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Weekly Fishing Report - 4th March 2021

Goodbye Summer – Hello Autumn

As summer fades into history, we can now look back on what was one of our driest “wet” seasons on record. Tragically, this year’s failed wet locally comes after a similarly dismal wet season last year. March and April can still deliver hefty falls of rain and potentially cyclones, so we shouldn’t write the wet season off just yet, however, such a late wet will likely fail to trigger the spawning response from so many species reliant on rain at the right time of year.

It looks like TC Niran poses no threat to the Qld coast as it drifts off into the Pacific. A fairly stiff southeaster just kicked in that will blow up to 25 knots inshore for a day or two before easing back during the weekend. Expect up to 20 knots of south-southeasterly breeze Saturday, easing back substantially on Sunday.

Frustratingly for many, the weather looks sensational throughout the whole of the next working week. Light winds, swinging into the northeast by mid-week will greet any boaties lucky enough to be able to get out. We might see a shower or two towards the end of the week if we are lucky.

Saturday’s last quarter moon phase heralds the return of neap tides, that will start to make again after the weekend. As the tides build towards the following weekend’s new moon, the fish, the crabs and what prawn is out there will be on the move.

So, with summer in the rear vision mirror, let’s take a quick glance at what you can look forward to as autumn unfolds.

Awesome Autumn – Tuna Action Peaks

Anyone who has been out on the bay will attest to the massive numbers of tuna out there at present. The annual influx of longtails has arrived to join the mack tuna in an extended feeding frenzy that has seen surface bust-ups and cart-wheeling birds from horizon to horizon.

Last weekend offered the perfect opportunity for sportsfishos to get amongst the tuna and few if any were disappointed. Apparently, numerous schools of longtails were quite approachable and willing to eat quite an array of artificial offerings. Of course, there was a few schools that spooked and sounded, but with so many schools feeding at once, it was a simple matter of moving onto the next.

Locally favoured small metal slugs, jerkshad-styled plastics and stickbaits all accounted for tuna, with the fresh arrivals to the bay proving very easy to tempt at present. In fact, many crews simply ran out of their favourite tuna lollies, only to tie on other random plastics and continue the fun.

The sharks took a hefty toll, particularly within the eastern waters of Platypus Bay close to Fraser. The sharks offered a real spectacle for the kids, who got to witness the brutality of nature and survival of the fittest played out in full view. Apparently, there were even large sharks, so fat and full of fish, that they simply nudged and terrified the exhausted tuna without actually eating them.

We can expect the tuna fishery to go from strength to strength in coming weeks. Any heavy weather, especially from an east coast low that passes by during autumn will see another surge of tuna entering the bay to gorge on the juvenile baitfish seeking refuge from the heavy offshore seas.  In the meantime, make sure you have a good supply of the right lures, as you can lose quite a few in any given session with so many sharks around. Expect the tuna to get a bit flighty as the season wears on and they get harassed by every other boat that passes by.

It looks like we'll be waiting until next week to see conditions like these again. Tri from Fraser Guided Fishing has been getting clients onto some great fish lately including this longtail tuna.

The colours highlighted on this longie look unreal! Pic: Hervey Bay Fly & Sportfishing.

Double hookups on longtail tuna, you beauty! Pic: HBFS

Unfortunately increased numbers of tuna means increased numbers of sharks in the bay. Be especially careful when going to land the fish and if you continue to get harassed move on a considerable distance.

Birthday boy Terry couldn't resist jumping in for a photobomb with his kids. Good on ya guys!

Widespread Pelagic Action in Autumn

Watching the sounder whilst chasing tuna and reacting to sightings of large fish deeper in the water column has resulted in many hookups lately. Stories abound of guys being spooled by unseen opponents that could have been XOS GTs, spaniards or cobia; or perhaps just trevally that eventually got sharked. The surface-feeding tuna certainly attract the attention of trevally, queenies, mackerel and even reefies, as the remnants of their gorging descend through the water column.

Plenty of large golden trevally can be found lurking beneath the tuna schools if they venture near reef systems, but they can also be targeted outright by simply sounding out likely reefs looking for aggregations of baitfish and attending trevors. They are not at all difficult to tempt, being quite willing to scoff an assortment of lures including metals slugs, spoons, jigs, vibes and of course soft plastics.

Queenfish will also harass baitfish schools around the inshore reefs and the rubble/weed patches up the island. They too are easy to tempt, the added bonus being their penchant to hunt down and devour surface poppers and stickbaits with reckless abandon. Both queenies and goldies can be found up on the flats this time of year, as too can longtails in the Wathumba – Rooneys area.

The recent run of schoolies has kept fresh seafood on the menu for plenty of folks. They will still feature in local catches for a while yet, so mackerel fans will have fun trolling, spinning or soaking baits until our waters cool too much and they vacate the area.

It is a similar story for the spanish mackerel. Their run to southern waters is still in full swing, with numbers now common off the mid-north coast of NSW. Spaniards will continue to thrill trollers and those that enjoy the art of stickbaiting for them, whilst they frustrate and annoy reef fishos both inshore and out wider for several weeks to come.

There has been a few broad-barred mackerel on the chew in the southern bay in recent weeks. These guys will continue to grow in number (and size) as our waters cool throughout autumn. They will often frequent the shallow reefs and local flats, where they are specialists in attacking the local garfish and hardihead populations.

A nice spanish mackerel caught on a recent charter with Hervey Bay Fly & Sportfishing.

Queenfish and giant herring are both highly sought after sportsfish in the bay and pull plenty of string. Pic: Fraser Guided Fishing

A beautiful Hervey Bay golden trevally caught on a Palms Slow Blatt jig. Pic: Fraser Guided Fishing

Diamond Trevally are always a welcome catch for lure fishos and throw some incredible colours in the light. Pic: Fraser Guided Fishing

Offshore Reef Fishing Back on the Agenda in Autumn

Very little reef fishing effort occurs offshore north of Fraser during summer due to the consistently strong East Australian Current and the dominant northerly/easterly winds. Come autumn, the winds will start to swing more consistently from the south and southeast, effectively reducing the temperature and pushing back against the EAC and reducing its speed.

Traditionally, April will see the current diminish offshore, though there will always be variations in the current’s strength then, and even during summer due to the prevailing winds. Reef fishos will soon be dusting off the offshore tackle and heading across Breaksea Spit and beyond looking for an esky full of glorious reef fish. Pelagics such as spaniards, GTs and yellowfin tuna are regular distractions or targets in their own right for offshore fishos in autumn.

For the time being, the pelagics have been the major drawcard offshore, though a quick check of the Sea Surface Temperature charts will give you an idea as to the potential strength of the current in a given area and whether or not the current will allow some bottom bashing. The bonus of the lack of fishing effort over summer is the lack of sharks over the shoal country, but expect this to change once a bit of boat traffic returns to those grounds.

Autumn Offerings for Inshore Reef Fishos

Hervey Bay’s wider reef systems such as the Northern and Southern Gutters and the reefs off Rooneys Point will be very popular during autumn. Spanish mackerel will be a real nuisance/bonus over many of the bait-laden ledges of the gutters, whilst schoolies will typically turn up anywhere you can find yakkas out in the paddock.

Coral trout are without a doubt the most sought-after reef fish up that way, and unluckily for them, they are very inquisitive and react aggressively to soft plastics, jigs and live baits dropped in the vicinity of the lairs. Gone are the days of great trout fishing on these northern grounds due to increased angler effort and shark attrition, but a few decent trout can still be slipped over the side if you re lucky and mobile.

Grass sweetlip are the principal box-filler out at the gutters in autumn, particularly for those that fish the fringes of the hard reef and not in the gnarly stuff. Red emperor are a chance, and scarlet sea perch will become increasingly common as we approach Easter. Dirty old blackall will take squid baits after dark, when moses perch also forage around the fringes.

There is always a few squire to be found at the gutters, though they will be typically hoovering up small morsels over the sand or speckled bottom a short distance from the reefy ledges. Bigger snapper will start to arrive on the more northern grounds in autumn, but if you are lucky you can find the odd decent knobbie out there now. Big, hard-pulling spangled emperor are a fairly common bycatch over rubbly bottom and can also feed out over the sandy bottom.

Over Rooneys way, it will be mostly scarlets, cod, trout and squire on or near the bottom, with spanish and school mackerel often hovering above. Of course, there will be grassies, blackall, moses perch and others on offer, with grunter a regular capture in some areas south or west of the point after dark.

Whether you head to the gutters or to Rooneys, you will have to do battle with a seemingly endless number of oversized sharks. These beasts have destroyed the best of the fishing in these areas, so do your bit to slow the decline by avoiding shark-infested areas and look for new ground away from the common country.

The 25 Fathom Hole is likely to produce a few mackerel and small sharks this time of year. It can give up a modest bag of small reefies such as squire, scarlets, moses perch and the odd cod, but the old fathom hole isn’t much of a producer until the snapper arrive in winter. Large sharks are not typically an issue at the fathom hole, possibly due to the lack of larger resident reef fish.

Closer inshore, many of the reefs within Platypus Bay will start to give up better quality scarlets on the bigger tides, along with a few squire and plenty of big grunter. Many of the sink holes have been found by the masses, so what used to produce stonker trout, cod and large scarlets now rarely gives up more that trevally, mackerel and sharks. Of course, the reef fishing will be challenging up that way whilst the tuna are in the area drawing so many large sharks.

Right on our door step, the close inshore reefs will continue to provide many meals of grass sweetlip and a few coral trout and cod. Squire are also a chance, and as autumn wears on and our waters cool, more squire and a few knobby snapper will start to turn up. Chasing big snapper on the arti in March used to be a thing for your scribe back in the day, but so many years of losing these big old fish to sharks has removed this option from the hitlist.

The Fraser Coast is a great fishery for species diversity. Here we have a nice grunter (javelin fish) and a goldy. Pic: Fraser Guided Fishing

How cool are the colours on the golden trevally on the left! Pic: Hervey Bay Fly & Sportfishing

Estuary Options in Autumn

In a perfect season, we would be talking about bag limits of prawns from local estuaries right now, and would be doing so for months to come. That ain’t happening this year though due to a lack of rain, so let’s all hope we at least get some late rain (soon) for a late prawn run before winter.

Crabbers have faired much better over summer and they will continue to pot muddies from local creeks and rivers right through autumn. Target the full moon period for the best of the mud crabbing at present, though the new moon can be quite productive also. Should it rain enough for a flood of any sort, then that will get them on the move big time, so keep that in mind.

Sand crabbers will soon start to dust off the heavy pots with a view to dropping them out in the bay. The grounds off Woodgate and Burrum Heads are some of the easiest to work and will soon start producing. For now, only small numbers are on offer up that way.

Mangrove jack fans have March and April to look forward to, as these months prior to our waters cooling too much will see some of the biggest and baddest jacks on the chew locally. Choose the Burrum, Gregory, Cherwell or Isis Rivers, the many creeks of the Great Sandy Straits, or even our local creek systems and you will find jacks of all sizes.

Barra too will be at their best until the waters cool too much. The Burrum system has its fair share, as does the Mary and the straits, so make the most of the remaining warmer weather and you can expect a positive response from old pink eyes.

Threadfin salmon are very active of late, they just aren’t in the sort of numbers that we would like. Should it rain, then they will ramp it up a notch chasing jelly prawn, so keep your eyes peeled when in the creeks or rivers for threadies working the drains and muddy banks. When the waters cool and they move back to deeper waters, vibers and trollers will still find threadies if they are willing to look.

Grunter are a local special this time of year. There are plenty on offer up on the flats down the straits and within the many creek systems. Should we get any significant rain, then these grunter will vacate the creeks in favour of the cleaner waters nearby. Indeed, quality fish will continue to feed around the fringes of our shallow reefs and another run of fish will traverse the Urangan shipping channel when the time is right.

Autumn Action on Our Impoundments

Autumn can provide some of the most productive barra fishing from our local impoundments. The cooler temperatures are decidedly kinder on our bodies as well, even bringing about all-day bites at times in lieu of the peak dawn, dusk, evening sessions that we need to focus on in the warmer months.

The latest from Lenthalls is that both the barra and bass are on the chew. The warmer days have had the barra smashing lures around the lily pads and laydowns, with topwater offerings bringing a few undone around twilight. Trollers targeting bass are scoring quality fish (and a few little ones) by targeting the drop offs around the points and entrances to the various arms of the lake.

Luke Fallon has been getting his clients onto some great barra at Lake Monduran.

Lake Monduran has been dropping so dramatically this summer that those that haven’t been there for a while will be simply blown away. It is a trollers paradise right now, with old school techniques of trolling the timbered edges of the water courses producing some of the biggest barra and some incredibly large bass.

The lake is in awesome condition, with clean water right throughout. The upper reaches and far flung reaches of the arms of B Bay see the water colour taint a little, but it is still clean, clear and healthy. Interestingly, it seems that the bigger schools of large fish that were once to be found in the distant reaches have moved downstream en-masse. There are still fish to be caught by doing the miles, but the biggest numbers of fish and the better average sized fish are certainly in the lower reaches.

This augers well for those keen to fish the lake in autumn as the fish will navigate their way back into the bays and creeks as time passes and they give up on the wet season (like the rest of us).

Good luck out there y’all.

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