking for a bit of fun for the kids and an easy feed simply need to arm yourselves with a good supply of small metal slugs in the 15-40gm range and appropriate high speed spinning outfits, then head over to Moon Point, hang a left and head up north looking for the small terns and surface bust ups.
Catching spotties is super easy and a lot of fun, but please be aware of the accompanying shark population and try to minimise the attrition by the taxman by moving to other schools of fish when they turn up. Once you have your bag limit, then shift your attention to the also-prolific tuna schools or perhaps try the reefs up that way for trevally or reef fish. Catching and handling excess spotties is not cool, as they tend to handle poorly and more than likely end up as shark fodder upon release anyway.
Tuna are certainly a much tougher customer and are an eagerly sought after catch and release candidate. Mack tuna schools are abundant throughout the whole bay, but with the current winds it will be the Platypus Bay area that gets the bulk of the attention from boaties. Again, small slugs will serve you well on the high speed gear for tuna, but you should also take a range of stickbaits and 5" ZMan Streakz for when the bigger longtails turn up ripping into gar and flying fish and the like. Some big longtails to in excess of 20kg can be encountered at times, so consider the heavier 15kg spin tackle for any chance at landing them before they get "shortened".
Again, the winds will dictate that the reefs from Moon to Rooneys will be the go for most boaties heading north, and a list of species including trout, cod, scarlets, squire and grunter are likely to grace your eskies if you can get them past the sharks. Keep your eyes peeled while sounding around these reefs and you may spot schools of big golden trevally, particularly where baitfish of yakka and herring are in attendance. Drop a micro jig, soft vibe or appropriate plastic to these goldies and hang on for the ride. Their rubbery lips and clean fighting nature can see them landed on quite light tackle if the sharks are absent, but stick it to them on the heavy gear and they will fight all the way to the boat.
Those thinking about heading out wider when the winds abate could score some quality reefies, but nearly all efforts out at the Gutters of late have resulted in minimal fish to take home and stories of woe from shark attacks. If you can get up further north, or over the bar once things settle then you will stand a better chance than fishing the grounds commonly visited by other boaties.
Our inshore reefs are going to be popular over the coming week, so it may pay to consider evening sessions if you are keen to avoid the crowds. Grass sweetlip will be the most common capture, and they can provide for a lot of family fun and a good feed. You can drift, but will always do a lot better anchoring adjacent to, or up-current of, your chosen reefs and fishing your baits hard to the bottom. Squid is probably the easiest bait to use, but you can offer them a mix of prawn and fish baits as well – they are rarely fussy.
Trout and cod will be inclined to smash a live bait or tea-bagged plastic over some of the gnarlier reef grounds over the turns of tide. Sharks have been, and will continue to be, a serious issue inshore, so give them a wide berth once they move in on you. Some surprisingly good scarlet sea perch can turn up on some of the reefs in the southern shipping channel this time of year, tending to fall for soft plastics, herring or fresh squid baits.
If you get your thrills by getting fully stretched by XOS GT’s then you can always go and try live baiting with oversized livies on the shipwrecks on the Roy Rufus Arti. If the sharks don’t snaffle your baits first then a pack of big black GT’s will be soon fighting over your offering. This time of year also sees some enormous spanish mackerel turn up around these shipwrecks, just don’t be tempted to keep them as they are a huge ciguatera risk in their larger sizes around here. Actually, visitors should note that the taking of spanish is banned east of a line drawn from Coongul Point to Rooneys Point (Platypus Bay) due to the enhanced chance of poisoning in that area.
Sportfishos can go beacon-hopping and might run into some stray school mackerel, trevally or queenfish if there is ample baitfish gathered on the chosen beacon/s. Spinning with Flasha Spoons is the proven local technique for these pelagic species, but you can always choose to live bait or troll the area with appropriate high speed lures. Queenfish and big GT’s are on offer for those with the right casting gear to deliver poppers and stickbaits to them around the bay island points and occasionally up on the island flats.
Great Sandy Straits & Mary/Susan Rivers
Those fishing from the shore at River Heads lately have reported little action apart from some big bream, nuisance sharks and a few cod that have been taking live baits. Boaties in that area have found a few nice threadies up in the big gutters around the drains, along with the occasional flathead. The deeper rocky areas will be home to a seemingly endless supply of baby cod, with a few better specimens taking livies or lures.
The many drains in the Susan, Little Susan, Bengston and lower Mary are well worth a throw for those looking for threadies. Time your assault to coincide with the period in which the ebb tide drains the baitfish out of your chosen drain/s for best results. During the flood tide, you will usually fair better targeting the salmon over rock bars and along muddy banks with plastics, vibes and small hardbodies.
The Straits will be the go for those looking for a feed of grunter. These guys don’t like the fresh, so look for reasonably clean waters in the vicinity of ledges, gravelly bottom and deep holes in the creeks. They are commonly taken on baits of yabby, prawn, herring and small squid, but also love GULP softies worked close to the bottom. Threadies are well spread throughout much of the Straits this time of year, so apply the same techniques as you would in the rivers, but avoid the clear water for threadies.
Mud crabs have been fairly scarce by most accounts, yet we are still selling a motza of crab pots daily. Occasionally someone drops in to brag of a reasonable haul of what sound like good "full" crabs, but you’ve got to work for them and go the extra mile this time of year. Getting out and walking pots into the mangroves and up onto the mudflats is a technique used by some energetic crabbers, but don’t forget that we do have crocodiles in our waters and they are more likely to be hidden in areas beyond the reach of boats than out in the open. Sand crabs have been a bit more abundant out in the Straits from Urangan south, just make place your pots in waters deep enough to cover the pots at low tide.
Urangan Pier and the Town Beaches
The deep end of the Urangan Pier is home to packs of big angry marauding GT’s. With an absence of suitable "large livies" such as legal schoolies, the local lads have fallen back on using "throwdowns" to get a hook up on these bruisers. Trying to stop GT’s that often exceed 30kg with pylons every few metres has it’s obvious challenges, made even more difficult when hooked up on a crowded jetty. Visiting anglers can be somewhat shocked to have a fellow angler come rampaging along the pier yelling and screaming to get out of the way as he/she tries to stay directly above the out-of-control GT. If you see this situation unfolding then best you be prepared to lift or drop your rods and move your gear to give the hooked up angler a fighting chance. A good dose of sheer luck will always be the best asset when it comes to landing pier GT’s.
Pencil squid are the other common capture out at the pier at present. Night sessions during the flood tide produce some of the better numbers, with squidders averaging 30-40 squid per night when the waters are clean. As mentioned before, LED light bars or lanterns suspended above the water will draw the squid to you, as will mini strobe lights or chemical light sticks attached to you rigs. Small squid jigs in the 1.5, 1.8 or 2.0 sizes are deadly and it won’t take much effort with a better quality jig to prove that it will substantially out-fish a cheap model.
Our town beaches are fairly quiet fish-wise, with only an occasional legal whiting turning up amongst the throw backs. A flathead or two are possible from around structures along our beaches such as rocks, groynes and jetties, but even they will be scarce given the volume of people swimming and enjoying our beaches. Heading to the outskirts of town to places such as the Eli Flats or the Booral Flats is more likely to produce a feed of fish in the form of whiting and/or flathead. If down Booral way, you could always walk out a crab pot or four, and could even find a stray threadfin salmon or bullshark down that way for a bit of sport.
Our local creeks (Eli, Beelbi, O’Reagans) have been producing some excellent mangrove jack this season and will continue to do so until we get some floods. Making tracks into the mangroves to access holes, rock bars and logs strewn within these creeks is the go for the energetic angler who doesn’t mind a bit of mud around the ankles. Some serious jacks call these creeks home, so bring your A-game when fishing these skinny waters.
Here’s hoping everyone is enjoying the festive season, and we wish you all a very happy and piscatorially productive New Year.