If it's red, it's..........nope, just a chinaman fish. Better luck next time Brett.
Warm Glow from the Mighty Maroons Win
Combats the Chill
A big high way down south of the bight is combining with a low in the Tasman to deliver us super-chilled air all the way from Antarctic waters. It is cold, darn cold, and unlikely to change for a few days yet.
Maroons fans can continue to bask in the warm glow of the huge Origin win last night. What a ripper game! Won in freezing conditions in a roach-infested stadium.
Dry, cold southwesterly winds will continue to dominate our weather. Mostly 10-15 knots inshore for now, with up to 20 knots in the northern bay. Come the weekend, it looks more like 15-20 knots from the same direction.
Conditions will hopefully improve Monday when the breeze starts to tend more onshore and ease a little. The winds are forecast to lighten as the week wears on, though the onshore flow and increasing cloud cover may see some further precipitation mid-late next week.
Tidal flow is increasing daily at present as we approach Tuesday’s full moon. Early next week will see quite big spring tides with highs peaking a little over 4m from lows just above 0.4m.
Bream Fishos Flock to the Pier
The dirty waters from Mary River flooding set our bream season back a couple of weeks, but things are on the improve and the bream are moving back into our stained inshore waters. Bream have become common captures out at River Heads once again, though it is still best to fish the higher stages of the tide with better salinity and cleaner waters.
Bream fans fishing the Urangan Pier have started to catch quality fish, and the coming full moon should see a real spike in bream activity and catches. Bait fishos might want to consider taking bait with them in lieu of relying on catching herring consistently. We are told that the herring schools are sporadic and challenging to catch at times at present.
Bait worth considering is the likes of mullet fillets, fowl gut, hardiheads or herring for daylight fishos, with the same baits or bonito fillets, mullet gut or prawns also worth a try at night when the pickers are not so bad.
Running sinker rigs, fished between the pylons whilst facing into the tide is the go. Ensure that you feed your baits back to the bream and keep your presentations streamlined and natural looking. Move along the pier and try between different pylons to see where they are hanging out.
Winter sunsets at the Urangan Pier can be stunning
The deeper waters out the end beyond the sand bank are typically best, though you can also try the first channel over high tide at night closer to the full moon. Indeed, the beach end of the pier may be worth trying for bream and whiting after dark over the biggest tides.
Those wishing to try lures for Urangan Pier bream have many options. Well-proven are the Cranka Crabs, allowed to fall naturally down the pylons with a do-nothing retrieve. These life-like lures’ floating claws offer a very enticing action in the current, so subtle jiggles or the rod tip or minimal rod work is all that is required.
Alternatively, blades such as the Daiwa Steez or the Eco-Gear ZX43 are ripper presentations for those seeking to impart a little more action and cover a bit more bottom. Plastics also work a treat, and are even more effective when they are not being snatched by pike constantly. You will need a little more jighead weight when fishing the pier compared to off the shore due to the height above water.
Looking back towards Torquay
June and July are some of the better months of the year to chase flathead along the pier. The neap tides, building for a few days thereafter are typically best. Ie; right now. Live baits duly positioned at the edges of the sandbanks, or along the slope out towards the end will soon be molested by a hungry flatty. Lure fishos hopping soft vibes or prawn imitations are also in with a chance.
Nocturnal fishos that take a bit heavier tackle can have a crack at a jewfish from the deeper waters out the end. The full moon will see them on the hunt, and the slack tide period is the best time to target them.
Live baits, fresh squid or even a large banana prawn might tempt a jewie. However, there is no denying the greater challenge and joy experienced when trying to keep a rampaging jewfish away from the pylons that just scoffed your soft vibe or large prawn imitation plastic.
Jeff with a nice coral trout
Flats, Straits and Beaches Improve
as Full Moon Approaches
Landlubbers not keen on crowds, piers or pontoons have some fairly good options this week. The town beaches are likely to give up a few whiting for those willing to wander, whilst the rocky outcrops, the groynes and the rock walls of the harbour will be worth a try for bream fans.
Wandering the flats flicking plastics, slow-rolling suitable bream hardbodies, or even hopping vibes will soon see who is home. It might be only small bream and whiting, but it might be the larger bream, grunter, flatties and even salmon. Topwater offerings make the process of searching even more fun and mixing up retrieves will soon tempt any whiting (faster) or bream (slower with pauses).
The bigger tides should see a few more grunter caught along our town beaches. Prawn or yabby baits will soon tempt them as they forage, though hopping prawn imitation plastics is hard to beat most days and enables you to search with vastly greater efficiency.
The Booral Flats are worth a try for the more adventurous mud skippers out there. Those flats do not offer the easiest of terrain, but can produce good catches or whiting, flatties, bream, salmon and grunter. Mud crabs also crawl across those flats regularly, so keep your toes tucked in.
Oyster crackers (aka permit) have been landed over on Fraser Island’s surf beaches during recent weeks as well. So, don’t be too shocked to hook a freight train in the skinny waters and take it easy and get the foot off the panic button if you do.
Of course, other possible “freight trains” might just be trevally or queenies, but you never know your luck, particularly after such tremendous flooding. Broadies will turn up on many flats, particularly around the bay islands.
Blue salmon schools are rolling in and they will be a ton of fun for some flats fishos over winter. These things will scoff a huge variety of lures, and flies, and go like the absolute clappers in the shallows. Eating-wise, they do not rate at all, but some folks must be great cooks as they still seem to head home in eskies.
Threadfin salmon can be worth targeting over the flats in winter. These dirty water specialists are quite at home in the filthy water and offer a great fishery in the lower Mary/Susan and the Great Sandy Straits at present.
Big cobia are a fairly regular bycatch when chasing snapper or coral trout.
Great Tides for Snapper this Week
Snapper fishos will be lamenting the annoying southwester forecast for this weekend. The tides are great, but the winds not so much. Woody Island offers plenty of protection from the south or southwest winds, so anyone keen enough can make their way out there and have a crack at the Roy Rufus arti in some degree of comfort.
Your sounder will soon tell the story when you get there. Plenty of baitfish schools is what you want to see. The more the merrier. Spotting big arches lurking nearby, or even small schools of snapper milling about a short distance off the many structures will also boost your confidence.
Many will consider the dirty inshore waters as a deterrent right now, but let them keep thinking that whilst you slip out and snare a few snapper and other reefies from the cleaner waters beneath. Unfortunately, the dirty water hasn’t deterred the sharks either, so you might find landing fish quite a challenge, particularly if you are one of only few boats out there.
A beautiful bay snapper destined for the dinner table
Vessels with confident skippers that can handle a bit of breeze can try for snapper in better waters out beyond the banks, or over along Moon Ledge. There are numerous sites in southern Platypus Bay that are likely to produce snapper this week.
The Burrum 8 Mile is due to fire, and it will only take a decent migration of baitfish onto those grounds to draw in some snapper in the lead up to the full moon. Similarly, the Fairway and many other scattered little reefs in the area are likely to see snapper action in the next week, albeit only at dawn, dusk or during the evening in many cases.
Gathering fresh or live baits sourced from the very grounds you are fishing will certainly aid in tempting the wary old snapper many seek. Smaller squire are suckers for other morsels such as squid, pillies and the like, yet they too will be easier to trick if you present your baits well. Float-lining is the go. Paternoster rigs are for offshore waters.
Attempts to anchor and fish baits for snapper is becoming increasingly difficult with each passing year. The sharks are simply relentless, so, all too often, after going to all the trouble to anchor accurately, present the perfect bait to gain the perfect hook-up, your fish gets devoured and you have to up-anchor and move on. Sure enough, the whole process is made ridiculously easy for those of us with spot-locking electric motors these days, but the frustration is just the same.
Unfortunately the sharks have been relentless inshore. If you do start getting sharked, simply move on to avoid wasting quality fish.
As we have mentioned so many times before, many locals have resorted to trolling for snapper, and some basically do very little else these days as their success rate warrants the practice. Bycatch of cod, trout, mackerel and trevally adds a little to the experience for many, and the chances of getting sharked are reduced remarkably if trolling is focussed away from the well-known reef structures.
Targeting snapper with soft plastics, soft vibes and slow-pitch jigs is devastatingly effective. The same techniques will work inshore and out wider, it is just the size of the offering and the weight of the lure that varies. Having said this however, there is seemingly a better reaction from the snapper in exposed waters to jerkshad-styled plastics, whilst the inshore fish can take a liking to more critter, prawn, or squid-styled offerings. Mix it up and see if you find the same.
Chilly Water Pelagics
Sharks are not the only nuisance for snapper fishos right now. Mackerel, particularly schoolies, are downright devastating to your lure collection and can cause a lot of downtime in a hot bite. There are schoolies in quite big numbers all along the western coast of the bay, plenty lurking around the reefs on the banks and just as many up in Platypus Bay.
So, school mackerel fans should not have too much trouble securing a feed right now. Many will opt to troll them up on their favourite hardbodies, whilst the more energetic will attack them with spoons. Bait fishos will find the schoolies eager to eat live baits, gang-rigged pillies, whole or stripped squid, and on some days, just about anything that moves.
Broad-barred mackerel have moved inshore in recent times and are now a feature of our flats fishery - a quite annoying one for those hunting other fish. Broadies will also turn up over inshore reefs and will eat many lures and baits, but their favourites are garfish and hardiheads.
There are mack tuna galore out in the bay. Frustrated fly fishos unable to creep around on the flats due to the dirty inshore waters can wear themselves out on mack tuna whenever the wind allows. Long tails are a bit harder to track down, but there is still plenty of large fish here, albeit feeding deeper in the water column around bait schools or in very small numbers on the surface.
Trevally numbers continue to grow in the bay as winter rolls on. The influx of yakkas and other baitfish out wide draws massive numbers to areas such as the Gutters, Rooneys and beyond. Platypus Bay will be trevally central from now on as well, though there will be many schools of little tackers up there milling around amongst the bigger models.
A couple of interesting captures were reported this week. One lad picked up a sailfish off the bottom out at the Gutters, and a marlin was hooked at the Outer Banks on a bait jig. It just goes to show that all fish have their seasons, but you should be prepared for anything in Hervey Bay.
Bryce with a sailfish that took a live bait on the drop, destined for a coral trout. What a stunning fish, how good!
Reds on Fire Out Wide
There have been questions galore this week as to why so many reds were caught last weekend. Many crews thrashed the red emperor population, with yarns of multiple hook-ups and rare bag limits doing the rounds. Undoubtedly, some crews knew what they were doing, and perhaps others stumbled onto a good thing.
Red emperor respond to climatic and oceanic conditions like all other fish. The lack of rains and horrendous shark attrition took a terrible toll on our stocks of reds in past years, yet this year, we received record rainfall, great flooding and our waters are again appealing to roaming fish.
Wonki holes are once again running fresh, baitfish, prawns and crabs have bred in abundance, and even our inshore run of squid has been pushed out wider to waters frequented by red emperor. In essence, one might surmise that the great run of reds right now is a result of a return to a real wet season and fish being drawn in to feast on the spoils.
His and hers red emperor. Dane and Christie did an overnighter at 1770 and got a couple of legal reds.
The fact that favourable moon and tides coincided with light westerlies and dropping water temperatures at one of the best times of year surely contributed to such success. From the Gutters to Yeppoon, many crews scored big time on red emperor, and also on their close cousins the large-mouthed nannygai (scarlets).
Coral trout bit well too, as did red throats for those that ventures north. Quality hauls of reef fish were enjoyed by many crews, varying in species based on their chosen locations. Cobia turned up on many reef sites and can now be considered a regular part of that scene for the next few months.
Our offshore grounds east of Breaksea Spit also fished well in light current, with many reef fish and cobia keeping crews busy. Some even managed to avoid the sharks. Those that ventured wider and deeper found plenty of quality pearl perch along the shelf and beyond, as well a mix of snapper, jobfishes and cods.
Where are the Winter Whiting?
There is no real way to segue from gun reef fishing to winter whiting without referring to bait, but here we go anyway. Many of our local and visiting fishos like to target winter whiting at this time of year. Normally by now, word is out of their whereabouts and a fleet of small vessels can be seen on many sites as the hopefuls gather to score a feed. Not so this year – so far.
The flooding and resultant dirty inshore waters have kept the winter whiting fans onshore. As our water quality is slowly improving though, it would seem timely for a few of the local gurus to get out and track them down. Once they do, it won’t take long for word to spread and the whiting flotillas will be regular features once again.
Given the filthy waters of the straits and the flats and channels out from Booral, it would seem likely that the winteries will emerge elsewhere. The waters off Toogoom, O’Reagans Creek, Gatakers Bay and the NU2 would seem like good starting points. They are most years regardless of floods and clean up a bit quicker than elsewhere. The waters off Coongul, Woodgate and Christies Gutter could all produce some time soon as well.
Dane with a trout for the esky
When the winter whiting “scouts” find them and the word gets out, you can take advantage of the annual run quite cheaply and effectively, and feast on their little white fillets quite regularly. All you need is a basic light spin or baitcast outfit, light line, and either a basic selection of suitable terminal tackle or some bait jigs.
The bait jig option suits many these days, effectively out-fishing all other rigs hands down. The right bait jigs come in a pack of two, with three “jigs” (hooks) on each. Pin a tiny piece of squid or a piece of GULP worm on these hooks for added attraction and haul your whiting in two or three at a time.
If you plan on targeting the winteries on a regular basis, then grab yourself a scaler bag and a decent little filleting knife (thin and flexible is preferred). You are allowed 50 each, in possession, and there is no boat limit. There is also no size limit, but don’t be silly and keep throwing the little ones back and keep only the fish worth filleting.
And by the way, there are few better baits for sand crabs than whiting frames, so bag them up and have a crack at the sandies out a little wider. Those that have been plying the waters of southern Platypus Bay and the waters off the Burrum coast have scored bag limits quite readily of late. The bigger tides will help this cause, but we need that breeze to back off a bit.
The Australian Fly Fishing Podcast
Episode 5 - Captain Eddy Lawler from Peak Sportfishing Adventures
Click here to listen:
Recently, I got to talk with Captain Eddy Lawler from Peak Sportfishing Adventures in Exmouth, Western Australia. Exmouth is home to Ningaloo Reef, the largest fringing reef in the world and is the closest point in Australia to the Continental Shelf, making for some of the best marlin fishing in the country, if not the world. Eddy and his crew specialise in in chasing sailfish, black, blue and striped marlin on both conventional and fly tackle, spending upwards of 250 days a year on the water.
Eddy talks about what he got up to after school, travelling, working in tackle stores, getting his skipper's tickets and guiding in the Northern Territory. We then discuss the pre Peak Sportfishing days, when Eddy first arrived in Exmouth and how much potential he could see in the area. Eddy recounts being part of a team led by marlin fishing experts Australian Dean Butler and USA angler Tom Evans. During the month-long charter, the guys successfully caught and released 28 billfish on IGFA legal fly fishing tackle - an achievement that smashed any lingering doubts about the international standard gamefishing potential the Exmouth grounds.
We look at how Peak Sportfishing Adventures began upon the arrival of Eddy's 25ft Contender centre console and later, the addition of his 36ft Blackwatch. Eddy also speaks of the 2018 season which saw some incredible achievements such as USA angler Jeremy Block's IGFA world record 212lb black marlin caught on fly tackle and 16lb tippet. It was also the same year that Clay Hilbert's 1089lb blue marlin was caught on conventional tackle, the first 1000lb+ blue marlin caught in Australia, a monumental moment for Eddy and his crew.
This episode is brought to you by: Fisho's Tackle World Hervey Bay, MAKO Eyewear, Manic Tackle Project & Garmin Australia.
Eddy with a beautiful, New Zealand Southland trout.