You don’t need us to tell you that it has been a bit windy over the past week. A couple of days mid week offered boaties a chance to get out, albeit briefly. As far as the week ahead is concerned, it looks like we are in for another blast of cold southwesters courtesy of a nasty low between us and New Zealand. This weekend should be okay in the southern bay and sheltered waters, but the weather gurus have been changing their forecasts more often than a frustrated tuna chaser changes his lures. So, check the latest reports you can access and seek the more sheltered inshore areas if necessary.
The Bay & Offshore
Only a lucky few got to head out wide during the brief mid week break in the wind, and from what we’ve heard the sharks are still dictating terms out there. Spanish mackerel and cobia are active around the bigger ledges on the southern and northern gutters, and will both take live baits or a trolled diving lure such as the bigger Laser Pros to name but one. Given that the noahs are attracted to boats nowadays and the easy meals they associate with them, it can be quite hard to escape their attention on those days when few other boaties are out. This can be a prime time to look for smaller less pressured areas away from the main grounds, where-upon you may find trophy fish in small numbers without the dreaded sharks.
Tuna are still abundant throughout the bay, but at this time, you might want to consider heading up the west coast, instead of towards Platypus Bay, due to the westerlies. Launching at Burrum Heads and heading wide of Woodgate (watch out for the green zone in close), or out beyond the 8 Mile would be the go if early starts are required. Better still, stay in close early and leave the tuna till later in the day when the winds ease.
Snapper numbers will improve dramatically from here on in, with places such as Rooneys and the 25 Fathom Hole likely to produce good specimens for those working plastics and micro-jigs on the drift. Best success will be enjoyed when wind and tide allow (ie; little wind, or at least wind-against-tide). Platypus Bay reefs would typically be a better proposition later in winter, but if you can find a good enough aggregation of bait (yakkas) then it’s always worth a try for a knobbie. Take into consideration that snapper will often roam around the general area in small schools well away from the actual reefs during daylight hours, only moving onto the reefs during low light periods to feed.
As we’ve mentioned before, skipping the early starts while the morning southwesters dominate won’t see you miss much when it comes to our inshore snapper. Afternoon low tides this week should be much more productive. Boat traffic that time of day can be a factor though, so look for areas away from the main structures for fish holding "out in the paddock". Bait fishers will do best to anchor well upstream of their target area and to float-line well presented baits back to the fish. Keep soft baits like pillies well clear of the bottom, and use larger baits to contend with the pickers. As always, livies, and what used to be livies, in the form of herring, pike and winter whiting can be the best for the bigger snapper. Places to look for a snapper will include Moon Ledge, the Simpson and Roy Rufus Artificial Reefs, the Outer Banks and the Burrum 8 Mile.
Sweetlip, trout and cod will make up the majority of the inshore bottom basher’s catch depending upon technique, whilst scarlets are still a chance in some of the deeper spots. School mackerel have been finding their way onto many inshore reefs, as well as around the shipping beacons. Broadies have also been about, more often in shallower areas like the fringing reefs of the bay islands.
Queenfish and GTs, both large and small, are a chance whilst there is still some significant run in the tide, with the bay islands and some of Fraser’s western ledges the places to try. Stickbaits and poppers are surely the most fun in the shallows, but when they are schooled up in adjacent deeper water then try plastics and vibes twitched hard from the bottom up through the water column. Be mobile though and search out bait sources for best results, particularly where island flats might drain off pushing baitfish past an easy ambush point.
Tiger squid have become more common recently with the onset of the cooler temperatures. They are a critter that responds positively to the cold southerly and westerly winds, with cold days and clear skies offering some of the best conditions to target them. Look for them anywhere you find clear shallow water with some form of structure. Many of our best squid grounds are now very heavily pressured, and it can be somewhat fruitless turning up to prime ground after others have left it barren in their wake. Having said this, the bay offers a plethora of great squidding country that is rarely fished. For a start, they can be found from one end of the Great Sandy Strait to the other, and even up into our major rivers and creeks when the water is clear enough.
Great Sandy Straits & Mary/Susan Rivers
Jewies have again been the big target for anglers fishing both shore-based and from boats in the River Heads area. The current conditions should suit the jewies, though time your sessions to coincide with the tide turns for best results and target the deeper rocky areas where there is plenty of baitfish. Flathead are a good target in the lower reaches of both rivers, mainly around drains during the ebb and up on the nearby flats during the flood.
Tailor have been reported from the channels and markers east of the heads, and cannot be far away from turning up at the heads itself. The large schools of herring in that area are bound to draw in the tailor and blue salmon. Spinning with Flasha spoons is the deadly local technique for tailor from the stones at the heads.
Bream numbers are really ramping up out around the mouth of the Mary and Susan, with South Head and its nearby flats being the best bets for boaties out of the southerlies. Rock bars further upstream are still producing terrific numbers of large bream that many southerners would find quite exceptional. It could be fair comment that we have such a plethora of other more appealing species that the humble old bream get very little attention from locals. Anchoring upstream and berleying back to the rocks and gravel bars will bring the bream on and hold them. Fish lightly-weighted baits and let them drift back in the berley trail. Don’t be too greedy, as bream can be quite abundant at this time, but are about to spawn, so think of the future of this slow-growing species.
Blue salmon and grunter are two of the main catches from the larger creeks and adjacent channels down the straits at present. Flatties are starting to move into the shallows around drains and rock bars in small numbers and will get more prolific as winter rolls on. A feed of summer whiting is possible from the flats down that way over the bigger tides, as well as from within the creeks.
Burrum River System
The latest news from a few locals up that way is that tailor have moved into the Burrum. The waters from the heads to about Buxton are worth a try, and from all reports a lot of the fish are of quite good size. Pillies, herring, hardiheads and pike have all accounted for tailor so far, though for even more fun try spinning with metal spoons or slugs. Trolling small diving lures in the 70-110mm range will work, just stay in the river channels for best results. Tourists fishing from the shore at the heads at night have come back talking of numerous bust offs and bite offs, claiming big tailor as likely candidates for the bite offs, but sharks could have accounted for some of these events.
There have been a few tiger squid coming to the ramps after dark, and of course the kids have kept the local pike population nervous. The odd big flattie has fallen victim to a live pike from the heads shoreline, and bream are beginning to gather in the area. Sand crabs are still on the move out the front beyond the drop off, with good hauls coming to those using fresh whiting and mullet baits.
The Burrum 8 Mile is a great option for anyone sneaking out after a late afternoon snapper, with live herring and yakkas being the best baits for the bigger fish. School and spanish mackerel have been out that way in recent weeks, with tuna busting up all points of the horizon.
Local Beaches, Creeks and Urangan Pier
The Urangan Pier bream fishing kicked up another gear this week, with some great catches of large bream coming both night and day. Herring baits are the preferred local pier technique, with a variety of local rigs having their followings. If you keep in mind that the biggest bream are just as much a predator as scavenger then you will appreciate that they will take a whole herring in a couple of bites – just make sure your hook is in the herring’s head.
Cranka crabs are producing some of the best bream for those with the patience and resolve to let the lure flutter in under the pier with the tide. Go for broke on hook-up to a big bream though, as they are adept at turning sideways and trashing you on the pylons. If using small plastics is your preferred technique, then just remember to use enough weight to counter your height above water.
Squid jigs should be a permanent accessory in your tackle kit this time of year, as the big tigers start turning up in more and more locations. The pier is one such area, but any rocky outcrops, the smaller jetties and the whole of the Pialba to Gatakers Bay rocky foreshore will be visited by tigers at some stage. Keep your eyes peeled for their slow-moving silhouettes as they hang in the tide.
Good luck out there y’all.