Light Easterlies To Kick Off 2020
We trust all you keen fishos out there had a wonderful Xmas and wish you all a productive and happy new year.
The year 2020 has kicked off with a lovely spell of light easterlies that look set to dominate for the next week or so. We might get the odd scattered shower and the winds might sneak up to the 15 knot mark but all in all things are looking great for boaties and shore-based anglers alike.
We have neap tides at present, courtesy of tomorrow’s quarter moon. Minimal run in the tide right now will gradually build as we approach the full moon Saturday-week. As these tides build, so too will the piscatorial activity in the bay, with pelagics and reefies likely to turn it on throughout the week.
Pelagics Aplenty Out On The Bay
Have you got energetic kids that are bored with the local beaches and shops? Then get them out on the bay for a day or two chasing pelagics. Spotted mackerel and tuna are out there in big numbers and they should fire up this week as the tides build.
The big run of spotties up the island (Platypus Bay) seemed to dissipate a week or so ago, though word is there have been big numbers out in the wider parts of the western bay. These waters will be a lot more exposed than the eastern bay but still readily fishable in capable craft.
Heading north from Gatakers Bay or Urangan Harbour you can start searching the horizon for bird activity anywhere north of the banks or the Fairway. The biggest schools of spotties (and tuna) appear to be most active south and west of the 25 Fathom Hole at present. Those departing Burrum Heads may trip over the surface-feeding spotties and tuna a bit closer to the coastline up that way.
For those not so keen on the more open waters, then a trip up the island can still pay dividends. Latest reports suggest the waters off Station Hill in northern Platypus Bay are the best area to head. Again, look for the birds. If the birds are high in the sky then they are searching. If they are down at water level then they are actively picking up the scraps from the feeding pelagics. A simple old rule of thumb is that you will find the predators at roughly the equivalent depth to the height above water that the birds are circling.
All you need for a stack of fun with the spotties and tuna is a good selection of small metal slugs in the 15-40 gram range and an outfit capable of cranking at speed. If you, or the kids, have reels that are too slow, then try motoring past the feeding fish and casting the lures into them and retrieving whilst you maintain forward motion with the boat (and consistent revs). This will compensate for the lack of speed in your reels. Chances are this technique will spook the fish however, so do not do this if other boats are trying to fish the same school.
A better all round technique is to watch the movement of the feeding fish and position your boat in their path. Kill the motor and wait for them to approach. In the coolest scenario the poor little baitfish being balled up and gorged upon will in fact seek protection under your drifting vessel. This is when you get the Go Pro or phone out as often enough the baitfish will be seemingly trying to climb into your anchor well as birds, fish and massive sharks all take turns at smashing into the bait ball.
Speaking of sharks, obviously they are a major issue in this scenario, so play it safe around the boat and take extra care when landing and releasing fish. Move away from them and find another school if they get too intense.
Other than the surface-feeding species, there are trevally or various types, the odd big cobia and even a few marlin on offer in the northern bay. Marlin sightings and captures up on the shallow flats inside Fraser have been minimal as they appear to be staying out wider around the other schools of pelagics.
A bit further north there have been reports of small yellowfin tuna in the 10-15kg range. Perhaps it is the exodus of larger baitfish from bay waters that draw the yellowfin at these times, but whatever the reasoning they are out there between the Gutters and Rooneys.
The yellowfin are feeding off the surface and will eagerly crash tackle a fast twitched or retrieved stick bait or jerkshad plastic. Trolling them up is certainly an option for those so inclined and will enable you to seek them out once in the area. You can run a spread of skirts (behind a teaser, marlin-style if you wish) or a couple of high-speed diving minnows like the Halco Laser Pros.
Reef Fishos Beware – The Sharks Are Hungry
Good weather this past week or so has seen a massive number of boaties heading out onto bay waters hoping for a feed of reef fish or mackerel. There have been some good catches reported but the majority of feedback is concern over the losses to super-aggressive and seemingly ever-hungry bull sharks.
Avoiding the sharks is very challenging indeed. You can get lucky if by chance other boaties nearby have the "local" sharks occupied whilst you land a feed, however, if you are not so lucky then be prepared to move about a lot to avoid them. Try the shallow reefs fringing the bay islands and Pt Vernon area if all else fails.
Between shark attacks, some of the more interesting captures this past week have included a couple of quite decent snapper from the Roy Rufus Arti, some reasonable hauls of grass sweetlip from there and further south around the Channel Hole and Boges and a mix of blackall, cod and trout from various deep ledges in the area.
As the neaps give way to stronger tidal flow we would expect reef fish activity to increase dramatically. The shallow fringing reefs will see much more action from trout and cod that will respond to trolled divers early in the morning and a good feed of sweetlip should be possible during periods of low light. Night sessions will be best and will offer the added bonus of a feed of pencil squid as they gather around your boat’s lights.
Seafood Smorgasboard On Offer (Excluding The Prawns)
Targeting pencil squid (aka arrow squid) is a highly productive activity this month. As mentioned above, they will come to a well-lit boat after dark and can be easily caught on the tiny 1.5, 1.8 or 2.0 sized squid jigs. Plenty can be caught during the day as well for those accustomed to sinking their jigs. This is a stack of fun (and mess) for the kids and can be super easy.
Hauling in squid in big numbers can be exciting for those that are new to the game, just be aware that the Qld government introduced a new regulation in September limiting us to a possession limit of no more than 50 pencil squid. Tiger squid (aka locallies) are limited to only 20.
Those much needed little storms and showers over the past few weeks did wonders in getting the local crab populations moving. The River Heads area and most of Fraser Island north of there got 100mm or more in one particular storm that put a little colour in the water and gave the backwaters a brief taste of fresh.
Since then, muddies have been potted in the creeks along the inside of Fraser and down the straits, with a few also turning up in the Mary and Susan rivers. The smaller creeks locally have also given up a few crabs but those disgusting grubs who insist on stealing crabs and pots have been spoiling the party for a few crabbers.
Sand crabs are about in numbers in more open inshore waters, with the 20 bag limit achieved quite easily over the bigger tides. Once the full moon approaches they will again be worth a crack. Try the waters offshore from the Burrum or in the deeper channels adjacent to large mud/sand flats locally. Crab pot floats in shipping channels are a real nuisance and potentially a boating hazard so try to avoid these areas.
Crabbers vying for sand crabs out wider will need to ensure they utilise heavy pots (or add appropriate weights)and plenty of rope to contend with the larger tides and the deeper waters. Fresh baits work well, with mullet and fish frames always popular, though whiting frames are possibly the best for the sandies.
There have been next to no prawns in our area courtesy of the ongoing drought. Some very small bait prawns are starting to show in the upper reaches of the creeks and a bit of jelly prawn is lurking in the muddy drains, but we need some serious rain and a fresh in the estuaries to propagate any decent prawns this season.
Spawning Fish Moving Downstream In Our Rivers
Threadfin salmon have made their way downstream in the Mary system and are now more prevalent in the lower reaches than upstream. Schooled up salmon can be found in small numbers in the holes and deeper runs during the neaps, but in numbers far less than in previous months.
The coming bigger tides will again see them start working the drains, creek mouths and muddy verges rounding up tiny jelly prawns during the last of the ebb. This is when threadies can be incredibly frustrating, often clearly visible smashing the jelly prawn but refusing all artificial offerings.
Even live baits get ignored in the shallows if there is enough jelly prawn to keep them occupied, but some that resort to livies find instant success around the drains and often do quite well in deeper water during other stages of the tide.
Whilst frustrating, the key to success with "drain threadies" is to keep on casting and to keep trying other lures till you get the bite. Small lures dominate in this scenario and you cannot go too small. A mini minnow, vibe or prawn imitation will often get the bite and it is then a matter of staying connected with the diminutive hooks adorning said lures. The blistering runs of 4 foot sambos on the light gear in the shallows is something to behold, and enjoy. Panic plenty but keep your drag light and you should win the fight if the hooks hold.
Fly fishing fanatics have the next few months to hone their skills on these enigmatic estuary predators. The subtle presentation of a fly and its ability to mimic the threadies’ favourite tucker lends itself perfectly to this skinny water fishery.
It is not just threadies that have moved downstream, as barramundi bycatch in the lower reaches is beginning to reveal. These barra are moving down in readiness for rain events that will trigger their spawning instincts and should be left well alone. Targeting spawning aggregations of barra is a no-no during the closure and night time forays actively seeking them out around local man-made structures is considered poor form.
Estuary Dwellers Favouring The Bait Fishos
The Mary and Susan rivers are home to not only a good population of threadies, but also some very nice grunter at present. They are a great target on small plastics and vibes, but will often prove an easy target for bait fishos this time of year as they can be quite scattered at times. Small baits of prawn, yabbies, herring, fish fillets and squid all have their place in a bait fisho’s arsenal. Grunter fight hard and taste great but there isn’t much flesh on a barely legal model so consider returning the smaller ones to the water unharmed.
Flathead bycatch is quite common for those targeting drains for threadies. Catch enough of these critters and you might realise that they tend to favour well-shaded drains (for relief from the heat) or the obvious bait-filled drains and adjacent drop offs.
The creeks along Fraser’s western shores and the Burrum, Cherwell, Isis and Gregory rivers are the places to head to if seeking out the hard-hitting mangrove jack. This has been a great jack season so far and this trend should continue till the rains come. Bait fishos are out-fishing lure fishos and this will probably never change. Having said this, night sessions blooping small poppers or twitching stickbaits across rock bars can be heart-stopping stuff worthy of the effort and the mozzies.
Squid And Pelagics At Urangan Pier
Pencil squid have been keeping nocturnal pier fishos entertained lately. Bag limits of pencillies are a bit harder to achieve out on the pier than they are from a boat courtesy of the competition from neighbouring squidders, though there are a few things you can do to improve the odds.
Firstly, use a light source to draw the squid to your little piece of pier. Lowering a lantern or the more modern battery powered LED light bar to just above water level works a treat, so long as others are not poaching from beneath your light.
Secondly, flashing strobes and/or chemical light sticks attached to your line near your jig/s will help enormously as well. Thirdly, use better quality squid jigs such as those from the Yamashita range for a more natural and appealing offering. And last, but not least, rig your jig/s on light line and learn to read the squids’ reaction to your jigging techniques and their tendency to attack the jig as it falls.
For those looking for a bit more of an adrenalin rush there has been some large queenfish, GT’s and small mackerel out near the end of the pier of late. The GT’s will demand the heavier tackle, big baits, and more than an ounce of luck, but the other species are fair game for those spinning spoons or deploying live herring.
Good luck out there y’all and Happy New Year from all the crew at Fisho’s Tackle World.