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Weekly Fishing Report - 9th February 2023

The NEW Nomad Squidtrex soft vibe - in-store now!

Make the Most of the Weekend Weather

After last week’s extreme heat and humidity, the southeast change and cooler conditions was certainly welcome. We could do without the strong winds at the moment, though we can be thankful that cyclone Gabrielle has tracked well offshore and will have little impact on our region.

It is ever-frustrating writing this report and relying on the weather gurus’ latest forecasts to draw you a picture of your week ahead. Last week was a bad example, where the forecasts were very inaccurate, and supposed widespread rains didn’t eventuate. There were a few isolated showers and storms, but it was hardly as dramatic as suggested. We apologise if passing on these forecasts impacted negatively on your fishing or camping plans.

Staff member Logan with a nice salty

The latest from the bureau suggests the current strong wind warning for Hervey Bay waters will be cancelled late Friday, and the winds will ease right back – just in time for the weekend. Saturday looks great, with a light southerly tending easterly later in the day. A light northerly breeze will greet those heading out early Sunday, which is likely to stiffen during the afternoon.

At this stage, the working week looks to be largely dominated by a northerly wind which will be quite stiff at times, particularly early in the week. Of course, the heat will ramp up once again courtesy of the north wind, but they are suggesting the humidity won’t be as bad as last week.

The moon is waning once again, with the full moon now behind us. The tidal variation is diminishing daily as we approach next Tuesday’s last quarter moon phase. This means more outflow than inflow and can reduce the activity of many predatory fish species and movement of fodder species before the tides start to “make” once again.

A solid barra for Darran Leal

Hot Start to Barra Season

The only thing hotter than the weather last week was the barramundi fishing. Our local estuaries were alive with hyperactive barra and there were swags of fishos out there getting their opening season fix.

The Burrum River and its tributaries were the focal point for much of the better action. These rivers were restocked through overflows of impoundment barra from Lake Lenthalls during last years wet weather and the barra are well spread throughout the entire system.

Some scored good numbers of barra quite easily, scanning them up on their side scanners and throwing all manner of lures their way. The average size of the fish was impressive too, with many school fish in the 80cm+ range. The bite was insane during the first few days of the season opener, yet tapered off quite dramatically a few days later.

Tom getting it done with a nice chrome barra

Over 80mm of rain fell from a decent storm late in the week that dumped its load in the Burrum River catchment and sent yet another plume of dirty water downstream. This was more-so localised run-off than flooding, but certainly effected the upper reaches in a big way.

The same great barra bite was experienced in other estuaries in our region. Creeks and channels within the Great Sandy Straits gave up a few fish, and the Mary system produced quality specimens for those that could find them. Even our local creeks fired, with any barra you could find being pretty much super-aggressive and ready to rumble.

The current spate of stiff southeasterly winds has put somewhat of a dampener on the barra fishery, albeit only briefly. These highly sought after sports fish will respond to the north wind next week and good catches will once again be enjoyed.

Tom with another nice barra

At the risk of repeating ourselves, we ask that those chasing barra give due thought to the future of this species in our waters. Regardless of the season being open, and your legal right to keep barra for the table being undeniable, the big female breeders (80cm+ fish) are still likely to continue to spawn should we receive further rains this month. Let them go if you can and savour your captures with happy snaps instead of fillets.

Cranky Mangrove Jacks Belting Lures

The other species that went absolutely nuts in our estuaries during last week’s heatwave was the mangrove jacks. Whether it was throughout the Burrum system, the straits or the local creeks and ponds, the red devils smashed lures and baits with reckless abandon.

Many fishos focussed on jacks instead of barra and were rewarded with cranky big jacks. Many fish well over the 50cm mark call our creeks and rivers home, and indeed your chances of posing with a true 60cm model are very real – if you can land it!

Schools of smaller fish often dominate some snags and rock bars, racing their cousins to smash your smaller offerings. The trophy fish can often be found lurking amongst the best terrain and being highly territorial will not share such real estate with the rats.

Josh & James getting into the barra action

Seek these trophy fish with pimped-out lures and scale-up your offerings to tempt these better fish. Some will have busted up fishos before you whose reflexes or gear weren’t up to the task, so be prepared to cycle through a few alternative options and persist during the prime period of tide. Monster jacks are worth the extra effort and justify a bit more than a cast or two as you drift by.

Whilst obvious bankside structure deserves many casts, always be on the look out for hidden gems beneath the surface. Downed trees, mangrove clumps and sunken man-made structure that are overlooked by the masses can be gold mines for those that locate them. These finds can be even more exciting if they are in deeper water where big jacks can retreat from the glaring sun.

Next week’s northerly winds and warmer weather will see the jacks on the chew once again. The winds will likely keep most fishos away from Fraser’s western creeks, so the mainland creeks and the Burrum or its tributaries will be the go. Check out the tide charts and monitor the position of the moon and time your efforts around the peak bite periods. If that doesn’t equate for you, then simply go at dawn or dusk and make the most of the change of light.

Variety on Offer in Our Estuaries

The heat has really stirred up our local estuary scene, and it is more than just the barra and jacks that have responded. Threadfin salmon have been very active as well, drawing a sweat from anyone connecting to numbers of larger models. They are possible from the Mary system at present, but are an even better bet for those sneaking about in the creeks down the straits.

Luckily for us, the threadies are still responding to soft vibes, plastics and hardbodies of many sizes and shapes. By this time of year, they are quite often so focussed on gorging on jelly prawn emerging from muddy waters that they will ignore most offerings. Not so this year, or at least not so in many areas. There is enough larger prawn about in our streams to keep them hunting the deeper waters and baitfish numbers are vastly improved due to last year’s wet.

Christie with a flathead destined for the frying pan

Surprisingly, there is still numbers of blue salmon in our creeks and rivers. These fish are a wintertime-springtime special in these parts, yet seem to be relishing the abundance of fodder and healthier waters this summer. Blues are a super-active fish that will react positively to faster retrieves or various lure types right through the water column. They may be ugly, and not real flash on the plate, but they make up for those shortcomings in the fighting department. Whilst not dirty, they are fast and erratic and prone to get aerial.

Grunter are making their way back into our estuary systems and will be a worthy target until the rains come again. Seek them out with small soft plastics (GULP are hard to beat), or otherwise small soft vibes. Target them right on the bottom, and focus on gravelly/shelly bottom within your chosen creek or river. Within systems devoid of such terrain, you will still find grunter moving in and out with the tides and feeding as they go.

Young Kingy with a nice land based flatty.

The likes of flathead and mulloway enjoy cooler waters and for this reason are typically found deeper within our estuaries this time of year. Night sessions down the straits might see you connect to jewies up along the verges, but vibing sessions in the depths over a tide turn in daylight hours can be equally productive.

Queenies are active in the main channels of the straits at present. The bay islands are also popular queenfish haunts, as are the deeper ledges along the western side of Fraser north of Kingfisher Bay. They often share waters with GTs of various sizes and occasionally other trevally species. All but the biggest and baddest of the GTs can be readily handled on your queenie gear.

If you are up to the task, then you can head out and seek the monster GTs that frequent our waters in summer. As mentioned in previous reports, they can occasionally wander upriver in the Mary or otherwise lurk around the heads if there is ample fodder in the area. Head for the local artificial reefs or the bay islands if you prefer and hone your stick baiting skills at low tide.

A solid bass caught on fly by staff member Josh.

Active Muddies and Mobile Prawns

Mud crabbers did okay over the recent full moon. The latter stages of the making tides saw the crabs potting well as they moved within the estuaries. Venturing down the straits seems to be the go at present, with better numbers of crab being reported from down that way.

Any rains in the near future will serve to flush the muddies from their upstream haunts, but for now, you may need to work your pots well into the streams and side creeks to score with any consistency. Fresh baits of mullet or other oily fish are ideal. Always remove smelly old baits from your pots, particularly this time of year in the heat.

Banana prawns are emerging and becoming more obvious within our creeks and rivers. Casting nets for prawn in the summer can be an exhausting affair, so use your sounder and your boat’s wake to find them before throwing blind casts. Expect to find the bigger prawn quite deep in the muddy holes, with “mediums” swimming the fringes.

Recent reports suggest a feed of bananas is possible from the creeks along the western side of Fraser south of Kingfisher Bay, or up in the Burrum system. Our local creeks are also producing a feed for those willing to risk their nets in these snaggy little waterways.

Shark Captures Cause a Stir

We have been harping on for years about the over-proliferation of sharks in our waters. Apparently, a piece went to air on mainstream media recently of a few fishos catching sharks from the Burrum River, that was followed up by quite a storm on various social media streams.

Numbers of bull sharks in the Burrum is nothing new, nor surprising. The juvenile bull sharks were once targeted by gill netters which put temporary dents in their populations, albeit only minimal. This practice likely still occurs, yet the sharks’ population is exploding.

There's no shortage of bull sharks in our waters

Catching small sharks is a popular activity for many fishos. It is illegal to target them once they are 1.5m or above, hence the issue with our over-abundance of large apex predators. Live baiting for sharks, or deploying large dead baits is popular. This activity likely has little impact on the given number of sharks in the target area, but actively berleying to attract the same sharks likely does.

This is where the debate continues to rage. Should fishos be allowed to fish for sharks from recognised “swimming beaches”? If so, should they be allowed to berley? It would seem prudent, and just plain old common sense, that berleying of any form should be discouraged from popular swimming locations.

Plenty of sharks cruise our town beaches after dark, and a few smaller models do so in daylight. Similarly, beaches north and south of the Burrum River get frequent visits from sharks, some large, some not so. Indeed, Woodgate Beach has always been a popular shark-fishing destination for a minority of shark-hunters seeking out larger quarry.

As far as our rivers go, there is nothing unnatural about the bullies cruising those waters – just the number of them! The very reason that threadfin salmon over 150cm are so hard to extract from the Mary system is the presence of bull sharks that will always steal such a prize before it can be subdued. Just watch your fancy side scanner the next time you are fishing amongst the river’s biggest barra or threadies. The head-on images of bulls making for your fish are spooky if not alarming.

We suggest all budding shark fishos, experienced or otherwise, practice good common sense in where and how they target sharks in our waters. There are many locations that will not encroach on other water users or raise alarm, and you can go about your sport in peace. In reality, “putting the wind up” a few of these noahs and making them think twice about lurking in some waters may indeed be a good thing. Let the debate continue ….

Fingermark are suckers for a squid lure. 

Reef Fishos Can Target Summer Species Inshore

Those that can sneak out during this weekend’s window of decent weather can be confident of a feed from our deeper local reefs – if they can avoid the sharks of course. Grass sweetlip are quite abundant at present, and can be found grazing around the fringes of many reef systems. Bounce squid baits along the bottom and you will soon be connected.

The same sweeties can be found along the fringes of our shallow reefs too, but only in the wee hours. Fish for them during daylight, and you can expect a lot more sub-legal fish than better ones. Come dusk, and the better sweeties will again move into the shallows and feed quite rigorously. Pre-dawn sessions can be red-hot for the insomniacs, with a bin of quality eaters typically secured as the majority of the fishing fleet is just launching.

Coral trout are pursued constantly nowadays, and the extra effort in recent times is reflected in the diminished numbers in popular areas. The Pt Vernon shallow reefs for example are giving up only the odd trout of late, with numbers of undersized throwbacks far outweighing the keepers. Trout fans will have to spread their wings and scout a bit deeper and wider than that for any decent return in the near future.

The new Nomad Squidtrex soft vibe is going to be dynamite!

Estuary cod are prolific on many of our deeper inshore reefs. They favour live baits, but are also partial to a whole squid or recently-deceased baitfish if presented appropriately. The turn of tide is their time to parlay, and they are quite quick to respond to an easy meal deposited in the right spot. Please be sensible when it comes to cod-fishing, and release the larger models unharmed. They keep the holes dug out beneath the reefs and would be sorely missed by other inhabitants if they weren’t there.

Other than the above species, you might get to tangle with the odd scarlet sea perch, some blackall or perhaps a few squire if fishing our deeper inshore reefs. The sharks will most certainly welcome your presence in many areas though, so as always, be mobile and don’t sit there feeding the buggers.

Jonathan with a nice red emperor on a Squidtrex vibe in Orange Tiger

Tuna Season Approaches

The pelagic scene in Hervey Bay is a constant state of flux. Only a month or so ago, you could have been chasing baby blacks with confidence, or spotties in abundance. Both are still possible, but it is fair to say any encounters will be with stragglers at this time.

Nowadays, sportsfishos are typically looking forward to the longtail tuna season. East coast lows that come barrelling down the Qld coast late summer into autumn herald the arrival of masses of these sports fish. Will Gabrielle have any drawing effect, being so far offshore? Possibly not, due to the speed at which it will pass us by. Sustained winds and huge seas are the catalyst for mass migration of baitfish and tuna to our protected bay waters.

Either way, there are a few pods of longtails in the bay at present (but isn’t there always). The weekend will give you a chance to head north in search of tuna, but punching into the northerly next week won’t appeal to many. Make the most of the weekend and take plenty of small slugs in case you struggle to track down the longtails and have to resort to a bit of mack tuna action.

Fraser Guided Fishing getting into the longtail action

You may prefer to target golden trevally on jigs. They have been harassing bait schools around Platypus Bay reefs and the Outer Banks area. School mackerel are also likely in similar spots, so don’t get too attached to your jigs if you fail to avoid them.

Spanish mackerel are widespread throughout the bay at present. They can be found from the Gutters to Rooneys and inshore around our artificial reefs and ledges. The spanish mackerel closure is effective right now however, so you must let them go if you accidentally hook one. Given that two new closed periods effect our waters this month and next, spaniard fans will need to get their fix between the closures or thereafter.

Good luck out there y’all …… Jase

 

A solid anak permit caught with Fish's Fly & Sportfishing in Weipa.

The Australian Fly Fishing Podcast 

Episode 10 - Dougal Rillstone 

Listen Now:

https://australianflyfishingpodcast.podbean.com/e/episode-10-dougal-rillstone-on-life-the-mataura-and-permit-fishing/

When I first heard about Dougal Rillstone, it was through an issue of Fly Life magazine promoting his book "Upstream on the Mataura - A Fly Fisher's Journey to the Source". Dougal was born in Gore on the south island of New Zealand and has had a deep connection with the river for as long as he can remember. His book features a great collection of stories from his time on the Mataura and the journey that would see him walk from Fortrose on the Southland coast, upstream to the headwaters and the source of the river in the Eyre Mountains. 

Leading up to this podcast, I had been in regular contact with Dougal and it was evident that the Mataura wasn't the only thing on Dougal's mind when it came to fishing. Dougal is a mad keen, permit obsessed, saltwater fly fisherman as well. Over the last 20 years, Dougal has been a repeat client of Fish's Fly & Sportfishing in Weipa, Cape York, where his love affair for permit began, on a trip guided by Alan "Fish" Philliskirk.

 Dougal with a beautiful Exmouth blochii permit caught with Brett Wolf.

Permit fishing has taken Dougal all over the world from Cape York and Exmouth in Australia to Belize and beyond, in search of the holy grail of saltwater fly fishing. He's amassed over 70 permit on fly over his saltwater career and has even caught the big 3, Trachinotus anak (Australian permit), blochii (Indo-Pacific permit) & falcatus (Atlantic permit) all within the same year, an extraordinary feat!

I thoroughly enjoyed talking with Dougal and hearing more of his story. I found his sense of adventure and dedication inspiring, to say the least. If you haven't read Upstream on the Mataura, I suggest you pick up a copy, find a comfy chair, pour yourself a whiskey and dive in. While stocks last, you can pick up a paperback copy from Peter Morse's website wildfish.com.au or from Australia and New Zealand's very own flylife.com.au 

If you haven't already read "Upstream on the Mataura" add it to your list.

The tarpon grow big in Cuba

Milkfish can be extremely hard to target on fly, Fish's Fly & Sportfishing in Weipa have a few tricks up their sleeve when chasing them.

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