Full Moon Rising
We are sure you need no reminding that winter is here, as the cooler days and nights lately leave little doubt. We enjoyed a couple of great days this past week with very light winds, but much of the week saw moderate breezes that kept most boaties close inshore or up the island.
The coming weekend looks quite reasonable, with mostly 10-15 knot S-SSE winds Saturday and even lighter S-SE breezes forecast for Sunday. The wind is likely to pick up for much of the working week thereafter, starting with southerlies exceeding 20 knots that will swing more onshore as the week evolves, bringing a few showers some days.
Saturday night will see the full moon rise early evening and hopefully the showers will stay away for those that will be looking to fish the evenings either side of the moon. There will be plenty of tidal flow, with the evening tides that bit bigger than the day tides during winter.
Deep-Droppers Filling Eskies Out Wide
The weather forecast won’t suit any of us “fair weather sailors” that only venture out when the winds are below 10 knots, but the more seasoned skippers will be looking to continue their run of success out wide in larger vessels. The great catches of reef fish from the recent quarter moon should have filled freezers and fed the neighbourhood for quite a few crews, so it is unlikely they will need to head out again for a while.
Reports from northeast of Fraser suggest that the 100m line along the edge of the continental shelf is very sharky and frustrating, not to mention exhausting on conventional tackle. Beyond that depth, deep-droppers deploying multi-hook rigs and leads weighed in kilos have been hauling a variety of deep-water fish aboard.
Various jobfishes, big pearlies, snapper, bar cod and a few other ooglies have been unceremoniously hauled from the depths with bent-butt rods jammed in the holders and big electric reels doing all the work. Some skippers will know the grounds and will be able to call the fish from what they see on their sounders whilst others will be revelling in the mysteries of the deep and the excitement of what might be hauled up next.
It can be a time-consuming exercise dropping into, then retrieving from deep waters, particularly when you consider the “average” deep-dropping depths fished are 150-400 metres, (with some crews going all out and probing the bottom in as much as 700 metres of water). The rewards can be great, if it is a big feed of tasty reefies that you are after, though the sporting aspect is long lost when deploying these techniques.
Huge Variety of Reef Fish on Offer Right Now
It is not just the deep water fishos that scored well recently, with some great mixed bags of quality reef fish being reported from far and wide. Whether it be from waters north of Fraser, up near the Lightship or down of D/I, the scarlet sea-perch have really been on the chew big-time and sizeable scarlets have featured in many catches lately.
Being a schooling fish that looks great, tastes great and is quite easy to catch they are a great target this time of year, but can also be prone to over-fishing in some areas. Bag limits are readily achievable when the scarlets are on out wide, and some night sessions in particular can see crazy fishing if you stumble over the motherlode. Make no mistake, these fish do not release well at all (unless caught in less than 10 metres), so it pays to move off the school once you have caught enough.
Red emperor have featured regularly in catches from grounds such as the Northern Gutters, the Lightship country, African Gutters and offshore from Fraser Island and Double Island Point. Coral trout have been very active over the hard reef and around the coral-encrusted ledges and bommies, actively scoffing any appropriate plastic, vibe of micro jig dropped in their vicinity.
The Southern Gutters ledges continue to be patrolled by way too many sharks that persistently home-in on boats in the area. There are still good trout to be found along those ledges but it is a struggle landing any without drawing the attention of the taxman. Spend some time looking for smaller, isolated structure away from the main ledges when you can and you may find a few spots holding fish, without the sharks.
A few decent squirey-snapper have turned up at the Gutters. The bigger tides turn them on as the feeding opportunities are vastly increased, though you really need to be out there during low-light conditions or into the evening to stand the best chance at the snapper.
Other reef species you will encounter out that way include grass sweetlip, tuskfish, moses perch, scarlets, blackall, spangled emperor, cod and hussar. Cobia will be a regular distraction at times, and a few mackerel can still be found around areas holding schools of baitfish. Expect trevally numbers to explode over winter as the yakka schools move into the area.
The reefs off Rooneys Point have also been very sharky of late, but some are saying that the sharks are a bit slower to react. Avoid the noahs, and a feed of squire, the odd snapper or two and some very nice scarlets, trout, cod and grunter are on offer. Night sessions produce the better fishing for reefies (excluding the trout of course). Trevally numbers are increasing up that way too, and you can expect a huge variety of trevors as we head further into winter.
Mixed Bags Offshore from Wide Bay Bar
Reports from the waters offshore from the southern end of Fraser and Double Island Point suggest there has been some great quality catches in close and also out wider. A couple of the inshore wrecks have given up a few decent jewfsh of late and there has been lots of spanish and spotted mackerel harassing the bait schools inshore as well.
Plenty of squire and some decent snapper can be found around the close reefs, so long as there is an abundance of baitfish. Pearl perch are also on the chew around some of these same reefs and also out wider. Some of the close reefs will be home to a mix of other species as well, including scarlets, sweeties, moses perch and cobia.
The mighty red emperor is undoubtedly the most sought-after prize offshore from Fraser or D/I and these fish can attain sizeable proportions in this part of the world. Go armed with decent 50lb tackle and drop big baits (or livies) over isolated reef patches and rocks out wide in the paddock and you might find these majestic creatures in some numbers. Expect to find snapper, big jacks, amberjack and pearlies in the same areas and be prepared to fish after dark for best results.
We all curse westerly winds here in Hervey Bay, and for good reason, with the bay’s snapper and other reefies often refusing to bite during periods dominated by westerlies. It is a different story offshore from the Wide Bay Bar and the westerlies not only flatten the bar and the seas but also offer great protection for several miles wide of Fraser.
Sheltered Inshore Waters Will Be Popular This Week
Many found the fishing tough inshore this past week, courtesy of the light westerlies and a lethargic response from the fish. As the winds have again tended southerly and will turn onshore this week in the lead-up to the full moon we should see a vast improvement in the inshore bite.
Snapper will be an obvious target species for many over the full moon. Given that Qld snapper and pearl perch will be protected between the 15th July and 15th August this year, which is a prime period locally, you might want to consider this fact and get your snapper fix before this closure.
Bait fishos should source local bait such as pike, herring, yakkas and winter whiting (with fillets still attached ideally) and present these baits live or perhaps butterflied for a crack at our bigger knobbies in coming weeks. The evenings leading into the full moon should see them on the move and on the bite, so it is a matter of choosing a likely area holding enough food to draw their attention and presenting them with an appealing bait.
Popular local haunts such as the Roy Rufus Arti, Moon Ledge, the Outer Banks and the Burrum 8 and 12 Mile will be worth a look. The dreaded sharks will be bad in many of these areas, so please do your best to avoid them and minimise the wastage of our precious snapper.
Trollers will be scouring the fringes of these reefs and the subtle channels leading to and from these areas looking for roaming fish during daylight hours. Trolling at night hasn’t really been considered by too many folks, but is definitely worth considering if the fish are scattered. Cod tend to roam the fringing country some distance from their lairs during the latter stages of the ebb tide at night, so expect a few cod as bycatch if you attempt a night troll.
Grass sweetlip, blackall and cod will be the other main species encountered inshore for reef fishos. Coral trout are also likely candidates for those deploying live baits or tea-bagging plastics, but expect a lot of juvies this late in their season.
The shallow reefs fringing the bay islands and Pt Vernon/Pialba will be worth a crack over the bigger full moon tides. A few grunter are still mooching around the reef edges at Gatakers Bay, along with grass sweetlip and the odd squire. Berleying from an anchored boat will help draw fish to you, or you may choose to move frequently when the bite slows.
Winter Whiting and Sand Crabs on the Menu
Most of the winter whiting action has continued to centre around Gatakers Bay. A few fish have been found over off O’Reagans Creek but the size hasn’t been quite as good. Chances are there will be winteries starting to school-up off Woodgate Beach by now, though we only have rumours to go on for that area.
This full moon should see more fish move into our local whiting grounds, and perhaps the banks and channels south of Round Island and west of Woody Island will be worth a look after the weather settles this week. In the meantime, anyone venturing down towards Tinnanbar or Kauri Creek will have little difficulty getting a bag of quality winteries down that way.
Dropping a few heavy-duty crab pots out wide of the whiting grounds off Gatakers Bay or the Burrum Coast should see you score a good feed of sandies. Your winter whiting frames make for excellent bait for the crabs too by the way, so save them and put them to good use.
Jews and Blues in Our Rivers
Blue salmon are now well-scattered throughout much of the Susan and Mary Rivers and their tributaries. The blues are super-aggressive fish that are very easy to catch on all manner of lures and baits. They will take all sorts of bait from pillies and squid to prawns and of course live herring and small mullet.
Those seeking out blues on lures will be well-served scanning the deeper holes with their sounder, looking for the tell-tale fish shows mid-water. They love a soft vibe worked erratically across the bottom or through the water column and will often have several cracks at a lure before hooking up (often right off the rod tip). They certainly won’t win any awards for their eating quality, but they sure can fight on the light tackle. They reach a fair size in these parts too, but the average blues are usually around the 50-70cm on average.
Jewfish will be on the chew as we approach the full moon. Schools have moved on from some of their usual haunts along the ledges inside Fraser, but are turning up elsewhere. There have been jewies reported from beneath the Urangan Pier and Kingfisher Bay Resort’s jetty, and there will be schools elsewhere in the vicinity.
River Heads fishos will be swimming live baits for jew over the next few nights and are likely to score a few decent fish. Boat fishos stand a better chance elsewhere, and should be in position with livies at the ready for the turn of tide, both day and night.
There have been a few mackerel making raids on the baitfish around River Heads of late. Spinning metal spoons from the rocks is a popular activity for the energetic, and boaties can do the same thing around the bait schools with the chances of hooking mackerel, tailor or blue salmon.
Bream fishos will be in their element this week. Those shore-based at River Heads can expect bream during the evening, whilst boaties will do better over at South Head, with a berley trail out the back. As the bream gather to spawn, they can be very aggressive and are great targets for lure fishos tossing lightly-weighted plastics, crab imitations and topwater offerings.
Flathead numbers are increasing and they are a great target for those of you that are stranded onshore. Walk the banks hopping plastics or small blades and you will inevitably find some lizards around our creek mouths and adjacent banks. There has been plenty over Kingfisher Bay way recently as well, for anyone venturing over there.
Urangan Pier Bream a Full Moon Special
Bream fishos on the Urangan Pier have reported an improvement in the number and size of the local bream population this week. Traditionally, the nights around the full moon this time of year are almost guaranteed to turn the bream on at the pier. Get out there before dark if you plan on catching your own herring baits, or grab some mullet fillets and mullet gut and head out after dark.
Cranka Crabs have become rightfully popular out along the pier in recent years, as they tend to score some of the better-quality fish for those working them slowly on the bottom near the pylons. Plenty of other plastics will also work, though you might have to put up with a few nuisance pike at times.
Other than the bream, latest reports suggest there have been a few mack tuna, mackerel and flathead caught at the pier and we suggest you always carry a squid jig or two in case you spot some tigers than no-one else has seen.