Well, so much for Cyclone Oma. We dodged a bullet there, but struth, what’s it take to get some rain in these parts? So far our "wet season" has been non-existent, with maybe 2 inches of rain over the whole of January and February. A rather extraordinary situation, and certainly far from the norm, so consider these dry conditions when planning your future fishing trips.
The recent strong winds from ex-TC Oma kept most fishos away from the water for much of the past week, though the expected gale force winds didn’t really eventuate inshore. Massive waves and seas pounded the exposed coastline for much of NSW and southern Qld, but luckily for us here in the bay, Fraser Island bore the brunt of these seas, with little effect on the majority of our local shoreline.
Looking ahead, it would seem we are in for a period of moderate south easterly winds, likely to maintain breezes inshore around 15-20 knots for several days to come. By mid next week we might see the winds drop a little with a better chance of a few showers heading our way. In the meantime, it looks like our protected waters and estuaries will again be the best bet for boaties.
This week’s cool change has been quite notable, and welcomed, and we can now say goodbye to what was an extremely hot and dry summer (the hottest on record apparently). We can now look forward to cooler conditions that will increase activity from many species including an array of reef fish, trevally and tuna, along with (hopefully) a run of banana prawn.
Recent conditions, combined with the building tides this week as we approach the new moon next Thursday will see a lot of fish movement, both in the bay and our estuaries. So when you next get out on the water, be prepared to sound around looking for fish activity, as they may well have moved on from where you last found them.
Recent reports from Fraser suggest a bit of extra care and planning may be required for those intending to travel up the eastern beach in the near future. At present, the inland track up from Hook Point is in a bad state, slowing vehicular traffic.
The beach itself is not too bad along much of the southern and central zones, but problems again arise south of Poyungan Rocks, with major hassles with both exposed rock on the beach and also the state of the by-pass track. Some are suggesting that if something is not done to rectify the issues, then Poyungan may indeed become impassable.
Up north, Nkgala Rocks by-pass is currently closed to all traffic. Unfortunately we are unable to get reports of all areas of Fraser, so if planning a trip then contact National Parks and seek up-to-date information from them. Large seas continue to batter the ocean beaches, so it will be interesting to see what gutters form and what rocks are left exposed once these seas subside.
Obviously there has been next to no boating activity beyond sheltered waters for much of the past week. The local guides will tell you though that a blow like ex-TC Oma (or more typically an "east coast Low") will bring in increased numbers of longtail tuna to Platypus Bay waters. Now, and the next couple of months, is longtail prime-time, so once the winds settle you can head up the island with great confidence in finding plenty of black torpedoes.
Reports prior to Oma suggested that some good longies had been tearing around on the flats up along the northern beaches of Platypus Bay. Bigger numbers of tuna will of course be found out wider, schooling up and harassing the bait balls scattered throughout the bay. Expect to encounter plenty of mack tuna as well, and keep an eye on the sounder for signs of trevally schools below when targeting the surface feeders.
One good thing that comes from a blow such as ex-TC Oma is that our heavily pressured reefs and inshore hotspots get a well-deserved reprieve from anglers. When the weather again enables access, you should expect to find the usual suspects inshore, just hopefully in better numbers, with fewer sharks in tow. Yeah okay, wishful thinking re the sharks for sure, but hey, we can only hope.
This is a great time of year to target coral trout inshore over our better inshore coral reefs and artificials. You can choose to chase them with live baits over the turn of tide or may prefer the tea-bagged plastic option for less size and more numbers. Either way, be prepared for plenty of cod by-catch, and as always, when the sharks find you, move on, and put some distance between you and the taxman.
Grass sweetlip will be in good numbers when you get out there again and should make for an easy feed for those fishing the fringes of the shallow reefs around the bay islands, or near any of the many ledges and fern/sponge grounds in the upper straits and lower bay.
Scarlet sea perch should bite well out wider and over some of the deeper inshore reefs. Sharks are often a shocker around these schools inshore unless you happen to know some spots that other fishos don’t. Blackall will be a fairly common catch for those fishing "soft" baits, and a few large grunter will make a show in select spots. All of these species, plus the sweeties, will bite much better at night, with the added bonus of less pickers and often less sharks.
Normally at this time of year we would have some degree of flood waters in our rivers and plumes of coloured water throughout much of the Great Sandy Straits. No so this year though, so you will have to adjust to the prevailing clear conditions. The recent blow has certainly stirred up a bit of sediment over some of the flats, but for the most part you will be looking for fish in deeper waters, or within the creek systems during the daytime.
Whiting are likely to put in an appearance up on the flats courtesy of the recent winds dislodging their favoured food items, though expect better action from the whiting during the bigger tides closer to the new moon. Grunter will also revel in the stirred up waters up on the flats over the higher stages of the tide, but will again retreat to the creeks and channels during the ebb.
The forecast winds of 15-20 knots will not deter experienced skippers from fishing the straits in appropriate vessels, with the protection from Fraser and the vast exposed sand banks and islands offering swags of fishing opportunities. Anything from sweeties, cod, trout, blackall, barra, jew or grunter can be expected from the ledges along the western side of Fraser, along with passing queenies and GTs.
Up in Fraser’s western creeks you can still expect plenty of mangrove jacks, and don’t be put off by the slightly cooler conditions as the waters are still warm and the change of season often triggers a spurt of feeding activity from these fish eager to fatten up. Some of these same creeks, and many of the bigger systems along the mainland fringe, will also be home to threadfin salmon and barra, along with a few decent grunter and flathead.
You should definitely take a cast net with you if heading down the straits over coming months as we are now into our traditional banana prawn season. So far, due to the drought-like conditions, prawn numbers have been very dismal. However, this week’s cool change and the approaching new moon should both contribute towards an increase in prawn activity. There were a few whispers pre-Oma of decent catches within creeks down the straits, but we still need rains to speed up the prawns’ growth rate and population.
The same can be said for those heading up the Mary or Susan. Take a cast net and seek out the prawns around drains, gutters and muddy banks during the last of the ebb and early flood tide. The popular big gutters down near the heads have been devoid of any decent prawn of late, so upstream will be the go. It won’t be the easy champagne prawning we are so used to this time of year though, so expect to get muddy and tangle with a few sticks and debris during the process.
Fish-wise it will be barra and threadies that will get most fishos excited in the rivers at present. After a blow like ex-TC Oma these fish may have holed-up during the worst of conditions, but will be on the move again now, especially considering the current tidal/moon phase.
Look for threadies smashing baitfish and jelly prawn in and around the mouths of drains and small creeks and also along adjacent banks if these waters are turbid and holding a source of bait. Barra are also possible from the same places, but are more likely to spend periods of time parked on likely snags or rock bars. As always, timing will be crucial to success, and concentrating your efforts during the lower stages of the tide will be most productive.
Burrum River System
Barra are well scattered throughout much of the Burrum system, turning up anywhere from the heads to the upper reaches. Barra have been found in all four rivers, though many of the better fish have fallen to live bait anglers fishing after dark. With such a plethora of fishy country on offer, choose a section of river offering plenty of cover in the form of snags, rock bars and deep holes with adjacent shallow sand banks and try to time your efforts with lures around the low light periods or slack tide.
Mangrove jacks are the other main target in this system and haven’t they turned it on this summer. This week’s cool change may not meet the criteria of text book jack fishing conditions, however, don’t write them off as they will respond to the cooler conditions by biting potentially better during the day and will be looking to fatten up in readiness for the cooler months. If you get real lucky you might even encounter schools of some of the bigger jacks as they gather in readiness to head offshore over coming months.
Prawn numbers continue to build in all four rivers, though their average size is still a bit small for most prawners to bother with. Better quality prawns are more likely in the Gregory than the other rivers, but even there you will have to drive away from the small stuff and continue your search for quality.
When searching for prawn the age-old technique of watching your wake as your travel slowly along likely mud banks looking for fleeing prawn is still a great option. Often however, the better quality prawn is sitting deeper, well off the banks, and utilising your sounder to find them is far more successful.
Queenfish and flathead have been caught out at the pier this week. Live baits of herring will do the job, but live pike will do it vastly better. Nocturnal pier anglers have been concentrating on the barra mostly, with lures typically the effective "bait". No doubt the new moon period will see more barra hoisted to the boards above, but hopefully this doesn’t include the bigger breeders that gather there to spawn.
Local Beaches and Creeks
Quite a few fishos have had fun with schools of whiting along our beaches of late, with many of the better sessions being enjoyed by those working micro poppers and stickbaits on the light gear. The jelly prawn run often sees whiting numbers increase this time of year, even along clean stretches of our town beaches where seemingly no jelly prawn would be found. You can expect more activity from the whiting as the new moon gets closer.
In the creeks is where you will find clouds of jelly prawn, pushed into tightly packed showering schools by their endless list of predators. The peak in this activity will be during the latter stage of the ebb tide, but whilst this may seem the optimum time to target these predators, it can also be the most frustrating time as they are so fixated on the jelly prawn that they ignore all other offerings. In this scenario, wait for the tide to flood a little, as the tiny prawns will escape into the shallowest margins and the nearby predators will resort to alternative food sources.
The plunging barometer associated with the approach of ex-TC Oma certainly shut the barra and bass fisheries down out at Lenthalls. Prior to that event there were sensational numbers of bass of all sizes willing to take an array of lures at all hours of the day. Barra were active too, with some nice fish in the mid-seventies taking a mix of lures amongst the lilies and over the log piles. The cooler conditions this week might take the edge off the barra bite, but they are "fresh" fish that have not been pestered and are fairly easy to tempt with the right lures.
Now that the barometer has again risen to more stable readings, and the weather improved, you can expect a good bite from the bass. You can choose to troll diving hardbodies, roll spinnerbaits and plastics, or dance topwater presentations near the edges or along the adjacent drop-offs. Some quite large bass call this lake home and they have been super aggressive when the conditions have been right.
Good luck out there y’all.