Winter Arrives with a Chilly Blast
Better than expected weather conditions last weekend saw plenty of boats out on the bay. We only felt the tip of that severe, almost cyclonic, wind that battered our southern neighbours Monday night thankfully, and conditions have been improving ever since.
As the high-pressure system currently overhead gives way to a trough approaching from the west, our region should experience quite light winds in coming days. There is the likelihood of a brief, yet quite brisk breeze during the night and early in the morning some days (Friday night and then again Sunday night for example). The wind will ease dramatically during the day though, so sleep in and enjoy the best conditions if that suits you.
The latest forecast suggests a glamour day tomorrow with less than 10 knots of breeze; a 10-15 knots northwester tending westerly Saturday; followed by another ripper day Sunday with light and variable winds under 10 knots. Light southwesterly winds will dominate the early part of the working week, increasing to around 15 knots mid-week.
These offshore winds, particularly the southwester, have plunged us into winter quite dramatically. The autumn was so mild for so long, that this icy blast from the south is quite a shock for acclimatised Queenslanders. Our waters are still relatively warm for this time of year (21°C in the bay last weekend), but that has undoubtedly dropped further already.
Our winter species are the ones to be targeting from now on, though you can still get a lethargic bite from the warm-water loving species if you are patient and persistent. The waxing moon and diminishing tidal flow as we approach the first quarter moon phase on Wednesday isn’t overly inspiring for many of our species or fisheries, but opens up opportunities to target others. Read on for a few tips and the latest on what’s been biting.
Seasonal Bass Closure for Qld Tidal Waters
Australian Bass are off the target species list in Qld’s tidal waters right now. From the 1st June until the 31st August, bass can not be targeted or taken in waters affected by tidal flow. You can still target them in ponded waters above weirs or dam walls, so long as you fish outside the exclusion zones around the walls and weirs themselves.
Interestingly, a bass was captured at River Heads, at the mouth of the Mary River a few days ago. If that fish was caught today, then it must be released. Many bass are caught in the upper reaches of the Burrum River after major flooding events. They seem to fatten and thrive, most likely breeding as well, though fail to survive the re-salination of those waters when the freshwater is eventually flushed from the system by the tides.
A post-flood australian bass, caught at the River Heads pontoon. Don't be surprised if you pick up the odd one as bycatch on bream lures in the coming month or two. Pic: Darran Leal
The seasonal closure is put in place to protect breeding bass. Fishos keen to target bass should concentrate their winter efforts on the local lakes and leave potential breeding stocks alone. All of our local lakes are at least 100% full right now. Lenthalls, Monduran, Bjelke-Petersen and Boondooma are all great bass producers within cooee of the bay, and Cania, Gregory, Wuruma, and Borumba also within easy driving distance.
As a broad overview, the winter impoundment bass fishery this year will be impacted by full lakes and submerged weedbeds, so consider the following tactics. Fish the edges early and late in the day, either up in the lakes’ arms and feeder streams or out in the main basin around any rocky points. During the day, target fish found on your sounder in deeper waters.
Suspending jerkbaits like the Daiwa Double Clutch and Jackall Squirell 67SP are perfect for fishing weed edges.
Top water crustacean, arachnid and amphibian options
We have just recently enhanced our range of bass lures to cover all aspects of the impoundment fishery. We have spinnerbaits, jerk baits and lipless crankbaits for your edge fishing, along with frogs, poppers and stickbaits for topwater forays in warmer conditions.
No bass tackle box is complete without some quality spinnerbaits and chatterbaits.
We have quite a few new options on offer within out deep-water range as well, including spoons, blades, ice jigs, tail spinners and soft plastics. And of course, trollers are not left out either, with a good range of diving hardbodies and hard vibes (lipless).
Some of the must have lures for chasing schooled bass in the impundments. Spools, tail spinners, blades and soft plastics.
We have selected our new bass lure range based on the latest and greatest producers for local lakes. We have taken out the guesswork factor, so you can rely on the right lure for the right task. If you need advice, drop in and talk to our two keen bass fishos, Josh and Dane.
A great selection of suitable paddle tail and curly tail soft plastics for targeting bass.
Masses of Bait and Choppers on Fraser Island
Word from a local over on Fraser this week is that the eastern surf beach is fishing well for chopper tailor. There are great gutters formed along the middle stretch of the beach, and many of the rock formations are well out of the sand. The scouring effect of the strong winds and big seas in weeks gone by have shifted a lot of sand, and the beach is looking great for the start of our surf fishing season.
Robby Payne loves his tailor fishing
The tailor are quite abundant south of Happy Valley, where they are ripping into hordes of baitfish pushed right into the shallow water. In fact, other pelagics are also getting in on the act, with lots of surface action out a little wider. Drone fishos and slide baiters will be well-equipped to get baits amongst these fish and should not be surprised to hook tuna, trevally, queenfish or spaniards this time of year.
There is minimal surf right now, courtesy of the westerly winds, so the beach fishing is quite easy and enjoyable. We would expect that there would be good numbers of tarwhine and bream gathering around the rocky outcrops, with jewies also a possibility from deeper rock-strewn gutters after dark.
There should be quality whiting on offer down along the southern stretch of beach towards Hook Point this time of year (though we have no recent reports to substantiate that suggestion). Apparently, pippies are quite scarce along the middle stretch of beach. We will find out how the wormers are fairing some time in the future, but a scoured-out beach and excessive freshwater would suggest worming could be tough.
Rivers & Creeks Still Running Fresh
A bass caught at River Heads, and hordes of horrible tilapia along the nearby foreshores are quite indicative of the state of the Mary River system at present. All the same, there has been a few threadfin salmon taking baits in the lower reaches and plenty more out on the nearby flats adjacent to the river mouth.
It is blue salmon time from now on through winter and spring. Already, some fairly solid blues have turned up in the river and indeed at River Heads. They will handle filthy water just fine, but will tend to settle into the deeper holes for periods. Blues are highly mobile fish and will swim the full length of creeks and vast distances up our rivers in the hunt for food and water conditions to their liking.
Blue salmon will become quite abundant out in the Great Sandy Straits. You will find them in the creeks, up on the flats, around rock bars, and out in the feeder channels - just about anywhere. Don’t be too surprised to hook large blues around the bay islands at the moment where you might have otherwise hooked trevally or queenies in clearer waters.
Darran Leal said the blue salmon were on the chew, no threadies this day.
Jewfish will continue to feed actively throughout winter. The flooding Mary system played right into their hands, offering an abundance of food and cover in which to feed. Jewie fans will find them along the deeper ledges on the western side of Fraser, as well as somewhere in the vicinity of River Heads.
The excess freshwater from the Mary has pushed the bream out into the straits and the southern bay. The waters are still filthy dirty along the mainland side, but substantially cleaner over closer to Fraser. The deeper channels flushing down past Kingfisher help to improve the water quality in that area. Hint – Kingfisher Bay.
The bay islands, the flats and many of the rocky outcrops down the straits will be great hunting grounds for bream fans. Topwater will be great fun and the bream should be eager to respond with so much small prawn flushed from the creeks.
Once again, we have responded to the increasing demand for bream tackle, due partly to the large number of ex-southerners that have moved to the bay. We now stock a great range of the best bream lures for our region, including blades, jerk and crank baits, plastics, Cranka Crabs and topwater offerings, along with some snazzy new specialist bream rods purpose-built for the job.
Local Beaches Dirty but Fishing Well
This past week has seen a run of summer whiting along our town beaches, with quite a few being caught from the Urangan Pier as well. There have been flatties laying up in the shallows nearby to structure such as the piers and the rock groynes. Paddle-tailed plastics, prawn imitations, vibes or shallow-diving jerk baits will all tempt these flatties on the right day, but so will a fresh prawn, slow-rolled gang-rigged pillie or a live bait.
Bream are on the move and gathering around structures too, with the Urangan Harbour the biggest structure in their path. The rocky reefs hidden below water along the beach attract great numbers of bream at times. Try lures or a bit of berley and lightly-weighted baits over the Torquay or Scarness reefs from shore or a boat and you could be in for a treat.
Huge numbers of bream will gather around the Pialba – Gatakers Bay rocky foreshores this month. Spawning will be foremost on their little minds at times, but they will be typically quite ravenous and keen to feed. Berleying and float-lining baits back (somewhat akin to mini snapper fishing) in a few metres of water can soon see cricket scores of sizeable bream hauled over the side.
Crankbaiting for bream can be a tonne of fun on an ultralight rod such as the Daiwa Infeet
Shore-based lure fishos will typically favour shallow-running crank or jerk baits, lightly-weighted plastics or topwater offerings from the rocky shoreline. The coloured waters will serve to increase the breams’ confidence to mooch up into the shallows, but you had better bring your A-game when it comes to extracting the bigger fish from the coral-encrusted rocks.
Grunter will be a nice surprise as bream bycatch for some, but certainly deserve targeting in their own right. Just this week, quality grunter have been caught from the beaches in town and from the rocks at Pt Vernon. A pier fisho should not be surprised to pick up a grunter in the dirty water, and nor should those prospecting the Booral Flats with their whiting or flathead gear.
Boaties have knocked off quite a few good specimens from the deeper waters along the fringe of the Gatakers Bay reefs this week. The Fairway also produced, as did other gravelly grounds and reefs in the western bay. Grunter are currently quite likely from other deeper inshore reefs, from the fringes of the bay islands and the ledges along the inside of Fraser.
Sharks Take the Fun Out of Snapper Fishing
The recent flooding set the stage for an improved snapper season this year, and the recent chill in the air will certainly trigger a positive feeding response from the fish. The snapper are here, and in some places, in quite decent numbers.
Unfortunately, so are the flaming sharks (as always it seems). The best we can do as thinking fishos, is to try to target snapper away from known popular reef sites where sharks regularly hang out. Being such a mobile fish, that travels substantial distances in a tide or in its day-night movements, they can be intercepted away from common grounds quite regularly.
Trollers achieve this quite well, hauling big knobbies up from the depths that they hook well away from structure and sharks. Obviously, the well-vaunted Dr Evil is the gun lure for this job in these parts, but a few other candidates for deep trolling also grace our lure wall for those willing to experiment.
Trolling for snapper can be deadly, the Classic Dr Evil is a solid choice
Having said this, there is no denying the fun a fisho can have targeting the local snapper population with softies, jigs and vibes. Inshore hotspots will fish better with a bit more tidal flow than what we can expect over the coming neaps, yet the presence of baitfish and low light conditions should still trigger a bite from fish in the area.
Snapper will now be regular captures from the Gutters and from the reefs off Rooneys. Once the yakkas move inshore in bigger numbers, the 25 Fathom Hole and the reefs off Wathumba will be worth a crack. That would typically be next month, and usually over the bigger tide phases.
Pelagic Action Aplenty in the Bay
School mackerel are abundant right across the bay right now. From the reefs in the western bay, to the reefs in Platypus Bay, and from the grounds north of the banks to the Gutters, there are schoolies everywhere. These lure-stealing critters are prone to make life difficult for many of us targeting “better” fish, but by the same token, offer a particularly easy feed for the novice or for mackerel fans.
Mack tuna are also quite thick at present. Again, there are highly mobile schools of mack tuna throughout the western bay, all the way to just off the beaches in some areas. The central bay is lousy with them, and there are still big numbers up in Platypus Bay.
If it is the more prestigious longtail tuna that you seek, then you will have to refine your search. You may find the odd pod of fish skirting the mack tuna schools out in the bay, but you are better off ignoring the bigger bust-ups this time of year and seeking out individual fish or smaller pods seen sipping or lunging at baitfish skipping across the surface.
Big longtails are still feeding in the dirty water in the shipping channels off Woody Island and Little Woody Island. These fish can be a bit flighty, and they certainly are risky propositions with so many sharks inshore, but enough local lads get them into the boat to suggest the chase is viable.
Broad-barred mackerel have been showing up in the dirty water in close, as well as up the island.
Josh Cox with a nice spanish mackerel
Spaniards were also abundant in Platypus Bay a week ago, and likely still are, but should not be targeted due to them being a prohibited take in that area and their tendency not to handle well for release.
Trevally fans have plenty to cheer about at the moment. Goldies are schooling up inshore in southern Platypus Bay and at sites just north of the banks. They will make their way in to the local artificial reefs, and along ledges off Coongul and Moon and will annoy the snapper fishos whilst exciting nearby sportsfishos.
The winter trevally run has kicked off now too, with several species making their way inshore or at least to the wider bay reefs. The likes of long-nosed, gold-spotted, turrum, giants, diamonds, brassies and God knows how many other species are all possible in the bay in winter.
Grab your favourite jigging outfits or the plastics gear and have some fun with the trevor clan if that lights your fire. These fish will soon have you warmed up on a cold winter’s day. Simply look for the bigger structures in the area, hopefully inundated with terrified baitfish, and get jiggy with it.
Wide Reefs and Offshore Grounds Beckon
We may have potentially left the best until last here, but for many fishos, the good weather this week will see them gearing up, fueling up, and heading out wide. The westerly winds have flatted the swell to next to nothing, and the neap tides will suit many fishing the deeper waters of the northern bay.
Riley with a quality coral trout
Gutters fishos will deploy live baits or their favourite jigs or plastics for coral trout and cod, and can expect “bycatch” of reds, scarlets, snapper and plenty of trevally. We can well imagine that the sharks will be happy to hear the hum of outboards once again, so mobility will be key to success if planning to fish the ledges of the Gutters themselves.
Those heading offshore will be greeted by minimal swell and favourable conditions if they pick the right day. The snapper, pearl perch and jobfish schools along the shelf line will be worth a crack if the sharks can be avoided. Otherwise, it will be mixed reefies over the shallower shoal country, or busting out the deep drop gear and heading wider and deeper to avoid the tax man.
Harmo and Bowie with a juvenile red emperor and pearl perch
Some will head for ports to our north to fish the GBR out at the Bunker and Capricorn Group. The westerly winds can cause a few anxious moments for some, even if only in the planning stages, though the coral cays will soon offer the protection needed out wider when the winds peak.
The neap tides will enable crews to fish the deeper waters beyond the islands and reefs all the way to the shelf where they might catch good reds, scarlets, jobfishes, pearlies and snapper. Their bag limit of red throat, trout and tuskies is also quite achievable on the way out. Taking squid jigs would also be a good idea for anyone planning to spend time around the islands.
Reece with an amberjack, these guys go hard!
It will be interesting to get some feedback from offshore fishos next week to see how they faired with the sharks. The grounds offshore from the Wide Bay Bar will be gaining favour with offshore fishos as we head into winter and the westerlies and light southerlies dominate the weather.