Happy New Year to all our keen fishos out there. We trust you are enjoying the festive season and getting out and enjoying the fantastic Fraser Coast. Weather-wise, the past week has seen a consistent east-southeasterly wind which looks like prevailing for the week ahead. Wind strengths appear to be mostly about 10-15kn, with 20kn likely in the northern bay and offshore at times. It is during spells of these winds that we can truly appreciate living and fishing in an area afforded the protection we enjoy from Fraser Island.
The new moon this Sunday will see an increase in current, resulting in an increase in fish activity during the building tides beforehand and immediately thereafter. These bigger tides will mean better fishing from our beaches, piers, inshore reefs and the Straits.
Spotted mackerel schools have been on the move throughout much of Platypus Bay and the central bay regions. There has been great numbers of spotties this year, though reports from some crews suggest they struggled to find the fish at times over the recent neaps. Observing schools of fast-moving spotties swimming sub-surface and ignoring all offerings simply suggests these schools are in a transitional mode, moving on in search of bait schools to ball up and harass. Some days there are literally acres of surface-feeding spotties as far as the eye can see for hours on end, though at times they will not "pop" till the peak heat of the afternoon and those giving up early will miss out on the fun.
If you are up that way looking for spotties early and they are absent, then you can turn your attention to the reefs in search of schools of big golden trevally and their smaller cousins, or chase a few reefies, then go back in search of the spotties later in the day. Schools of mack and longtail tuna can react in similar ways to the spotties, being somewhat subdued or seemingly scarce for periods, only to turn up following a tide change and erupt all over the hapless baitfish they have been pushing to the surface from below. So long as you are well armed with a selection of 15-40g slugs, some 5in ZMan Streakz, some stickbaits, micro jigs and a range of plastics for the reefies then you are well-prepared for a great day of sportfishing out on the bay.
There have been plenty of pencil squid throughout the eastern and southern bay areas, so ensure you have a few mini squid jigs in your kit if overnighting out in the boat. Please be aware that there has been another spate of Irukandji stings on swimmers in Fraser Island waters in recent weeks, so be mindful of this risk if swimming anywhere along Fraser north of Moon Point. A flask of boiling hot water and a bottle of vinegar could be useful additions to your kit just in case.
Most crews attempting to fish for reefies up around Rooneys and wider have experienced major hassles from sharks. It is now commonplace that if a reef area is well known, or at least visited occasionally by boaties then you can expect big noahs to be there waiting for you to drag an easy feed up out of the reef for them. It might seem like we keep harping on about this shark problem, but we need fishos to be shark-savvy and do their best to avoid contributing to the devastation that these creatures are inflicting on our not unlimited fish populations.
Grass sweetlip continue to feature heavily in catches from our inshore reefs. The building tides over the next couple of days should see them really come on the chew, along with blackall, cod, coral trout, and the occasional squire and scarlet. Baits of banana prawns and squid are possibly the pick for the grassies and blackall, with live baits best for the trout and cod. It can be tough finding livies inshore this time of year for the unitiated, but you can always head over to the island and cast your net for herring and hardiheads if you can’t find baitfish on the reefs.
The shallow reefs fringing Pt Vernon and the bay islands (Round, Woody, Little Woody, Picnic and Duck) all offer opportunities to tangle with reefies over the bigger new moon tides. Trolling for coral trout early in the morning can be productive, just make sure your lures are swimming within a metre of the bottom and that you hang onto your rod and have your drag done up tight. Trolling faster at around 4-6kn can really excite the trout, with slower speeds of 2-3kn proving better for those looking for a feed of estuary cod. These same shallow reefs have been producing a lot of sweetlip and blackall for the bait brigade this week, with even Gatakers Bay producing some nice hauls. If trying that area over the coming days then you might find some big grunter along the reef edge on squid and prawn baits.
Good numbers of school mackerel were found out at the Fairway beacon this week. Take some Flasha spoons and spin them up near the beacon if you like, or you can try live baits or pillies on a set of gangs, or even trolling the area with Laser Pro lures or similar. Given that there has been a few pencil squid out there too, you better take some small jigs, and if staying after dark you can try for a big grunter or two.
Sportfishos looking for a bit of inshore action could try the bay islands for queenfish and GTs. Poppers and stickbaits (both sinking and floating) are choice options for the shallow drop offs and current lines closer to the points of the islands, whilst sinking stickies, plastics and soft vibes work a treat in the deeper waters. Afternoon sessions around low tide closer to the new moon will be most productive for the surface addicts, whilst others can try the sub-surface options nearly any time if you are willing to move about and search for active fish. These same fish can be found along a few of the drop offs along the western side of Fraser from Moon to Ungowa.
You same adrenalin junkies out there could be well served trying a high tide session up on the flats for goldies, queenies and GTs, with the ever-possible chance of a permit if you get real lucky. Incidental by-catch of blackall (which go darn hard), flatties and even grunter or threadies are possible depending upon your chosen flats. Some worth a try include the flats from Moon Point to Bogimbah Creek or the bay islands’ flats for the more pelagic types, whilst the Booral Flats and those further down the Straits can produce any of the above. Whichever flats you choose, look out for the local "go-slow" zones and stay out of the green zones. It can be very frustrating for law-abiding anglers to sit and watch boat after boat fishing/spearing in our green zones (particularly around Little Woody).
Great Sandy Straits & Mary/Susan Rivers
The bigger tides will see threadfin salmon become more active around drains and small creek mouths throughout the lower reaches of the Mary and Susan Rivers and down the Straits. Small shallow hardbodies, paddle-tailed soft plastics or prawn imitations will all work; you just need to be there at the right time. The bottom half of the ebb tide is the go and it is a matter of choosing drains that are spilling the last of their water and forcing the baitfish and prawns out into the main stream.
Grunter have been a fairly common catch in the Susan over the past week. They favour the gravelly/shelly bottom that can be found in many areas within 3 miles of the ramp, though can also be caught in the deeper holes during the lower stages of the tide. The odd flathead is possible from "cooler" well-shaded drains, though otherwise they will be deeper avoiding the heat of day this time of year.
It has been interesting listening to the feedback from crabbers looking for a feed of muddies. Overall you would have to say they have been scarce, with very few people scoring many crabs for their effort. However, there have been a few tuned-in locals that have done really well, getting good rusty bucks in modest numbers. Going the extra mile, and placing pots beyond the reach of others is almost certainly the common theme from those getting the crab at present.
Prawns haven’t really started to fire as yet, though would be worth a few throws for the super keen over the coming moon phase. Don’t expect the big run of quality bananas we will enjoy in a couple of months, as for now you will be more likely to score a feed from the backwaters of the smaller creeks within the Mary/Susan system or over along the inside of Fraser. Even if you don’t score enough for a feed, then you are sure to get some primo live baits.
Burrum River System
The jack fishing in all four rivers of the Burrum system has been very good this season. Top quality jacks up to almost 60cm have been quite common for both lure anglers and bait fishos. Sure enough the bait fishos will always do the best numbers-wise, yet without the same adrenalin rush those working lures will get from a jack attack. In fact, many fishos using lures could learn a lot about where jack lives by deploying baits, as many times you can struggle to raise a bite from a jack on a lure only to drop mullet baits into the same spots and haul them in thick and fast.
The upcoming big tides should see a few stonker whiting turning up in the Burrum or Gregory for those with the right techniques for these cunning critters. Whiting to almost 40cm were caught over the last full moon tides, and although only in small numbers you don’t need many for a feed at this size. Be super stealthy and fish the shallowest waters over the sandbanks as the tide floods in for your best chance during daylight, or do the same thing at night for an even better chance.
Even though the barra season is closed, some people cannot seem to help themselves and have been bragging about barra captures throughout much of this system, including down near the heads. With only four weeks to go before the season opens perhaps we should be giving them a break so that they can go about their spawning unhindered before they have to dodge the nets come 1st Feb?! If we don’t get rains before then, then it could mean poor recruitment from the local stocks in those rivers, as rains thereafter only make them easier targets for netters.
Urangan Pier ,Town Beaches & Creeks
Big bruiser GTs are still the main predator out the deep end of the Urangan Pier at present, though a few big queenies have paid a visit at times along with an occasional small school mackerel. Unless you are lucky enough to score a legal schoolie for a live bait for the GTs, then you will need to catch a stack of large herring and deploy a constant berley trail of herring with your bait secreted in amongst the berley trail.
Pencil squid are ever popular out towards the end of the pier and their numbers should improve over the new moon period, with a much darker night allowing them to feed near the surface for greater periods. See our previous reports for a few tips on scoring a feed of pencillies.
This past week saw swags of whiting turn up along our town beaches from Scarness to Urangan. Admittedly most have been small fish, but they have kept a lot kids entertained. The impending bigger tides should see them increase activity over the last of the flood and early ebb tides for those choosing to fish with yabby or worm baits. If you favour lures, then GULP 2in Neris Sandworms, particularly in New Penny colour, work a treat for summer whiting either rigged on a tiny jighead or on a longshank hook with barbs on the shank. Or alternatively, you can have a ball with micro poppers and stickbaits skittered along the surface, though this method is better along our town beaches during the lower stages of the tide as the gradient of these beaches sees the water too deep when the tide is high.
Our local creeks (Pulgul, Eli, O’Reagans and Beelbi) have continued to produce some excellent mangrove jacks. Decent footwear and a willingness to venture into the mangroves looking for rock bars, holes and snags will see you connect to jacks (and swags of cod) in some ridiculously skinny waters. Queenies, small GTs and the occasional flathead are possible from around the mouths and adjacent flats of these creeks, along with schools of whiting and garfish in some areas.
Consistent winds and sunny skies this past week have made for perfect conditions for chasing barra in our impoundments. Generally speaking, the western-facing bays and points should be firing. Lake Monduran has been fishing well, as has Awoonga, so perhaps the dams could be a good option for those barra fishos that cannot wait for the saltwater season to open. Lenthalls is still quiet with little effort of late. The weather forecast for the week ahead looks good, and the new moon should see a good bite, so why not consider a dam trip.
Here’s wishing everyone out there a sensational 2019. May your year ahead be full of exciting piscatorial adventures and new PB’s galore.
Good luck out there y’all.