Ripper Weather This Weekend
Last night’s cold snap brought us back to the reality of winter, after enjoying what was an exceptional warm spell earlier this week. Last weekend was terrific, so long as you worked around the light northerly. This weekend will be even better.
We can expect a light southwester Saturday morning, giving way to a light northeast sea breeze in the afternoon. Sunday morning will be a repeat of Saturday, with a subtle southeaster kicking in late in the day. Not a bad forecast for an overnighter out on the reef.
The coming working week looks like a mix of light winds around a brief 20 knot onshore blow from the east on Tuesday. Sunday’s new moon will see enhanced tidal flow, triggering a feeding response from numerous species from various fisheries inshore and offshore.
How are the colours on this chinaman fish! They're strictly a no-take species in our waters due to the high Ciguatera risk. Pic: Hervey Bay Fly & Sportfishing.
Those that headed up the Bruce and launched at ports to our north last weekend scored well on the reefies. A few “tarp shots” are doing the rounds, of bag limits of coral trout and red throat, amongst a mix of other reef dwellers such as red emperor, tuskies, moses perch, hussar and various cod.
Some crews ventured wider, found the snapper and pearlies a little hard to avoid altogether, but picked up a mixed bag of deeper water reefies including bigger reds and tuskies, along with a few members of the jobfish clan.
Those that didn’t get the opportunity last weekend could sneak an overnighter in on the GBR Saturday. Anyone that went last weekend shouldn’t need to bother as they should be feasting well for some time to come. The extra tidal flow and dark moon should see a vigorous bite from the reds.
Launching locally and heading offshore will be an option for crews with larger vessels. The wind should drop out tomorrow afternoon and not kick in again until late Sunday. The tides and moon are great, there will be minimal swell and sunny skies, so you can pretty much tick all the boxes if the boat is ready and a leave pass organised.
A nice spangled emperor onboard a charter with Hervey Bay Fly & Sportfishing.
Don’t forget the snapper and pearl perch closure if heading over the bars either north or south of Fraser. Both species will be hard to avoid down south in particular, whilst the greater variety of reef species over the Breaksea Spit can offer plenty of tasty targets if you plan your assault appropriately.
It is probably a good idea to avoid the 100m line on the shelf, as this is where the largest biomass of both snapper and pearlies are congregated, along with stupid numbers of sharks just waiting for you to hook up. Fish the shoal country instead and drift various grounds looking for reds, red throat, green jobbies, tuskies, coronation trout, maori cod, hussar and the like and you should score a great mixed bag. The sharks will be an issue for many over the shoals too, so be mobile as always.
Keep an eye on the sounder for large schools of yakkas offshore. Not only will the presence of these baitfish excite the resident bottom dwellers in the area, but larger pelagics such as cobia, spanish mackerel, GTs and marlin can also home in on the action. Have a stickbait rod rigged and ready if you are into a bit of heavy duty topwater action and work the bait schools if found in roughly 15-35 metres over shoaly country.
Andrew from Hervey Bay Fly & Sportfishing with a solid spanish mackerel caught on a popper.
There are small black marlin roaming our wider grounds even now, with a few working bait schools down along the east coast of Fraser and random billies turning up out in the northern bay. Just recently, a regular customer saw a single flying fish take off nearby whilst fishing north of the Gutters only to be connected to a feisty little black marlin moments later when it scoffed a pilchard being retrieved from below.
All skippers and crew should be extra vigilant over coming months as our humpback whales are migrating through the area in bigger numbers than ever. Traveling at night is particularly precarious, and possibly even riskier on the dark moon, but something we locals have become accustomed to over the years. Don’t think the whales are only an issue out wide or up the bay either, as every year a few roam off course and turn up just off our local foreshores and even down the Great Sandy Straits.
Red emperor are one of our most prized reef fish as they taste delicious and fight hard. Pic: Hot Reels Pro Fish Charters.
Hot Reels Pro Fish Charters have been finding some quality coral trout (above & below).
The abundance of trevally at the Gutters, as well as off Rooneys Point and within Platypus Bay is keeping our sportsfishos busy. The local guides have kept their punters happy between reef fish bites by jigging plastics and slow pitch jigs amongst the numerous trevally schools.
Anyone wishing to try jigging for the first time would be well served seeking out the trevors this time of year. Not only are these fish ravenous feeders and only rarely fussy, the range of species on offer can soon school a newcomer into the types of jigs, weights, colours and retrieve styles that work. This learning curve is vastly steeper on trevally as they are much more accommodating than reef fish and will soon react to the right jig on the day.
The kids can have an absolute ball on a day on the trevors. The mix of fish in Platypus Bay is somewhat similar to that at the Gutters, but often includes many smaller versions of the same species found out wider. The kids will soon be hooting and hollering with joy just tangling with the smaller trevally, so imagine their excitement when they connect to a larger goldie or diamond. Happy snaps all round.
The trevally will obviously loiter where there is a suitable food source. Up in Platypus Bay this means yakkas and herring for the most part, amongst a mix of other winter bait species. Harassing these same bait schools deep in the water column will be large longtail tuna in parts of the bay, though tracking these speedsters down when they are not feeding on the surface is a rather random experience.
Queenfish too, are turning up deep in the water column around bait schools up the island. We haven’t heard too many stories about big cobia over the past few weeks which is a little strange as their numbers should be peaking in the bay at present. Maybe there are cobes being caught and the grapevine has fallen short of our tackle shop.
Golden trevally are a great sports fish and will readily take a soft plastic or jig. Pic: Hot Reels Pro Fish Charters
Inshore Options Over the Darks
Word from the winter whiting fleet is that there has been a good feed on offer off Toogoom. The mackerel have moved in on the whiting grounds out that way too. The school mackerel are certainly partial to an easy feed of winter whiting, snatching them from your hooks mid-retrieve. Float one out the back alive sporting a set of gang hooks and you will soon see if the macks turn up, or do the same thing with the humble pillie if you prefer.
Obviously, trolling high speed minnows around that area will produce mackerel. Whilst we have only heard of the fish off Toogoom at this stage, chances are that there are mackerel feasting on baitfish and whiting from Woodgate to Gatakers Bay and also out around the Burrum 8 Mile or Fairway. We will likely know more of their whereabouts after the coming weekend.
Winter whiting fishos have also been picking up a feed down south of Round Island and west of Woody Island. The channels meandering out into the go-slow zone off Booral are also producing for those willing to motor slowly into that zone. The dreaded green toads can be a real hassle down south of Urangan, so keep that in mind and be prepared to put some distance between you and them if they are too consistent.
Reef fishing wise, it will be a little difficult to avoid snapper altogether over the darks, so make sure you let them go if caught and don’t keep fishing an area with sharks present. Without snapper to target this time of year, the pickings inshore can be a little lean. Cod and coral trout are possible around the turn of tide, though they will be a little lethargic due to the cold.
There has been a smattering of decent scarlet sea perch inshore this winter. Finding them without attending noahs is challenging, but if you do, then you are in for a tasty treat when you get home. Look for them around prominent structure, be that gnarly overhangs of rocky reef or artificial structures in deeper water. They will feed more at night, but can be picked up during the daylight over these bigger tides.
There might be a few quality grass sweetlip on offer at places such as the Roy Rufus arti, Channel Hole or Boges Hole. These will only be stragglers and in small numbers compared to the warmer months, but at least they should be a decent size. Surprisingly good sweeties can be found around the fringes of the deeper reefs and ledges further down the straits as well, and this time of year they are vastly better size than the pesky mini-models of summer.
For those that can stomach them, there are plenty of blackall on offer. You can pick them up over shallow reef after dark, or ply the deeper reefs day or night with “soft” baits such as prawns, squid or strip baits. Blackall are another species that is well-represented down the straits around the reefs and can get the fly fishos excited when they find them mooching about up in the shallows.
You can still find a few longtail tuna around, you just have to find the bait. Pic: Hervey Bay Fly & Sportfishing.
Flats and Estuary Fishos Have Options Aplenty
Once the tide recedes and you are forced out of the creeks it is time to target the flatties around creek and drain mouths. They will be very responsive to any number of techniques when the tide is nearly low, and will be even more voracious when the tide starts to make again. Seek them out around rock bars and you can catch them throughout the tide, from high to low. You might find the odd monster, but the numbers will rarely be anything to write home about.
Local summer whiting guns will be keen to try the local flats and creeks for whiting over the bigger tides. The full moon tides are more conducive (and comforting) than the darks in many areas, but the darks will still produce. This activity will be enhanced in coming months as we enjoy our annual run of summer whiting.
Small golden trevally have been actively hunting garfish, hardiheads and herring down the straits recently. These scrappy little guys, along with queenfish, mini-GTs and tailor are all a chance if you can find the bait. There has also been schools of mack tuna reported down the straits this week, typically gorging themselves on mobile bait balls of juvenile herring in the main shipping channel.
Sneaking into the creeks down the straits, or the lower-mid reaches of the Mary or Susan should see you connecting to blue salmon if you can find them. They school up quite frequently, and the larger models are dynamite fish to catch on the light gear.
Fraser Guided Fishing has been having some good sessions on the flathead.
If you see birds working baitfish up on the flats or out in the shallow channels of the straits, chances are it is blues causing the ruckus. It could be tailor too though, or even broad-barred mackerel, so perhaps try to eyeball the culprits before casting expensive lures in their direction. And speaking of lure attrition; try to avoid the green toads at all costs. They are super-destructive and will soon put a dent in your lure collection.
Grunter hunters might find a few down the straits. Try the mangrove line at high tide, or venture into the creeks and seek them out over gravelly bottom. Large models should be on offer up in the mid reaches of the Mary too. Grunter are suckers for a range of small plastics and soft vibes, but will readily accept a number of different baits if that is more your style.
Wintertime threadies have been a bit more challenging to find than usual this year. Their numbers are seemingly at an all-time low in our rivers and the straits. We need rain next wet season (desperately), and then we might see their numbers improve in subsequent years if we let them recover.
Don’t go anywhere this time of year without a few squid jigs on board. This has to have been the worst tiger squid season in memory, but they can turn up when you least expect it, so be prepared. Pencil squid have been attracting hopefuls to our piers and the River Heads pontoon almost every night for weeks. You can pick up a feed of large pencillies down the straits if you seek out the right water. Their numbers are nothing like in summer, but still enough to fill a bag limit if you put the time in.
Bait Returns to the Urangan Pier
The next predator to plunder the pier’s returned herring schools will likely be school mackerel. In the meantime, it has been more about the flatties, bream and jewfish. The flatties are being caught on live baits in the first channel or out the end. The bream are mostly targeted at night out the end, but are also a daytime option.
The difference between a bonito and a watson's leaping bonito, the middle one is a common bonito.
Insomniacs can try for big jewies on live baits out towards the deep end over the turn of tide at night. Whilst out there they can try for squid, and should be keeping an eye out for any tailor that are due to turn up some time soon.
That little out-of-season northerly wind earlier this week was just the thing to stir up the local whiting population. Our north-facing town beaches will be home to good numbers of summeries by the end of this month, but for now, you might try the Shelley Beach area after dark for a modest feed amongst the little’ns.
Fraser Island’s Eastern Beach Going Off
The same area all of a sudden came alive with schools of big dart as well. On top of that, those that sought them out found some lovely big whiting in the low tide gutters, and a eugarie cast into any rock-strewn gutters soon connected to a big tarwhine.
Tarwhine are sometimes confused with yellowfin bream. Apart from the head shape, the yellow stripes are a big giveaway.
Interestingly, the best of the fishing has been in the afternoons (at least for the guys giving us the goss’). Morning sessions saw a few fish caught, but it was the flood tide in the afternoon that brought the better results.
The eastern beach scene is ever-changing. Good gutters form, fish well for a while, then a major weather change causes wave action and currents that see some gutters break down and others form. Beach travel has become a little more challenging due to the shifting gutters, but is still okay.
At this stage, the only area of beach suffering from weed (that we know of) is down along the Eurong stretch. There are plenty of beach worms on offer for those that can pull them, and the eugaries (pippies) aren’t hard to find along the middle stretch of beach.