Fantastic Forecast for This Weekend
Its been a bit breezy for much of the past week, but that is all about to change, just in time for the weekend. Incredibly light winds are forecast for both Saturday and Sunday, so you can expect a plethora of boats out on the bay and beyond.
Unfortunately, things don’t look as flash after the weekend, with a southwesterly wind likely to dominate locally for a few days during the week. If the forecasters can be trusted, then another spate of very light winds is possible by week’s end.
Monday’s last quarter moon phase means neap tides falling for the next few days. This is unlikely to be the best bite trigger for a range of species, particularly when combined with a falling barometer courtesy of an approaching trough. However, such great weather cannot be ignored, so make the most of it and try to fish the key bite periods relative to the position of the moon, or dawn and dusk, to maximise your chances in what might be a slow bite at times.
Snapper and Pearl Perch Closure Pending
In an effort to improve snapper and pearl perch stocks and to protect these fish during their peak spawning period, the Qld Dept of Fisheries has implemented a seasonal closed season for these two vulnerable species.
The closure will commence as of 12.01am on Wednesday 15th July 2020 and will be in place until 11.59pm on Saturday 15th August 2020. The closure effects all recreational, charter and commercial fishers in Qld waters, wherein snapper and pearl perch will be no-take species for the period of the closure.
For this closure to achieve the best outcomes, all fishers should not target snapper or pearl perch during the closure. Those with enough time on the water locally will be well aware of the decline of our snapper fishery in recent years. If we want to avoid more drastic actions from our legislators; for example, something equivalent to the total non-take of snapper in South Australia (the home of Oz’s biggest snapper); then we must all do our best to avoid snapper and pearlies during this closure.
Of course, reef fishos are going to struggle to avoid these species altogether if fishing in waters in which they congregate. To this end, good handling and release tactics should be employed to ensure the best survival of accidentally caught fish. Further to this, all local reef fishos know just how bad our shark population is and can well imagine the result of releasing an exhausted fish into shark-infested waters. Best to avoid this situation by moving elsewhere when the sharks move in.
Baby Blacks Galore off Sandy Cape
There has been a hot bite of baby black marlin just outside Sandy Cape at the northern tip of Fraser Island. The past two weeks has seen incredible numbers of baby blacks in the 8-15kg range caught and released in numbers often achieving double digits.
The hot zone is the waters around 15 metres in depth just out from the cape itself, where the juvie marlin are rounding up bait balls and feeding voraciously for several hours. The mornings have produced the best bite of late, with afternoon sessions barely turning a reel some days.
Gear up with a decent teaser set up and troll a spread of micro skirts in 5-6 inch sizes if you like, or alternatively, drag the teasers around and switch bait raised fish on circle-rigged garfish or fly. Finding the bait balls and slow trolling live baits will also get you connected, as will sight-fishing to free-swimmers and throwing appropriate plastic presentations or baits their way. Those who’ve tangled with these little blacks will know that they can be super aggressive and will respond to a range of techniques, so long as you are offering them something that resembles their food source.
Mixed Results for Offshore Fishos
A few days of “bosses’ weather” prior to last weekend saw a fleet of boats head wide of the bay and offshore chasing reef fish. It seems that the results varied, with some crews doing quite well and others struggling with sharks or a lack of fish in their chosen locations.
Successful deep-dropping crews found a mix of snapper, pearl perch, bar cod and flame-tail wide of the shelf, with a smattering of various jobfishes thrown in for those that stayed nearer the 100m line. There has been talk of a crew scoring blue-eye trevalla out in 500-600m as well, though most crews focus on waters about half that depth.
The shoals country either side of the 50m depth proved popular, not only for boaties, but also for sharks. The attrition was terrible for some crews, having fish after fish taxed and depleting their energy levels during what can be an exhausting affair trying to race the sharks to the surface with quality reefies attached. Those that succeeded in avoiding the noahs scored a mixed bag that included snapper, pearlies, parrot, red throat, brown maori cod and coronation trout amongst others.
The current was quite strong in close near the bar over the shallow Sandy Cape Shoals itself, reaching unfishable speed for those hunting bottom fish in the vicinity. There were a few decent spanish mackerel in the area, though there seemed to be as many boats as fish according to one crew. The current was limited to the shallows which augured well for those that ventured wider.
With so many boats on the water lately, keeping an eye on the horizon for other vessels bearing down on your “secret” spot has become quite distracting. This has even been the case for those that ventured beyond the lightship and towards Lady Elliot Island, where numerous crews now make the long pilgrimage chasing better quality reef fish.
The sharks proved to be a bit of an issue in places up that way as well, but there were some good catches made up of snapper, scarlet sea perch, red emperor and various other reefies. The big full moon tides limited the fishing to bursts of effort around the tide turns in the areas more effected by lunar tidal flow, limiting effective fishing time for some. During the peak of the run, some choose to troll these waters and often encounter spanish mackerel, cobia and small yellowfin tuna this time of year.
Female Snapper Arrive Just in Time for the Closure
The recent full moon saw an influx of snapper into Hervey Bay waters. Hardly big numbers compared to what we were previously accustomed to, but at least a few larger fish have made an appearance. You’ve got from now till next Tuesday to score a snapper or four, so make the most of the better weather and then leave them alone for the closure.
If you’ve been chasing snapper for long enough then you would have noticed that the majority of the bigger knobbies caught early in the season are males. These fish are typically only in small numbers in most areas, but are soon enough joined by schools of female fish (and more males) that have migrated to the area to spawn. These schools of breeders are the ones we look forward to each year, but are possibly also the ones we should be careful not to over-exploit.
During the latest spell of good weather, snapper were found off Rooneys and out at the Gutters, as well as back in over the Platypus Bay reefs, the 25 Fathom Hole and a few reefs closer inshore. The Burrum 8 Mile and Moon Ledge featured quality fish for those that timed their efforts around dawn and dusk in close, with a smattering of decent squire and the odd knobbie turning up over other inshore reef systems.
Inshore Reefies and Pelagic Fun for the Kids
Other than the snapper/squire, there has been a few decent sweetlip, blackall, coral trout and estuary cod caught from our local inshore reefs, with scarlets and big grunter also making an appearance for those fishing the reefs in Platypus Bay.
Trevally of various species have kept the kids occupied for those venturing up into Platypus Bay and certainly offer a fun day out for the family. There have been a few big cobia caught up that way as well, offering a real trophy fish for a keen young fisho with a degree of patience and stamina.
As mentioned recently, there has been a significant influx of school mackerel into Hervey Bay waters. Latest reports suggest these mackerel are still well scattered throughout the bay, but the number of undersized models versus legal ones is somewhat disappointing in many areas.
The mackerel will be seeking schools of small baitfish such as herring and yakkas, so concentrate your efforts around areas holding plenty of bait. As the baitfish schools move, so will the macks (and other predators such as snapper and trevally for that matter). Therefore, it can be challenging to pinpoint their exact whereabouts in a weekly report such as this after a few days of wind. Having said this, a few areas worth trying would include the Fairway Buoy, Burrum 8 Mile, Moon Ledge, Maringa Bombie, the Outer Banks, the NU2 beacon and nearby shipwreck, Kingfisher Bay or River Heads.
Bonito schools are busting up all over the bay lately, offering a ton of fun for the kids. Whilst the wind has been up, the waters in close off Gatakers Bay have been popular, with stacks of bonnies in the area. You might also find a few schoolies off Gatakers if you try a quick troll out to the west of there or along the reef edge. Pike can be a real nuisance over the shallow reef this time of year, intercepting any smaller lures you might try to troll.
Bream Bonanza Over the Full Moon
The annual bream spawning run is well underway in our waters, with big numbers of sizeable bream on offer for those that enjoy a bit of light tackle fun. Bait fishos deploying a decent berley trail and sending back lightly-weighted baits will score well at places such as Gatakers Bay, River Heads, South Head, Burrum Heads and around the bay islands.
Those favouring a bit of finesse fishing with artificials for their bream can try the same areas, though pike can be a real nuisance at some of the abovementioned areas. Try the flats over along the inside of Fraser, the Booral Flats or the many flats and rock bars down the Great Sandy Straits south of River Heads for some topwater or subsurface fun on the super light gear.
The Urangan Pier produced good numbers of bream over the full moon and although the tides have waned since then, there will still be plenty there just waiting for a well-presented bait or perhaps a Cranka Crab. Similar story over at Kingfisher Bay Resort’s jetty, with plenty of bream on offer plus a few flatties, schoolies, bonito and the chance of a jewie at night.
Winter Species on Offer Down the Straits
There has been an incredible amount of boating traffic in the bay during these school holidays and finding spots away from the crowds or others’ eyes can be challenging. This is where the Great Sandy Straits can offer the peaceful seclusion you might be seeking, as its literal maze of meandering waterways and hidden creeks are home to great numbers of various estuarine species without the maddening crowds.
Neap tides are possibly not ideal for some species or areas down that way; however, you can still tangle with a range of light to medium tackle species that offer a feed or a heap of fun for you and the family. There are ample locations within the many feeder channels or the main passage that offer a crack at schools of winter whiting, mackerel and even a few reefies such as squire, blackall and cod.
The numerous creeks that dot the western side of Fraser and also the mainland lend themselves to a spot of soft plastic fishing for the likes of flathead, grunter, blue and threadfin salmon, jewfish, trevally and queenfish. These same species can also be found within the lower reaches of the Mary and Susan river systems at present.
Winter Whiting on the Move Again
As happens almost weekly, the best of the winter whiting hotspots changes quite regularly. Latest reports suggest the best quality fish are being caught from the channel and nearby banks down towards the bottom of Big Woody Island on the western side.
Other areas that have produced lately include the grounds off Toogoom, the NU2 and the waters just south or Round Island through to the “go slow” beacon out in the middle of the flats south of there. There are plenty on offer for those venturing further down the straits as well, with launching points such as Maroom, Poona and Kauri Creek putting you in the vicinity.
Getting a consistent supply of beach worms has been nearly as difficult as keeping up with the demand for Inshore Flare Kits of late, as beach wormers have had some issues getting quality product due to the presence of weed on some of the prime worming beaches. Luckily, Berkley came out with the u-beaut GULP Sandworm products years ago, that have proven deadly on winter whiting ever since.
Winter whiting regulars will all know about the GULP worms, but for those of you new to the game, picture a pack of biodegradable worms that can be cut into little pieces and pinned onto your favourite whiting hook or bait jig. These “baits” not only work a treat, but also offer the added convenience of being ready to use, without the need for refrigeration.
Good luck out there y’all.