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Weekly Fishing Report - 30th May 2019

We have been blessed with sensational weather this past week. Light winds and sunny skies greeted a huge fleet of hopefuls that scattered far and wide, from our local estuaries to the wide grounds offshore. Great catches were made by quite a few crews as most turned their attention to reef fishing.

One cold front after another has passed over our region this week, with each change seemingly colder than the last as our overnight temperatures plummeted to a chilly 6 degrees – a long way below our average for this time of year. We can now say goodbye to autumn and "welcome" our winter, and going by the latest forecast we are in for a chilly start to the season with yet another cold snap or two this week.

The winds are on the increase at present unfortunately, with this weekend looking like exceeding 15 knots from the south-southeast Saturday, but dropping below that for Sunday. Another southwesterly change early in the week will then see the winds swing south through southeast as the week progresses. The forecast winds will be reasonable for our protected inshore waters for much of the week but out wide will be a bit sketchy for all but the biggest boats. Add the influence of Monday’s new moon and its associated spring tides and the seas might get a bit messy at times, so take care to plan your trips accordingly.

Offshore

Quite a few crews ventured out over the Breaksea Spit last weekend, whilst others steered more to the north for a great mix of quality reef fish in many cases. Sharks were the determining factor between scoring a great feed and coming home frustrated and defeated.

The hard-working crew on gun local charter boat "Getaway" (Time & Tide Charters) have been killing the pig out wide lately with some great successive catches that reflect the huge variety on offer out there. Drifting the shallow lip of the shelf in 100m has found them scoring good hauls of pearl perch and jobfish, with some arm-stretching kingfish and big green jobfish sorting the men out from the boys.

The shoal country in around 50m or so has been firing for a real mix of reefies that has included some nice red-throat, tuskfish, various cod and some truly large hussar. One hang in particular saw them land a dozen large scarlet sea perch over 8kg without a shark in sight. This was a rarity however, as generally speaking, the sharks have been absolutely terrible out wide of late.

The current offshore has finally settled down and has been more consistently light and favourable. Snapper have been on the move it seems, with grounds that produced weeks ago now devoid of the same fish. The Getaway crew have been into the night-time spanish mackerel again, albeit when they are floatlining for snapper, and have had a couple of those memorable sessions where other big denizens of the deep were totally unstoppable.

The offshore scene will be a great option for those with capable vessels over the coming winter months. Pick your weather and take appropriate care on the bar. Deep-dropping over the slope of the shelf will also be productive for those with the deep water tackle when the winds are slight.

The Bay

The Gutters was popular last weekend as expected, and with so many boats out that way a few crews actually managed a good feed of reefies whilst neighbouring crews kept the sharks occupied. The minimal run of the neaps sure got the trout active, and plenty were hooked on both tea-bagged softies and live baits. Beating the sharks makes for exhausting fishing, and we can only yearn for the day when we can again hook a fish, drag it clear of the bottom and settle in and enjoy the battle to the boat, instead of having to go hell-for-leather like a madman on every fish hooked.

Grass sweetlip, scarlets, squire, cod, blackall, spangled emperor, hussar, parrot and moses perch were all possible additions to the esky and shortly you will be able to add snapper and reef jacks to this list as we head into winter. Big cobia are becoming a more common capture at the Gutters, whilst schools of their smaller brethren can be a real handful as well.

Over Rooneys way it has been scarlets, sweeties and squire that have been the more common catches, with a few big grunter showing up in some spots. Sharks are just as bad at Rooneys for many, though there are a few fishos that have little spots secreted away that will produce a few trophies without the visit from the tax man.

Bigger snapper have yet to be a consistent catch, but the chance of tangling with them gets closer with every passing moon. The 25 Fathom Hole didn’t produce (as far as we know) but would be worth a visit for some snapper over the coming bigger tides if you find yourself passing through that area.

Over in Platypus Bay it sounds as though the tuna schools are starting to disperse. Hervey Bay will rarely ever be a "tuna-free zone" though, and just because you cannot see them working the surface doesn’t mean that they are not here. Winter will see longtails and larger mack tuna rounding up bigger baitfish deeper in the water column and they will be both a sound target for the savvy sportsfisho and a royal pain in the butt for the budding snapper anglers.

Trevally will continue to school up in bigger numbers in winter, with a huge variety of these hard-fighting brutes possible from the Gutters, the Platypus Bay reefs and off Rooneys. Diamond trevally are without a doubt the most photogenic of this bunch, though goldies and GTs are keenly sought after as well. The bludgers, long-nosed, tea leaf, brassy trevally and their smaller cousins are just as much fun but without the glitz and glamour.

Inshore

The neap tides made for easy pickings for those seeking out cod and coral trout inshore. The deeper reefs produced better than the shallows, but you still have to contend with the local whalers in the deeper waters. Live baiting produced many of the bigger fish, whilst tea-bagging plastics and micro jigs accounted for plenty of smaller models.

The neaps don’t do much to inspire the bigger snapper inshore, but a few good squire were on the chew for those that were on the water early or stayed into the evening. This weekend should be a different matter altogether, with bigger knobbies now a viable option if you can find them without the sharks finding you.

Past snapper hotspots such as the Roy Rufus Arti, Moon Ledge, the Burrum 8 Mile and the Outer Banks are all shark-infested unfortunately, but if you are lucky enough to hook a knobbie whilst other fishos nearby occupy the whalers then you are in with a chance. Night sessions are likely to produce the best fish and could also see less shark activity as the whalers scatter elsewhere hunting the shallows under the cover of darkness.

Trolling for big snapper has become quite popular in recent years and this method of targeting them is well worth considering this time of year. Snapper roam far and wide and don’t simply hang around any given reef system, so trolling offers the opportunity to cover a lot of ground quite effectively. They feed well up off the bottom much of the time too, so a lure diving to 5-8 metres or so can still score snapper in 10-20 metres of water.

Slow trolling is the go, and a few lures have proven their worth locally in recent seasons, namely the Dr Evils, Classic 20s and RMG Scorpions. Keep your leader as light as possible, with 20-30lb about right inshore. Hopefully those trolling will encounter the bigger snapper wide of the reefs, away from the sharks that are most likely attracted to the anchored or drifting boats. Pass too close to a reef system and you could score a trout or cod too, so be prepared to haul them out if you suspect one of these critters has taken your lure.

The most common "reefie" inshore till now has been the humble old grass sweetlip. There are still quite a few around, but their numbers are tapering off as our waters cool. Many of the reefs within the local shipping channels, including the Roy Rufus, the Channel Hole, Boges Hole and Urangan Channel will produce a few more sweeties, along with a few squire, blackall and cod.

Broad-barred and school mackerel have become quite common over many of the reefs within the shipping channels, and are even more likely around the Fairway, the Outer Banks, the Burrum 8 Mile, Mickies and off Gatakers Bay. Mackerel have been an easy option for less experienced fishos looking to score a "big" fish for their kids or visiting family and friends. Trolling appropriate lures at around 6-8 knots will help to track them down, and then you can spin them up on metal spoons for a bit more of an adrenalin rush. Of course these same mackerel are suckers for a well presented pillie on gang hooks or a whole squid or live herring suspended mid-water or just above the bottom.

Winter whiting fishos seem to be quite happy with their catches this week. Bag limits of good quality winteries are becoming far more common, with most of the action centred around Gatakers Bay. The spell of better weather this week enabled a few to venture elsewhere and check the grounds out from Urangan south towards the Picnics. Some whiting were located, but seemingly not as good as the catches from Gatakers. The dreaded green toads have been a far greater issue south of the harbour at present.

Burrum River System

Bream are starting to become more common in the lower reaches of the Burrum, a few tailor showed up a couple of weeks ago, some good quality grunter and whiting are feeding over the sandbanks upstream at night and flatties are again making an appearance, so it is good news for the light line brigade up that way.

Fishing from the shore at Burrum Heads has been fairly quiet apparently, but the pike have kept the kids busy enough, and when deployed as a live bait can account for some sizeable queenfish, big flathead and even the odd barra. Keep a squid jig handy if walking the shores over winter.

Further upstream there have been some good barra to be targeted, but getting them to bite is getting harder the cooler it gets. The big spring tides this week might make that task a little harder again. Live baiting will produce better than lures, but doesn’t offer anywhere near as much fun.

Mini GTs and queenfish of all sizes will become more common captures throughout the Burrum system in winter. They are super easy to catch once located, with small plastics, poppers, stickbaits and vibes all accounting for their share. Look upstream of sandbanks in the deeper holes and particularly where this coincides with a sharp bend in the river or a rock bar.

Mud crabs are possible in the mid/upper reaches of the rivers and should be on the move again now that the neaps have passed and the tides are on the build. Sand crabs are potting well out the front beyond the drop off and are turning up back towards Pt Vernon as well.

Prawns still remain the scarcest in years, but the westerly winds this week are likely to get any that are there on the move. The Gregory would usually offer the best chance of a feed of prawn. Westerlies again this week will have locals thinking about Woodgate for prawn, but the lack of success this season is making most hold back waiting for the grapevine to tell them when to go.

Mary/Susan Rivers & the Great Sandy Straits

Around River Heads you can find a few jewfish if you probe the bottom with soft vibes or prawn-styled plastics over the turn of tide in the deeper waters off North Head or in the river mouth channel itself. The same lures and paddle-tailed plastics are worth a try further upstream around any prominent rock bars or deep holes containing schools of herring. Live baits or whole squid will be the go for bait fishos vying for a jewie around the turn of tide.

There has been an explosion in numbers of herring in the lower reaches recently and this has been the drawcard for numerous schools of blue salmon. Small pods of sizeable mack tuna have been tearing around inside the river too, but they seem more fixated on chasing the local garfish population. Small GTs are also quite common throughout the first few miles of river and are a lot of fun on the light gear.

Flathead are moving back into shallower waters and are now a reasonably common catch. Bream numbers are about to explode as they turn up around the heads en-masse for their annual spawn. They can be big, cranky old bream too at times too, and will test your light gear around the rocks over at South Head.

Head further upriver and you will encounter more blue salmon in the dirtier waters, along with schooled up threadies holding station in the deeper holes out of the current. Soft vibes are best to target both species in this scenario, and a significant score can be tallied in no time when they decide to feed. When they don’t want to party though, you might as well take photos of the arches on your sounder as they can be ridiculously stubborn at times.

Mud crab activity slowed down over the neap tides, but they will become active again as the tides build. Finding crabs is all that much easier at low tide at present due to the evidence of their diggings along the mud banks. Placing your pots in the shallower runs between holes in the main stream seems to be the go for now.

Whilst we still live in hope of a banana prawn run it is looking less promising and quite unlikely. Head upstream in the smaller feeder creeks of the rivers or into the major creeks of the Straits however and you will find some decent banana prawn – just not in any great numbers. Gathering enough for a bait fishing session will be easy enough, and if you persist then you could score a kilo or two for a feed. It will be hard work compared to what we are used to around here however.

Urangan Pier, Local Beaches and Creeks

The Urangan Pier has been the best shore-based location for a crack at a bigger fish of late. Longtails have been frequent visitors this week, sometimes in large numbers. School and broad-barred mackerel have been coming and going, and the odd queenfish and golden trevally is a chance as well, especially if live baiting with pike.

Bait-wise, the pier is surrounded by masses of herring at present which will continue to draw the attention of passing pelagics, but also won’t go un-noticed by other predators. Jewfish have been taking live baits out there at night lately, and flatties will do the same both day and night. If you really want to increase your chances with these species, then learn how to catch pike or drop in to our store and we will let you know how to catch them.

Bream have been slow to turn up in any number so far this season, but that should all change rapidly courtesy of this week’s cold snaps. The big tides over the dark of the moon should see catches improve both day and night for those floatlining baits under the pier. (See last week’s report for a few tips on pier bream fishing). The rock walls of the Urangan Harbour also offer prime bream fishing at present, where fish over a kilo can offer quite the challenge.

Flathead are now a more viable target for those wandering our foreshores. The mouths and banks of our local creeks are worth a look, as are the areas adjacent to structure along our local beaches. Mini GTs and queenies are also a reasonably easy target in creeks such as Beelbi and around the shores of The Gables and Pt Vernon.

Lake Lenthalls

Lenthalls continues to impress with great catches of bass for those making the effort to get out there. Small vibes are producing best right now, but bass being bass it may pay to take a range of lures to contend with their changing feeding habits throughout the day.

Whilst barra seem to have been largely overlooked in favour of the bass, they have been active and willing to take a well presented hardbody for those targeting lily pad gardens and submerged log piles. Plenty of bass fishos have hooked barra up to and beyond the 80cm mark on their light bass gear, with a few being landed and released. Of course, the cold snaps this week will give the barra a temporary case of lock-jaw, so time your winter barra sessions to coincide with sunny days and warmer nights for better results.

Good luck out there y’all.

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