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Weekly Fishing Report - 5th May 2022

Kealen from Big Cat Reality Charters with a solid coral trout.

Get Out Before the Rain

Boating opportunities were a bit limited over the past week, though a brief reprieve from the breeze saw plenty of vessels hit the briny last weekend. This weekend looks quite good at this stage. However, there is rain on the way that may start to fall during the weekend before intensifying during the week.

Light winds of a generally northeasterly tendency today and tomorrow will tend more southerly, then southeasterly on Saturday. The wind will start to crank up a little Saturday night, seeing around 15-20 knots of SSE/SE for Mother’s Day Sunday.

20 knots or more of southeasterly will dominate the early part of the working week. The onshore winds will be moisture-laden and we could see quite a bit of rain. At this stage, the forecasters are suggesting another east coast low could spin up in our neck of the woods in the latter part of the week. If it is anything like the last couple of lows, then heavy rain and strong winds are possible.
The weather boffins are rather non-committal with respect to this week’s weather, and just how much rain we might receive. These lows can be hard to predict, so ensure you check the latest forecasts as changes are likely from day to day.

A waxing moon as we approach next Monday’s first quarter phase means neap tides and very little tidal flow for the next few days. As the tides build, so does the wind and rain unfortunately, so make the most of the current conditions and fingers crossed for a lull in the wind after the trough and low pass us by.

Banana Prawn Bonanza Continues

A bucket limit of juicy big banana prawns hasn’t been too difficult to procure of late. All of our river systems are giving up quality bananas, as are our smaller local creeks. There are also prawns galore down the straits in most of the creeks, and even schools of prawn on the move through local shipping channels.

Large prawns were pushed to the surface out fairly wide recently, somewhere out over the banks. Pelagics were tearing into them and the little birds swooping from above were able to pick them up but unable to swallow them whole. Don’t be at all surprised to see repeats of this scene in our local shipping channels or down the straits in coming weeks as the mature prawns migrate.

Prawn hotspots in the Burrum from recent weeks dried up (so to speak) as the prawn continued on its way. Many new hotspots were soon found by locals prospecting the deeper holes and runs. The Burrum, Isis, Cherwell and Gregory are all producing quality prawn.

The prawn pouring around River Heads continues to feed an ever-growing crowd of cast netters throwing from the pontoon at the ramp. Throwing nets over rocks is fraught with danger and many a net has been destroyed. There are other less risky shore-based locations from which a feed is on offer, yet the sight of others pulling pockets full of prawn from the pontoon is too much to resist for many boatless prawners.

We will see quite substantial prawn migrations in coming weeks. We have the full gamut of prawn in our estuaries and inshore waters at present, from the tiny jelly prawn progeny to the mature egg-laden prawn continuing the cycle of life. With enough thought and a willingness to prospect, you should be able to seek out the sized prawn you favour by running the estuaries and scouting them out. A good sounder will help greatly in this pursuit.

Our prawn season this year should be an extended affair. Woodgate will again feature when the winds turn offshore. There is quality prawn all winter in our rivers after events such as this, but few folk are keen on throwing cast nets in the colder part of the year. It will be interesting to see how much rain we get next week. Any form of flooding would be downright annoying right now, given the prime state of our estuaries after the summer wet season.

Muddies and Sandies Still on the Menu

Crabbers have had a great time lately, scoring either muddies or sandies depending upon where they decided to crab. The muddies have made their way back upstream into our creeks and rivers. Many pots intercepted them along their travels in the lower reaches as they returned to the estuaries.

The mid-upper reaches of the same creeks and the mid sections of the rivers have been the go more recently. Sign of active crab is not hard to spot along muddy banks when the tide is low.
Careful pot placement is crucial to get the best return for effort. Make sure your pots are not only placed in likely areas, but that the pots are sitting firmly on the bottom. Sticks, mangrove roots and sloping banks can see pots suspended and rendered ineffective.

Undoubtedly, our muddy friends can sense the rains coming next week. There is every chance that they will be hyper active and will pot readily. The next full moon is a bit over a week away, when we would expect increased crab activity. Should enough rains fall to flush any degree of freshwater into the creeks, then a mud crab bonanza may result.

Sand crabbers have continued to knock off a modest feed inshore. The month of May has been a prime time for sand crabbing locally in the past. Pots were often seen off Toogoom, Dundowran and Gatakers Bay, as well as off Urangan and Booral. The neap tides would not be ideal for this activity inshore, but the next full moon will be worth a crack for anyone so inclined.

Otherwise, the sand crabbing out in the bay is still worth a little effort when the weather is settled. Pots placed north of the banks, east of the Burrum or up in Platypus Bay will soon see how good the crabbing is in the area.

Pot theft and crab theft has been a major issue in these parts for years. Sand crabbers with their gear out wide get robbed, just as the mud crabbers in the estuaries do. One local chap had 7 pots stolen in 4 days just off Gatakers Bay over Easter, within eyesight of the ramp. In the past fortnight, we have had a couple of crabbers tell us that their pots have been taken to with a knife down the straits.

Winter and Summer Estuary Species All Active

Just as the shorter days have seen a shift from the local barra, our jewfish population has kicked into gear and are on the move. Jewies respond to cooler temperatures and are vastly more active as we head into the winter months.

Just lately, there has been a few jewies reported out towards the deep end of the Urangan Pier at night. Live baits are an obvious choice for bait fishos out there, though a fresh squid or large banana prawn might well tempt them as well. Prawn imitation plastics and soft vibes are two of the better options for lure fishos chasing a pier jewie.

There has been no shortage of live baits on offer for jewie hunters out at River Heads of late. Prawns and herring are abundant at times, and have been the undoing of quite a few jewies just recently. There are a lot of smaller undersized models around at times, so respect the size limit (75cm minimum) and don’t be tempted to keep an undersized fish just because it appears “big”.
Stories of the odd fisho taking fish after fish, night after night, have crept along the grapevine in the years since the pontoon was placed at the ramp. We can only hope that there is no such repeat of this over-exploitation this season, as naïve as that desire may seem. The bag limit for mulloway (jew) is 2 by the way, in possession.

Josh Cox with a nice school jew caught on a curly tail grub

Bream numbers and quality are steadily improving out at the heads as well. Soaking well-presented baits will soon get the breams’ attention, as will a large array of lures. Small softies are the obvious choices, with critter baits, prawn imitations, curly-tailed grubs and mini minnows all having their moments. Cranka crabs are dynamite for the bigger bream, but be prepared for a tussle if you happen to swim it past any cod.

The neap tides will suit those keen to pursue our local threadfin salmon. Given that the subtle ebb tide won’t drain the drains and little creeks as much, the jelly prawn won’t be flushed out everywhere and the sambos will resort to chasing larger baitfish and prawn.

Yes, you will still find the odd threadie working drains for jelly prawn, but you will also find them in the deeper waters chasing herring, yorkies and prawn, (as you will around the snags and rockbars). You might also trip over a few blue salmon whilst chasing threadies. Their numbers will increase as winter approaches, but they are about in small numbers at present.

Jack fishos are running out of time to get the best out of this species for the season. It looks as though the daytime temperatures will plummet next week due to the rains and it won’t be long before our nights are cold. Jacks have been surprising the odd bream and grunter fisho of late, so a session is likely to be worth the effort and can produce some of the larger fish of the season this time of year.

Pelagics Moving Closer Inshore

After a couple of weeks of frustrating weather patterns and tuna doing their best disappearing acts, our latest reports suggest there are plenty of tuna out there in the southern bay at present. The bait is moving inshore, as it does when our days shorten and temperatures drop, and the tuna (and other pelagics) are in hot pursuit.

It is quite convenient that a tuna chaser can catch fish so close to home in these days of ridiculous fuel prices. Depending upon the prevailing weather, you can look for your tuna just north of the banks, or up along the west coast of the bay. Trips up into Platypus Bay will still be popular for many, though you may be driving past some of the best action.

Jamie Lineburg with a nice longtail tuna

Tuna inshore can be notoriously flighty. Associating your boat as an aggressive predator and avoiding it en-masse, whole schools of tuna will often sound and disappear off the surface, only to bust up again some distance away. Stealthy approaches only work some of the time, so skippers new to this game might want to try another approach.

Consider having your crew all cocked and loaded, slugs or jerkshads at the ready, as you motor past the tuna school at around 6-8 knots, whilst driving in a direction that will intercept the school’s path without appearing to approach it. Without changing your motor’s revs, get the crew to launch their lures into the melee once within range.

This technique can work especially well for those of you that don’t own reels fast enough to spin the lures quick enough to excite the tuna. The boat’s momentum will add more than enough additional speed to your lure if it is thrown out to one side.

Ben Lineburg with a stickbait crunching longtail tuna.

Once the fish are hooked up, then go to work on them as best you can to get them in before the sharks steal your prize. You won’t ever beat a shark once it homes in a hooked tuna, so perhaps you might consider opening the bail and letting the fish out-run the noah if you see it on its tail. Free-spooling then chasing after the tuna with the boat has worked for others in the past, and might be worth a try when your favourite $40 stickbait is about to meet jaws.

We should see increasing numbers of tuna, both mack and longtail, make their way down through our shipping channels in coming weeks. The west coast tuna fishery goes largely unattended as most tuna fans seem to favour a run up the island, but when the offshore wind blows from the south west, then heading up off the Burrum, Woodgate and Theodolite Creek can see impressive encounters with tuna.

Golden trevally fans don’t have to burn as much fuel as they were months ago, as more and more goldies are showing up closer inshore. The reefs in southern Platypus Bay, the Outer Banks and the ledges off Coongul and Moon are worth a look in coming weeks. Our inshore artificial reefs will also have their moments, particularly when the baitfish gather en-masse.

A solid golden trevally caught on a recent charter with Bobby from Hot Reels Pro Fish Charters.

There has been a degree of mackerel action inshore recently, with the Fairway and other beacons in our shipping channels drawing a few fish sporadically. The southern sector of Platypus Bay has produced schoolies in better numbers recently.

The spaniards and large school mackerel are giving charter boat clients a bit of joy and otherwise annoying the you-know-what out of local reef fishos up off Rooneys and out at the Gutters. It won’t be too much longer and these mackerel will move on from those waters, just in time for the trevally to start moving in.

Queenies are worth pursuing inshore this time of year. Wait for the bigger tides in a week’s time for your best chance, but have some fun if you trip over a school in the meantime. The same goes for the big GTs that frequent our close waters in May. Giant herring add a little spice to a session inshore as well, and can be another worthy target closer to the full moon.

Early Season Snapper on the Chew

The neap tides will do little to excite an experienced snapper fisho, but these fish are worth mentioning as they will be a major feature of our inshore reef fishery from now on. A random large knobby or two was caught last week without venturing too far up the bay. Their numbers will increase as the month of May unfolds, with the next full moon a real special for some locals.
As mentioned in last week’s report, the tragedy of our fishery today is the ridiculous number of oversized sharks we have to contend with. Target your snapper as you always do, but please be mobile and avoid the noahs when you know they are there.

Snapper are very slow growing and large fish take many years to attain those sizes. Our current bag limit restricts the take of “proper” snapper (over 70cm or about 10lb) to just one fish, so think about your releasees’ chances of survival if there are sharks around. A feed of fresh snapper/squire is first class and many of us look forward to a better snapper season this year. Standby for more on this subject in coming weeks.

Whilst we await the arrival of the schools of snapper, we have plenty of grass sweetlip inshore that are hungry and easy to catch. Our local coral trout and cod are also quite active for now, though they will both tend to slow down somewhat when our water temperatures plummet in winter. Throw in a mix of blackall, tuskies and scarlet sea perch and you have the makings of an interesting inshore reef session – if only for those darn sharks!


An absolute slob of a cobia caught with Hot Reels Pro Fish Charters.

Have the Winter Whiting Arrived Yet? – I’m a Frayed Knot

Come Anzac Day each year, our local winter whiting fraternity starts dusting off the whiting tackle in readiness for the upcoming season. Some weeks before then this year, a couple of intrepid fishos bagged a good feed of winteries somewhere in the bay. Those particular folks can catch their favourite little whiting for much of the year and have been known to break all the rules and bust myths with reckless abandon.

Those gun fishos aside, the rest will be eagerly awaiting word of the first schools of winter whiting. Whilst we wish we could inform you of such – at this stage, we cannot. However, we can suggest that come this next full moon, you might give the waters off Toogoom, Gatakers Bay or O’Reagans Creek a good scouting, as the first of our season’s whiting often show up in those waters.

It shouldn't be long before we start seeing more photos like this...

The whiting are due to show any time now. The days are shortening and the waters will soon cool dramatically. Get your light gear ready winter whiting fans, and stay tuned for the latest updates as the season unfolds.

Happy Mother’s Day to all our keen angling mums and the mums of all our fishos.

Good luck out there y’all …… Jase

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