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Weekly Fishing Report - 7th February 2019

A bit of breeze for much of the past week has kept most boaties inshore, though looking at the weather forecast for the week ahead, some may get a chance to get out a little wider over the weekend. Finally, it looks like we can expect a change in the persistent weather pattern of the past 2 months which saw a High semi-stationary this side of New Zealand couple with an embedded monsoon trough up north bringing us constant east-southeast breezes.

Fairly light winds are forecast for Hervey Bay waters until about Tuesday, when a brief northerly is likely to precede a stronger southeasterly more typical of this time of year. After the driest January on record, we might get a few light showers, but nothing to get excited about just yet.

The Bay

The beauty of living here in the bay is the abundant opportunities to head out fishing when boaties in other ports not protected by Fraser Island are stranded due to the easterlies. Platypus Bay in particular is very popular this time of year and rightly so with increasing numbers of tuna and other sportfish there in numbers. Just this past week or so there has been a great little run of juvenile black marlin in the bay that have been found both up on the northern flats inside Fraser and out in the bay around the tuna schools.

Some would say this run of little marlin is somewhat late, but no-one told the marlin the rules and with a lack of northerlies over the past two months, their arrival should come as no surprise. Whatever the reason for their being here they are here, so go have a crack at them before the weather change next week. Those into the more traditional trolling pursuit will be best targeting the edges of the contours along Fraser’s north western beaches, out wider around the vast schools of tuna and spotties, or around Rooneys and the big sand spits further north.

If sight-casting to a free-swimming billfish lights your fire then stay in closer to the beach and its drop off looking for cruising fish around the tide changes. Reports of keg-sized longtails cruising the flats this past week suggest a range of stickbaits and jerkshad styled plastics should be rigged and ready to rumble. Throw in the chance of queenfish, and even a stray permit or bonefish in these same waters and you could well be in for some memorable fishing with some good management and a whole swag of luck.

Of course, there are plenty of longtail and mack tuna schools throughout the eastern bay, along with quite good numbers of spotties for this late in their season. The spotties should soon dwindle in number whilst the tuna numbers will only increase leading into autumn. We wish we could say the shark numbers will also reduce, but that is not going to happen, so take appropriate care when handling your catch boat-side and gear up heavy enough to get your quarry to the boat as quickly as possible. Larger sharks are rarely an issue up on the flats, so if you can keep your fish in that zone then lighter tackle is quite suitable.

Reef fishing out around any of our wider bay areas, such as the gutters and off Rooneys, has been very unproductive due to persistent shark activity. Experienced locals are giving these reefs a wide berth and looking for alternative areas and fisheries to avoid the frustration and sheer waste our resources, not to mention the exhaustion from doing battle with these demons of the deep.

The reef fishing offshore should be sensational when we can get a chance to get back out there. Fraser’s offshore waters have had a lengthy reprieve from fishos for a couple of months now due to the incessant easterlies and associated sloppy swell. A brief window of opportunity opens this weekend, though the swell will still be up, so take extra care on the bar if heading offshore. There have been big numbers of pelagics such as marlin, mahi mahi, wahoo and yellowfin out there this summer, but mostly only the bigger boats have been able to access that fishery.

Inshore

Inshore it is a continuation of the status quo, with plenty of grass sweetlip around our reefs and their fringes, along with blackall of all sizes, a few cod and coral trout. It is rare to discuss reef fishing with any fisho nowadays without discussions leading to the annoying and wasteful sharks that are so intent on stealing food from your table. They seem to be impossible to avoid on any of the deeper inshore reefs unless neighbouring boaties have them otherwise "occupied", so do your best to avoid them or move in onto the shallow reef systems if you cannot beat them.

Sportfish-wise there have been plenty of queenfish inshore to keep the adrenalin flowing. The bay islands are quite heavily pressured but still produce some great action at the right times. Look for the convergence of currents and the resultant channelling of baitfish as they are forced off the nearby flats. Choose your poppers and stickbaits to suit the local bait sources and don’t be afraid to try smaller offerings in these scenarios. If the islands don’t produce then try some of Fraser’s western ledges as both queenies and big GTs aggregate in some of these areas this time of year.

There are still XOS GTs hanging around the arti ship wrecks for those that don’t mind a bit of huff and puff on the heavy tackle, and if that doesn’t raise a sweat then try for the big spanish mackerel that lurk around the same structures. These big predators don’t seem overly worried about boat activity as they (like the sharks) have become accustomed to you dragging prime reefies up off the bottom for them to steal boat-side.

Mary/Susan River System & Great Sandy Straits

The opening of barra season February 1st saw an influx of keen anglers converge on the local estuaries looking for their first legal barra fix of the year. Barra in excess of a metre were found within the lower reaches of the Mary, along with small numbers of the more typical 60-90cm fish. Water so clean and clear is a rarity at this time of year, so the barra are well spread throughout the rivers and the straits. Look for aggregations of baitfish and prawns to increase your chances at numbers of fish, but do not neglect the snags and rocks bars in these conditions. We would expect barra to come from nearly any decent estuary system from the creeks along Fraser’s western shores south of Kingfisher to the many creeks of the straits and the major rivers and their smaller tributaries.

Sight-fishing for barra is quite possible right now and offers some of the greatest sportfishing opportunities around. For some of us there is little to compare with watching a big barra sneak up behind a paused suspending hardbody and engulf it in a melee of chrome and foam. Exhilarating stuff! A big barra exploding on a surface lure certainly matches this with a further element of surprise worthy of a spare pair of jocks.

Whilst on your barra hunt you are bound to run into plenty of active threadfin salmon. They can be seen herding up jelly prawns and small baitfish around many of the drains within the rivers and creeks and along the rocky foreshores of River Heads, South Head and the nearby big gutters. Pack an assortment of lures including small hardbodies, vibes (both hard and soft) and a mix of small plastics and prawn imitations, as these threadies can and will frustrate you plenty of times as they gorge on the jelly prawn ignoring every lure you throw at them. Persistence, timing and an eye for detail will all contribute to your success, but so will a big old bag of sheer luck.

You can round out the local estuary trifecta with a session on the jacks inside many of Fraser’s western creeks, and by a quick glance at this week’s tides you will see ample opportunity to get into these creeks in the mornings and back out around midday. Hang around out the front and wait for the receding tide and you may well score a few threadies, flathead, grunter or barra.

Burrum River System

The barra season opener was popular in the Burrum system too, with stacks of boats spreading right throughout the four rivers for a mix of success. Some great barra were encountered in the deeper holes on vibes and around the snags on hardbodies and prawn imitations. This fishery should continue to produce, though keep an ear to the ground for where the netters have been as they can wipe out an area quite efficiently.

This has been one of the best jack seasons on record for this system, with some great catches coming from all reaches of all rivers for much of summer. We know of two jacks that stretched the tape to 67cm that came from different locations not far from the heads in recent weeks, so it sounds as though there are some absolute horses there waiting to do battle. Plenty of the jacks encountered are in excess 50cm and often in the high fifties so go armed for bear and hang on.

Urangan Pier, Local Beaches and Creeks

The Urangan Pier has been a bit quiet with the exception of a few passing queenfish and the temporary pier terrorists – the GTs. You can always try live baiting with herring for these species, but if you can manage to catch some pike then you will stand an even better chance. No doubt the poor old barra that hang around there waiting to spawn will have received a bit of a touch up by the nocturnal pier regulars, and we can only hope that the bigger breeders are able to escape the one-way lift to the boards above.

The town beaches have been a bit quiet, with just a few small whiting there to entertain the kids of late. Garfish have been gathered in reasonable numbers around the jetties and groynes during the bigger tide phases and have been partial to a small piece of prawn, worm or yabbie suspended under a light float in a berley trail.

Shore-based fishos can have some fun out along the vast rocky foreshores from Pialba to Pt Vernon by choosing likely vantage points and casting poppers and stickbaits for queenies, GTs and trout. Baitfishing similar areas at night could see you connect to some nice big grunter, which will test your skills when landing them from this environment.

The local creeks continue to produce some sensational mangrove jacks and now that barra season is open you can also target them in these systems. Night sessions with stickbaits and small poppers are something truly special and can give you an insight into the size and number of fish that often reside in or visit these creeks. In addition, there have been schools of queenfish working the lower reaches of Beelbi Creek, with a few scattered along the nearby flats as well.

Lake Lenthalls

Okay, so if we haven’t bored you yet and you are reading on, here is the first bit of good news from our beleaguered Lenthalls Dam for some time. Finally, the lake’s waters have cleared sufficiently to bring the bass and barra back on the bite. Over the past week or so, there have been a few lucky anglers out there scoring big numbers of bass whilst trolling the creek channels and around the points in the main basin. Hopping vibes and casting spinnerbaits can also stir up a few bass, but for even more fun get out there early or late and target them with small stickbaits and poppers.

To this end, be aware that Lenthalls is restricted to boats with four stroke motors up to 60hp only, with access allowable only between the hours of 6am and 8pm. It is a great waterway for kayakers and canoeists with speed restrictions in place for boaties. Oh, and a Qld Stocked Impoundments Permit is required.

As far as the barra in the lake go, the lake is looking great, with vast areas shrouded in patches of healthy lily pads which are where you can start your search. In years past, Lenthalls was rightly famous for its outstanding topwater barra fishery and all going well could have now returned to this same state. It is early days yet, with only sporadic reports of a few barra up to 70-odd cm being caught by bass fishos, but if it fully fires, then expect serious numbers of fish on topwater and shallow divers till the rains come and spoil the party. Stay tuned for more on this developing fishery in coming weeks.

Good luck out there y’all.

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