Rocky Road Trip
Dane & Josh just got back from a quick trip up to Rocky fishing with John from Guided Fishing DownUnder.
The lads got to explore the flats and had fun on some school size queenfish. Everyone had good shots at permit but unfortunately they either refused the fly after having a look or spooked, they can be extremely frustrating but make you want to come back for more.
They also both got to tick off their first Saratoga on fly. Sight casting for these fish is so much fun and takes you to some beautiful areas.
If you’re ever thinking of heading up to Rockhampton for a fish get in contact with John or Peta. They run a very professional operation and are some of the nicest people you could meet. Whether it’s barra and thready fishing in the river, flats fishing, chasing pelagics and reefies or sight casting to toga, they’ve got you covered!
A cold blast spun up from blizzard-like conditions down south left no doubt that winter has arrived. Unless you were lucky enough to sneak out last Monday, then much of the past week has been a bit of a blowout with firstly rain and then stiff southwesterly winds putting paid to any plans to get out on the bay.
The current southerly will now start to ease and turn more southeasterly for the weekend, though the weather boffins are suggesting showers for Saturday at this stage. Look ahead from Sunday into next week and the weather looks exceptional, with light winds and warmer conditions all round.
Monday’s quarter moon brings on another set of “neap” tides, but if you look at the tide charts you will notice that there is still a reasonable amount of tidal variation for this phase of the moon. This will auger well for reef fishos and those fishing the lower reaches of our estuaries.
Whilst the offshore scene has been out of bounds courtesy of the weather this week, it will be a different story next week. Going on reports from over the bar recently, the reef fishing should be outstanding if you can manage to avoid the sharks. Variety is guaranteed over the shoal country east of Breaksea Spit, with reefies such as red throat, scarlets, parrot, green jobfish, maori cod, estuary cod, coronation trout and hussar all on offer at present.
Head a bit deeper and work the edge of the drop off along the shelf for some quality pearl perch, snapper and rosy jobfish. Amberjack will test your gear (and your back) if you dare to drop live baits or heavy jigs anywhere in their vicinity. They will often show as the larger “banana shaped” arches above the bottom in this neck of the woods and can range in size from little 8kg rats to soul-destroying brutes up to 30kg.
Plenty of local crews have geared up with heavy deep dropping tackle in recent years, consisting of electric reels matched to bent butt rods with heavy braided lines and multi-hooked traces. Targeting the deeper water from 150-300m is relatively simple with the right gear, light winds and slight current. Some crews have even dropped baits into as much as 700m of water with a variety of jobfishes, large pearlies, snapper and bar cod all possible depending upon the depth and the grounds targeted.
Spanish mackerel have been quite thick over some of the shallower shoal country in recent times and are often the culprits responsible for a lot of bite offs of lures, baits and smaller reefies. Time & Tide Charters has found them particularly active at night recently too which is a surprise for many. Expect numbers of Spaniards to move in over the Herald Patches up Elliot way some time soon.
Those that choose to head north towards Lady Elliot Island are more likely to encounter red emperor, scarlets, coral trout, red throat, parrot, cod and snapper. The sharks haven’t been too bad over some of the country up that way recently, so if you can carry the fuel it is well worth the trip.
The deeper reefs around Rooneys and in the central bay will be worth a crack for those looking for snapper in coming weeks. The evening tides next week look quite good, with highs in the late afternoon running out throughout the early evening. Look for schools of yakkas in the vicinity when you arrive and slip a few into the live bait tank.
Whilst on the subject of yakkas, did you know that there is a bag limit of 20 on this species (ie: mackerel scad) here in Qld. Yes, you read that right – a bag limit of 20 (in possession), on a baitfish that turns up here every winter in countless millions. There wasn’t much thought put into that one.
Whilst the surface action has tapered off a bit from the heady days of autumn there are still quite a few longtail and mack tuna on offer for those venturing up to Platypus Bay and out into the central bay. Keep an eye on the sounder as you work around suspended bait schools looking for tuna, trevally and mackerel deeper in the water column and drop appropriate jerkshads and grub-tailed plastics to the fish and work them back with a fast, jerky retrieve. Don’t be at all surprised to encounter a few knobby snapper doing just this over the coming weeks.
Reef fishing up Platypus has still been more challenging that it should courtesy of the dreaded noahs. If it wasn’t for them, you would be able to score an easy feed of scarlets, squire, grunter and others. Whilst the sharks persist, we simply have to move on and look elsewhere. Mackerel are quite a common catch around many of the reefs up that way at present, so take some spoons and spin a few up, particularly if you find your plastics being shortened or snipped off regularly.
The successive cold snaps this past week or so have dragged our water temperature down quite dramatically. We are now teetering around the 20 degree Celsius mark (out from Urangan) and would normally see that temp drop to as low as about 16-17 degrees in the depths of winter.
The cooler weather and water temperature has continued to spur our winter species into action with increasing reports of squire, snapper, winteries, mackerel, jew and squid from local waters. Snapper are now entrenched as a target species for many local fishos for the next few months. Everyone is hoping the sharks will rack off so we can get a proper crack at the knobbies as they migrate through the bay.
To date there have been a couple of bigger snapper found on the Roy Rufus Arti and Moon Ledge, but mostly by those either fishing at night or lucky enough to hook one whilst the whalers are occupied elsewhere by neighbouring fishos. Unfortunately, many hook ups on good snapper have ended all too briefly with that awful slow-moving un-stoppable force that we have all experienced and now dread so much.
Sweetlip numbers are on the decline as expected, though the quality of the remaining fish is outstanding. Sweeties beyond the 55cm mark are hardly worthy of a comment out wide, but are a great fish for inshore waters. Expect a few more of these if you keep baits of squid, banana prawns or whole baitfish hard to the bottom in early winter.
Broad-barred and school mackerel have filtered throughout much of the lower bay and are turning up off Gatakers Bay, the Burrum 8 Mile, the Fairway, the Outer Banks and many of the reefs within the local shipping channels.
Golden trevally are also becoming more common inshore and will find a micro jig, vibe or heavily weighted plastic difficult to resist around the Simpson and Roy Rufis Artis, Moon Ledge and the Outer Banks. Of course they will also scoff a live bait of herring, yakka or pike, which will also account for the likes of queenfish, cod, coral trout and larger snapper.
The weather has played a big part in restricting mobility for those chasing winter whiting this season, but in real terms the catches coming from off Gatakers Bay have been so good that many whiting fishos simply keep heading back to those grounds. Bag limits have been easily achieved by many, whilst some that follow the crowds and turn up too late are left to pick off the dregs.
An easy way to start an argument is to ask a winter whiting fisho what the best bait is. Many will go to the trouble to pump our diminishing supply of yabbies, whilst others are content to use frozen baits of squid and sand worms. No matter your preference, it is definitely worth your while to get some GULP sandworms as they will often out-fish all others baits and are always on hand if you feel like snatching a quick feed of ‘ting. Plenty of fishos have now cottoned on to the benefit of using GH Signature Size 6 bait jigs (so long as you are not fishing within a yellow zone).
Tiger, or”local” squid as we know them, have been on the hit list for plenty of local fishos recently. The only problem appears to be the lack of squid in all of the (now) commonly known grounds. Whilst a few good locallies to 1.5kg are on offer right now, the numbers are simply not there. Down the Straits further, off Poona and further south to Tin Can Bay is a better bet for those looking for any numbers. Nevertheless, don’t get caught out around our local waters without any squid jigs on board. Quality jigs from the Shimano Sephia and Yamashita stables will account for many more squid than the “cheapies” but even the cheap ones will score when you find un-pestered squid, particularly at night.
Sand crabs were on the move out from the Burrum and down as far as the waters to the west of Gatakers Bay prior to this week’s southerly blow. The sandies should continue to be a good target for a while yet and can be an easy addition to a seafood platter if you drop some larger, heavier-weighted pots in the area whilst fishing. You won’t find much better bait for sandies than your old whiting frames either, so bait won’t cost a cent for many fishos out there.
Burrum River System
Good quality tailor have become a regular capture in the lower Burrum of late. Troll around through the deeper channels if you wish, or look for their feeding activity and target them with Flasha spoons, Halco Twisties and the like for even better results. Some will always prefer to sit at anchor in a deep channel and wait for them to take a gang-rigged pillie, gar or live herring or pike, but these same fishos will increase their catch by spinning once the tailor turn up on their baits.
Berleying will go a long way towards better tailor catches and will also bring in the bream. Lightly weighted baits drifted back in the berley trail will account for the bream. Expect flathead numbers to improve as winter rolls on, though they will be well spread throughout the river at present. In fact, you should find flatties all the way from the heads to Howard right now, and will find the best numbers where baitfish and small prawns aggregate.
Mary/Susan Rivers & the Great Sandy Straits
Jewfish are a prime target off River Heads at present. Live baits are the undoing of many, but vibes, prawn-styled and paddle-tailed plastics will account for them also, primarily over the turn of tide period.
Flatties are an easy target around the mouths of smaller creeks and drains within the rivers and down the straits. Flicking small paddle-tailed, prawn-styled or grub-tailed plastics is possibly the easiest approach, but you can certainly mix it up and troll diving lures, twitch hardbodies around the rocks or work vibes through some of the channels leading to the creek mouths for a bit of variety.
Blue salmon are now entrenched in the Mary and Susan Rivers and throughout much of the straits. They are suckers for vibes in the holes, but will also take trolled hardbodies, plastics and even spoons when they are in the mood. Masses of small herring have invaded the rivers and straits of late, so imitate this bait source and you will score blues as well as threadfin.
Bream fishos will be in seventh heaven for the next month or two as big numbers of bream move downstream for their annual spawn. Hang around the rocky areas and you will score big time.
As mentioned above, the tiger squid are a major target right now, so pack the squid jigs if venturing down the straits.
Good luck out there y’all.