The weather for our upcoming Labour Day long weekend is not overly flash, but Saturday morning looks great till a 15kn southeasterly change moves in that afternoon and strengthens overnight. Neap tides will mean slight currents for a few days, so the deeper reefs will be the go, along with the rivers and creeks.
The Bay & Offshore
Opportunities for offshore fishing have been limited of late, but when conditions have allowed, the fishing has been sensational. Over the bar on the Sandy Cape Shoals there have been some excellent catches of red emperor in waters from 30-60m, along with the usual mixed bag of maori cod, coronation trout, parrot, hussar and some large scarlets. The deeper shelf waters have given up some excellent pearlies and rosy jobfish along the 100m line. We have been yet to speak to anyone fishing for reefies that has had a shark-free day, so make sure you have plenty of tackle and plenty of fuel so you can move some distance when they find you.
Yellowfin tuna have been taking pushers and diving minnows along the shelf, and big cranky amberjack are quite willing to lighten your jig collection if you drop them down on the big shelf ledges. Yellowfin have been reported from the Rooneys and Gutters areas of late also, and have been willingly taking stickbaits cast into the feeding schools. Spanish mackerel and some very big schoolies are quite common off Rooneys and around the Gutters at present, so dropping spoons and large metal jigs to the bottom and cranking them back to the boat at full noise will be a lot of fun for the younger more energetic fishos out there.
The Gutters produced some very nice trout for those lucky enough to avoid the sharks on Anzac Day. With so many fishos heading out there nowadays it is almost like the sharks cannot keep up with so many boats and a lucky few get to land some fish while others occupy the sharks elsewhere. Scarlets, sweetlip, jacks, cod and a few decent snapper also came from the Gutters while the weather was good around Anzac Day.
Whilst coral trout, cod, sweetlip and blackall continue to feature in catches from our inshore reefs, it is the arrival of the first of the season’s snapper that will peak everyone’s interest over coming weeks. Already there have been reports of snapper to 4kg or so coming from the Roy Rufus arti, along with small numbers of squire around that 45-50cm mark. Moon ledge, the Outer Banks, the Simpson arti, the Fairway area, Burrum 8 Mile and numerous other reefs and gravel patches will be worth a look for a snapper from now on. Night-time, dawn and dusk are always favoured feeding times for snapper, but those using soft plastics can be highly successful at any time of day due to their ability to cover a lot more ground and search for bait sources and active fish.
Trolling for snapper has become a popular method in recent years, and certainly gives you the opportunity to search far and wide for schools of fish. The most popular deep diver for the task is certainly the Classic Dr Evil, though quite a few other lures capable of dredging down 5m+ and working at a slow pace are equally effective.
Our inshore waters have been alive with small baitfish (herring and hardiheads) of late, particularly throughout the shipping channels where schools of mack and longtail tuna have been belting the hapless baitfish. The tuna can certainly be flighty inshore, but will respond to the same small metal slugs used up the island. Platypus Bay will continue to be the favoured area for tuna chasers and rightly so, but those heading down the Straits should not be surprised to come across numerous tuna schools this time of year.
Reports of winter whiting have been few and far between so far, with the odd crew getting a few but failing to reach their quota. There will be a few crews out there on the hunt for these tasty little morsels in coming weeks, so stay tuned for updates as the whiting turn up in better numbers.
Great Sandy Straits & Mary/Susan Rivers
The western ramp reconstruction is now complete. Well, nearly! Someone forgot to put the river-stone gravel bed back adjacent to the ramp so that tinny operators (the majority users of this facility) can launch and retrieve their vessels from the shore without the hassle of shuffling along a pontoon and holding up traffic at what is a heavily congested area during peak times (every weekend). What is it going to take to get this issue sorted? Maybe you can ask your wannabe mayors when you drag yourself down to vote this Saturday.
Anyway, prawns are still the biggest drawcard for boaties heading out from River Heads of late, with great catches coming from down the Straits as some of the big gutters in the lower river failed to produce recently. Expect better catches with the light westerlies over coming weeks.
A few good threadfin salmon have been taken on live prawn lately from the Susan, Bengstons and from the creeks down the Straits. Blue salmon started to turn up a few weeks ago on the Booral Flats and there have been small schools making their way into the river and into the creeks of the upper Straits. Blue salmon are certainly not as fussy as their threadfin cousins, and will take a variety of small livies, fresh prawn, herring, squid and even pillies. Lures-wise, soft vibes and plastics are most effective on the blues, and be prepared for a fair fight as the sambos grow to quite substantial sizes in our waters. Their numbers will increase as our waters cool further.
The other fish increasing in numbers with the cooling temperatures is the humble old bream. Break out the ultra light tackle and head down around the heads in coming weeks to meet the bream schools as they move downriver to spawn. Lightly-weighted and well-presented baits will account for many good bream, but for the most fun try small topwater lures over the shallow rock bars and adjacent flats with a twitching, stop-start, retrieve.
The light offshore breezes that came the day before Anzac Day brought on the banana prawn off Woodgate in sensational numbers. Up to 70 boats at a time could be seen working the prawn schools with plenty of other boats coming and going as well. Everybody is in such high spirits when they are getting into the Woodgate prawn that even in the midst of somewhat ridiculous crowds the only raised voices are those of the excited prawners bragging of their hauls. A few achieved the prawner’s holy grail of a 10 litre bucket limit in one cast, but that honour usually comes to those who find their own patch of prawn away from the crowd.
We haven’t had a lot of reports from the Burrum River system of late, however, the pike around the boat ramps at the heads are keeping the kids entertained. The odd barra and large flathead have come from the heads, with some good catches of mangrove jack on mullet and prawn baits from the middle reaches upstream of Buxton.
Good catches of spanish mackerel were reported from the Woodgate artificial reef a week ago. Some good schoolies and spanish have been trolled up out the front off the drop-off, and the season’s first snapper have been caught from the Burrum 8 Mile.
Local Beaches, Creeks and Urangan Pier
Herring numbers have dwindled out along the Urangan Pier leaving little to draw any significant pelagic activity of late. Mackerel, queenfish and goldies are still a chance, albeit fleeting at present. Without herring for livies, you can always resort to pike, which many would agree are a better livie for flathead, jew, queenies and goldies anyway. If chasing pike out the deep end of the pier then use a sturdier, larger bait jig than the "Citer" models so locally favoured for catching small herring (GH Signature size 6 is perfect). Pike in the first channel are better targeted with a small minnow lure on a 40cm length of 15-20lb leader attached to a swivel with a 3 ball sinker above the swivel. Yes, this sounds weird (using a sinker along with a lure) but you need the sinker to counter your height above water on the pier when using shallow-running minnow lures. Of course, you can always use small soft plastics and a slightly over-weighted jighead to catch pike under the pier if you prefer, with the added bonus of the odd bream as bycatch.
A lot of local pier regulars will now turn their attention to chasing the annual run of bream that aggregate around its pylons to spawn over the cooler months. Tried and well-proven bait-fishing techniques are no secret, but what proved very popular last season (with both anglers and bream) was using the nifty little Cranka Crab lures to snare some of the better fish. It is a fun and easy technique of quite simply flicking the crab lure just far enough up-current so that it will sink naturally back to the bottom at the leading edge of the pylons, but you must resist the urge to flick your rod tip, as less is more with these little lures and their floating claws will be enough enticement as it dances across the bottom in the current. A heavier fluorocarbon leader of around the 12lb mark is suggested as you need better abrasion resistance around the pylons and will have to swing a kilo plus of bream up onto the pier at times.
Small tides at present suggest our town beaches will be fairly quiet for all but the odd flathead around the groynes at Shelly Beach or the gutters off Pialba. The dreaded green toads have moved in on our town beaches in numbers at present destroying lures and plastics and snipping off baits meant for better fish. Until they move on, you will be better off fishing out of town. Try the Booral Flats for whiting, bream and flathead, or the small creeks west of town for whiting, flatties, small trevally, queenfish or the odd barra.
Good luck out there y’all.