Our great little run of weather had to come to an end unfortunately, but how good was that weather while it lasted. Something truly weird is happening to our climate it seems, as here we are almost into April with very little rain so far and an extraordinarily hot summer that spilled right over into March. Are we in for a belated wet? Only time will tell.
There is a change in the air right now though, with a broad trough passing through these parts some time Saturday that is likely to bring showers and a storm before moving on and leaving us with a spate of south easterly winds in its wake. The southeaster is set to dominate for much of next week, so inshore activities will be the go.
Tonight’s quarter moon heralds yet another set of neap tides, with particularly small tidal variation for the next few days. The cooler conditions this week should see a range of fish (and hopefully some prawns) react positively, as our current water temperatures are still averaging 29 degrees which is extreme for this time of the year.
Plenty of crews made their way over the Breaksea Spit and beyond while the winds were light and many were well rewarded for their efforts. Picking the right areas to fish out there with particular emphasis on either finding or avoiding the current is paramount for success, whether you are chasing reefies or pelagics.
Those experienced old sea dogs out there know where and when to be based on years of actual sea time, but we all have such a vast array of data available to us nowadays that anyone can look at Sea Surface Temperature charts and the like to home in on the areas to visit or avoid. A good practice to consider is to monitor this data over a time period, not just glance at a website the day before departure.
Some great reefies were found by those steering further to the north, with the current minimal compared to what was found back down closer to Fraser. The range of different reefies on offer out there this time of year, in depths ranging from 30-60m, is somewhat expansive, and includes red emperor, red throat, parrot, wrasse, various cod, coronation trout, huge blackall (sigh), moses perch and hussar.
Those “lucky” enough to strike the right current fished deeper waters along the shelf for a mix of snapper, pearlies and jobfish. Live baits can draw some quality reefies along the shelf line but you had better check the sounder first for any sign of amberjack or you are in for a serious arm-stretching.
Shark activity outside has been manageable so far (but far from non-existent), most likely due to the lack of boats visiting those waters till recent weeks. The offshore grounds will again get a spell till the next set of southeasters abates.
Whilst the sharks out wide have been somewhat missing in action, it is fairly obvious where plenty of their brethren can be found. The Gutters and Rooneys reefs are again home to numbers of these ravenous beasts hell bent on stealing your hard earned catch. The Gutters was very crowded last weekend and whilst most had problems with sharks, those that sought out country away from the commonly known grounds had far less issues.
Coral trout, either tea-bagged on soft plastics and micro jigs, or hauled from the bottom on heavy tackle after scoffing bottom-set live baits, were one of the more common species encountered. Unfortunately they are also a favourite of the sharks and the attrition on their population is glaringly obvious by the diminished size and numbers of trout and other prime reef fish landed in these waters.
Coming home with a mixed bag of reefies is still possible if you are willing to keep on the move and avoid the noahs. Species on offer of late include red emperor, grass sweetlip, spangled emperor, parrot, scarlets, moses and hussar. It’s not just reefies out at the Gutters though, with plenty of cobia, spanish, schoolies and yellowfin tuna on offer as well.
South of this area you will see plenty of surface action from longtail and mack tuna, along with substantial schools of spotted mackerel. The same species are also in abundance over towards Rooneys and further south into the central parts of Platypus Bay. The prevalence of such big schools of spotties is testament to the lingering summer-like conditions we have had of late, as the spotties should have moved on from our waters well before now.
Every man and his dog is catching longtail tuna up in Platypus Bay when the weather allows. (Actually, if your dog does get one send us the video as that would be sweet to see). A lot of the schooled up longies have been smaller sub-10kg models, but they still pull like trains and it’s probably a good thing they aren’t all horses with so many sharks in attendance on these tuna schools.
Once again, it has been stick baits and Zman Jerkshads that have proven the most effective on the longtails. You can still try for them with metal slugs, but they are rarely fixated on tiny bait at present and are an easier catch on the larger offerings. The slugs are still a regular go-to for the mack tuna and spotties if you are after them though.
Queenfish, various trevally, mackerel and cobia round out a wild array of pelagics that can be found either up on the flats, over the reefs or beneath the bait balls throughout the eastern bay right now.
Reef fishos vying for a feed have found scarlets, sweetlip, grunter, blackall and cod willing to chew over in the eastern parts, with scarlets, blackall, squire, goldies and mackerel possible from the reefs in the western bay.
The pending weather forecast suggests that our protected inshore waters will be the go for those chasing a feed of reefies this week, and even then it will be pushing the limits for many boaties. The neap tides will do little to excite the fish over our shallow reefs, so it will be the deeper arti’s, ledges and reef country in the shipping channels if the weather allows.
You can expect a continuation of the status quo inshore at present, with sweeties dominating a potential mixed catch that might include coral trout, cod, squire, blackall and scarlets if you are lucky. And by “lucky”, we mean able to avoid the sharks. They are still bad and you need to continually move on to avoid them.
The neaps won’t do much for the inshore flats fishery at present either, but if the weather improves in time for the next new moon you will have queenies, trevally, barra, salmon, bream and whiting all on offer up in the skinny stuff depending upon where you venture.
Mary/Susan Rivers & The Great Sandy Straits
“Where’s all the prawns?” is a much-asked question of late, and the answer is complicated and non-conclusive. We have just experienced an unprecedented summer with record heat and dry conditions that have only recently shown any sign of abating. The Brisvegas river systems are firing right now, and word is they have had a decent run in the Burnett up at Bundy, but locally it has been a “lucky” few that have struck patches of prawn locally that have been willing to get up and run for brief periods only.
There is no doubt that plenty of local prawners will be out on the water this week courtesy of the cooler conditions, the tides building towards the new moon and the damp showery conditions. Given the recent light rainfall causing a bit of “colour” in our local creeks, we can only hope that conditions are finally right to have these sweet little crustaceans get their butts out of the mud and make a move.
Fraser’s western creeks and a couple of the larger mainland creek systems look fairly good for a prawn run, with large quantities of baitfish already pushed downstream by the recent rainfall. The lower parts of the Mary and Susan are still quite clean, so further upstream is more likely to produce at present. The big shallow gutters in the vicinity of River Heads have been yet to fire.
Take the flick rods with you in case the prawns continue to be evasive and keep your eyes peeled for signs of feeding salmon along the muddy banks and up the feeder creeks. There have been quite reasonable numbers of threadies working the mid reaches of the rivers and some of the creek systems of the Straits as well.
Barra will also be a great target for those working rock bars and ledges within the rivers and should also prove aggressive towards any suspending hardbody or prawn imitation lure twitched over or around snags during the slacker stages of the tide.
Kicking back with some live prawns and small herring waiting for a grunter to bite might pay dividends in the lower reaches of the rivers or down the straits. Finding them can be even easier if you employ a small plastic (GULP in particular) and hop it along the bottom as you drift likely deep holes and bends in the creeks or their feeder channels.
There appears to be very good numbers of whiting milling around in ankle deep water over gravelly areas down the straits at present, so they should be worth a crack when the tides build towards the new moon. Similarly so, there have been surprisingly large bream mooching around up on the flats down that way too, so a lot of fun could be had with some micro poppers or stickbaits for both species over the coming week – weather permitting of course.
Burrum River System
“There one week and gone the next” is the lament of the Burrum system prawners just recently. It seems very likely that the quality banana prawn that was running briefly each tide buried just after the recent full moon as they were non-existent thereafter. There are still plenty of little prawns mixed in with the myriad of small mullet and other baitfish in the upper reaches of these rivers, but they are little more than a bait source and hardly meal-worthy.
The Burrum system should fish well over the neaps for those chasing barra and mangrove jacks, with both species well scattered over much of the length of the Burrum itself and also most reaches of its three feeder rivers. There have even been a couple of decent barra landed from the shores of Burrum Heads itself recently, along with the odd big grunter and decent flattie not far upstream.
Those with the gear to chase sand crabs should look towards the next spell of good weather and place some pots out past the drop off beyond the leads or up towards the nearby green zone. Often when the sandies run in these parts they also run in similar depths throughout the lower bay, so we might end up seeing crab pot floats anywhere from Coongul to the Burrum sometime soon.
Good luck out there y’all.