Hervey Bay and surrounds enjoyed another couple of great days this past week, but things are not looking real flash for the coming weekend. The westerly that just arrived locally has been spawned by a complex system of intense lows off Victoria and will be with us for a few days yet.
We can expect a return to light variable winds by Tuesday next week, with the likelihood of a few good days thereafter. This will be just in time for next Thursday’s full moon which offers some sensational fishing opportunities this time of year.
Heading offshore is not an option for the next few days due to the strong westerlies, potentially reaching up to 30 knots offshore overnight this weekend. Once the winds abate, the swell should drop off with it and if the light winds come through as anticipated mid week it will be all systems go yet again.
The reef fishing offshore both north and south of Fraser Island has been absolutely sensational in recent weeks. Red emperor in particular have been a frequent catch in quite serious sizes and numbers recently. The grounds offshore from the Wide Bay bar to the south of Fraser should have recovered from the onslaught of the Rainbow Beach comp and some great reefies should be on offer. Reds, snapper and pearlies will be the most sought after, but a bag of mixed reefies such as parrot, moses perch, scarlets, grassies and cod can also be expected. Those live baiting some of the inshore spots might come tight to a few jewies as well.
An even wider range of reefies can be expected north of Fraser over the Breaksea Spit, with the potential list of species above also likely to be joined by green jobfish, maori cod, coronation trout, red throat and rosy jobfish depending upon the grounds one chooses to target. Big cranky reef jacks are on the cards for those fishing gnarly overhangs and cavernous type country during the night with live baits.
Those looking for a serious workout can always try dropping knife jigs or slow pitch jigs to the wrecks, pinnacles and drop-offs along the top of the shelf line for amberjack. These critters grow to immense proportions in these parts and will test even the fittest fisho with the best of tackle. Look for big "banana" type arches or similar shows on your sounder up off the bottom and drop a live bait or jig if you dare.
Humpbacks are a serious hazard to boaties at this time and will only become more abundant in coming weeks. A bit of impromptu whale watching is one of the true pleasures of fishing Hervey Bay and Fraser Island waters, but boaties must remain aware of the rules and not approach the whales. Take extra care offshore in particular as the whales are harder to spot between the waves and are even inclined to cross the bar in the same spots as boaties at times.
We can only hope that the next full moon period sees an influx of snapper to Hervey Bay as so far this season has been quite abysmal. Even the local guides that can be relied on to pick up a few big knobbies on a regular basis are reporting ones and twos at best this winter. We can blame a lack of yakkas and herring in some parts but not necessarily everywhere.
Once the westerlies move on, grounds such as the Gutters, the 25 Fathom Hole, Rooneys and spots throughout Platypus Bay will all be worth a look for the snapper die hards. Night sessions aided by a gentle flow of berley will help in places, as will sourcing live baits from the area and fishing them up off the bottom. Expect a few random longtail tuna, cobia, various trevally and perhaps some nice scarlets to get in on the act in some parts.
The snapper fishing may have been a bit of a non event so far but the good news is that the sharks appear to have backed off in most places. They are still an issue around many of the better known spots at the Gutters and off Rooneys but they are at least a bit slower-moving and we stand a better chance of landing some fish.
The incredibly clear inshore waters at present offer such a visual spectacle and an ongoing opportunity to locate new spots and/or identify fish-holding structure on your known grounds. This very same water clarity does make the fish a bit shier during the daylight however, so try to concentrate your efforts in deeper or faster flowing waters or during periods of low light. Lighter tackle, particularly leaders can also make a difference in these conditions.
Squire, the all-too-rare knobby snapper, an occasional big grassy and blackall are all possible catches for reef fishos targeting the reefs within the shipping channels or the deeper inshore ledges. Some grounds are holding good numbers of pike, but yakkas and herring are fairly scarce south of the banks at present. Find the bait to find the snapper and don’t be surprised to tangle with schools of big golden trevally and the odd cobia as well.
As frustrating as the westerlies will be for most, for a bream fisho with a small boat this week offers a tremendous opportunity to target bream over our shallow reefs. Anchoring up somewhere in roughly 3-5 metres of water over the coral off Gatakers Bay and berleying will bring good numbers of quite large bream to the back of the boat.
Tough baits such as strips of mullet, tailor or other baitfish are ideal in this scenario as hordes of happy moments are likely to gather within metres of your berley pot. You will need to gently tease your lightly/unweighted baits away from the happies at times so as not to hook them. The bream will usually barge in and steal the bait away from the happies if you get the technique right.
Bigger bream to well over a kilo (about 42cm) are regulars over these reefs and can take some stopping on the light gear. It can be lots of fun and a bit like mini snapper fishing if you let your imagination run away with you.
If trying the above, you should always have a spare rod ready and rigged with a metal spoon as the berley will often attract passing tailor and mackerel. Squid-too are often drawn by the same berley trail, so keep the jigs at the ready just in case. Of course, the area in question being a yellow zone means that you will have to pull in your bream line before attempting to catch the passers-by.
Latest reports from winter whiting fishos seem to suggest that the grounds off Gatakers have gone quiet and that the catches from south of the harbour have been patchy at best. There has been no mention of the winteries from the grounds in the mouths of the big gutters south of Moon or off Coongul.
Those chasing summer whiting at night did well last weekend up in the shallows along the inside of Fraser. Bag limits were quite easily achieved once the whiting were found and some reported no throw-backs at all. The coming full moon tides will see a repeat of this opportunity either in the creeks during daylight or up on the nearby flats at night. If taking the daylight option, then you can have a ball chasing flatties on plastics during the early flood or ebb tide.
Tiger squid numbers are still very low compared to years past, however, it does not pay to fish any of our inshore shallows this time of year without at least a squid jig at the ready. If you are in any way serious about catching a feed then you will need to actively hunt them down and should go armed with quality 2.5 or 3.0 sized jigs on your lightest gear. Light drags are a must also, as big 1.5kg+ squid can pull a bit of string and will easily pull off your hooks if you try to bully them.
Mary/Susan Rivers & the Great Sandy Straits
The westerlies should bring on the bream, tailor and mackerel down around River Heads and surrounding areas. Flatties are becoming more common in these parts too, but are an even better bet down the straits around the creek mouths. Tailor are also regular visitors to the deeper waters along the inside of Fraser.
Jewies will be on the chew over the turn of tide as the full moon draws closer and will eagerly take a well presented live bait, soft vibe or plastic. Trolling deep divers will also account for a big jewie or two if you time your efforts around slack water. Longer profiled lures appeal more to the jewies than the stumpy models that the snapper favour. There will be no avoiding the estuary cod on either profile in our waters, so hang onto your rod and be prepared to get that fish clear of the bottom in a hurry.
Summer whiting will be a great option over the full moon period down the straits, with the same nocturnal timing just as effective down there as it is up this way. Expect a lot of bream bycatch in places, and keep an eye out for squid drawn to all the commotion and your lights.
Blue salmon are possibly the easiest and most common catch in parts of the lower-mid Susan and Mary rivers. Soft vibes are deadly on the blues, but they aren’t the smartest fish in the sea and will attack almost anything when they are active.
The Burrum System
Some good summer whiting are on offer within the Burrum system at present. Seeking out the channels between the banks during the day will find a few as will sneaking up into the shallows at night. Bream are responding to berley trails in the lower reaches and a few tailor can be found further upstream around Buxton.
Head further up again and you will encounter small schools of mini GTs and queenies that are absolute suckers for small plastics, blades and topwater lures on the light gear. Work the muddy edges and drop offs upstream for a few flatties and you just might trip over a jewfish in the deeper holes.
Down around Burrum Heads the word is that there are stacks of mackerel just inside the river. Plenty of boats have been out chasing them but the only problem is that the majority of these fish are undersized. The same story applies to the mackerel schools recently located between the Burrum and Gatakers.
Fraser Island Beaches
Fraser’s eastern beach is going off! Great hauls of big tailor have been reported regularly for weeks, with the best big fish action centred around Happy Valley and The Cathedrals. Tailor have been turning up in both numbers and size from Dundaburra to the north to Poyungan to the south. Every day/night can be a little different, but the overall consistency this season has been sensational.
Many local crews have flocked to the island to join in the fun and most are taking big numbers of pillies due to the great tailor bite. Whilst long rods and good old Alvey reels will never lose their appeal on Fraser, there are increasing numbers of fishos ripping into the tailor on 12’ graphite rods matched with spin reels for casting big metals into the surf gutters. The distance you can achieve with the right gear and appropriate lure can make your bait fishing compatriots take notice – particularly if you are hauling them in one after the other.
Apart from the tailor there have been a few small jew landed of late. Plenty are undersized, so take care to release them properly and remember the bag limit of 2 fish over 75cm. The coming full moon should see a few crews target the jewies at night and we would expect a few better models to turn up after this westerly blow.
Word is that beach worming is very tough over on Fraser at present. This is certainly reflected in the low numbers of worms available from commercial bait suppliers. Pippies are fairly scarce along parts of the beach but can be found in reasonable numbers around the Eurong area.
There are some very nice low tide gutters down south of Dilli Village but the tailor down that way and around Eurong are much smaller than those found further north. A lot of birds can be seen working out behind the gutters in these parts however, suggesting there is baitfish travelling through the area with attending predators.
Those that have tried the rocky areas have found good tarwhine on pippies, as well as some big snowy surf bream. The bream are often found by accident by those targeting tailor, but can be a hoot on the lighter surf rod if you wish to target them. Some great quality sand whiting can be found in many of the low tide gutters along the beach and they should respond well to the making tides as the full moon approaches.
News from around Hook Point at the bottom of the island is that some decent spanish mackerel have been caught from the sand on conventional surf gear. Chances are the spanish are also scattered throughout the channel from there to Inskip Point, so keep this in mind if heading down that way.
Slide-baiters and those deploying baits out wide by drone are frequenting the northern parts of Fraser at present, so stay tuned for word from these guys over coming weeks.
Something we should have mentioned last week perhaps is that the annual fishing closure for waters between Waddy Point and Indian Head, including all waters 400m north and south thereof and to seaward has been in force since the 1st August. This closure means no fishing activities at all in this area, including spear fishing, and is in effect until the 30th September. You can still gather pippies and worms by hand whilst the closure is in place, but that’s all.
Good luck out there y’all.