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Weekly Fishing Report - 2nd February 2023

Staff member Logan, tempted a nice salty into eating a Samaki Redic 

Heatwave Precedes Impending Rains

We trust you all enjoyed the recent spell of sensational weather that saw days on end of glassed-out conditions. The calm weather and sunny skies saw the mercury climb, making it feel like a true Qld summer. Things are about to unsettle now though, so be prepared for a little wild weather in coming days.

It is quite calm today, with a chance of showers or perhaps a storm. Expect freshening northerly winds tomorrow, spawning a veritable heatwave that we will have to endure until the latest trough passes and the southeast change kicks in on Sunday.

As far as the weekend is concerned, we are looking at 10-15 knots of northerly Saturday with showers and very likely a storm or two. It will be quite wet Sunday, with around 15-20 knots of south-southeaster. The cool change will be very welcome, but the rain will frustrate many of us.

Expect southeasterly breezes of around 15-20 knots and occasional showers throughout the working week. There is some chance that we might receive substantial rainfall of up to 100mm this week coming, depending upon where the storms dump their loads.

The moon is waxing as we head towards Monday night’s full moon. Thankfully, the full moon tides are not nearly as dramatic as the new moon this time of year, meaning there are options aplenty for those that can handle the wet weather and the prevailing breeze.

East Coast Spanish Mackerel Closure

A new seasonal closure to the taking of Spanish Mackerel has been implemented by the Qld government that effects the waters south of latitude 22°S (roughly Stanage Bay south to the NSW border). This includes our waters.

The first of two three-week closures commenced yesterday 1st February and concludes 21st February. The next closure will then be 1st March to 21st March. These closures, like all closed seasons, are midnight to midnight.

As of 1st July 2023, further restrictions on the spanish mackerel fishery will commence. From that date onwards, the recreational possession limit will reduce to one fish per person. A recreational boat limit of two fish per boat (with two or more people on board) will also apply.

We understand that many fishos enjoy a feed of fresh spanish mackerel, and some actively target these fish in our waters. We point out quite often however, that spaniards are a high-risk carrier of ciguatera toxin in these parts, and for that reason, taking spaniards has been prohibited in Platypus Bay for many years. Most locals wouldn’t entertain the thought of eating larger spanish mackerel, so it seems we have been doing our bit for their stocks all along.

Barra Season is Open

One door closes and another door opens. The much-anticipated opening of the Qld east coast barramundi season kicked off yesterday 1st February. We can once again target these chrome beauties legally, after “suffering” the annual three month closure to enable our precious barra to spawn.

Undoubtedly, many photos and films will do the rounds this week displaying recent captures of barra from local waters. Some of these will be fish caught since the opening at midnight of the 31st January, yet quite a lot won’t. Whatever the case, the coming months will see many fishos turn their focus to barra in our creeks and rivers as well as local pondages.

It is likely that our larger female barra had a reasonable chance to spawn during this year’s closure period due to spring rains and decent run-off flows in our streams. This has not always been the case, as in many years we don’t get the rains during the closure and the barra’s opportunity to spawn is restricted or even negated.

Harry Rails with a stunning saltwater barra

Here’s hoping this has been a great spawning season to make up for the years of drought. Their spawn isn’t necessarily over as yet either, as they are just as likely to spawn during the impending wet as they were earlier, so you are doing them and the future of the fishery a favour to continue letting them go.

Most barra fishos practice catch and release nowadays thankfully, and few would head out with the express purpose of taking their bag limit. Being allowed five barra in your possession, or up to ten as a boat limit would seem rather excessive for our waters. Yes, we have healthy numbers of barra in certain waters, but only due to the respect these fish procure from avid fans that would rather catch them several times than just once.

We understand that many get frustrated when letting barra after barra go, when there are square-hooks set up nearby. Qld legislation allows the commercial taking of this species under managed quota systems that will mean operators will be set up right now. The weather, the tides and the impending rains will combine to enhance the barras’ activity and tendency to travel, so their stocks will take a massive hit this week.

For those out there seeking their first barramundi, you have many locations and techniques to choose from. Barra appeal to many fishos due to their tendency to scoff many offerings when in the mood, yet can frustrate the you-know-what out of you when they “shut down”. You will learn how to catch them on the water, so be observant and learn from your mistakes and your successes.

Adam Whittaker scored some nice barra on opening day

Locations-wise, the Burrum system is most popular at present due to enhanced numbers of fish ex-Lenthalls dam. You can chase barra in our local creeks, the many creeks and channels of the Great Sandy Straits, or try the Mary/Susan river system. Alternatively, many will take the easy option and seek their barra fix from local pondages, where quite large fish can be caught on relatively light tackle.

Most prefer to target their barra casting lures nowadays, and we offer way too many options along the lure walls of our store. Choose from vibes, hardbodies, swimbaits, glidebaits, softies, prawn imitations or topwater, and you can cover all possible scenarios and tempt all but the lock-jawed fish. Seasoned barra fishos are always seeking something new on which to catch these fish, and we continually stock the latest and greatest for you to try.

Trollers are well catered for as well, with many floating hardbodies capable of various diving depths to suit all scenarios. Proven “garfish” profiles that barely dive a metre work a treat over the flats or along the shallow banks, whilst many proven deeper divers of various sizes cater for the deeper waters of our rivers or the straits. Savvy trollers cottoned-on to slow-trolling swimbaits around in our stocked impoundments in recent times and these lures are proving equally effective in the salt.

Those that opt to live bait for barra will enjoy success by catching prawns, mullet, mud herring, gar or herring and deploying them on sturdy leaders upstream from likely barra-holding structure. By using circle hooks or wide-gape hooks, live baiters can not only improve their hook-up rate and retention, but will also mouth-hook the fish and enable better release unharmed.

Michael Rails with a beautiful, golden coloured threadfin salmon

Recent Heat Sends Summer Species into Overdrive

You don’t need us to tell you that things have finally warmed up here on the Fraser coast. Consistent hot weather has really stirred up our summer species, especially in our estuaries. Not only have the barra been hyper-active of late, but the mangrove jacks have been super-aggressive.

The Burrum system’s jack population has been pouncing on lures, live baits and slab baits throughout all four rivers. Finding likely ambush areas with some form of shade and structure that breaks the prevailing current is easy enough throughout that system.
Indeed, if there is one problem, it is that there are possibly too many likely jack haunts and you will barely get on the plane before pulling up to try the next hot spot. This is not a bad thing, as it spreads the effort and scatters fishos somewhat on what is fast becoming a heavily-pressured waterway.

How nice are the colours on this jack, they're great fun at this size and it can all be over in a second if you're not prepared.

Night sessions are particularly productive this time of year. The jacks are very much nocturnal hunters and will often venture well away from structure under cover of darkness. Walking stickies, blooping poppers or paddling frogs across the surface at dawn, dusk or during the evening is the epitome of jack fishing at its best. Even barra rarely match the ferocity of a surface take from a big angry mangrove jack.

Try the creeks along the western side of Fraser Island for jacks if you prefer. Their numbers are great in some of these creeks and they can be much easier to track down due to the smaller nature of these streams. You will need plenty of Bushmans, or even better still, a Thermacell set-up, but the rewards are worth putting up with the bugs.

Fraser’s creeks, along with the creeks of the mainland side of the straits are in great condition right now. There is just enough “colour” to attract baitfish and the prawns are emerging. Excessive rains this week would be a little frustrating, but it hasn’t hit the ground yet. The jacks aren’t the only active fish in these estuaries, as quality grunter have featured regularly in catches, whilst threadies and blue salmon have been making raids on select creeks.

Soft vibes are still accounting for the threadies and blues for many fishos, but they are also prone to a fast-twitched hardbody or a range of plastics. It is hard to go past prawn imitations for the plastic brigade, though paddle-tailed offerings work a treat as well. Thankfully, the salmon aren’t fixated on jelly prawn too much as yet, but watch this space, as if we get good rains now, then their focus will shift.

Ryan with another solid mangrove jack

Muddies Moving and Prawn Emerging

Crustacean fans might wish to drop the crab pots in and take a cast net when next heading into their favourite estuary. Word is that there has been recent movement from our mud crab population, and there are nice full bucks amongst them. If you haven’t crabbed for a while, it will pay to soak your pots for a few hours whilst you fish, and shift them for the overnight soak if no immediate success.

Anyone bait fishing the Burrum system could attest to how frustrating muddies can be when on the move in that system. They walk off with baits regularly, and whilst rare, the culprit is occasionally a keeper. It can be a tricky game getting a crab to hang on to your bait long enough to slip a landing net under him, but sometimes you get a win.

The full moon tides will stir up the muddies, so when you combine these tides with storms and possible localised run-off you have the perfect crabbing scenario. Many crabs have made their way back upstream into the backwaters or our creeks, so you might want to try some of the hard-to-reach spots out of the main stream and away from poachers.

Keep an eye on the sounder for shows of banana prawn whilst traversing our rivers and creeks. There is a good feed of smaller “mediums” getting about in the creeks over at the island and down the straits. It is very hot for prawning at present, and even these little critters will be feeling the heat, so try well-shaded gullies and muddy banks or seek them out in the deeper waters.

We still haven’t heard anything to suggest that the inshore sand crabbing has improved. Having said this, the full moon tides would traditionally see local sandy fans sneaking a feed of crab out of their pots from the channels and ridgelines of the southern bay within cooee of the bay islands. Otherwise, the better sand crabbing has been out wider in the bay for those willing to drop a few pots in on their way north for a fish.

Coral Trout Still No 1 Target Inshore

Surprisingly, there are still coral trout being caught from our shallow reef systems. Surprising because of the intense effort applied to targeting this species over the school holidays. Sure enough, the common grounds visited by dozens of boats daily are quite depleted and giving up only a rare keeper amongst all the juveniles, but other sections of more exposed or less-frequented reef are still firing.

The popularity of trolling diving lures is out of control nowadays, and every modern-day troller has access to well-proven lures. Everyone has their favourites, and occasionally a new lure works a treat, but the same old lures we were braining them on 20 years ago still score exceptionally well. Early morning trolls typically get the best bites and the bigger tides enhance your chances even more.

The number of fishos flicking softies, swimbaits, stickbaits and glidebaits from the rocks at Pt Vernon has also grown substantially in recent times. This once secretive domain of very few is now enjoyed on a regular basis by many. Catching larger trout from the stones is challenging but doable for those with the right tackle to get their head up and keep them coming.

The deeper inshore reefs are home to better trout in summer for those keen to tea-bag plastics, vibes or jigs in front of their lairs. The sharks will make short work of far too many trout (and other species) these days, so put some miles between the sharky spots and try elsewhere. Bouncing from reef to reef in a select area will only see the noahs shadow you to the next easy meal.

Brett with a chunky coral trout caught out in the central bay

Bycatch of estuary cod is substantial when chasing trout, particularly in deeper waters. Other than those species, the common catch at present is grassy sweetlip. They favour the fringes of most reef systems and are particularly easy to catch on all manner of baits. Night sessions will see the best sweeties come out to play, but you can still score an easy feed of them in daylight (if the sharks leave you alone).

Grunter numbers have tapered off (or been caught) in many locations inshore. However, the full moon tides will see quality fish caught out off the Burrum coast, off Pt Vernon and around the bay islands once again. Many grunter have made their way back into our estuaries as the water quality improved recently - but for how long?

Sneaking a couple of decent scarlet sea perch over the side has been possible lately - so long as there are no sharks about. There are a few scarlets to be found in our deeper local shipping channels, but better numbers can be found out in the bay. Look for them on isolated lumps or over fuzzy bottom out in the paddock.

Scott with a slob of a coral trout (above) and a nice red emperor (below) from one of the wider reefs

Hot Pelagic Action Can Be Exhausting

Chasing the bay’s tuna species can be a tiring affair during the peak heat of summer. Mack tuna are out there in numbers for the less fussy, and enough pods of longtails for those keener on the black barrels. Stick baiting can really shine as summer leads into autumn and the tuna focus on larger baitfish.

At the moment, you could be catching tuna that are gorging on balled-up tiny little “rain fish” or tuna that are greyhounding after garfish and flying fish across the surface. Either way, if you carry a mix of small slugs, some heavily-weighted jerkshads and stickbaits, then you are in the race. If the sharks are too much of a hassle, then seek out smaller bust-ups of less fish.

A feed of spotted mackerel is still on the cards when the weather permits. Renowned fans of hot steamy weather, the spotties should be pretty easy to tempt at present, so long as you can track them down. Their numbers are dwindling, but they are still a viable target, so ensure you have a few metal slugs on board if you are a fan and heading for the northern bay.

Andrew with a lit up mahi mahi, aka dolphin fish.

Spanish mackerel are here in numbers at present, in sizes from barely legal to 30 kilo beasties. You cannot target them at present of course, so let them go if caught. Schoolies on the other hand are fair game and can be found anywhere from the Gutters, though the 25 Fathom Hole, to the reefs of Platypus Bay, the Outer Banks and the local artificial reefs.

Your schoolie might grow mid-fight around some of our artis though, and it won’t always be a dreaded noah. Big bad old GTs are very prone to snack on school mackerel and will often pounce on your fish. For a bit of fun, you can try your hand at catching the GTs by live baiting around the local shipwrecks or other artis.

GTs will also be a worthy target for anyone keen on a sweaty session chasing them on stickies and poppers around the bay islands over the full moon. They are also known to frequent the waters near the mouth of the Mary, the deeper ledges along the inside of Fraser and occasionally over the flats or up the creeks themselves.

Queenies too will build up a sweat this time of year, only on lighter tackle. Again, try the ledges along the inside of Fraser or the bay islands. There has been numbers of queenies exciting the kids on the flats and within the channels feeding our local creeks of late. Beelbi would be the pick for anyone shore-based, though they can turn up out in front of Eli if there is enough bait in the area.

Nath with a queenfish caught on an outing with Tri from Fraser Guided Fishing

Local Beaches and Flats Better Over Full Moon

Anyone keen to try for a feed of whiting from our local beaches would be well-served getting their gear ready right now. Summer time is definitely not the best time to catch “summer” whiting in these parts, but you can still manage a modest feed if you are keen.

Try the beaches west of town, or don your best mudskipper gear and head down to the Booral Flats for the better fish. Daylight sessions can produce in these areas, but for those preferring the urban beach scene, then a rising tide after dark will be best.

Grunter are possible from any of the aforementioned beaches or mudflats, and again, evening or dawn sessions are more productive. Soaking a banana prawn or bunch of yabbies are preferred bait options, whilst those favouring lures would be hard-pressed to beat the GULP prawn imitations.

Targeting giant trevally out at the Urangan Pier is still the primary daytime focus of those fishos with heavy enough tackle. Chunky big fish are still being caught occasionally, though bust-ups are far more common. The GTs have become a bit gun-shy as can be expected, so extra effort might be required to tempt a bite.

Apparently, there is a few pencil squid at the pier at present. Evening cloud cover will aide in drawing them to the surface under an otherwise glowing moon. Dawn and dusk forays, sinking jigs deeper in the water column is still producing, but the numbers are certainly well down on what we might normally enjoy this time of year.

And finally, word is that there is still tailor to be found in the gutters on Fraser Island’s surf beaches. It seems as though there are fish lingering from the great spring season, even now. Otherwise, we cannot offer much insight into the island surf scene at present.

Good luck out there y’all …… Jase

Amanda (above) and Brett (below) with a couple of ripper summertime snapper

Dylan with a nice comet cod destined for the table

Wayne showing off the stunning colours on a coronation trout

Wayne with a double header of brown maori cod and tuskfish

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