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Weekly Fishing Report - 8th November 2018

It has been a struggle for boaties this past week, with consistent northerly winds restricting boating activities to our local estuaries and dams. Today’s southeasterly change brings some welcome relief, but unfortunately the forecast suggests the sou-easter will be moderate to strong till about mid week. Today’s new moon will see plenty of run in the water too, so this needs to be considered for those planning to fish any areas affected by strong currents. This week’s Coral Reef Fin Fish Closure finishes after 9th November, but remember that the barra closure is in force till 1st February next year.

The Bay

Reports filtering back from the few crews that managed to get up the island during the northeasters suggest that good numbers of spotted mackerel have arrived in Platypus Bay. Being a surface-feeding species that "feeds into the wind" the southeasterly change will be quite timely for keeping their migration into the bay on track. Last reports of good spotties were from the Wathumba area and further north, and we can now anticipate their movements further south over the coming week.

Chasing spotties is a fairly simple, yet energetic affair, starting with a run up Platypus Bay keeping your eyes peeled for bird activity. Look for the smaller terns as opposed to the larger bird varieties, as the bait source the spotties favour are tiny and more suited to the smaller birds. With mack and longtail tuna also in varying sized schools throughout the bay, it can pay to learn to tell spotties from tuna from a distance if you prefer to avoid the somewhat exhausting fight of the tuna. Put simply, spotties sip and slash at the surface without clearing the water, whilst tuna can often get fully airborne and shift a lot of water and spray as they slash at the bait balled up at the surface.

Arm yourself with a light to medium high speed spin outfit, some 30-40lb mono leader and a good supply of metal slugs in the 15–40 gram range. Matching the hatch is important with spotties (and tuna) as they will get fixated on the one size baitfish they have balled up and ignore all other sized offerings. If you find a patch of fish working and you fail to match the bait size, then you can always take off again and search out another school of fish in the hope that they are feasting on bigger/smaller baitfish.

Whilst we can often anticipate a few schools of quite large spotties turning up before the main biomass, Hervey Bay spotties are generally at the smaller end of the scale. Take care to release undersized fish boat-side without harm and try to avoid handling fish destined for release as they do not handle well. We need to be super wary of in-the-water releases due to the attention of bull sharks and their cousins, so if sharks are about, then try to hold them out of the water by the leader and remove the hooks with a pair of pliers or hook remover. Retro-fitting your trebles with inline singles is a great idea for those looking to practice catch and release.

Now that the weather has turned around, and with reports of masses of baitfish up in the pocket under Rooneys it will be a prime opportunity for those chasing baby black marlin to head up that way as soon as the weather settles enough to do so. We are entering a period of serious pelagic activity in the northern bay, with marlin, tuna, spotties, Spaniards, trevally and queenies all possible in a day’s casting and trolling. Until now the shark numbers up that way hadn’t been too bad due to relatively small numbers of fish in the area, so let’s see what they are like as the big pelagic schools turn up en-masse. As always, be shark-savvy and drive away from shark infested waters whenever they track you down.

Inshore

It has been a struggle even for inshore boaties of late. The one good thing that we can glean from a spate of the dreaded northerly winds is that it gives our inshore reefs some reprieve from angler effort and adds a bit of "colour" to the shallow waters. Once conditions allow, you should be able to scratch up a good feed of sweetlip and coral trout from our many shallow reefs such as those fringing the bay islands and those fringing the Pialba – Pt Vernon shoreline. Gatakers Bay offers good access in a southerly, so those looking for a few trout would be well served trying there over the next day of two whilst the big tides prevail. Trolling diving lures early in the morning can be particularly productive, with baits of hardihead, herring or pillies being more effective when the sun is higher in the sky. Drifting and hopping plastics just above the reef can be even more fun again, just make sure you lock up your drag and get their head up on hook up or it may all end in tears.

The deeper inshore reefs too will be worth a look for trout and cod over the turn of tide on live baits or tea-bagged plastics and soft vibes. Sweetlip numbers will continue to increase around many of the reefs in the shipping channels, with the Urangan Channel in particular quite productive after dark this time of year. Some horse trout get caught throughout that channel by trollers at times, though it can be a bit frustrating pulling in estuary cod one after the other. Increasing your troll speed to 5-6 knots will reduce your chances of attracting the cod and will often trigger a reaction bite from the trout where the slower presentations are ignored.

We cannot be specific about the exact whereabouts of school and broad-barred mackerel due to the weather of late, however, there were good schoolies and spanish at the Fairway last week and schoolies and broadies turning up over the deeper inshore reefs holding any decent herring schools. Shark activity inshore has been abysmal recently, with many reef fishos increasingly frustrated by the return of these unwelcome monsters. Once they move in on you it is time to move and move some distance. These beasts are attracted to boat activity so will simply follow or seek out boats looking for an easy feed.

The Burrum

The Burrum River and its tributaries all copped a slight fresh from storms and rain a few weeks ago. This has left the upper reaches quite turbid, and brought a bit of colour to the lower reaches as well. This change has been a good thing in some respect, washing out baitfish from the green zones and allowing the predators to get mobile after being rather sedentary prior to the fresh due to the gin clear waters restricting their daylight activities.

With barra season now closed, most attention is drawn to the Burrum’s great population of mangrove jack. The red dogs can be found the full length of all four rivers, but it will be the mid reaches that will be most productive. Lure fishos need to seek heavy cover in the form of logs, trees, rock bars, undercuts and pontoons or moored boats for a crack at the jacks during the lower stages of the tide. When the tide is rising you can picture the mullet, gar and other baitfish moving upstream with the tide, so consider the shallow snags-riddled sandbanks and areas adjacent to gully mouths during this period. Bait fishos will find jack fishing a much easier affair, with a fresh mullet fillet rarely knocked back by a hungry jack. Live baits are also effective, and it never hurts to try a whole or cut pillie in a slight berley trail.

There have been whispers of a few random grunter from the heads area at night, but to date they have been few and far between. We would expect grunter to be a far more common capture from grounds offshore from the river as they escape the recent fresh. The Drop-Off and the Burrum 8 Mile will be worth a look, as will the Fairway, particularly for those fishing after dark. Again, the recent weather has kept everyone off the water so those getting out first may well find fresh schools of fish keen to bite.

Great Sandy Straits & Mary/Susan Rivers

The new moon tides this time of year usually herald the start of the run of threadfin salmon at River Heads. We know of a few decent threadies caught on vibes and livies in the vicinity this week, but to date we haven’t heard of the fish schooling up off the ramp. The recent fresh in the river may alter their activities this season, but only time will tell. If heading down that way, tie on a 20-30 gram soft vibe and sound around the deeper waters looking for signs of schooling fish. The Prawn Gutter and China Bite will both be worth a look for threadies, as will South Head and the channel leading to Shoulder Point. The last couple of hours of the ebb tide and first of the flood will be the go for these areas, with a keen eye likely to spot feeding fish around drains and along the muddy banks.

Grunter that escaped the rivers and moved out into the Straits away from the freshwaters are an easy target for those hopping small plastics in the deeper holes in the larger creek systems or along gravelly areas or near rock bars in the channels outside the creek mouths. Baitfishos with live yabbies, prawns, small squid and/or herring baits will also find them in similar areas, with an expected bycatch of whiting, flathead and bream. There are still a few blue salmon throughout the Straits and the mouth of the river, though they shouldn’t hang around much longer.

Urangan Pier and the Town Beaches

The Urangan Pier is very quiet at present. Strong northerlies have dirtied the waters and kept anglers away. Once it cleans up you can expect the baitfish and predators to move back along the pier. In the meantime, you could try for a feed of whiting over the bigger tides. The dirty stirred up waters can bring on the whiting but with such an extent of inshore waters this dirty they may be harder to track down than usual. Try the groynes, the pier and/or Shelley Beach and if that is a fail, then head for the outskirts of town and try the Booral Flats or Eli Flats.

Freshwater Impoundments

Seasoned impoundment barra fishos will well know that a major weather change like that sou-easter today usually spawns a quiet period on our dams. Quite simply, the prevailing wind for the past week pushed all the oxygen, warm water and baitfish to the windward shores, effectively leaving "dead" water in its lee. Now that the wind has reversed, it takes some days of consistent weather to fire up those alternate shorelines. If you are heading to a dam this weekend, then keep this in mind and try locations that may have received swinging currents from east. Having said this, here is the latest from Mondy and Awoonga:

Monduran:

Lake Monduran fished well for a few lucky anglers during the recent spell of northerlies. Double digit captures are possible in a single session once the fish are found and whist the average barra may only be 70-80cm these are still fun fish that will lighten your lure collection if given the opportunity. Once again, suspending hardbodies and paddle-tailed plastics produced some good fish, but garfish imitations in green, white and natural colours ripped hard away from weed edges and amongst the heavy timber produced some great hits, captures and bust offs. Just a reminder for anyone visiting the lake, the "Golden Barra" competition is underway, so register (free) on line and make sure you add some Rapala lures to your kit for a chance at the bonus prizes from Rapala. Well-proven Rapalas for Monduran are the X-Rap in 10cm and 12cm models for a slash-bait to imitate the gar, and the awesome little 9cm Skitter Pop for those addicted to surface fishing for barra.

Awoonga:

Lake Awoonga continued to produce champagne barra fishing for plenty of anglers. Fish over the magic metre were landed this week, amongst quite a few just shy of that mark. The average fish are still mid 70s but a stack of fun given the sheer numbers of fish that can be encountered in a session. It is somewhat surprising to hear stories of woe from those that have managed to miss out, but hey, that’s fishing as they say. The small bays and big points fringing the main basin of Awoonga have been the go to of late, though the sou-easter will see the opposing sides of the lake fire once the wind settles in for a few days. The big arms of Riverstone and Iveragh are worth a look in these conditions, as is Futter Creek up past Dingo Island.

Good luck out there y’all.

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