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Weekly Fishing Report - 28th January 2021

Check out the girth on this beast....and the barra is pretty big too!

Moderate Southeast Winds and Showers This Week

A well-entrenched monsoon trough and a series of lows in the far north combining with highs in the Tasman Sea is likely to see several days of moderate onshore winds from the southeast or east-southeast.

Expect up to 20 knots of breeze at times, though some days will see lighter winds below or around 15 knots. Showers are likely most days over the coming week, but no significant rain is on the horizon just yet.

This Friday night’s full moon will see a fair bit of run in the tide, with high tides peaking around the 4m mark in the mornings and a bit smaller at night. The increased tidal flow will be just what is needed to stir up the shallow water reef fish, flats-dwellers, crustaceans and pelagics alike.

Barra Season Opening

Queensland’s annual east coast barramundi closure is set to conclude at 11.59pm 31st January, 2021. This closure is put in place to enable our iconic barramundi the opportunity to spawn in peace without the pressure from recreational anglers and gillnetters.

Old timers can relay anecdotal evidence of the lack of barramundi many years ago before this closure was implemented, when it was apparently quite rare to find quality barra throughout much of their east coast range. This was probably why so many crews made an annual pilgrimage to the barra-rich waters of the gulf and NT back in the day.

Nowadays, thanks to the closure, we have much better numbers of quite sizeable barra that have even found their way as far south as the Gold Coast. Whilst barra are a rare find south of Tin Can Bay, our local rivers and the vast expanse of the Great Sandy Straits are home to small populations of barra. What we may lack in numbers in these parts, we certainly make up for in size, as our average fish are vastly larger than many areas in the far north.

Now, before we get into the where and how of barra fishing, there is a major factor to consider. Our barramundi stocks are quite limited. Yes, if you are proficient in the art of finding and catching barra, you will score more often than not, but increasing pressure on the species locally could be detrimental to their future if we are not careful.

Couldn't wipe the smile off Marty's face after catching this big girl last season. Check out the depth in it's body and the shear size of the tail!

Given the lack of any significant rains this wet season so far, the chances are that many - if not the majority of the mature females - have not spawned. The evidence is well-documented of mass increases in barra numbers following major rain events such as what we enjoyed a decade ago and we haven’t had any major flooding events for a few years.

Some of the larger barra, potentially spawning fish, will aggregate in fairly open waters outside our river systems this time of year and are easy targets for anglers and spearfishers. We plead with the responsible folk from both sides of the sport to avoid targeting these big breeders and let them do their thing when the rains eventually arrive. No-one wants to see dead shots of large barra nowadays - it is vastly more cringe-worthy than brag-worthy.

Catch and release is practised by the majority of our better barra fishos and is highly encouraged for the benefit of the species locally and the future of this fishery. Having said that, you are entitled to keep barra if you wish, and many do, but surely no-one is out there taking bag limits or large fish in these more enlightened days.

Like many of us, you will undoubtedly be very frustrated and angered to be letting your barra go in the vicinity of netters in our rivers and straits. These emotions will hit next level should we have major rains post-closure that see barra from our stocked impoundments harvested en-masse from any major overflows.
Mary River Barra and Other Large Predators

So, come the 1st of February you can seek out barra from many and varied locations locally. The Mary River system is home to some great fish that can achieve enormous sizes. Pick the right tides for the stretch of river you intend to fish and seek them out on your side-scanner if you have the technology. The barra will move with the tides and take up position for periods where there is a good food source.

Trollers can choose to drag deep divers along deeper stretches of the river or target the edge of mudflats and drain-littered banks with shallow divers. The barra will move with the flood tide and be more sedentary during the lower half of the ebb. Those preferring the more exciting option of casting can choose from many hardbodies, soft vibes, prawn imitations and softies and go target the barra around rock bars, snags and large drains.

Any serious barra fisho knows the importance of running heavy leaders, particularly on bigger fish. This gob shot is testimony to that, look how far down the hardbody is and the heavy chafe marks on the leader.

Threadfin salmon will be one of the more common bycatch species in the Mary system and can be specifically targeted. The sambos are very active this time of year and are well spread throughout the lower-mid reaches. Sight-fishing to feeding salmon around drains and muddy banks can be visually exciting, and yet equally frustrating, if you don’t have a lure to imitate their prey.

Quality grunter are still turning up in the lower reaches of the Mary. Small soft vibes and a range of soft plastics will typically get a response from feeding grunter. Quite large blue salmon are still about in small numbers as well, and you can pick up a few flatties in the well-shaded drains or the deeper water in the big gutters near the heads.

Don’t be too surprised to find big giant trevally harassing the herring schools in the vicinity of River Heads or even further upriver. Even the odd spanish mackerel has been seen cruising in the clear waters near the heads this week. Both species are more likely out in the straits during summer, but they will go where the bait is most abundant.

Burrum Barra and Jacks

For those plying the waters of the Burrum River system for barra, you have many choices. All four rivers can produce quite well, but you need to be one step ahead of the mass harvesters. There has been quite a few quality barra being harassed during the closure in the lower reaches within cooee of Burrum Heads, so this would be a great place to start your search.

Barra will be spread throughout the rivers and will respond to differing lures depending upon the water quality and local bait source. Prawn imitations and hardbodies work really well in the dirtier upper reaches, whilst vibes and softies can produce the better numbers the closer you get to the mouth. Stay after dark and you can target them on topwater as well, particularly in the mid-upper reaches.

There is such a plethora of structure in the Burrum system that you are spoilt for choice. Rock bars, snags, eddied waters around bends in the river and mad-made structures will all attract barra at times. Again, they will sit fairly idle for much of the lower stage of the ebb tide, moving up with the tide as it floods. Night sessions on the Burrum are a real eye-opener, with the barra boofing baitfish and prawns off the surface as they drift with the tide.

The odd threadfin salmon can be found working over the jelly prawns and small mullet in the upper reaches, but rarely in the same numbers as the Mary or the straits. Of course, mangrove jacks are still a prime target in the Burrum system and will reward the best casters getting their lures tight into structure.

There should be a few decent grunter getting about in the mid-lower reaches after dark for those wishing to anchor and fish baits of yabby, fresh prawn, squid or herring. Don’t be too surprised if you connect to a fingermark on a livie in the lower reaches after dark this time of year.

Barra Options Galore

There is so much potential barra country scattered throughout the Great Sandy Straits it can be mind-boggling. Big fish can often be found out in the main channels, but also make their way into the smallest of creeks when the bait draws them in. Both mainland and Fraser Island creeks will hold barra at times, as will the feeder channels that lead into these creeks.

The same array of lures that work for barra in our rivers will work in the straits. Bigger tides seem to produce the better flats and creek fishing if you time it right. Find a flat that isn’t a big swim from deeper water that has some “colour” and follow the barra up along the mangrove edges or along the snake drains that feed onto that flat.

Once the rains come, or should that be if the rains come, a lot of the barra will move out of the creeks and take up position in ambush locations around creek mouths and along adjacent banks. Many fish will move to deeper water and the ledges along the inside of Fraser will be worth a look.
Barra sessions down the straits are for limited periods of time, so look to target other species during the intervals.

There are a few threadies poking about in the creeks, along with some reasonable schools of grunter and the odd blue salmon. Try the rocky reefs and ledges for cod, blackall, jacks and the odd jewie, or chase pelagics such as mackerel, GTs and queenies around the herring and hardihead schools.

Even the local creeks and some stretches of beach and mudflat can produce quality barra on the right day or night. Eli Creek was once great, but the mitigation of too much water courtesy of the Mariners Cove development silted-up the creek and the previously deeper holes are now full of mud. Occasionally, good barra still make their way in and out of the creek on the bigger tides.

O’Reagans Creek and Beelbi Creek are both surprisingly good producers of barra. Yellow zoning of these waters was a great help, but still didn’t protect these fish as intended. Barra can be found after dark along beaches in the vicinity if you find a suitable gutter and there is a food source in the area. After flooding rains, these beaches and the Booral mudflats will see numbers of barra and threadies feeding as they move through the area.

This 116cm barra put up quite the fight for Cassie, lets see if she can top it this season!

Winds Will Dictate Reef and Bay Options This Week

Onshore winds over the coming week suggest the sheltered inshore reefs or perhaps Platypus Bay will be the only options for those heading out into the bay. The shallow reefs are giving up a few quality grunter to 60cm or so along the reef edges, whilst grass sweetlip are still the most common catch around the fringes. You will have to head to the deeper reefs if you want any cod or trout, but you will need to be lucky to avoid the sharks.

It might be a tad too jiggly out on the open bay, but word is that is where the best of the tuna schools are gathered at the moment. Over in platypus bay it is the big queenies hanging around the bait schools that are giving the sportsfishos the most joy, with a few schools of big goldies still lurking around some of the reefs.

Pencil squid are still about in good numbers for those willing to put up with a little wind inshore. They will be around for quite a while yet, but they are on the move and will soon vacate the grounds where they were once so prolific in early summer.

Latest Shark Studies Leave Us Shaking Our Heads

Apparently, there was some noise on the radio this morning about the latest results from JCU scientists into the status of sharks in Australia. Supposedly 3/4 of our shark species are dangerously close to extinction, and there has been a 70% decline in shark numbers. Really? Where are these people conducting these studies? Maybe they counted 70% less sharks in some pretty little protected green zone somewhere whilst the numbers in the real world have exploded?

It is time these people who are advising our governing policy-makers get out in places such as Hervey Bay and see what is really going on. It would seem likely that there are significantly less numbers of some of the smaller shark species – because the larger models are simply eating them all!

Australia now has the unenviable reputation as the most dangerous waters in the world for shark attacks. We suffered more fatal attacks than anywhere else and these numbers appear to be growing Australia-wide. We are so lucky not to have had any attacks locally, but we all know it is potentially just a matter of time.

How bad does our fishery need to get, and how low do the stocks of reef fish need to fall before the governors will accept their mistakes and sort the imbalanced shark population out? There is no easy answer unfortunately. It is a disaster, and until someone admits it, it will never be rectified.

It's getting harder and harder to get a tuna past the sharks these days. The crew at Hervey Bay Fly & Sportfishing putting clients onto some nice school size longtail.

Lake Monduran – Shark Free – For Now

At least we don’t need to worry about sharks attacking us or our fish when we head up to Mondy. The lake has been fishing well when the weather stabilises, with a few days of changeable weather making for tough fishing of late.

During the school holidays, even the far flung reaches of the lake received increasing boat traffic and pressure. The barra that were once so prolific in some areas have seemingly moved on, along with the hordes of bony bream that were so thick up the back. The mid and lower reaches of the lake are now producing much better fishing, with greater aggregations of baitfish, barra and bass.

Trollers have been doing exceptionally well in the big open bays in the lower reaches over the past week or so. Trolling varying hardbodies that swim at depths of 1m, 3m and 5m have all produced, as has the odd soft plastic and swimbait. Night sessions on the troll can be super productive in Bird Bay and the main basin, but don’t overlook the main river course from Bass Strait through to the second shortcut.

Casters have found the barra willing to smash all manner of lures of late. Big paddle-tailed plastics are great, particularly at night. Rig them weedless if you need to, but better hook-ups will be achieved when rigged on heavy duty barra-tough jigheads. Suspending and slow-rising hardbodies are still the most popular option for those casting at fish spied on the sounder during daylight.

The barra have been on the move of late, triggered no doubt by the developing wet season and their urge to move downstream. The edge bite is largely insignificant in many areas, with bigger numbers of barra turning up on deep flats and in timber-strewn gullies leading into bays. Dusk and evening sessions around wind-blown points is still the go as always.

The number of big bass schooling in the lower reaches is worthy of a look for those so inclined. Look for them over deep flats amongst standing timber, or along timbered edges of the river or major creek courses. They will attack trolled lures with gusto and are also prone to a soft or hard vibe worked through the school.

Latest word from Lenthalls is that the barra are again having a go around the lily pads, sunken timber and weedy points. No word from the bass fishos, but they are in there in numbers and surely worthy of pursuit. The gravel road leading to the lake is in a very poor state at present, so slow down and take care when towing the boat.

Good luck out there y’all.

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