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Weekly Fishing Report - 28th April 2022

Young Chayce landed a barra of a lifetime at Lake Callide recently, congratulations buddy! Thanks to Stephen Laughton for sending this one in.

Shorter Days and Cooler Nights

First up, let us apologise for not supplying our Weekly Fishing Report last week. We simply did not have enough hands on deck to do the report justice. As it turned out, the weather was crap last weekend anyway, and has only just come good in recent days. Hopefully, this week’s report will give you a few ideas to put into practice during the somewhat improved spell of weather this week.

Whilst far from perfect, the weather forecast suggests a pretty good weekend. The current easterly will tend a little more ESE or SE in coming days. Expect 15 knots or more tomorrow, that will ease back below 15 knots on Saturday. Sunday morning looks great at this stage, with barely 5-10 knots of southeaster, before ramping up late afternoon.

The start of the working week is likely to see the return of a 15-20 knot southeaster that will begin to abate mid-week. The onshore air flow will mean that isolated showers are possible almost daily, being more of a nuisance value than anything substantial.

Sunday’s new moon sees another peak in the tide cycle once again. The tidal variation is fairly moderate over this particular phase, and the bite should be a good one, at least until a couple of days after the new moon.

Look like prawns are on the menu!

Prawns on the Run

The Easter weekend saw a good run of large banana prawn off Woodgate, as well as in the Burrum River. Clusters of boats were jockeying for position over the prawn schools, with up to 50 boats sighted off Woodgate at times.

Some smashed it, scoring their bucket limit with ease at the right time. Strangely though, others still seemed to gather and throw nets time and time again for little return, even though they could clearly see their neighbours retrieving empty nets.

Following the crowd might work when the crowd is on the prawn, but you can achieve far greater results and satisfaction by scanning the neighbourhood looking for and finding you own schools. If within eyesight of others, your success will soon be noticed and you will be central to the next crowd in no time.

Woodgate prawns move considerable distances just off the foreshores when they run. They aren’t at all hard to spot on a decent sounder and your sounder is your best tool for finding them. At times, they will gather in dense schools and actually be seen flicking out of the water, most often over a tide change. Went they aren’t “running”, they simply bury, and stay there.

Woodgate bananas are top quality and quite large. They can achieve 10” or 25cm and are typically at least 8” or 20cm in size. When you hit the patch, your net rope will be vibrating wildly as they roar into your top pocket and cram in there kilo after kilo.

A screenshot from a Garmin Echomap running the GT56UHD transducer, showing the cast net descending on a nice patch of prawn.

Every experienced prawner wants to pull a bucketful in one cast – but few ever do. The opportunity is certainly there (and elsewhere this time of year), but typically a good return is anything over a kilo a cast, with a few kilos or half a bucket quite possible quite often.

Woodgate is likely to fire again this season, possibly several times. Sustained moderate flooding in the Burnett and the creeks to the north have paved the way for this season. Wait for the next spell of offshore winds and head up for a look. Take your biggest top pocket cast net, preferably the chain-bottomed top-pocket-only model to avoid all the little fish etc you will be wasting time on with your bottom-pocketed models.

Until then, prawn lovers can get their fix locally within pretty much any of our creeks or rivers. The bananas have been on the run throughout the straits, in the Mary/Susan, the Burrum system and the local creeks. Bucket limits have been easily achieved by many.

And the result. Young Jett showing off the fruits of his labour.

Great Crabbing Continues

There was a lot of effort by crabbers over Easter, and many were rewarded for their efforts. From Tin Can Bay to Wathumba Creek, there have been quality buck muddies on the march. Some crabbers managed a bag limit of full muddies and some even had to return excess to the water.

Obviously, not everyone scored big time, but those that chose appropriate waters and were mobile, when necessary, scored at least a feed. The muddies are making their way back upstream into our creeks and rivers. The summer flooding pushed them out, but conditions are again prime within the estuaries. If you want a feed, then set some pots in coming weeks, as they can be a bit harder to find and tempt during the cold of winter.

Sand crabs are worth pursuing inshore and out in the bay. Those that opt to set pots out in the bay can try 10-15m of water off the Burrum Coast or similar depths in Platypus Bay. Deeper waters of 20-25m can be even more productive, as is readily notable when you see pro pots in your travels. Many reco crabbers opt for the shallower waters though, purely for the ease of retrieving their pots and the amount of rope required for the deeper waters.

Sandies are also on the move inshore, albeit in lesser numbers. A couple of metres of water in the open sandy channels of the straits, or the fringes of the sandbanks and channels just off Pt Vernon, Urangan or Booral are worth a try over the bigger tides. Set a few pots, check them within an hour or two, and move them if no return. Soak them overnight once you have them set in the path of the crab.

Matty scored a nice feed of muddies recently.

Estuary Predators on the Move

The shorter days and cooler nights are triggers for many of our estuarine predators to start their migration back into creeks and rivers impacted by wet season rains. The masses of prawn, both mature and of the jelly variety are major drawcards and very much dominate the diets of many predators this time of year.

You will find increasing numbers of grunter within the perimeters of local creeks and the lower-mid reaches of our rivers. The summer run of grunter out the front of town and in the deeper waters of the straits will still produce a few fish, but many will be estuary-bound right now.

Threadfin salmon can be found working over the jelly prawn in the mouths of drains and small creeks during the last of the ebb tide. They will also be actively pursuing larger prawn as it runs with the tide at times. In either case, large prawn skipping across the surface or tiny prawn raining down in the shallows are a dead giveaway of their presence.

You can find threadies in the Mary or Susan rivers, in the large gutters near River Heads, down the straits along the western and eastern shores and up along the Booral Flats. Lure fishos be prepared for a few frustrations as big threadies ignore your offerings in preference to the tiny jelly prawn they are focussed on. Time on the water will soon see you develop the skills to tempt these fish, but until then, you can always just leave them and come back when the tide floods and the jelly prawn disappears.

Young gun angler Charlie with a nice saltwater barra.

Barra fishos will be looking to get a few sessions in before the dreaded winter doldrums set in. Barra numbers will improve in local creeks as they make their way back upstream. The usual tactics will pick them up, but again, be prepared for a few frustrating moments as they develop a case of lock jaw at times.

Flathead catches are fairly incidental this time of year, but that will improve in winter. We should start to hear of a lot more mini-GTs and queenfish in our creeks and rivers in coming months. For now, they are still a more likely candidate in the open waters of the straits and lower bay.

Whilst we seem to have a scattered remnant population of blue salmon all summer, their numbers will soon start to explode as winter approaches. Blues can be intercepted as they cross the flats and make their way through the channels of the straits, but they will be easier to target in winter in the creeks and rivers. They are great sport though pretty much crap on a plate.

Tuna Playing Hide and Seek

Weather restrictions over the Easter break saw less opportunity for tuna chasers to get out there amongst them. The prevailing southeaster also saw some crews bash their way up the island only to fall short of the tuna schools in the more exposed waters towards Rooneys.

The latest word is that there are both mack and longtail tuna to be found off Wathumba, but they are super flighty and hard to approach. It seems as though the fresh tuna schools that enter the bay are ravenous and not so inclined to spook, though after they have been “resident” for a while, they get a little nervous. It kind of makes sense that the “educated” tuna might associate the constant shark attacks with the boats that are so often pursuing them, and spook as boats approach.

Lots of tuna schools will make their way down into the straits as our waters cool. They will be frequent sightings in our shipping channels. Small herring will often be their target baitfish, though they will soon pounce on wayward schools of garfish or hardiheads. Tuna can be very spooky inshore, so be prepared for a few frustrating moments.

The sharks have been a major issue this season, take care when going to land your catch. Pic: Hot Reels Pro Fish Charters

There are numbers of spanish and school mackerel off Rooneys at present. Any spaniards caught within Platypus Bay must be released by law, due to the enhanced risk of ciguatera fish poisoning in those waters. Spinning with spoons will soon see you connected to a mackerel when you find the schools. Trolling diving lures capable of 6-8 knots around reefs and/or bait schools will help to track them down.

Giant trevally have made an appearance in the waters off Moon Point and out around the outer banks. Golden trevally are also possible from similar waters, and will feature further inshore as the winter bait schools move in.

Queenies could be possible from the current lines and eddies of the bay islands, or along the ledges along the western side of Fraser Island from Kingfisher Bay north. Queenies will be increasingly common down the straits as winter approaches. Apparently, there has been a few XOS models down off Inskip Point recently.

A quality spanish mackerel caught with Bobby from Hot Reels Pro Fish Charters

Sweeties Galore Inshore

Inshore reef fishos can ply the shallow reefs or the deeper shipping channels this week and expect a feed. Your chances will be vastly improved by fishing the dawn or dusk periods, tide changes, and being highly mobile. Your mobility is necessary to find the fish after the flogging they copped at Easter, but also to avoid the dreaded noahs.

Grass sweetlip are prolific at present. They are the easiest of our inshore species to tempt, falling for all manner of baits and occasionally soft plastics. Try the fringes of the deeper reefs in our shipping channels with baits kept close to or right on the bottom. If you cannot avoid the sharks, then try the deeper fringes of the shallow reefy drop-offs of the bay islands or the shallower rocky ledges along the western shores of Fraser.

Coral trout and estuary cod are both very active this time of year and will soon scoff a well-presented lure of live bait over the turn of tide. Blackall will take soft baits and have you thinking you’ve hooked a quality reefie until they appear from the depths. If you are lucky, or know your way around the local reefs, then scarlet sea perch might be on the menu, but you’d better hope the local noahs aren’t within cooee.

Brett scored some great coral trout on his last run.

The new moon following Easter has seen a few snapper and squire grace our decks in years gone by, so it will be interesting to see how the early snapper season shapes up this year. Heavy flooding events have resulted in better than average snapper seasons in recent decades, so we can only hope for similar this year.

What we didn’t have in the “good old days” was the ridiculous shark population we have today. Once hooked, our poor old snapper are easy targets for the monster bullies and other sharks, and their numbers have been drastically reduced as a direct result. There is grave concern over snapper stocks in Qld, so please do your bit and take only what you need, and more importantly, don’t keep fishing for them in shark-infested waters.

The tax man

Tragically, these very waters are basically all of our inshore snapper hotspots. Places such as the Burrum 8 and 12 Mile, Moon Ledge, the Outer Banks, the Roy Rufus artificial reef, and the many reefs and weed patches within Platypus Bay. The days of anchoring, berleying and catching numbers of knobbies are well behind us unfortunately.

These days, it is more appropriate and potentially productive to use soft plastics and jigs on the drift, or even troll deep divers in the hope of not attracting the noahs. Some savvy snapper fishos will ply our shallow fringing reefs and their sandy verges with some success this season, particularly during low light on the bigger tides.

Brett with an absolute slob of a nannygai.

Bream Season Kicks Off

Now, we know that bream don’t appeal to too many locals, given our huge diversity and range of other potential species on offer. However, we have many new fishos that have moved here from down south that just love their bream fishing, so though we might share a little insight into our local bream fishery.

Anzac Day could be said to be the start of our bream season. How well it kicks off depends on prevailing weather conditions, water temperature and how the preceding wet season faired. Well, we can say that the wet was a ripper, but our water temp is still quite high as we await the cooler offshore winds of late autumn and winter.

A few keen bream fishos have already tangled with some decent bream off the Urangan Pier. There has been quality bream being hauled up onto the pontoon at River Heads for several weeks by average joe soaking baits. A few schools of large bream have entertained the bait fishos soaking baits in a berley trail in the Burrum, and a few fish have been lurking around the rocky reefs just offshore from our town beaches recently.

That is just the latest from the grapevine, but what you can really look forward to is the proper bream run this winter. The pier will be a hotspot for land-based fishos, as will the harbour, River Heads and the Kingfisher Bay jetty.

Bream are also a great target on fly and love a shrimp pattern.

The boat fishing off Pt Vernon and Gatakers Bay is first class for those bait fishos that go to the trouble of setting up a berley trail, and this scene is repeated at spots such as South Head, the bay islands and a few rock bars in the river and down the straits.

Spawning bream gathering over our flats is another feature of this fishery, offering champagne bream fishing to those folks with finesse gear and tiny topwater offerings. Bream fishos from down south should be well-impressed with our local fishery. The recreational pressure has been quite limited in years gone by, (though bream numbers can be impacted quite heavily by commercial netting in some areas).

We might not see the largest of bream in these parts, but the sheer numbers of one kilo fish (42-43cm) that can be caught in the right conditions seems to impress many a bream fisho. Some fisheries are quite challenging too, needing quick reflexes and a willingness to push finesse tackle to the limits just to extract some of the larger models from the coral or oyster-encrusted pylons that they favour.

So, dust off the bream gear or drop in and get fitted out for what should be a good season. Techniques honed down south over the years will work here as well as anywhere, and you never know, you might even teach the locals a thing or two.

Good luck out there y’all …… Jase

The Australian Fly Fishing Podcast - Episode 2 
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