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Weekly Fishing Report - 31st March 2022

Chris with a longtail tuna that he caught trolling a hardbody lure

More Great Weather This Weekend

We trust that anyone who could, made the most of the great weather last weekend. Unfortunately, the supposed glamour weather mid-week didn’t eventuate. That sneaky east coast low that is battering the NSW coastline - that was spawned wide off Fraser Island - spun a westerly into the mix mid-week and ruined a lot of fishos’ plans.

Fortunately, the forecast for this weekend has changed for the better. A brief SSE blow of around 20-25 knots tonight and early tomorrow should ease overnight Friday night. Saturday is looking fantastic, with another potential glass-out, and light-variable winds of less than 10 knots inshore. Sunday looks terrific too, with a sustained easterly of 10 knots or so being forecast.

Early in the working week looks great as well, with similarly light breezes that tend a little more ESE before building from the southeast mid-week. Rain won’t be an issue.
By late next week however, we will start to feel the effects of that cyclone they say will form out in the coral sea off New Caledonia. Surfers south of us will love it, but the beach residents and flood-affected townships will have more to stress about if this system comes too close (poor buggers).

That cyclone won’t affect us unless its course swings our way. It is fair to say that we will cop a stiff southeasterly blow at the very least though, so make the most of the great weather this week as next weekend ain’t looking too flash.

Making tides this week strengthened the tidal flow daily, peaking with the new moon Friday. Check an Almanac and you will soon spot the great “bite” offered over the new moon period, so those still down in the dumps over the lack of response from reefies over the recent neaps can try again with greater confidence.

Rob with a solid red emperor

Last Week’s Reef Fishing

Those crews that ventured over the Breaksea Spit last week had to contend with a lot of current south of the 13 Mile crossing and lots of sharks. You would think that the sharks might not be as bad with the lack of boating traffic of late, but they must have been glad to see all the boats, serving them their dinner like waiters in a fine dining seafood establishment.

Large reefies met their demise constantly, no matter where some crews travelled. A good feed of “box fillers” was possible, but typically only smaller fish that could be skull-dragged to the surface without turning head-down during the “fight”. At least the sort of reefies you catch offshore in these parts are all great eating, with the likes of red throat, venus tuskies, hussar and pearlies rarely rejected at the dinner table.

Jamie with a nice tuskie

Those crews that headed a little further north and fished beyond the perimeters of the lightship green zone found the current substantially lighter. The sharks were just as big a problem for most however. Even isolated bombies, and rubble patches out in the paddock were lousy with noahs.
It sounds as though red emperor and large scarlets probably had a bit of a go up that way, but they were devoured before they could be identified or hauled safely aboard. Again, it was the tuskies and smaller fish that saved the day for some crews. Even large cod were eaten before they made it to the boat on some sites, which is a tragedy.

We mentioned the seemingly extra-large size of the tuskies offshore last autumn-winter. Well, tuskie fans can rejoice, as these bigger bruisers have made their way inshore as well. There are thumping big venus tusk fish tipping the scales at over 5 kilo on offer in the northern bay and beyond, as well as offshore.

We heard from one crew that went deep dropping that scored well out wide, without any attention from the sharks. The current was screaming, but on the right ground that isn’t an issue without any wind. The lads scored flame tail, rubies, bar cod and pearl perch, so they will be eating well for quite a while.

Christie with a chunky grass sweetlip

Some crews tried a spot of light tackle trolling off the “zero mile” (Sandy Cape). They picked up a few juvenile black marlin for their efforts, which are always a hoot on the light gear.
Back in closer at the Gutters, there was a lot of boats that plied those waters as soon as the wind eased before the weekend. It sounds as though the crews that fished that country on Thursday scored well, picking up all manner of reefies including reds, trout, scarlets, tuskies, sweeties and others. Shark activity was reasonably minimal for some, but not for all.

On the same day, other crews suffered huge losses to sharks, and were plagued by mackerel. Large schoolies and small spaniards annoyed them relentlessly on many sectors of the southern and northern.

Ben with a coral trout destined for the table

Friday dawned clear and calm and many more boats made their way north to the Gutters. It sounds as though the great bite from the day before was all over though (for daylight fishos anyway). Many struggled to tempt the fish, picking up a few random trout and other insignificant reefies for their efforts. Can they blame the falling barometer (courtesy of the east coast low that was spawning wide off Fraser), and the neap tides over the third quarter half-moon? Probably.

From then on, it sounds as though it was a race against the sharks anywhere you went at the Gutters. Undoubtedly, many will think twice before heading out wide on questionable tides in the future. We all do it – head for the horizon, just because the weather is good. Given the ridiculous price of fuel right now and the frustrations we all face with shark depredation, many will choose their offshore trips more selectively in the future.

Joey went for a run to the Gutters with Dane and Logan and pinned the trout of the day. He's expecting a sponsorship deal from Lorna Jane any minute now, nice tights mate!

This Week’s Options for Reef Fishos

This weekend is a classic example. Better tides (for those that can handle a bit of run anyway), but the dark of the moon means bigger issues with sharks. The bite will be better – the bities worse. Choose your options carefully, and go seeking isolated, relatively unfished country if you can, or try those little “blips” and “scuzzy” bits you so often see on your sounder whilst traveling. Often these seemingly obscure little bits of bottom turn out to be gems, giving up large scarlets, reds and bar-cheeks. Often not, but still worth exploring when the sharks have invaded your favourite seafood deli.

A quick check of the weather sites will soon reflect the ripper weather offshore of 1770 and ports a little further north this weekend. Bag limits of reefies are a much simpler and less stressful affair up that way. Yes, there are sharks crashing the party in some areas, but the sheer volume of reef and fishy country up that way spreads the effort and offers so many more options should the sharks find you.

Staff member Dane with a beautiful coral trout

If you choose to stay closer to home and save some fuel, then there is still a good feed of reef fish on offer. A haul of quality scarlets made it all the way to the esky for a few intrepid fishos up in Platypus Bay last week. These fish will be on the chew over the darks at the right time, so a trip up the island could pay dividends. Avoid fishing country that is full of small scarlets, as they do not release well and all pretty much cark it if pulled up from the deeper waters of the bay.

Grunter are also a great target up towards Rooneys and at select sites in Platypus Bay. They are typically quite large fish, great fun and tasty to boot. Daytime sessions aren’t nearly as productive as night sessions, but you can still score a few, particularly on soft vibes, plastics or jigs around the fringes of the reefs.

Grunter will also be popular in closer, up off the Burrum Coast and out around the Fairway. There are supposedly quite a few mackerel around the Fairway, though some are quite small fish. The big tides will see the grunter and coral trout on the chew off Pt Vernon once again for those that don’t venture out too far.

It was a pretty tough bite last week over the neaps on the reefs within the local shipping channels apparently. Very much in contrast to the voracious bite only days earlier. This weekend will be better. Grass sweetlip are in good numbers inshore and will feed well. You will have to focus your trout and cod fishing around the turn of tide due to the extra run, but the bite should be fast and furious.

The sharks weren’t a huge issue inshore a week or so ago, due in part to the preceding bad weather and lack of boating traffic. That has all changed again however, so be shark savvy and keep mobile to avoid them. Do NOT sit there on anchor feeding fish after fish to sharks as we so often hear about.

Dane with a nice tuskfish, the blue iridescent blue dots are spectacular.

Go Spin Your Heart Out

Sportsfishos chasing tuna found plenty of willing fish last week, but boy oh boy did they get hammered by the noahs. Apparently, there has been plenty of longtails up in the pocket (Station Hill area) in Platypus Bay. Not much action was seen south of there until around the 6 Mile, where it was mack tuna central. Those traveling towards the Gutters also commented on the number of mack tuna schools in the central bay near the 25 Fathom Hole.

Pods of tuna are making marauding forays up into the skinny water along the beaches of Platypus Bay. Maybe they too are sick of the sharks out wider, but more likely they are just seeking out garfish and hardy heads in the shallows. A great opportunity for stick-baiters to sight-fish to tuna racing about on the flats. Apparently, there has even been an issue with sharks up in the shallows in some areas, so keep an eye out for the bigger shadows.

Heidi getting in on the line burning action with a nice longtail tuna

Goldies and queenies will continue to haunt the bait schools in parts of the eastern bay. They were shadowing the tuna schools at times recently, but they can be rather random in such a mobile fishery. Spin them up as you would a tuna, just deeper in the water column for the goldies.

Otherwise, try surface lures for a ton of fun on the queenies when you find them. Always have an alternate rod (or rods) at the ready with a different lure option when chasing Hervey Bay pelagics.

There are a few schools of bonito busting up on the surface in Platypus Bay. Look for the tell-tale smaller splashes and get the kids in close for a cast and a bit of fun. Many keep a few for reef fish baits or crab bait, and some even seek them out for spaniard baits.

Josh managed to get one past the sharks, they've been relentless this season

Speaking of spaniard baits – there are random loose schools of wolf herring in the lower bay at present. They love them up north as troll baits, but we wouldn’t bother getting our hands that messy and sticky in these parts. You just wait until you handle one and you will see what we mean.

Inshore, there has been a few schools of giant herring providing a bit of high-flying aerial antics and blistering runs for sportsfishos. We older chaps used to call these long skinny critters “ladyfish”. They go like the clappers and will soon find any weakness in your leader or drag. They do not handle well at all, and should be released as soon as possible with a minimum of handling. They are not an eating fish, being a “herring”, but some people will eat just about anything these days.

Staff member Josh getting ready to prepare some Sashimi and tuna steaks. The Daiwa Insulated Fish Bag is a great option for keeping your catch in A1 condition and can be folded up when not in use. A great option if you only want to take a small food esky with a couple of bags of ice in it for a day trip/

Toads Aren’t Just a Pest in the Cane Fields

Fishos new to the area or just visiting, often ask us why they are getting bitten off so frequently when soaking baits or flicking lures in a given area. Often enough, we can blame mackerel or sharks, and will continue to surmise so at times, but of late, there has been another culprit.

The dreaded green toadfish. There should be a picture hereabouts that will explain plenty. These horrible critters have invaded our inshore waters and are a real pest at the moment. They are pouncing on lures spun or hopped over the coffee rock up the western side of Fraser, and doing similar damage to lure collections off Pt Vernon at present.

They are also prolific along our town beaches and are an absolute nuisance for anyone trying to fish from the Urangan Pier. They will eat all baits, all lures and indeed all fish small enough to take a bite out of. They will also bite you, so avoid getting fingers anywhere near their “beaks”.

Green toadfish - can reach sizes in excess of 2kg. Keep your tackle away from them

Many fishos will come in looking for wire traces to try to stop the toads biting them off. We usually suggest an alternative strategy, as all the toads will do is destroy the wire as well. These critters can sheer straight through fish hooks and slice through a sinker or swivel. The alternative strategy by the way is simple – go elsewhere – as you will never beat them.

Anyway, hardly the sort of fish we normally write about in this report, but worthy of some words to school-up all the newbies. They have only one local use that we are aware of, and that is as a live bait for a GT off the pier.

Although they are much-despised and super frustrating (and expensive on tackle), they deserve to live, just like any other creature that you don’t intend to eat. Throw them back, as you won’t put a dent in their population taking to one with a knife. There have been hundreds left to rot on the pier in days gone by, which we would hope would never be seen again, as this hardly draws a good picture of the local fishos in the minds of passing visitors hey?

Time to Bust Out the Cast Nets

The much-awaited and somewhat belated banana prawn season is now set for kick off. After such fantastic wet season rains and local flooding, prawn-lovers can now reap the benefits. Those that have scouted the local rivers, creeks and muddy verges of the straits have found swags of smaller prawn of late, with a better-quality prawn just now starting to show.

Anyone venturing near the shoreline along our estuaries or even some beaches and mudflats would have noticed the plethora of jelly prawn (those tiny little 10-30mm prawns in seething masses schooled up in the shallows). This is the progeny of mature prawn that did its thing for the species recently, and this cycle has been repeating itself over and over again for months. Finally, the floodwaters have subsided somewhat and the conditions are prime.

Click the image above for a quick video with Dane of how to throw a cast net

Arm yourself with an appropriate cast net, the bigger the better if you can handle it, and head out for a look during the last of the ebb tide and first of the flood. Click on the link hereabouts to see Dane’s Cast Netting Tutorial Video for a description of the differing nets and their applications. Don’t be too critical – sometimes he actually catches some prawn.

Local prawners won’t take kindly to being blow-flied in these parts, so find your own prawn by scanning and prospecting likely drains, creeks and muddy banks and you won’t cop an earful. There are dozens of creeks and some mighty rivers in our area that will all give up prawn over the coming weeks and months.

Your bag limit is 10 litres of prawn by the way. There is also a boat limit nowadays as well, which is 20 litres if there are two or more people on board. No longer can you cram the boat with family and friends and score 10 litres per head. 10 litres of prawn is around 6-7 kilo by the way (depending upon the size of the prawn), so still a great feed and more than enough for the family.

Drop the crab pots in this week too and you could be serving up a venerable seafood feast.
Muddies have been active right throughout the Great Sandy Straits since the floods. The crabs are on the move and pot readily, unlike sedentary crab pre-wet season sitting in a hole way upriver that only comes out on the moon when the jennies are ripe.

Those heading up the bay can pick up a feed of sand crabs too if they drop their pots in outside the banks. The neaps saw the sandies taper off for those working the grounds out from the Burrum. The new moon should see better activity. Thoughtfully placed pots can pick up a feed in closer too, you just need to work out where they are marching.

Left pic leeder prawn & banana prawn, right pic Samaki Live Shrimp and Chasebaits Flick Prawn

Are We the Problem or the Sharks?

If you made it this far through the above ramblings, then you would have noticed numerous references to sharks and the serious issues we fishos face just trying to catch fish these days. Locals will know full-well that the local shark issue has grown exponentially for years, ever since the greenies got in the ear or our governments and they systematically banned the take of all sharks over 1.5m.

Qld Fisheries is now considering quite drastic actions to try to recover a supposedly threatened spanish mackerel fishery. There are proposals being considered (that aren’t yet rubber-stamped) that might see the current bag limit of 3 and boat limit of 6 spaniards, reduced to only 1 fish per person and a boat limit of 2. Further restrictions might see charter operators limited to 1 spaniard per person, and the commercial catch quota reduced by in excess of 70%.

Apparently, Qld Fisheries has catch data going back to the 1920’s, yet somehow their managers have allowed the spanish mackerel fishery to be depleted to a supposed 17% of biomass. If this is indeed accurate (and there is plenty of conjecture regarding the validity of this data), then, how is this so?

We all know that the sharks are taking more than the humans. We know this because we are out on the water. We see it with our own eyes. Does anyone in authority listen to us when we winge and bitch about it? No. So, how can we get our “two bobs worth” and get our governors to pay attention to the man in the street (boat)?

Maybe we could contribute to data gathering tools such as the SHARKD phone app? Maybe there are other similar forums or working groups that we can contribute to? Maybe those responsible for this current scenario could offer real avenues for we fishos to be heard and actually listen to the front line instead of the usual drumming voices of over-paid office-bound beaurocrats?

It is now quite scary that we lose an average of 6 Australians per annum to fatal shark attacks. Our fish are being destroyed and the problem is getting worse year by year. Our population in southeast Qld has exploded and more boats than ever are on the water.

Our governments are seemingly willing to offer hand-outs at any opportunity for wasteful projects or to fund pretty brochures telling us to keep our toes out of the water, but when real funding is required to rectify past errors (probably not even the fault of some present-day administrators), then where are they?

Perhaps they should stop wasting time and money on fake jobs for fake people and stand behind the communities of this country and listen to the voices of the average Aussie fisho.
Let us know what you think.

Good luck out there y’all.

Like a barra, only smaller......Trent's argument is that his large hands make it look small, the barra that is!

Luckily Ben (above) and Caius (below) where there to show him how it's done

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