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Weekly Fishing Report - 7th March 2019

A cool change last week brought with it a few scattered showers, but still barely enough to settle the dust. Even the threat of storms has resulted in minimal rainfall so far, but the forecast suggests there is still a chance of a storm over the next day or two, with showers a better than even chance.

Looking ahead we can look forward to fairly light winds over the coming weekend, with Sunday in particular looking like a potential glass out. A northerly breeze will kick in Monday, starting out very light and building throughout the week, so make the most of the next few days out on the bay if you get the opportunity.

Increasing tidal movement over the past week will come to an apex with today’s new moon. If you check your Almanac you will note good tides falling directly after this moon phase that typically enhances feeding activity from a variety of fish species.

The Bay

The bay is abuzz with excited tuna chasers looking to get in on the annual "run" of longtail tuna that has kicked up another gear since the passing of ex-TC Oma. Whether you are a novice looking to get your first longy, or a time-hardened longtail gun looking to get your adrenalin-charged fix from these line burners, now is the time to get out on the bay and spin up some black torpedoes.

Right now you need simply head over to Moon Point on Fraser, hang a left and start looking for longies anywhere from Coongul north. Of course, you can also choose to head straight out into the middle of the bay and will find plenty of surface-feeding tuna out that way as well. It is pretty obvious that a trip up the island can mean calmer waters than a central bay trip, with the added bonus of being able to target the longtail up on the flats as well.

For those choosing the flats option, you are basically going to be cruising the fringe of Fraser’s western beaches looking for the shadows and tell-tale movement of small schools of longtails up in the shallows. In this instance, and indeed out wider as well, your favourite stickbaits should be the "baits" of choice.

You will soon enough learn that some degree of stealth and well thought out angles of approach will mean more shots at your quarry and more fish hooked. These tuna can be very flighty and can spook easily, so long casts are a necessity and inferior tackle will be found wanting. Avoid charging in on other boats that may be stalking a patch of fish that you have just spotted, or you might end up copping an earful.

Out wider in Platypus Bay and the central bay you can expect to find much larger aggregations of tuna. Yes, mack tuna will be prolific, but according to the latest reports there are plenty of longies in the mix. Learning to identify the differing colours of the tuna species from afar can be helpful in avoiding the mack tuna if so desired. Sure enough many longtail purists will poo poo the poor old macks, but they put up a hell of a fight too and can gain some serious weight this time of year.

Often the mack tuna will be gorging on tiny baitfish and will ignore any offering from you that doesn’t "match the hatch". This being the case you don’t need to be Einstein to work out that a ravenous longtail harassing the same baitball can be tempted from amongst his cousins with a well-placed stickbait or plastic. Of course, driving away from mack tuna schools and spending a bit of time seeking out the larger longtails is worth the effort and can save on considerable energy and time wasted fighting the macks.

Being well prepared for all-comers is the go, so load several outfits into the boat and have a mix of lures attached to your favourite casting rods ready for battle. This mix should include a range of stickbaits, Zman Jerkshad plastics on heavy jigheads, and a good selection of metal slugs of various sizes and colours. With sharks being such a nuisance nowadays, we tend to favour heavier tackle for chasing tuna in these parts, so unless you are targeting them on the flats, do yourself and the fish a favour and take an arsenal of gear in the 10-15kg range.

Often below these schools of surface-feeding tuna will be other pelagics, including mackerel, trevally and cobia. Dropping your plastics, metals or vibes below these schools can add some variety to the day, with little more required than to alter your retrieve to include hops and jerks to entice the sub surface predators. The toll from sharks can be quite horrendous on all species at times, so do the right thing and move some distance away when they track you down.

Reef fishos will no doubt be getting a bit desperate to get out to the wider reefs given the weather restrictions we have had of late. The past 3 months has offered little opportunity for crews to head wide, and although we will all lament the lost time on the water, it may have been a godsend in a way. Given that the sharks were so bad early summer that few landed any fish at all, we can only hope that the lack of boats visiting the common grounds such as those out at the Gutters and Rooneys may have meant the sharks got sick of hanging around and moved on. Wishful thinking perhaps? Well, we will know by this time next week eh.

Sharks-permitting, the fishing should be reasonably good out wider due to the lack of recent effort. Species such as coral trout and red emperor will always be the most sought-after, but scarlet sea perch should make a good show for those with the right spots and techniques. Grass sweetlip will always be a major contributor to the esky, and a few of the" lesser" species such as cod, venus tusk fish, moses perch and hussar make for some tasty additions.

Typically spanish mackerel and cobia can be quite a nuisance out at the Gutters this time of year. They will readily accept a range of lures or livies you might be trying to get to the bottom in the hope of reefies. Trevally numbers should not be too bad at present, but that will be a different story as our waters cool later in the year. There is always a chance of longtail tuna turning up out there, and yellowfin tuna can often be found feeding in the same areas.

Inshore

Our inshore reefs will be popular with the smaller boat brigade with such good weather forecast for the next few days. Avoiding the crowds by fishing at stupid-o’clock in the morning could be worth the effort for the insomniacs out there and can see the better class of nocturnal species gracing your eskies.

Grass sweetlip are still the main catch for most, be it by day or night. Dawn raids over the shallow reefs should return a coral trout or two for trollers whilst the tides are still large. Tea-bagging plastics or live baiting over the turn of tide will be key to getting a few trout throughout the day. Heavy tackle anglers looking to tangle with big tuskies will be trying their craft over the big tides, but hopefully not in the deeper waters where the sharks have proven indomitable this summer.

Scarlet sea perch are a real special this time of year and whilst only in small numbers inshore, can be found along some of the better ledges and over the better reefs in the deeper local shipping channels. Choice baits for these tasty morsels include herring and squid, and if the pickers aren’t too bad; banana prawns. In fact, these same baits will suffice for most reefies, and if you throw in some hardiheads you have the makings of an inshore smorgasbord.

Those chasing fish more for the sport than the fillets will revel in the array of high speed pelagics on offer inshore at present. A few random schools of tuna will be appearing and disappearing in the shipping channels, but the more localised queenfish and GTs are offering a ton of fun without burning too much fuel. Look for big cranky GTs over the wrecks on the Roy Rufus arti, or down around the current lines pouring around the bay islands.

Queenies have been turning up all over the place from local reefs and beacons to the ledges and islands. Classic topwater opportunities are on offer for queenies from the local flats and their fringes, the bay islands flats and current lines and the ledges along Fraser’s western side. With such clear waters this summer they have also been working their way into our local creeks and rivers where they are usually more likely in winter.

Mary/Susan Rivers & The Great Sandy Straits

The lack of rains means little has changed in our rivers or the straits since our last report. To save repeating the tips therein, simply refer to last week’s report for a bit of estuary guidance.

Sure enough barra, threadies and grunter are the main target species for those prying the waters of the Mary River, Susan River or the straits. Add the magnificent mangrove jack fishery of Fraser’s western creeks and you can strike some fairly special fishing in a day spent down that way. The heat on its way this week with the northerly winds is sure to bring about a burst of activity from the barra and jacks in particular, so if you have time of mid week then keep this in mind. Whatever you do, do not forget the insect repellent.

Many are wondering where the prawns are, whilst a sneaky few keep their mouths wired shut. Cast net sales are at an all time low for us for this time of year and not surprisingly given the lack of rain. The change of weather this past week saw a few prawns turn up for those working the upstream verges of the feeder creeks off the main rivers, but it is still hard work for the return. Similar scenes down the straits with some creeks seeing prawn emerge during the last of the ebb and early flood.

Mud crab numbers are still fairly minimal, though a few going the extra distance are being rewarded. Smaller creeks seem to feature in tales of success, though you would be well served getting out of the boat in some cases and walking the pots in beyond the reach of others. Be croc-wise though, as the likely places for the crabs are where human activity is at its minimum, which is perhaps also a good hangout if you are a crocodile. An encounter is most certainly unlikely, but nonetheless worth the warning.

Burrum River System

Some very nice barra keep featuring in catches for those targeting them in the Burrum and its feeder rivers. The tides over the next few days leave little to get excited about for those fishing upstream, but those chasing them out on the flats in the lower reaches might go alright at night. For those planning a night-time assault, "phosphorous" can be a real issue over the dark of the moon in clear water such as we have right now. The bad news is that your lure and leader (or bait) will glow as it moves through the water; the good news is that gill nets will also glow allowing the barra to avoid them.

It is still the thug of the river, the good old mangrove jack that is keeping fishos coming back for more throughout the Burrum system this season. They are top sport on any tackle, and a top class table fish to boot. Opportunities abound for topwater sessions on the jacks, especially now with a fair bit of small prawn getting about in the rivers. Small poppers, stickbaits and fizzers can all produce, but you must be on the water during low light periods and have enough casting accuracy to get your lures in and under overhanging cover when required. Needless to say, you can employ proven diving lures or plastics at all times, but it is the adrenalin-charged reactions to a topwater take that you will never forget.

Quite a few casts were made in the Burrum and Gregory over the past week by those seeking a feed of prawn. Some did okay (and some struggled big time), but the size is generally still down. One benefit of the lack of rain however is the harder shell on the smaller prawn at present, making the task of peeling them that much easier.

Urangan Pier

The fishing has been fairly slow for most venturing out the pier. Queenfish have turned up at times, and there is always the chance of a flathead or two, but most action has taken place after dark. If you do venture out there this week then make sure you take a couple of small squid jigs as a few pencil squid have made a re-appearance.

Local Beaches and Creeks

Popping for whiting seems to be about the most popular activity for the light line brigade on foot around our beaches and flats of late. As jelly prawn numbers increase, the whiting become real suckers for this fun technique and a skilled fisho with the right popper/sticky can outscore even the best bait fishos at times. For those keen on learning about this fun way of catching a few whiting (and bream), drop in for a chat and we will give you the tips and tools to get the job done.

Mangrove jacks are still a great target for those walking into the back reaches and accessible landings along our local creeks. Estuary cod will be a major bycatch, and at times annoying, but do the right thing and let them go unharmed. You might just bump into the odd barra too, along with tarpon, giant herring, flathead and queenfish. Beelbi Creek in particular is home to good numbers of mid-sized queenies at the moment offering a ton of fun on the light gear.

Good luck out there y’all.

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