Typical Spring Weather This Week
The weather has been less than ideal for much of this year’s September school holidays, and it looks like that trend will continue for the last few days of the break. We, like much of our stretch of the Qld coastline are in for a chance of some fairly interesting storms over the next day or two.
The northerly wind will build in intensity as the storms approach, effectively denying access to the bay for all but the bigger boats. The storms are due to pass through by Friday night sometime, leaving a brief spell of lighter, and quite warm westerly winds in their wake. Another spate of intense northerly wind is scheduled for late Sunday through Monday, so if planning a weekend on the water, then you had better make the most of Saturday and early Sunday.
It looks as though a few days of lighter, variable winds will appeal to anyone lucky enough not to have to work mid-week, with the potential return of stiffer northerlies by week’s end. All in all, another tough week for open water fishos, but pretty much primo for those who favour the estuaries.
The tides are building over coming days, leading into next Wednesday’s new moon. As these tides gain momentum and flood more water into the lower bay and Great Sandy Straits, it should see an improvement in our flats and inshore shallow reef fisheries this week, not to mention spiking pelagic activity in the bay.
Coral Reef Fin Fish Closure Imminent
The first of Qld’s two annual Coral Reef Fin Fish Closures is scheduled to commence this weekend. From midnight this Saturday night until midnight Thursday 7th October, the taking of any fish listed within the “Coral Reef Fin Fish Plan” (CRFFP) is prohibited from waters north of Latitude 24⁰50’.
In essence, this means you cannot take any trouts, emperors, many cods, many sweetlips, tusk fishes, parrot fishes or even hussar etc from waters north of a line drawn horizontally from approximately a little south of Bargara to a little north of Station Hill during this closure period.
This closure was initiated several years ago in an effort to protect our prime reef fish species during their key spawning periods. The southern border of the closure was implemented as it was a GBRMPA initiative, yet for some strange reason was not extended south of that line within our Great Sandy Marine Park when it was initiated, even though our coral reef fin fish species would also obviously benefit if protected whilst they gathered to spawn.
So, whilst the weather will likely deter anyone from heading north chasing reef fish during this closure, if you do venture above latitude 24⁰50’, then do not be tempted to do so with coral reef fin fish species onboard that you caught south of that line. You can of course, target and keep other species that are not managed within the CRFFP, such as snapper, pearl perch, mackerels, trevallies etc.
The second of these closures is scheduled for the next new moon in November, and will see the same prohibition for the period from midnight Monday night 2nd Nov through until midnight Saturday 6th Nov.
Black Marlin on Their Way
Exciting times are ahead for the local game fishing fleet and any budding sportsfishos out there keen to tangle with their first black marlin. Word from ports to our north suggest that the annual run of juvenile blacks heading down the coast is well underway. Reports of good numbers of small blacks off Yeppoon is very encouraging and bodes well for our waters in coming weeks.
Next week’s new moon and the tides building into it are seen as the kick off of our local baby black marlin season in Hervey Bay. There may not be any fish mooching about up the island over the shallow flats of Platypus Bay as yet, but ply the wider waters out around the Gutters or north of Rooneys, and concentrate your efforts around large aggregations of baitfish and you will soon track down some little billies. As the season unfolds, more and more fish will make their way into Platypus Bay, feasting on various baitfish species in their quest to put on some bulk to energise them whilst on their journey south.
Catching marlin, or at least the smaller models we encounter here in the bay, is certainly not limited to the well-healed game fishos with big boats and fancy gear. The reality is, that these fish are well within the reach of those with reasonably small tinnies and fairly standard tackle, so long as your gear is in good shape – particularly your line and your reel’s drag.
We can help out anyone keen to get amongst these exciting line burners, with a great range of the right lures, pre-rigged for your convenience if you like, along with all the teasers, leaders, specialised hooks, swivels and any other conceivable bit of tackle you might need.
Only time will tell how this marlin season will shape up. The number of fish that make their way into the bay each year varies, yet the offshore scene is vastly more predictable and productive. When the currents swing in close offshore and the fish follow, the waters at the north eastern end of Fraser Island really turn it on. From the waters immediately off the cape, to the eddied currents to the north outside the 13-mile crossing, big numbers of blacks turn up each year. We just need the weather to get at them.
Mackerel Seemingly Here One Day – Gone the Next
The promising start to our local school mackerel season seems to have tapered off quite dramatically. Where once there was mackerel galore off the west coast of the bay and throughout the southern bay one week, they were surprisingly hard to track down in any number the next. Apparently, this was the case last week.
Rest assured, the macks will be back, in some numbers at least. Being highly mobile fish, they will travel where ever they need to go to gorge on the available baitfish such as herring and yakkas. Don’t be surprised to strike out if you are chasing mackerel in waters devoid of baitfish. Look elsewhere if needs be and try trolling likely areas whilst you scan for signs of bait and fish.
The broad-barred mackerel run in winter was fairly insignificant this year for some reason. Too much pressure on the stocks to our north or locally, or just another result of three years of drought? We are due for another run of broadies anytime soon, with the first signs of them locally often being off Pt Vernon or in the local shipping channels.
In the past, trolling diving lures over our shallow reefs for coral trout was quite productive this time of year. Broadies were often an annoying bycatch in these shallows, so let’s see if we see a repeat this season. Trollers targeting trout can give that technique a serious try over coming months, though early starts are required for optimum success.
Whiting Fishos Gearing Up for the New Moon
Once again, our local whiting fishos have plenty to cheer about. The bigger tides on their way as we approach the new moon will see them out and about chasing their favourite little ‘ting. The periods of stronger northerly winds will be a negative in that access to some prime flats and creeks over the island will be denied. Yet, on the flipside, that same north wind will stir up the shallows and trigger an even more aggressive bite from the whiting as they mooch about in the recently churned-up waters feasting on their favourite morsels dislodged by the wind and waves.
Night time sessions will continue to be super-productive and likely result in easily achieved bag limits of quality ‘ting. The frequent northerlies of late have added that little bit of colour to our inshore waters, being just the ticket to enhance the daytime whiting fishery as well.
Depending upon the weather at the time, you could sneak over to Fraser and fish the flats and creeks for a feed of whiting, a few flatties and perhaps a couple of grunter. You could also head down the straits and do the same thing. If the northerly is too much, then the lower reaches of our rivers are worth a crack, with schools of whiting possible in the lower Susan/Mary, or small numbers of much larger fish working the flats in the Burrum.
Of course, you could simply leave the boat in the shed and hit the local town beaches or the Urangan Pier and still expect a great feed of whiting. These fish are typically best targeted during the last half of the rising tide and the first of the ebb. Immediately after a stiff northerly abates, even the lower stages of the tide are worth a try along our beaches, particularly after dark.
The neap tides last week saw quite a few flathead hauled over the rails along the Urangan Pier. The first channel and even more-so the slope out towards the end were central to the majority of the flathead action. Their tendency to fall for a well-positioned live bait was the undoing of many flatties. They can be a little more challenging during the larger tides, but if there is any left, they will still fall for the same live baiting techniques. Soft vibes would be hard to beat if you would rather target them with artificials.
Great Conditions for Jack Hunters
Whilst the wild weather is likely a little daunting or off-putting to the average bay fisho or reef fisho, the storms, northerlies and increasing heat in coming days should have the local jack gurus champing at the bit. Throw the new moon tides into the mix and you have the recipe for some excellent early-season jack fishing in these parts.
The waters of the Burrum system offer possibly the biggest numbers and most boating-friendly option in windy weather. The upper to mid sections of the Burrum, Cherwell, Isis or Gregory are likely to give up some great jacks if you can track them down amongst the plethora of likely jack-holding structures these rivers offer.
Bait fishos drifting live baits, mullet fillets or dead baits sourced from the river via their cast net shouldn’t have too much trouble tempting the local jack population. Dragging the bigger fish from their lairs might prove a little more challenging however, as the Burrum system is home to some true trophy jacks.
Lure fishos will need to bring their A game and get their lures right in tight to structure. Seeking out shade, shady structure or deeper waters will be key to more bites whilst the sun is up. Dawn and dusk sessions or evening forays open up more options to fish open water nearby to snags or indeed topwater for the ultimate adrenalin rush.
You might even find a few barra or threadies in the river at the right stage of tide. Grunter too are a chance over the new moon period, not to mention the odd flattie or a feed of elbow-slapper whiting. This might sound easy and a nice list of target species, but don’t be fooled into thinking the river is full of fish. Indeed, most locals will tell you just how tough it is for much of the year, but luckily, the good old mangrove jack is not a commercially targeted species and for that reason alone is in healthy numbers in the Burrum.
You certainly aren’t limited to the Burrum system when chasing jacks either, with most of the creeks along the western side of Fraser and many of the mainland creek systems of the straits also home to healthy stocks of the red devil. The new moon tides offer great access to these creeks this time of year, without the excessive tidal flow and huge high tides of summer.
Barra Dams Bound to be Interesting this Week
Cooler weather and varying wind direction made the impoundment fishing a little more challenging over the past week up at Monduran. Trollers pulled a few fish targeting the open waters of the big bays, whilst many casting the edges failed to produce. Of course, as will always be the case, an intrepid few picked up quality fish casting the timber at the right times last weekend whilst the northerlies dominated, (and kept their catches quiet to avoid the resultant crowds).
This week should prove much more interesting. The storms before the weekend could be “exciting”, particularly for those newbies yet to experience such events on the lake. Take care and have a sheltered escape spot to race off to if a big roll cloud bears down on you, as things can get rather hairy out in the open.
This long weekend will see big crowds on the lake which creates its own challenges and frustrations, but the heat will ramp up and trigger a good bite for those that read the changing conditions appropriately. As mentioned recently, beef up your gear, and invest in much bigger lures than those little things that tempted the smaller barra in years gone by. Fish the open points and the like and you will still get away with light drags and little lures, but take on the big girls in the timber with the little stuff and you be left shaking your head.
Awoonga will be equally as popular as Mondy, but will certainly offer vastly greater numbers of barra. If the scorecard means more to you than the overall experience, then Awoonga should definitely be your favoured destination. Catching 20 or more fish per boat is quite possible at Awoonga when you crack a good bite. More often than not, such big scores are the result of long night sessions casting big lures at open points, but great fishing is also on offer during the daytime.
Lenthalls is starting to produce barra quite consistently now that things have warmed up. The lack of lily pads means that you should seek out the piles of submerged laydowns to find the barra. Follow the prevailing wind as you would in any lake, and suss out the approaches to the downwind banks and points for fish hanging in the subtle current when the wind is strongest.
Bass fishos can ply their craft and test their skill against the big bass in Monduran along the timber-fringed edges of the main watercourses. Sounding out schools of large bass is common (even when looking for barra), so trolling 4-5 metre divers or rolling hard vibes through these suspended fish should soon see you connected.
Early morning sessions on topwater can also produce hot sessions on Mondy bass, but it is Lenthalls that has the runs on the board as a consistent topwater fishery. Both bass and barra will climb all over stickbaits, poppers and frogs early and late in the day.
Good luck out there y’all.