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Weekly Fishing Report - 27th October 2022

Wes from the Hervey Bay Amateur Fishing Club, with a lit up juvenile black marlin.


Sudden Heatwave and More Rain Likely

We sure did cop some wild weather over the past week. From a trough morphing into an east coast low just off our coastline that dumped masses of rain over the district - to a sudden heatwave and wild storms bashing our hinterlands - we had it all.

The weather is vastly improved right now, and the last couple of days have been fine, but keep the wet weather gear handy next week and be ready for more storm activity at some stage. We might even see a storm this evening or late Friday.

The current spate of light-moderate northerly winds will ease just in time for the weekend. Expect around 10 knots of southerly early in the day Saturday, with a north east sea breeze late in the day. Sunday should see much the same pattern. If anything, the breeze should be even lighter.

There is a potential window for offshore fishos too, with light enough breezes and barely a metre of swell or sea to contend with from Friday afternoon through Monday. It is more like 10-15 knots from the south, east and north over those days than the 5-10 variables that many prefer, but nothing to bother the bigger boats and experienced crews.

Things will get interesting again some time late Monday. Another broad trough approaching from the west is likely to bring more rain and storms, peaking with the worst of it on Tuesday – apparently. A possible stiff westerly Wednesday to blow the system offshore should then see better conditions for the remainder of the week.

The moon is waxing once again, leading towards the first quarter phase next Tuesday. This means we are entering another period of neap tides and less tidal flow, so we will likely see the bite taper off for a range of key species. Interestingly, the full moon on the following Tuesday night is a “blood moon”, so something to look forward to there for those who like to fish these spooky events.

Minor Localised Flooding
 
Hervey Bay township copped a fair drop of rain as that low pressure system developed and passed by last weekend. Mixed recordings from the area averaged around 120mm or so. Nothing compared to what was received north and south of us, which has even more impact on our waters and fisheries in some respect.

Tin Can Bay and Rainbow Beach were a magnet for the majority of the heaviest rainfall, recording almost 300mm in 24 hours. Needless to say, localised flooding was substantial. Thankfully for the locals, the lay of the land down there enables surplus waters to escape into the straits and to sea quite vigorously, unlike the valleyed river catchments such as the Mary.

The Burrum and Cherwell catchments also recorded minor flooding, with less flow from the Isis and Gregory. Lenthalls dam was overtopped, with about 40cm of water flowing over. Needless to say, all four rivers are running pure freshwater at the moment.

The upper Mary River catchment got hammered once again, with 150mm or more falling on already sodden grounds and running off into a river already running fresh. Right now, there is a bit less than a metre of water flowing over the barrage above Maryborough, and half that flowing over the weir on Tinana Creek.

Not even the torrential rains could stop Trent from Punchy from getting his barra fix. 
 
The many feeder streams of the Mary are either “steady” or “falling” at the moment, though all have high flows of some sort. The Mary system is considered to be in a state of “below minor” flooding. Fingers crossed that the next trough headed our way does not dump as much rainfall as the last, as overflow will be substantial if it does.

To our north, Gin Gin and Lake Monduran were absolutely drenched Saturday night with around 150mm of rain and wild storm activity. The water level rose immediately, but be thankful that the heaviest rain fell over the lake itself and not further upstream in its catchments.

Monduran flowed around 30cm over the wall from that initial burst, but then copped a hammering again Monday late with seemingly self-generating storms (many with hail). That second round of storms saw the lake peak at around 104% and 40cm over the wall.

The Fitzroy catchment got smashed once again too, particularly out west. Masses of surplus freshwater are headed for Rocky, to maintain the freshwater flow through a river that has seen very little saltwater for months.

So, what does all this unseasonal overflow mean for our fishing? It sure is a game changer, so read on for a few tips on what to expect and what to consider for future forays.

Barra Season Closure Imminent
 
But firstly, be aware that the annual barramundi closure, for Queensland’s east coast waters, commences at midnight this Monday 31st October, and concludes at midnight 31st January 2023.
This three-month closure is in place to protect our barra from over-exploitation during their key spawning period. Ask anyone old enough, and they will tell you that there were precious few barra in our waters (state-wide) back before the closure was implemented. It is a hard one to suffer for fans of the chromed beauties, but you simply must avoid targeting them during this closure.

Luckily, in Qld, we have several well-stocked lakes that you can head to and scratch the barra itch. Targeting barra in recognised stocked impoundments is okay (and you are even allowed to keep one if you so desire). However, you cannot target or keep them from other waters below these dams. Only the waters above the dams can be fished for barra, so even pondages, canals and other man-made waterways are taboo during the closure.

We can be fairly confident of a much-improved spawning event this season (courtesy of the rains). You can do your bit by avoiding contact with breeding barra, or at least handling them without removing them from the water if you do encounter one by accident. You might also consider “enlightening” other fishos you see blatantly targeting barra in prohibited areas over the next three months.

Run-Off Fishery in Our Streams
 
Our local river systems offer little in the way of true run-off fisheries such as those enjoyed in the Gulf and the Top End. Our rivers have dams, weirs or barrages that hold back a volume of water and limit upstream access for estuarine fish. More importantly though, there is little in the way of flood plains or banked-up waters that feed streams for extended periods.

You can still take advantage of opportunities to fish overflows, albeit briefly, as localised floodwaters recede into the creek or river. You can picture it – vast flats covered in freshwater that flow back into the stream via a typically very small inlet or gully.

There aren’t too many examples of this around here, but if you fish one just after the peak flow starts to ease, then you might just tangle with the neighbourhood’s key estuarine predators. Fishos on foot are just as likely to benefit from this scenario around these parts as those in boats.

Barra are the key target in such a scene (until Monday midnight that is), but mangrove jacks and tarpon are also quite common captures if your timing is just right. The next opportunity for such an event will likely occur during the barra closure so you will certainly look pretty suss if seen fishing at such a spot.


A solid 120cm barra that the author caught recently

Estuary Options After the Rains
 
The mouths of our rivers should be interesting for fishos seeking the likes of barra, threadies or jewfish at the moment. Apparently, there were large queenies at River Heads just recently too, but someone throwing shallow-diving hardbodies or paddle-tailed plastics from the stones out there might chance a barra, jewie or thready.

Live baiters fishing the rivers will likely stand a better chance than those favouring lures at present. The lower reaches will be the go for a while. Most of the key predatory species have been confined to the lower Mary of late anyway due to a sustained freshwater flow upstream.

Better options would be to target the channels of the Great Sandy Straits, along with the deeper ledges along the western side of Fraser Island. The straits’ flats fishery will be very interesting in coming days and weeks too, so consider this, with a view to picking up threadies, grunter and barra prowling the skinny margins under cover of dirty water.

The Mary and Susan rivers were full of large banana prawns recently. We have heard of the usual catches from the River Heads pontoon by those capitalising on the passing of prawn schools since the rains. Boaties can seek prawn in the straits now, or perhaps the lower Susan. Some might hole up in the big gutters in the vicinity of River Heads, but a retreat to deeper waters would seem more likely.

Crabbing-wise, at other times in the summer or autumn (when we should get rains such as the recent falls), then you would naturally expect mud crabs to be on the march. Mud crabbing this time of year can be a fairly lean affair during the typical “dry”, so having crabs flushed from hibernation in their holes up the back of the streams might see an unseasonal bonanza.

The option is there for a feed of succulent sand crabs from the grounds out from Toogoom or the Burrum. Try 8 metres of water, try 12 metres of water, and if you need to, then head deeper. Minimal flooding should see sandies feasting in waters not too far offshore, and they can be sought in shallower waters over the next full moon.


Shop regular Chris Allsopp just returned from a trip to PNG chasing black bass, what a trip!


Inshore Reef Fishing Likely to Fire
 
Whilst the neap tides won’t encourage much action from our shallow reef dwellers, the deeper reefs should fish well this weekend. Coral trout, cod, squire, sweetlip and blackall are all likely candidates for fishos plying the reefs of the shipping channels on a range of live baits, dead baits and lures.

Trollers dragging deep divers are highly likely to score cod, or perhaps a trout or two, and are very likely to encounter mackerel (whether they want to or not). There are no significant floodwater outflows into the bay, but just the minor plume close inshore and within the immediate influence of the rivers. Working the waters where the dirty meets the salty will soon see you tracking down some sort of predators.

Our shallow reefs have had a reprieve from not only fishos, but spearos too, courtesy of the dominance of the north wind of late. Many fishos will be happy to see a bit of colour in the shallows once again, and will be looking forward to a repeat of the great fishing that was enjoyed last summer.

You can target coral trout on the troll, or by drifting and flicking lures such as prawn imitations, vibes, glidebaits or swimbaits. Bait fishos can have a crack at them too of course, using live baitfish, or recently-deceased versions, along with large prawns. The next full moon should see improved action from the shallow reefs.

The grassy sweetlip just started to show along the fringes of the shallow reefs at Pt Vernon and the bay islands. Some may retreat deeper where the plume from the Mary hits the isles, but the others should feed rigorously.

Once again, the grunter bonanza continues. This latest rain event is a god-send for grunter fans locally. You can target them in the same areas as the sweeties mentioned above, and can do so on lures or on baits of prawn, squid or herring. There will be a renewed run of grunter outside the banks again too, so the reefs off the Burrum will be worth a look closer to the full moon.

For those that cannot catch reefies etc, or just favour a feed of mackerel, you can go chase schoolies in the southern bay or Platypus Bay. They have been like fleas on a dog in some areas, focussing their attention on schools of herring or yakka. Spin them up around the bait-rich reefs or troll likely areas and you will soon be hooked up.

The Coral Reef Fin Fish Closure last week, plus the north wind, kept everyone off the reefs of the far northern bay. That country will be worth a look for fans of the Gutters and the like. Trout, scarlets, snapper, sweeties, tuskies and (going on the better run this year) maybe a red emperor, are all possible esky adornments.

The sharks started to fire up a couple of weeks ago and have been caning anyone fishing the bay’s deeper reefs ever since. The heat this week will surely send them into overdrive. Do yourself and our reef fisheries a favour and keep mobile to limit the take from the taxman.

Marlin Mayhem in Northern Bay
 
The lull in billfish activity over the third quarter moon was soon forgotten when the warm north wind brought numbers of little baby blacks into the northern bay right on que for the new moon. There has been multiple hook-ups and multiple captures quite regularly over the past week.

The focal point for a lot of the action is the drop-offs just out from the beaches of Platypus Bay and Rooneys Point. However, this is also where the majority of the boating traffic is. Up to 20 boats can be seen working the same general stretches of water at the moment – on a week day!
Avoiding the crowds may see you hook into fish that you don’t have to share or be concerned about issues with crossed lines etc. Look for baitfish schools out wider in the bay, or try the southern sector of Platypus Bay where there are swags of bonito at present.

The great weather, and the growing armada of keen crews hunting our baby blacks inshore will mean the Platypus Bay area will be highly congested this weekend. There will be plenty of fish further north for those willing to travel, and the likely areas are easily determined via Relief Shading or ramping up the contour settings in your Garmin.


The Pakula Sprocket does it again!

There are swags of mack tuna working tiny baitfish on the surface throughout Platypus Bay. Small slugs and small sinking stickbaits are doing the damage for those keen on macks. Shark attrition is very real, so keep that in mind.

Random catches of the odd spotted mackerel have been noteworthy over the past fortnight. Their numbers will swell dramatically in coming weeks. Make sure you have some small slugs at the ready just in case you trip over a school.

This weekend’s weather should see a lot of boats crossing Breaksea Spit hunting for marlin. There has been chatter on channel 22 of late that suggests there has been blues, big blacks and yellowfin being caught along the shelf line. There has been fish caught from Lady Elliot Island to Waddy Point recently.

Some will fish light tackle, some heavy tackle, and some both. A fairly standardised routine is to fish light tackle closer to the cape or the bar early in the day and then switch over to the heavier gear out wider in the arvo.

There is a fairly broad tongue of warm water pushing down along the shelf east of Fraser that comes to an abrupt end wide of Double Island Point. Food for thought for marlin hunters. Check the latest SST charts for the latest before venturing out.


Staff member Dylan took his niece Isla for a quick whiting fish, she looks very chuffed with her catch!

Latest from Beaches and the Pier
 
We are told that there are tailor being caught over on Fraser’s eastern beach once again. Unfortunately, we have no actual details, just word that the tailor are biting again, along with schools of dart.

There was also mention of jewfish being caught this week. Again, no details, just generalisations. Beach jewie fans should view the coming weeks, and particularly the impending full moon with some interest. The massive freshwater flows from the southern straits, courtesy of the recent rains, should see jewfish numbers boom along Fraser’s beaches. We will bring you the latest once we get word.

Our local town beaches are a-flush with a renewed run of whiting and grunter. This is again, courtesy of recent rains. The neap tides do little for the enthusiasm of either species, so leave your efforts until closer to the full moon if you want the best results.

You can try for the same species from the beach end of the Urangan Pier if you like. After dark will be best for the grunter, but they are possible any time under cover of dirtier water.
There has been school and broad-barred mackerel out the end recently. Both species can handle a bit of colour in the water, with broadies being quite attuned to dirtier waters.

We will have to wait and see just how dirty the local waters get from the flush-out of the Mary. The annual run of giant trevally is due to kick off any time now. Dirty water might upset that scenario somewhat, or create a slight delay.


A big school of barra stacked up at the wall at Lake Monduran, let's hope we don't lose too many after the next rains.

Mondy Overflowing Again
 
As mentioned, Lake Monduran was central to some major downpours over the past week. Unfortunately, the first big storm event smashed the competitors in the annual Family Fishing Comp. Their results reflected the challenging conditions, with very few barra being caught.

Believe you me, your scribe knows all about challenging conditions, having been foolish enough to head up after the comp, with the storms forecast for Monday. The prospect of fishing the build-up in the first truly hot conditions of the season was too much to ignore.

Incidentally, the barra went crazy too. Metre fish were quite common, amongst a few smaller fish in the nineties. Not all were landed, but almost a dozen were, with a fish topping 120cm making the trip worthwhile. I could have done without the consistent storms and hail hunting me off the water at prime time, but it all adds to the excitement of surviving Mondy’s maddest moments.



Drone photos of big barra lined up at the wall in readiness to tempt fate on a slippery slide to doom are doing the rounds on social media. Much interest in fishing the main basin, SDA and Bird Bays in recent days has drawn a crowd. Apparently, some of them are catching good barra too.

Many of the active barra have been feeding up in the shallow flooded margins of the lake. Others have been harassing bony bream schools slightly deeper. Your scribe even witnessed some true brutes putting the wind up small catties, which is a first after 20 years of flogging this lake to foam.


Jase with a nice Mondy barra that took a liking to a Zman Hard Legz Frog

The next round of storms and rains due early next week could see a disaster unfold at Mondy. It won’t take much to send those queued-up barra over the wall. Luckily, there are ample fish elsewhere too right now, so barring a major rise of another metre or so, we should still have fish for the time being.

The variable and light winds won’t do Mondy hopefuls any favours over the coming days or week. At least it is warm finally though, and the fish are most definitely biting with renewed vigour.

Good luck out there y’all …… Jase

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