Glassed Out One Day – Breezy The Next
After getting over the shock of that nasty cold snap last weekend, we have been blessed with a string of glorious windless days – albeit mid-week. It’s a glassed-out ocean as far as the eye can see again today, though we can expect the breeze to pick up a bit tomorrow morning, just in time for the weekend.
The weather gurus are once again changing their forecasts almost daily, and at the time of writing, what looked like being a glamour Sunday might end up being a little breezy at times. Monday is still looking good for those not having to work, with a moderate south/southeaster likely for the remainder of the week.
Neap tides will see us into the start of winter, courtesy of the quarter moon this Saturday. The lack of tidal flow will suit those heading out wide or those fishing deeper inshore waters, but expect a fairly lacklustre response from a range of species till the tides start to build again.
Quality Reefies From Northern Bay Waters
Larger trailer boats have been heading north the past couple of days chasing reefies. Whilst some crews reported a tough bite over the Breaksea Spit, there were other crews that stayed inside the bar that did quite well. Quality reef fish were found to bite well in the afternoons, with good mixed bags of maori cod, red emperor, scarlets and various sweetlips filling eskies fairly quickly.
Even the Gutters area fished well for a few days with some crews scoring well on trout, cod and sweetlip. There have been snapper and scarlets in the area as well for those staying into the evening. These night time feeders will be even better targets once the tides build towards the next full moon.
Sharks continue to plague the Gutters and the Sandy Cape Shoals country, whilst the flat country and isolated lumps and bumps away from the crowds produce quality fish without the attending noahs. It is a similar story over Rooneys way, with decent squire, scarlets, grunter, cod, trout, sweeties and parrot all possible if the noahs can be avoided.
There have been reports of a few schools of cobia at the Gutters and off Rooneys. Plenty of folk enjoy a fresh feed of cobia at times, favouring the smaller models to 10kg of so. They grow to immense proportions in this part of the world, with 20-30kg fish reasonably common and fish in excess of 40kg turning up every year.
The cobes will make their way to various sites throughout the bay as winter wears on, becoming regular visitors to areas holding masses of baitfish and smaller predators. Expect to find big solo models turning up in Platypus Bay and smaller models making their way down to at least Kingfisher Bay at some stage. We used to get big schools on the arti once upon a time, but that hasn’t been a common occurrence for some time now.
A few crews ventured up to the 25 Fathom Hole and found the going a bit tough. A modest feed of squire and the odd small trout or cod was about the only saving grace. Wait till the big schools of yakka move into the 25 Fathom Hole country before getting too serious about chasing knobbies out that way. It won’t be too long if we get any more cold snaps like last weekend.
Due to the lack of heavy reef fringing the hole nowadays, there is mostly only juvenile reef fish that call this area home for any period. Nomadic species like snapper and mackerel make feeding forays to the area when the food is abundant and vacate the area once their favoured food supply or water quality moves on.
Tuna Widespread Throughout Hervey Bay
Longtail and mack tuna schools are busting up all over Hervey Bay lately, with the waters from the Burrum Coast to Platypus Bay alive with surface-feeding tuna. The bigger tides have brought small pods of sizeable longtail and larger schools of smallish macks well down into the straits. Go armed with a mix of stickbaits, slugs and jerkshad plastics and be ready to match the hatch and you should be in for some line-burning fun when the tuna come within casting range.
As the winds swing back to a more southeasterly direction in coming days there will be boats heading up the island chasing tuna once again. Locate the fish by homing in on the feeding birds hovering above and approach the schools cautiously so as not to spook them. Killing the motor and letting them come to you can be an incredibly frustrating game, but if they aren’t too mobile or flighty it will work.
When they refuse to slow down you can approach at a speed of say 4-5 knots and pass the school in the direction they are heading without varying your motor revs, having you crew cast lures into the school and retrieve on the way past. This can be quite effective for those of you that are using reels that aren’t high speed as the boat’s momentum will add speed to your retrieval.
Under these tuna schools is often a school of other pelagics such as mackerel, trevally or cobia intent on picking off the scraps. Quite often it can be snapper that are shadowing the tuna if they venture near their favoured hunting grounds. Find the tuna schools working baitfish over known reef systems and you can be assured that all the demersal species, predators and scavengers below will be aware of their presence and the food source that will rain down from above. Expect a great bite from the bottom dwellers in any area where tuna have been active.
Inshore Fishing Will Improve as Baitfish Schools Arrive
The recent spate of westerly winds did little to improve our inshore fisheries. Many areas were left devoid of baitfish and so failed to hold any significant populations of reef or pelagic species. As the winds have since settled and recently stirred up waters, full of water-borne nutrients dislodged by the rough weather, attract the baitfish back to our inshore reef systems we will see a resurgence in predatory activity.
Herring schools, pike schools, and soon enough, yakka schools, will all be key to finding numbers of snapper, scarlets and other more sedentary reef predators. We can expect a decent bite from the likes of cod and trout over the neaps, but the snapper will become vastly more active with the approach of the next full moon.
We all know too well, tragically, that sharks are an ever-present issue that we have to contend with inshore (and offshore) nowadays. As each year has passed, we have looked forward to the water cooling enough to see the sharks move on or at least lose their appetite. And as recent years have passed, we have learnt that this is a fleeting hope that seems unlikely with each passing year.
In essence, these sharks, particularly the oversized super-aggressive bull sharks, are here to stay and we have to modify our approach to try our best to avoid them. Keep this in mind when chasing the migrating snapper population, as it is in enough jeopardy to warrant stricter restrictions this winter and wastage to the sharks is the worst result possible.
Having said this, there is a feed of squire, the odd snapper and plenty of sweetlip and cod on offer for those that can avoid the noahs inshore. The commonly fished country is risky though, so spend some time sounding around looking for pieces of reef that other boaties don’t frequent.
As we’ve mentioned previously, trolling super deep divers is a great way of securing a feed of tasty reefies, and will also see you tripping over new ground on a regular basis. If you are an avid troller, then you probably have your favoured tracks, but newbies will benefit from running different angles and contours, and all should be watching the sounder for evidence of baitfish, reefs and fish such as snapper, trevally and mackerel. Estuary cod will be the most commonly encountered bottom-dweller for deep trollers, with coral trout a bonus at times.
Shallow Reefs and Winter Whiting on the Flats
The recent westerlies kept most boaties off the water, but some braved the conditions in close. Urangan Channel gave up possibly the best of the fish in those conditions, with some very nice cod, surprisingly large trout, sweetlip, squire and blackall all on the chew at times. Trolling brought a few of the cod and trout undone, whilst anchoring and fishing squid and large prawn baits on the bottom sorted out the other species.
Around the corner at Gatakers Bay, the winter whiting fleet has been active every day the wind isn’t howling. Latest reports suggest the local grounds off Pt Vernon have been the most productive, as those that wandered over to Toogoom and Dundowran found little for their efforts.
The water temperature plummeted last weekend during that record-breaking cold snap, resulting in sub-20C temps inshore. This spells good news for the whiting fishos as the cooler temps bring in more whiting and should see them begin to school up fairly soon. In the meantime, drifting is the go, and finding a little patch of your own (albeit perhaps only temporarily) will result in bigger hauls of better-quality whiting.
The shallow reefs continue to give up a modest feed of sweetlip, trout, cod, squire and blackall for those willing to anchor and berley early and late in the day. Sure enough, the neaps aren’t ideal, but it is only a matter of days before the tides get a bit of a run on again.
Jewies, Blueys, Greys, Flatties and Bream in the River and the Straits
The onset of cooler weather has really fired up the local jewfish population. They are certainly most active at night, but are readily caught over the turn of tide during the daylight as well. River Heads and South Head, and the many lumps and bumps in between, are a great place to start looking for jewies. As pencil squid have again been frequenting the area, it is fairly obvious what the best jewie baits will be.
Flats fishos can add blue salmon and broad-barred (grey) mackerel to their hit list in coming months. The greys are often intercepted as they feed across the flats, but enough make it through to be viable targets for folk that enjoy a bit of skinny-water hunting or even trolling through nearby channels. Kingfisher Bay, the big channels between River Heads and The Picnics or the Turkey Straits will all see some grey mackerel and blue salmon action in weeks to come, not to mention passing schools of quality grunter. Green toads love this country though too, so look out.
Bream continue their annual spawning migration and are a common catch in the lower reaches of our rivers as well as over many rocky outcrops down the straits. They will soon gather en-masse over some of our shallow reef country around the bay islands and Pt Vernon and will be suckers for both bait and lures fishos alike.
Bream numbers are improving at the Urangan Pier, and the size is also getting better. Night sessions produce the best bream, so keep the next full moon in mind if bream fishing under moonlight is your thing.
Flathead are commonly caught by those vying for threadies in and around drains in the rivers and down the straits. They can be found well upstream in our creeks and rivers too, pretty much as far as you might be willing to venture, but will usually be found in the best numbers where there is a food source of prawns and baitfish.
Good luck out there y’all.