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Weekly Fishing Report - 3rd March 2022

Simon with a nice spanish mackerel from sunnier days.

Severe Storms Inbound as Our Region Recovers from Major Flooding

Wow, what a week of weather and turmoil here on the Fraser Coast. We’ve been blessed in Hervey Bay, receiving plenty of rain, but without the devastating floods suffered by our neighbours upstream along the Mary River. As this is being written this morning, the BOM radar and the news feeds reflect the aftermath of wild storms that lashed the Sunshine Coast and Brisvegas last night and early this morning. All this, as those poor folk are trying to clean up and/or are otherwise still flooded. Falls of up to 100mm of rain were recorded in the sunny coast hinterland, though the upper catchment of the Mary maxed out at around 50mm, thankfully.

A lot of water heading our way. Maryborough copped the full brunt of the floods, help out your neighbours if you can.

There are warnings galore today, for flooding, both riverine and flash, severe storms and large hail. Forecasters are suggesting we are likely to receive in excess of 100mm here in Hervey Bay today-tonight. Parts of our region could receive 200mm or more, depending upon the movement and intensity of the storms.

The extreme humidity and strengthening northerly wind are palpable signs of the impending storms, which will continue to build throughout the day into a potentially dramatic crescendo this afternoon. No-one should be on the water in these conditions, our emergency services folk have enough on their plates at the moment.

The weather boffins have changed their forecasts every few hours, with the latest version for our region suggesting more rain or storms tomorrow, northerly winds pretty much daily, and high humidity and showers for in excess of a week. A southeasterly change is possible Thursday, with even more rain riding the onshore winds thereafter.

Those keen to wet a line need to be sensible and scrutinise the latest weather forecasts before heading out. There is a glimmer of hope for light winds tomorrow and Saturday morning, before the northerly strengthens again that afternoon. Be very wary of storms in calm conditions and don’t put yourselves or others in harm’s way.

Tonight’s new moon sees the peak of another set of spring tides. The big 4m high tides are pushing back against the floodwaters in the Mary, and the big ebb tides draining out to 0.6m are dramatically increasing the apparent tidal flow within the influence of the river. Tidal flow will ease gradually over the coming week.

An impressive image of the Maryborough Flood Levy stopping flood waters from inundating the rest of the CBD. 

Impact of Second Major Flood in Two Months

Just when our inshore waters were nicely mixed and the saltwater had pushed back into all but the mid-upper reaches of our major rivers, along comes another major flood in the Mary. Thankfully, whilst the Burrum catchment received enough water to over-top Lenthalls, it was only a minor rise and there has been little impact on that system.

Flood debris is again a major concern for boaties, and already we have received reports of log jams as far as 15 miles out into the bay. We can again expect a huge plume of dirty freshwater to spew out of the Mary and impact the whole of the straits and our local waters out to the northern edge of “the banks”. Increased tidal flow and dangerous currents will impact the waters of the Mary, River Heads and the waters immediately outside the river entrance.

Just some of the debris washed up at River Heads.

Dirty waters will creep along our beachfronts and engulf our shallow reef systems once again. One upside to this phenomenon is the likelihood of continued good fishing over our shallow reefs without the impact of spearos. It will be a couple of months before these waters clear again, so make the most of this opportunity in the near future. Other upsides will be the great mud crabbing that can be expected in coming weeks, the prawn runs as the floodwaters settle, enhanced propagation of all estuarine species, and even a better snapper season in coming months.

There will be plenty of floating debris, some will be just under the surface too so make sure you keep your eyes peeled. Pic: Hervey Bay Fly & Sportfishing

Options for Boaties When the Weather Settles

A fisho must fish, and it will take more than a flood to hold back the tide of eager and hungry Hervey Bay fishos. Clever crews will hitch the boat up and head up the Bruce to greener pastures. The GBR waters out from 1770 and other ports to our north will be more popular than ever in coming weeks. When the weather aligns, the great reef and pelagic fishing on offer up that way is hard to beat. Heading south doesn’t look that promising for a while yet. The Tin Can Bay – Rainbow Beach area was well saturated recently and similar flood issues are impacting that part of the coastline. The reef fishing not far off the Wide Bay Bar should be exceptional in coming months. So, once these disastrous conditions subside and the autumn southwesterlies push the East Australian Current further offshore, a trip over the bar will be a great option.

Mac tuna have been around in large numbers and will readily take a metal slug or the old faithful 5" Zman Streakz. Pic: Hervey Bay Fly & Sportfishing

Locally, a trip up the bay is on the cards once the weather settles. Beware the debris, and avoid traveling at night for the time being. East coast lows such as the one that just impacted our coastline are triggers for hordes of tuna to enter Hervey Bay waters. We mentioned the mass migration of tuna into Platypus Bay in our last report, and word is that the bay is now alive with surface-feeding schools of both longtail and mack tuna. The macks out-number the longtails by a large margin, but as autumn wears on, bigger numbers of the black barrels will move into the bay. The next two months are the serious part of our cyclone season, so expect even further surges in tuna numbers should the big willy willies develop up north and head our way.

Golden trevally are a great target this time of year on soft plastics and jigs. Pic: Hervey Bay Fly & Sportfishing.

The waters of Platypus Bay, the central and northern bay will remain largely clear and should be alive with masses of baitfish. It won’t be just tuna gorging themselves out there, as there are still a few spotties, along with plenty of school and spanish mackerel in the northern bay. Trevally are putting smiles on dials over some of the reefs in Platypus Bay and large queenies are turning up all over the place. There was a solid run of mackerel out around the Fairway a bit over a week ago. Spaniards, schoolies and broadies all did their best to decimate the baitfish population in the area. These speedsters are likely to be still in the general area, and could be found anywhere from off the Burrum coast to Coongul, along or just above the dirty water line.

There's been plenty of school mackerel around lately along with some solid broad barred mackerel.

Inshore Waters Benefit from Filthy Influx

Our inshore waters might not look too pretty at the moment and yes, there is a lot of floating or partially-submerged hazards, but we need to look at the positives to come from another major flood event and what we can reap in the future. Not only do our estuarine species, crustaceans and other fodder species propagate and thrive, but our reef and pelagic species move closer inshore in time to feast on the renewed abundance.

Right now, the mass influx of freshwater will have a negative effect on fish and critters in shallower waters, though this will only be a short-lived issue. Given that the freshwater will ride over the top of the salty stuff out in deeper waters, means that there will be vastly less impact there immediately. In time, the shallows will again fire, as they did after the last flood, but for now you might concentrate your efforts a little deeper.

Coral trout will be active below the dirty water and will be eager to take live baits and an array of lures. Estuary cod will be particularly abundant and super active. As always, we strongly suggest releasing all of the larger cod to help maintain the health of our reefs. Venting, or blowing their swim bladders is necessary if they are hauled up fast from deeper waters. You will set your own “limit”, but for these purposes, lets call a “large” cod a fish over 10 kilos or so. The bigger the fish, the more grunt it has and the more likely it can use its pectoral fins to sweep sand and silt out from beneath structure and create the refuges they and their neighbours so desperately need to avoid the sharks. Estuary cod grow to enormous proportions, and huge cod were once prolific in these parts, both inshore and offshore. There is a maximum size limit of 120cm, which is a fish of around 35 kilos, which is quite big, but hardly huge when compared with their actual growth potential.

It is the prime season for grass sweetlip inshore and these feisty critters are in abundance in the lower bay. The deeper reefs in the local shipping channels, such as the Roy Rufus arti and many others, will be home to numbers of sweeties. Avoiding the sharks is a hassle and sometimes impossible though, so many have turned to scoring a feed of sweeties from the less shark-infested fringing reefs of the bay islands.

Reef fishos can expect to tangle with a few squire, scarlets and blackall around our deeper inshore reefs, and it won’t be long before we hear of the first knobby snapper of the season. Yes, the snapper schools are still some way off migrating inshore, but stragglers from past spawning events sometimes linger and come on the chew in March. Catching such a fish in our shark-infested waters this time of year needs much more luck than skill these days.

As we mentioned after the last flood, there will be displaced estuarine species turning up on shallow reefs, deeper reefs, ledges, flats and beaches again now. Grunter are the most obvious fish to invade these waters, and they have been regular captures from our beaches, shallow reefs and the gravelly-bottomed grounds off the Burrum coast since the last flood. Expect another good run of grunter now, with possibly a heap of their smaller brethren in the mix.

Displaced mangrove jacks will take up temporary residence on shallow reefs, deeper reefs and ledges. There is so few jacks in the Mary system that this is not the origin of many of these fish. Mature jacks from the straits and many local creeks, as well as the mighty Burrum system, will be looking to make their way out wide to terrorise the smaller inhabitants of our offshore reefs. Intercept these fish at likely hangouts on the way and you can enjoy some of the best lutjanid fishing on offer in these parts.

The creeks of the straits and along the western side of Fraser Island were just starting to fire for a range of estuary species. The flooding will change that somewhat, but the fish won’t be far away. Try the drop-offs and flats outside the creeks that are running too fresh and you could find the likes of whiting, flathead, grunter, queenies, trevally, salmon, jacks and barra.

The threadies and barra will be super active again in the near future. Jelly prawn (and bigger prawn) will be a major drawcard for these and many other species, so look for aggregations of these morsels and keep your eyes peeled for signs of predatory activity.

Our local jewfish population is well-versed in floodwater feeding tactics. Jewies will school in areas where their favourite baitfish, mullet, are forced out of the main stream or otherwise aggregated. The sight of a school of jewies chomping into a school of mullet will certainly get the casting arm twitching.

Lake Monduran will be a popular option until the rivers clear for those wanting their barra fix.

Prawners and Crabbers in for a Windfall

The flooding event in the Mary will again force the local muddies back out into the straits. Crabbers will be well-served placing pots along the verges of the waterways outside the river mouth, as well as along the flats and within the channels to the north and south thereof. Many of the creeks of the Great Sandy Straits were also impacted by localised flooding, so the same will apply in those areas.

The muddies will be active. Soaking the pots for a couple of hours, then checking and relocating if necessary is a good tactic in conditions such as these. Conversely, pots anchored well in areas of flow that will see crabs marching past as they escape the fresh waters can be left for overnight soaks and expect a return. Anyone planning on a crabbing mission should be wary of the potential of more localised flooding if this latest round of storms exceed expectations. No one wants to lose pots to flood waters, so add weights if necessary and avoid flooded rivers. There are far too many “ghost pots” in our waterways now, and these indiscriminate killers can go on killing long after they are lost.

A solid specimen.

Sand crabbers should be in for a great time in coming months. The abundance of food washed out into the bay will only serve to draw in and fatten larger numbers of sandies. The waters off the Burrum coast and the central bay beyond the banks were producing an easy feed in recent weeks, so you can expect more of the same in the future.

The big question crossing a lot of lips is the whereabouts and quality of local banana prawns. A few cunning prawners scored a great feed of prawn last week and kept it on the down low. It was very likely that word would have got out in no time if the flood hadn’t arrived and re-set the whole scene.

Now is prime prawning season. Floods propagate and help to grow out banana prawn in massive numbers. Once it is safe to do so, you will be able to head out and find mature prawn displaced by the recent flooding. A lot of prawn will simply bury and let the floodwaters wash over them, supposedly holding station for weeks if they have to.

There will be prawn along our mudflats and within the muddy gutters of the straits. Tracking them down will be vastly easier in coming weeks as this latest wall of water pushes out and starts to disperse, but those that cannot wait will find a feed with enough effort. Mobile prawn will be visible as they flick out of the water escaping their predators amongst the debris or along the muddy verges of the flats.

The big prawn runs will be on in earnest in coming weeks, so gear up and be ready. Woodgate Beach is famous in these parts for giving up big mature banana prawn in autumn and even winter. There have been unconfirmed whispers coming from up that way of late. Apparently, those that responded to such whispers found no prawn. Offshore winds are conducive to a good run of prawns, so the dominating easterlies, southeasterlies and now northerlies of late have done nothing for the cause. The rains on the other hand certainly have. Good flooding in the Burnett up at Bundy has pretty much secured a good season soon at Woodgate, with the Mary and localised flooding doing the same for the straits.

Fishing Floodwaters at Urangan Pier

We haven’t mentioned the good old Urangan Pier for months. This has been mostly because there has been nothing to report, or at least nothing that we could report on without getting angry. The dirty water from the previous flood has kept most hopefuls away, although there was a little action out there last week.

Apparently, a few golden trevally responded to live baits out the end and entertained a couple of fishos. Apart from that, there has been little more than the usual unmentionable antics after dark, and a seemingly endless run of sharks. The odd flathead or cod is hardly worth reporting, but are likely captures post-flooding all the same.

This next swathe of freshwaters will turn the pier waters soupy once again. A secondary flood of this nature is highly likely to see displaced estuary predators making their way past the pier. If the baitfish gather, as they do, then these passing predators will be tempted to linger. Think jewfish and grunter, but also possibly the odd thready.

Our town beaches will also see the passage of some serious estuary predators. There has been queenfish caught land-based over local flats in recent weeks, and these guys can handle dirty water just fine. Grunter will again be a viable target or a nice surprise to whiting fishos, and a few flatties will take up position in likely ambush points along the beach.

After the last floods, we had quite a few comments passed by beach walkers and others about schools of baitfish blowing out of the water in the shallows. The culprits responsible can be many and varied, and might just be a school of grunter, queenies or trevally, but could also be a thready, a barra or sharks. Interesting times ahead for inshore and land-based fishos.

Good luck out there y’all.

Peter Morse Fly Casting Clinic - 18th & 19th June

Don't miss this great opportunity to improve your fly casting or get started with the right instruction. Peter is an International Federation of Fly Fishers Master Fly Casting Instructor and has over 40 years of fly-fishing experience in fresh and saltwater and 25 years teaching fly fishing and fly-casting. Peter is also a Sage and RIO ambassador and will have Sage rods, reels and Rio lines with him if you wish to have a cast of one.

Courses are a full day from 8-30am to 4pm. Numbers are limited to 8 per day and the cost is still only $150 pp for the day.

To secure your spot contact Josh on (07) 4128 1022 or email: info@fishostackleworld.com.au

(FAD) Fish Attracting Device talk night - Tuesday 22nd March

Daniel Smith Senior Project Officer (FADs) Fisheries Qld is holding a public talk night on the FADs program he is deploying from Gold Coast To Cairns. It's a great opportunity for anglers who would fish the FADs locally to find out any relevant information. It will be held at the Hervey Bay Boat Club in the Upstairs Fraser Room from 7 pm Tuesday the  22nd March. All welcome.

Red triangles indicate where the FADs are located.

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