A solid longtail tuna caught on a Palms Slow Blatt jig whilst on a charter with Tri from Fraser Guided Fishing.
A Few Showers Likely this Week
It looks as though the Labour Day long weekend could be a little damp and breezy. Showers are forecast for the immediate future and they could extend into next week, as the current onshore airflow continues.
Expect fairly consistent southeasterly winds around 15 knots, reaching 20 knots at times for the next couple of days. Certainly not terrible, but just enough wind to be annoying, particularly with regular showers in the mix. A drop in wind strength is anticipated early next week, but who knows what will transpire the way these weather reports vary almost daily.
As the moon wanes from last Tuesday’s full moon, the tides will lose their strength and taper off as we approach the next set of neaps around the 3rd quarter moon phase on Tuesday.
The Anzac Day weekend weather enabled plenty of sportsfishos to get out on the bay and by most accounts they had a ball. Schools of longtail and mack tuna have been abundant throughout Platypus Bay most days, though plenty of tuna also pushed down into the straits with the big building tides.
Schools of small baitfish washed through the shipping channels were hotly pursued by schools of tuna, most commonly reported around the Little Woody Island – Kingfisher Bay area. Some schools made their way further south into the straits proper. Some tuna schools will linger in the area over the waning tides if the bait source is sufficient, otherwise they will head back out into the bay.
Inshore tuna schools can be notoriously flighty. They can be frustrating enough out in the open waters of the bay, but are even more-so closer inshore. Consider the fact that during the season the tuna are constantly harassed by boaties as they are trying to feed, and that the shark attrition they witness so regularly can be attributed to the periods when those noisy boat thingies are “swimming” around them on the surface.
Many tactics have been developed by sportsfishos over the years to contend with flighty surface feeding tuna. One simple, yet effective, technique is to approach the school at a slow and consistent pace (say 4-5 knots), maintaining constant engine revs, whilst the crew casts at the tuna as you pass by. This technique can also assist those out there that haven’t invested in high-speed reels for the task, as the forward momentum of the boat adds to the speed of the lure (if cast to the side or rear of the boat).
No surprise that small metal slugs are performing best on the mack tuna and scoring plenty of longtails as well. Otherwise, heavily-weighted jerkshads are tempting the longtails regularly and are far less expensive that stickies etc when the sharks are so bad. Straits tuna are also partial to numerous other small plastics and will readily scoff prawn imitations amongst others.
Some nice tuna caught on charter with Hervey Bay Fly & Sportfishing.
Snapper Bit Well Over the Full Moon
Although it is certainly still very early in the season, it has been good to hear of a few decent knobby snapper being caught in the bay. A few were found up the island in Platypus Bay in the lead up to the full moon, along with the odd decent scarlet and some large grunter. Moving regularly was necessary to avoid the sharks however, so settling in a spot for hours on end seems like a thing of the past.
Decent squire and a few proper knobbies were reported from closer inshore as well. The Roy Rufus arti has apparently given up a few fish, however, few folks have been lucky enough to avoid the sharks out there. The snapper bite is likely to wane with the moon and tides this week, but night sessions could still be productive in areas where baitfish have lingered.
Inshore spots worthy of a snapper session when the weather and tides improve include the Burrum 8 and 12 Mile, the Outer Banks, Moon Ledge, the Simpson arti and the Roy Rufus arti, amongst others. The sharks will be bad a lot of the time on most of these spots however, so keep that in mind and keep mobile to avoid them if you can.
Smaller snapper (squire) will become increasingly common around a few other rubbly inshore grounds in coming months. Nice eating sized squire are surprisingly common in the Urangan Channel, around the fringes of the bay islands, and off Gatakers Bay and Point Vernon. These shallow grounds demand dawn, dusk or night sessions though, as snapper will rarely hang about and feed in the shallows during gentlemen’s hours.
Drifting with lightly-weighted softies is deadly effective on these shallow water snapper, but the nuisance pike can be a real issue at times, particularly after dark. Anchoring and berleying can be highly productive, so long as you float-line your well-presented baits and keep noise to a minimum. Trolling appropriate diving lures can also score well before the sun rises and after it sets, with the added bonus of a few estuary cod (and trout once the sun comes up at dawn).
Mackerel, Trevally and Queenies Hammering the Herring Schools
Those trolling deep divers in the shipping channels in search of snapper and cod recently have commented on the nuisance mackerel that have been intercepting their lures. Seeing tuna bust-ups on the surface in the vicinity will often indicate the presence of schools of small herring, which are a major target for the school mackerel feeding deeper in the water column.
Areas that have seen mackerel action recently include the vicinity of the Fairway, the Burrum 8 Mile, the Bait Grounds (north of Woody Island), Mickies and the shipwreck near the NU2. Several of the reefs in southern Platypus Bay have also had attending mackerel, so long as there is baitfish hanging on or near the reef. The sharks are caning them when they can, so stitch the drag up a bit and try to get them to the boat/gaff as soon as you can.
Golden trevally continue to entertain sportsfishos with their hard-pulling fights and willingness to eat such a variety of artificials. They too can often be found loitering in large schools around bait-rich reef systems. The Outer Banks and Simpson arti see big numbers this time of year, but they can also be found along shallow ledges such as Sammies and Mickies, the Roy Rufus arti, Moon Ledge and numerous reefs up the island.
Rampaging queenfish are thrilling the kids with their high-flying antics around inshore ledges and off the drop-offs of some flats along the inside of Fraser. They will also hunt the small herring in the shipping channels, and often turn up at places such as the Fairway, the Bait Grounds and around the bay islands. Find the baitfish wide of the beaches that stretch from Toogoom to Gatakers Bay and you could well trip over numbers of queenies.
A Hervey Bay inshore Grand Slam; a giant herring, queenfish and golden trevally. Pic: Fraser Guided Fishing
School mackerel have been fairly prolific and provide plenty of fun for the kids. Pic: Fraser Guided Fishing
Scouting for Early Season Winter Whiting
Labour Day typically heralds the start of the winter whiting season for many locals. There has been no word of winteries as yet this year, with the relatively warm weather so far this autumn not particularly conducive to these cold-water-loving little fish.
We would expect several of the local whiting fishos to start searching for winteries when this wind backs off. A spell of colder south/southwesterly weather will improve their chances in the near future. The first of the local whiting grounds to fire is typically off Gatakers Bay and its surrounds. Launching from the local ramp, it is a quick dash to grounds out the front of Point Vernon, or to O’Reagans Creek or Toogoom.
Winter whiting are certainly not for everyone, but are incredibly popular with the casual fisho keen on a simple, hassle-free day on the water followed by a few meals of succulent whiting fillets. You don’t need any flash tackle, with a light rod or handline, some small whiting hooks and appropriate sinkers scoring fish after fish as you drift across their feeding grounds.
Fishing for these little tackers has gotten even easier in recent times, with the very popular GULP worms offering a cheap and effective “bait” that you can have stashed on board ready for a session on the whiting. Savvy whiting fishos have discovered the added benefit of buying these worms in tubs, pre-soaking in GULP Alive juice, that are even cheaper than the packeted versions. The bonuses being the juice that re-hydrates any dried-out worms and the ability to simply tip packets of your favourite-coloured worm baits into the tub.
Take this a step further and score yourself some of the twin-packed 3-hook bait jigs and the whiting won’t stand a chance. Using bait jigs has proven to be vastly more effective than conventional whiting rigs by many regulars in recent years. Care must be taken to avoid using multiple hook rigs such as these (or paternoster rigs you make yourself) in local yellow zones such as close inshore to Gatakers Bay.
Stay tuned for updates on the local winter whiting scene as the season unfolds.
Estuary Dwellers on the Move
As our waters cool further leading into winter, we will see numerous changes in our rivers and creeks as some species move upstream as others move down. Warmer water lovers such as barra, jacks and threadies will become harder to catch, so now is the time to put the finishing touches on their season if you get the chance.
The clearer waters of winter are less than ideal for a dirty water specialist such as a threadfin salmon, which will often do much of its feeding in the dark hours. For now, you will still find threadies working drains and muddy banks over the bigger tides in the Mary or down the straits, but it won’t be long and they will retreat to deeper waters and become seemingly difficult to tempt, even though you can clearly see them on your flash new side scanner. Vibes will still score threadies right into winter, you’ve just got to be a bit more patient and persistent.
As the threadies’ enthusiasm tapers off, their cousins the blue salmon will take over the neighbourhood. Schools of blues have already started to show up, and their numbers will certainly swell in the coming month or so. If you want to teach the kids how to catch estuary predators on vibes then the humble blue salmon is the perfect target. They are ravenous feeders that school in numbers in deep holes in the creeks and rivers and are actually hard to avoid when trying to target lethargic barra and threadies sharing the same waters.
Blues also favour the vast mudflats of the Great Sandy Straits over the bigger tides and can be sight-fished quite often as they tear around harassing the local garfish/herring/hardihead/mullet population. You don’t need heavy tackle as small lures are very appealing to blues, but be prepared for a few lost fish to scuffed leaders when the bigger models get in on the act.
Mulloway jew have also become increasingly active with the recent drop in temperature. They can be found lurking around bait schools in deeper holes in the rivers or around sunken snags and rock bars in deep water. There has been a few caught at River Heads itself of late and they will be a popular target in that area for the next few months.
Jewies can also be found around some of the deep ledges along the inside of Fraser Island south of Moon Point right down into the straits. They can be easily overfished in our waters, so we trust everyone will do the right thing and not kill fish unnecessarily.
By the way, black jew (or northern jew) also turn up in our waters at times, occasionally mixed amongst schools of mulloway jew. These black jew are a no-take species in all east coast waters until the 1st January 2022 due to the filling of the commercial quota. This ruling has been necessary to try to stem the disgusting black-market trade in dried swim bladders from these fish. Get to know the difference between the different types of jewies, so that you don’t accidentally keep a black jew as the fines are massive. They are fairly rare in these parts, but they do exist, so be aware.
Grunter have been active over the flats and up inside many of the creeks along the inside of Fraser Island. The same can be said for some of the creek systems along the mainland side of the straits, though small fish can be hard to avoid in some of these systems. Really big grunter have been regular captures from close inshore waters of late, including off Gatakers Bay, the Fairway, off the Burrum coast and even along local beaches after dark.
The annual spawning run of bream has commenced and big numbers of fat bream are making their way downstream in our rivers and creeks at present. Intercept them at rock bars and around likely structure in the lower reaches of the rivers at present, and/or wait for them to turn up on the shallow reefs and rocky structures close inshore this winter.
There is enough flathead around to make them a viable target for boaties and shore-based fishos alike. Seek them out in likely ambush positions at creek mouths or near drains and bait-laden muddy banks further upstream. You can pick a few off in town or out at Toogoom if you are mobile and tossing the appropriate little lures.
Sand Crab Bonanza
Hervey Bay’s sand crab population has burst into action and quality crab is being potted all over the southern bay. The waters not far off the Burrum coast are particularly popular and are giving up a great feed of sandies. There are plenty of crabs up in Platypus Bay as well, with the Arch Cliffs area seemingly popular recently.
Bag limits have been achieved for a few hours soak with only a few pots. This trend will continue for some time to come, but the crabs will move with the tides and the take from commercial and recreational crabbers will ultimately put a dent in stocks in some areas.
Weather like we have at present will keep a lot of casual crabbers onshore but the pros will continue to work their gear. The pros will often be working wider and in deeper waters than the rest of us though, so the waters are rarely shared (except off Woodgate perhaps).
Good luck out there y’all.
Josh Power Scores the Catch of His Life
Josh and Ra will be married this Saturday afternoon, and for that reason, Fisho’s Tackle World will be closing at 1pm on Saturday so that all staff can attend the wedding.
Stretch looking the part for his bucks party.