The Heat is On
Heatwave conditions are set to continue across our stretch of Queensland. Northerly winds will dominate until a brisk southeasterly change comes through next Wednesday. We might even see a few showers or a storm or two next week, which will be great news for our crispy lawns.
If you wish to get out on the bay, then the best chance you have is (was) either today or perhaps tomorrow morning before the northerly wind increases in strength. Tomorrow evening’s sea breeze will leave the bay a little lumpy for those heading out Saturday morning before the wind stiffens dramatically and basically shuts the bay down for a few days.
The passing of the blue moon Monday evening peaked the tides which have been waning ever since. Next Tuesday’s last quarter moon phase means neap tides and very little tidal flow ‘til late next week. All in all, it looks like the week ahead will suit impoundment and estuary fishos only, so let’s take a look at what’s happening on those fronts.
Fraser Island Bushfire Threatens Kingfisher Bay Resort
Before we get into the fishing options, it is worth mentioning the disastrous bushfire that is still raging over on Fraser Island. You would have seen the images on the news and be aware of the current threat to the Kingfisher Bay Resort. Hopefully the hardworking firies over there can steer the fire around the resort. Whilst you are sweating it out over the coming days, take a moment to ponder the nightmarish conditions the firies (and the local critters) will be faced with on the island as the heat and the northerly wind ramps up. Tough times ahead indeed.
Obviously, much of the island is closed to all but emergency vehicles, many resorts and campgrounds are closed and people should not be heading over there at present. Even boating downwind of the fire front can be somewhat hazardous due to intense smoke creating poor visibility and difficult conditions for breathing.
The smoke issue should be a major consideration for those planning a boating/fishing trip down the Great Sandy Straits in coming days. Fraser’s western creeks and even some mainland creeks will be affected by smoke whilst the wind tends from the east, northeast or north. It would make sense to avoid the straits during these worsening conditions.
Here’s hoping the wind change mid-week turns the fire back on itself, and that we get enough rain to extinguish the fires. Our beautiful Fraser Island landscape will be scarred for some time to come, but the regrowth will be massive and the island will return to its former glory in no time once the rains arrive.
Monster Jacks Hot to Trot in Burrum System
Estuary fishos will revel in the hot conditions this week, as many of our best estuary predators react to the heat and feed voraciously. Jacks, threadies and grunter will be the prime targets, depending upon where you decide to fish. Barra will also be active, but of course these guys are off limits and should not be targeted during the current closure.
The Burrum system offers you the best chance at tangling with mangrove jacks in both numbers and size. Vicious big red dogs will be barking big-time in the Burrum, the Cherwell, the Isis and Gregory rivers. The small tides will suit lure fishos chasing jacks as the reduced flow over snags and rock bars makes them easier to target.
Don’t be surprised if the jacks are a bit hard to tempt during the heat of day when the sun is most intense. These big-eyed ambush experts will be tucked up well under cover until the light fades and they are more comfortable to roam freely hunting mullet and prawns. That is not to say that those fishos adept at skip-casting or those capable of landing consistently accurate casts into heavy cover will not score, as the jacks will pounce if your lure passes their lair close enough.
The Ginger Ninja with a nice red dog
Dawn, dusk and particularly evening sessions will be most productive. Weedless-rigged frogs, small poppers or stickbaits will definitely be worth tying on this week. Surface attacks from jacks are heart-pounding events that all keen estuary fishos simply must experience. The bone-jarring bite and subsequent battle is rarely matched by any other species in our waters.
Bait fishos chasing jacks usually score the biggest and baddest of this species in the Burrum system, dragging out impressive specimens exceeding the 60cm mark occasionally when everything aligns. Any jack over 50cm is a beauty and there are literally thousands of these fish stashed away within the four rivers of this system. Night sessions are undoubtedly the best for bait fishos, though drifting live baits or fresh mullet baits into well-shaded or deep rocky holes can score a few fish during the daytime.
Change tactics whilst up the Burrum and you could score yourself some sizeable grunter or the odd threadfin salmon or two. Queenfish and river GT numbers were concerningly low this spring, but there is still a chance at finding some of these guys in the deeper holes adjacent to sand banks in the mid reaches. You might even find a couple of flatties along muddy banks where mullet and small prawns are aggregated.
Hop soft vibes around schools of threadfin salmon in the Mary River and you are bound to end up with line peeling off your reel. The numbers of threadies this season is certainly lower than what we have enjoyed in the past, but there are a few fish scattered throughout the river. Small threadies under a metre are often encountered in the vicinity of schools of herring, whilst the bigger 120cm+ models that we love so much are more often found in open waters this time of year.
If you are well-versed in chasing threadies, then you would be used to catching numbers of big fish, so will know all too well how poorly they handle in the heat. Big fish fight hard and long, and in deeper waters they suffer quite badly from barotrauma.
If you are keeping the odd sambo for a feed then fine, but please take extra care when handling the larger specimens destined for release. When possible, keep them in the water and take a cool happy snap of the fish in the water, or lift it for a pose with camera at the ready. Wet the brag mat if you have to bring them on board to alleviate the affects of hot carpet on their skin. Having said all this, be very aware of the potential of bull sharks taking a fish boat-side, so be extra vigilant when holding a fish in the water.
A species worthy of targeting this time of year for some light tackle sport (and potentially a great feed) are grunter. The dry conditions have seen grunter migrate well upstream into our rivers and creeks and they are actively feeding on prawns and small herring. They are easily targeted on a range of baits, from yabbies and prawns to herring, strip baits and small squid.
Try areas with deeper water nearby to gravel banks, or stretches of gravelly-bottomed river. There are masses of gravel beds within the Mary River that can produce numbers of quality grunter at present. The best way to find them is to hop small plastics or soft vibes over likely country. They absolutely love a small prawn imitation and are suckers for GULP in particular.
You might find a few flatties around well-shaded drains in the river, or schools of pikey bream milling around sunken clusters of mangroves. There are still a few blue salmon poking about, but the best of their season is well behind us. Some incredibly large GT’s venture up into the Mary this time of year, so don’t be shocked if you hook one working a vibe or have one scoff an average threadie or other fish mid-fight.
Couple the extreme heatwave conditions with a stiffening northerly wind and you have the perfect recipe for a great bite from our impoundment barra. Many will find the stifling heat too much during the middle of the day, so those folks will need to time their assaults around dawn, dusk and into the evenings. Often the barra are also reluctant to bite during such hot midday periods, but if you can tough it out and perhaps have a swim or two to cool off then you will be on the water and casting should they decide to bite.
Regardless of which dam you intend to visit, you can expect the barra to be super active during given key bite periods, whilst being ridiculously frustrating to tempt otherwise. You need to understand that impoundment barra are not opportunistic feeders like many other species. They hunt for their food when the time is right and are incredibly successful at it, hence their resultant girth.
The new Daiwa Double Clutch 115SP has alot of impoundment barra fishos excited and has a great action when twitched. It's even fitted with size 2 4x trebles, you ripper!
This has never been more evident than when you experience the images of perhaps hundreds of barra per day in various schools clearly visible on your flash new side scanning sounder that simply refuse every lure you throw at them. These reluctant feeders are simply resting up waiting for their time to go on the hunt. Often contrary to this scenario is a lone fish or perhaps a pair parked next to timber that will scoff the right lure worked past them whilst all others elsewhere have a case of lock jaw.
The past three weeks has offered incredibly perfect weather for dam fishing for those lucky enough to get the right days off work. Dawn bites have been common, but short-lived, whilst late afternoon and into the evening has been most productive. Typical “perfect” weather patterns saw little-to-no breeze in the mornings dropping out to dead calm and stinking hot before noon. The afternoon breeze of up to 20 knots from the north or northeast was a welcome relief to fishos and also kicked off the current and pushed warmer oxygen-rich waters to the south and southwest.
Where these waters meet a dead end such as a bank or bay facing perpendicular to the prevailing wind is where you find the barra heading to feed. Many points, both large and small will intercept this current and these too are hotspots for barra to go on the hunt when the time is right. The lay of the land, such as ridges, hills and valleys can affect the way the wind twists and turns on a lake, so take the topography into account when assessing the best spots to try.
Callide for Monsters
Looking at which lake to target, you have many choices. Callide is now famous for its monster barra and is definitely your best bet if you are chasing true trophies in our region (it is 4.5 hours away by the way). Callide is a very unappealing lake, scenery-wise, with the backdrop of a coal mine and well-lit power station the only real highlight of a fairly barren and boring landscape.
The fishing makes up for the lack of scenery though, particularly for those willing to fish at night. Callide can be very tough during the daytime, not to mention extremely hot. The lake is very low and quite small (even when full), so you can effectively scout the whole lake in a day right now. Focus your attention on windward banks and points after sunset and watch the barra streaming past. You can fish from the banks around much of this remarkably accessible weed-free lake, so those without a boat have their best opportunity at Callide.
125cm of Lake Callide barramundi!
Awoonga is very popular and rightly so, with such massive numbers in the lake it is possible to be fishing to schools of barra that could be 100-strong. They can prove a little gun-shy during the daylight at times, but will typically make up for it after dark when conditions are right. Awoonga can be very rough when windy and you need to fish the downwind stretches of lake, so be prepared for the waves and spray when traveling.
Take a decent anchor set up if heading to Awoonga, as you may need to anchor your boat in quite deep water off points jutting out into the main basin. Spot-locking electric motors are okay in light breezes, but will spook the fish when they are working hard into the wind (if they even have the power to hold you). If getting bounced around on the prominent points is not your scene, then head into the weed-shrouded bays and more sheltered points and work your big paddle-tailed plastics, swimbaits or hardbodies around there.
It is the cricket-score numbers of barra that you can tally up in Awoonga that make it stand out from the rest. The size of the fish is pretty cool nowadays too, with metre+ fish possible, whilst the average fish are great opponents in that 75-95cm range. Expect to have frustrating moments as other fishos move in on “your” spot, as Awoonga sees masses of traffic and not all today’s fishos have the etiquette you would expect.
Monduran for the Challenge
It is a good idea to tie off to trees, or anchor if needs-be, to avoid the constant whirring of your electric motor scaring the fish off. Having others mooch in on your patch and sit there on their electric motor in the wind is somewhat frustrating. Find your own country away from the crowds and this is easily avoided. It is fair to say that if “your spot” has a name and you didn’t name it then chances are that it ain’t actually your spot.
So, whilst Bird Bay is seeing plenty of traffic and still giving up fish, you might want to venture elsewhere if you don’t like crowds. The northerly wind will see the other popular spots such as SDA Bay, White Rock and the points of the main basin all produce. In fact, night sessions casting off the point of the main boat ramp continues to yield barra quite regularly.
Chris (Nashy) from Nashy's Custom Lures with a 99cm Mondy barra, so close to the magic metre mark!
They're certainly well fed at Lake Monduran.
Both the North and South Arms of B Bay have been giving up reasonable numbers of barra. Some sections of these bays are quite dirty compared to further up and down stream. There is ample country within both arms to spread the effort and the barra in B Bay are somewhat easier to tempt than elsewhere.
Lures-wise, suspending hardbodies continue to pull fish at times, though many fishos need to learn to give the lure a longer hang time and let the barra approach. Watch how a barra creeps up on a stalled suspender in clear view and you will understand why. Paddle-tailed plastics are dynamite after dark in the wind-blown spots and with the steady hum of a slow roll are easy for the barra to track down in the darkness.
Monduran is offering a very unique situation right now, with much of the lake very clean and pretty much weed-free. Small pockets of weed certainly exist along very steep banks or some shallow bays in the lower sections of the lake up to White Rock, but above that, the banks are mostly devoid of weed.
Nick from Buccaneers getting in on the night action.
This means we have the prime opportunity to get out of the boat and walk the sandy banks to score a landbased barra day or night. Shallow diving hardbodies are the go for this caper during the daytime, whilst those stepping out after dark should tie on a popper or stickbait for maximum fun and excitement.
If there is a downside to popper fishing for dam barra it is the catties. They absolutely love poppers and will scoff them above all else after dark or around dawn and dusk. The catties don’t seem to react so well to other topwater lures, so if they are too bad on your popper then change to a stickbait or fizzer.
For those with kids on board, the drudgery of down time between barra bites can be too much to handle. Tie on a small popper (Rapala Skitter Pop with upgraded trebles is the go) and listen to them squeal as cattie after cattie scoff their popper. You never know, the next fish might be a big barra, as the 80cm plus models are real keen on these noisy little surface lures.
Rusty's Lake Monduran Barra Charters has been putting clients onto some great fish (see above and below).
Daniel Frost sent in this great photo of Doreen with her first marlin caught across Breaksea Spit.
Dolphin fish have been a regular by catch and will hit a skirt with gusto
Sight Casting longtail tuna, does it get any better. Fraser Guided Fishing producing the goods.
Big goldies and micro jigs go hand in hand. Tri from Fraser Guided Fishing sure knows how to find them.
Hervey Bay Fly & Sportfishing has been putting in the hours on the flats chasing the juvenile black marlin. We're so lucky to have such a unique fishery on our door step and care must be taken when handling these fish.
Time to dust off the smoker, the spotties are here! Pic: Hervey Bay Fly & Sportfishing
Longtail tuna on fly, yeeha! Pic: Hervey Bay Fly & Sportfishing