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Fisho's Weekly Fishing Report - 10 November, 2023

by Fisho's Tackle World 10 Nov 2023 15:46 UTC
Sambos around the 120cm mark are not uncommon at present. Logan (staffer) tricked this one on a soft vibe © Fisho's Tackle World

This weekend is looking good

The past week has been very pleasant, if somewhat cooler than the previous. We missed out on any decent showers, but at least what did come our way settled the dust and smelt good at the time. The winds were manageable and boaties made the most of the better days.

This week looks even better. There will be a moderate easterly breeze initially. The bureau is saying 15-20 knots today and tomorrow, though 15 knots or less seems more likely inshore. Saturday looks quite good. Better earlier; breezier later in the day. Sunday will be the best day, with quite light winds peaking around 10 knots, and even less during the morning.

It is a similar scenario for offshore waters. Sandy Cape should see an easterly averaging around the 15-knot mark for the next few days. The breeze will start to swing anti-clockwise from Sunday evening onwards, with light north-easterlies eventually tending northerly as the working week unfolds. A stiffer north-wester is probable by week's end, and this is a storm-bearing breeze in these parts this time of year (here's hoping).

The moon is waning, and will do until the new moon this Monday. There will be decent run in the tide and this should trigger a positive response from many species. The shallow reefs will be peaking, the straits should come alive and the pelagic scene offshore and inshore should be at its best.

Plan around the fishing closures

The second and final Coral Reef Fin Fish Closure for Qld tidal waters north of latitude 24°50' is in effect right now. The taking or targeting of species contained within the Coral Reef Fin Fish Plan is prohibited from midnight last night until midnight Tuesday 14th November.

You can still catch and keep a large array of other species above that latitude. Check the Qld Dept of Fisheries website or the Fisheries App if you are unsure of what species you can catch.

The annual three-month barramundi closure is in effect also. Targeting barra anywhere other than in our stocked impoundments is totally prohibited. If you catch one by accident, then return it to the water unharmed immediately. If you can avoid lifting it from the water, then all the better.

2023 Garmin Hervey Bay Game Fishing Classic is on

The local game fishing comp is under way this morning and competitors from near and far are out on the briny chasing billfish and all things pelagic. The offshore fishery will be hotly contested this year, as our inshore marlin fishery has failed to live up to expectations - so far.

Even the offshore scene has been frustrating. Crews plying the waters north east of Sandy Cape have struggled. Bycatch of dollies and yellowfin tuna have been reported from further north up Lady Elliot way, but the usually productive grounds east of Breaksea Spit have been very hit and miss.

Heading wider and working the canyon country has raised a few larger marlin this week, so there is likely to be crews bashing their way out wider through a 1-1.5 metre easterly swell over coming days. There has been some impressive marlin stalking the bait schools out wide, so with so many eager competitors on the water (many sporting proper heavy tackle), decent weather, and a new moon, we just might be talking about big fish captures next week.

As reported week by week, Hervey Bay's inshore marlin fishery just hasn't been happening so far this season. Right now, is absolute prime time. That is why the local game club schedules its annual competition at this time. The new moon period is synonymous with the best possible billfish bite, and our waters both inshore and offshore should be alive with not only billfish, but other large pelagics riding the EAC southwards and feasting as they go. Juvenile marlin that would normally divert into the northern bay have simply not arrived (at least not in any number).

There have been baby blacks hooked over the past week near Rooneys, apparently, but photos remain elusive. Here is hoping for a change in the status quo. Some hopefuls will head for Platypus Bay and Rooneys seeking billfish, and they may well succeed if there is a sudden influx of baitfish and marlin. If not, then Plan B or C will have to come into play. Stay tuned for updates next week. We will give you the blow by blow from the game comp and will have a good handle on the overall billfish scene.

Plenty of mackerel inshore

If a simple day out chasing a feed of mackerel is appealing to you, then you are in for a treat. School mackerel are quite abundant in the western bay right now, and they are ravenous. Spinning with spoons and other metal slugs has accounted for bag limits quick smart for the energetic fishos into their high-speed spinning.

The Burrum 8 Mile is one bit of ground that has been firing in recent days. Catching a good feed has been very easy. The only spanner in the works at times is encounters with a large groper. These critters (and often just huge cod mistaken for groper) tend to lurk around known mackerel haunts such as the 8 Mile, the Fairway and the Outer Banks, and make a habit of stealing hooked mackerel.

Often these leviathans are hooked accidentally. They should be busted off early in the fight to enable them to go about their business. Qld groper are totally protected and all estuary cod over 120cm are too. Targeting them is a no-no, yet every now and then photos of captures do the rounds. You won't be able to avoid them on occasion, so hook-ups will happen if you spend enough time fishing these grounds. Let them go unharmed and there is no issue.

There are schoolies throughout our local shipping channels. Artificial reefs are hosting some good specimens, and any ledge or low-lying reef or rubble bed that is home to herring will draw them too. Many mackerel make their way right down into the straits, and they often linger in deeper gutters amongst the sandflats. Christie's Gutter is a case in point.

Mack tuna numbers are increasing throughout open bay waters. The last of this set of making tides may well see schools venture well into the straits. Tuna are focussed on tiny baitfish this time of year, so match the hatch and spin them up on tiny metal slugs if you are into that sort of thing.

The first waves of spotted mackerel shouldn't be far off. The next set of 'makes' preceding the full moon perhaps. Don't be at all surprised to encounter a few large spotties in the northern bay even now. A smattering of mature fish often precedes the larger biomass on its southbound migration. Having a few metal slugs on board will ensure you are prepared should you trip over any spotties this week.

The mass coral spawn over the past week has been highlighted on the TV news. Such an event is a wonder in its own right, but is also just the first link in a dynamic food chain. Masses of tiny baitfish and other small fish will feast on the abundance of coral spawn. In turn, pelagics and reef fish alike will realise their link in the chain. It is no fluke that millions of miniature baitfish arrive in the bay his time of year, with plenty of pelagics hot on their tail.

Prime time on our shallow reefs

Every year I carry on a bit about why our Coral Reef Fin Fish (trout, tuskies etc) don't get the same protection as the very same fish north of the bay. I guess some will disagree, but surely, we would be better off in the long term (and even in the short term) if our coral reef fish could spawn in peace each year. Anyway, they cannot, and yet they gather to do so. This makes them easy targets for fishos and spear fishers.

No-one is breaking the law targeting or taking the likes of trout etc in the southern bay (or further south to the border). It is fine to do so, and your chances of success are enhanced over the new moon. Perhaps a little restraint from some sectors might benefit everyone. Perhaps.

Trolling will be popular this week. Trout will be the main target, though totally avoiding cod, mackerel or perch species might be a challenge. A lot of tiny trout will be encountered in the shallows. Barely legal fish don't get returned to the water as much as they once did. Luckily, trout are prolific breeders and fast growers (if only they get the chance).

Grassy sweetlip are a good alternative target species for many shallow reef fans. They are turning up in better numbers week by week now and their size is gradually improving. Expect a lot of smaller 30-35cm fish in the shallows, with the odd fish better than 40cm. In time, deeper waters will be home to a better class of sweetlip. The holes between the bay islands have already produced a few sweeties to 50cm (nudging 2 kilos).

Urangan Channel gets overlooked by the masses, as they rocket out of the harbour headed for greener pastures. The scattered rubble beds, scallop shell dumping grounds and myriad of subtle rocky reef country is home to a great class of sweetlip. Quality coral trout occupy small isolates as well, and estuary cod are quite abundant. Night-time is best, though the sea breeze can be testing.

If you decide to give it a try, ensure your vessel isn't anchored in the regular shipping lanes, and that you are not hindering traffic with your drifts. Make sure you are well lit at night, and be aware that your lights can blend in with those in the background for those steaming towards the harbour. You can pick up a great feed at times, whilst burning next to no fuel. Many won't handle the current well though, so will be better suited to Gatakers Bay and elsewhere.

It is sad to hear that the dreaded sharks are once again having an impact around our inshore reefs. They have been stealing snapper and other reefies from the deeper artificial reefs and elsewhere recently, and are now a serious issue over some shallow reefs too. Not all are huge, but all are devastating, impossible to beat, and worth avoiding.

Great Sandy straits over the darks

The new moon brings many shallow water fisheries to life. Fraser's western flats and creeks flood with water, nutrient and baitfish and the resident predators react. Chasing flatties is a viable option, as is a session pursuing the grunter and jacks you can find in the creeks. Bream are there for those favouring the lightest gear, as is a modest feed of whiting.

Kingfisher Bay has been hosting a few decent fish of late. At times, there has been schools of whiting traversing the flats, whilst large flathead lays readily visible from the elevated jetty gives away their presence. Small jewfish have entertained a few kids hopping lures or soaking livies under the jetty, but quality fish have been rare.

The bay islands have been quiet much of the time, but it is bigger tides such as these that drain the vast flats to their west and force baitfish to run the gauntlet past the islands. The lower stage of the ebb tide can have large giant trevally on the hunt in waters shallow enough to warrant a session on stickbaits or poppers.

Queenies can turn up at times too, but only if there is an abundance of baitfish - and there is the potential issue. For far too long, and all too frequently, there just hasn't been enough baitfish or juvenile fish fodder to attract and hold numbers of larger predators. It won't take much effort to get a handle on the current scene down there, with a decent sounder, a few drifts flicking the right lures into the back eddies or the walls of current, tides such as these should see any transient predators respond.

You can use the big draining tides to your advantage further down the straits and fish the myriad of creeks and channels for a host of estuary predators. Grunter are many folks' primary target, whilst others favour salmon, jacks or flathead. All are possible in the right water.

There may still be a weed issue in some creeks, both along the inside of Fraser and further down the straits. Make sure you have plenty of fuel so alternative locations can be sussed out. You will witness the blue jellyfish phenomenon. The biomass of jellies is expanding rapidly. There are thousands upon thousands right throughout the Mary River system now and they are unlikely to leave any time soon.

The Mary has been giving up some stonker king salmon again of late. Large fish either side of 120cm can be an average along some stretches. Not in the serious numbers we enjoyed so often in the past, but big fish all the same. Soft vibes or prawn imitation plastics soon tempt any big sambos you spot on your sounder, and even a few you don't spot.

Blue salmon are still roaming the river. Many are very small and quite the pest, taking a liking to lures meant for their larger cousins. All the same, some folks have found patches of larger blue salmon, giving them a thrill as they peel line like a fish twice their size. Avoiding barra hasn't been hard. Pulling up at every known barra hotspot is not the way to do that though!

The perfect week for a jack attack

Making tides to a new moon, sunny days, light onshore breezes tending northerly, and warming waters all combine this week, culminating in the perfect recipe for success chasing mangrove jacks. Tie on your favourite lures or catch some primo baits and head for the Burum system, Fraser's western creeks or one of the creeks down the straits.

Evening sessions should be dynamite. The darks draw jacks out and they wander about terrorising all that get in their way. They have big eyes for a reason. Compare their eyes to other estuary species and you might envisage the advantage mother nature gave them. Go topwater if you dare. Here is your chance at some of the best tides of the whole year.

Big tides shift a lot of water and make particularly our larger rivers quite daunting for lure fishos. Flats cover for longer periods and with deeper water, hosting roaming jacks for brief stays before they too must retreat to deeper waters during the ebb tide. Isolated snags that are otherwise irrelevant can be temporary hotspots on such tides as these.

Timing is everything, as always, and even more-so over big tides. Pick spots where jacks can ambush prey. They love the current, yet lurk around structures that break that current. You can picture the scene. There are many such sites in the Burrum system (too many perhaps) and a few in each decent creek. Forget the creeks that are all mud and no snags or rock bars - jack does not live there (but grunter and sambos often do).

The chance of storms later next week only enhances your chances of mixing it with the red devils. Those very same big old eyes that allow them to locate their prey in minimal light also deny them the comfort other fish enjoy in bright sunshine. Hence, they love structure, they love shade, and they go into overdrive when storm clouds cover the sun.

Expect to catch a jack just beneath a structure such as an overhang, a log, a pontoon or a long-moored boat. He won't necessarily be on the bottom, being more at home just beneath that shadow-throwing structure. A lack of shady structure can see him swim deeper. Deep rocks and rocky holes are classic haunts for daytime forays seeking jack.

Look for him right up tight amongst the mangroves when the tide is in. Again, the shade is a primary factor, but so too is the abundance of morsels he can pick off from such environs. Small crabs, prawns, baitfish and even terrestrial critters unlucky enough to fall into the water, are all targets for a menacing mangrove jack. This is where the frogging craze and the desire by many to master the art of skip casting comes into its own.

If the whole concept of lure fishing, and particularly doing so over the big tides is too daunting, then simply gather some live baits, or fillet some mullet and park up-current of some likely jack lairs and hang on. You will get your shot if you chose your spots well. Do so after dark and your chances just increased exponentially.

A bit more action at the pier

Over the past week, there has been reports of broad-barred mackerel and queenfish turning up at the Urangan Pier. The broadies have been of decent size, and the queenies have been large too. Flathead are still a chance, but their numbers have dwindled. Try for them again over the next set of neaps.

Stacks of herring have returned to shelter beneath the pier. This is a welcome sight for pier regulars who all know how tough the fishing is when the herring vacate. These making tides could well see another run of school mackerel out the end. There is certainly enough within cooee to suspect they will make a visit.

The next bit of big news from the pier is likely to be the arrival of the summer's giant trevally. Now that the herring are back, if any mackerel linger for long enough, the GTs will come. You had better dust off the heavy tackle if you want to mix if with a Urangan Pier GT. More on that subject when we get confirmation of their arrival.

Our town beaches are only giving up a very modest feed of whiting, though your chances are better this week than last. Take the kids for a look and you might be pleasantly surprised. The worst you could do would be entertain them for a few hours catching and releasing the little tackers.

Wander the local creeks for a crack at a flathead, a grunter or perhaps a mangrove jack. Small queenies are also possible around the mouth or over the nearby flats. Jump in the car for something different and head down towards Tin Can Bay if you prefer. Those creeks at the little hamlets along the way are semi-accessible on foot and offer up some prime territory for snaring a flathead or jack. Flatties downstream, jacks upstream. Take the kayak and double the fun.

Not all impoundment barra drawing crowds

Lake Lenthalls is improving by the week at present. Just recently, some regulars discovered that the barra were actually biting, regardless of the dirty water. Latest reports are that the water quality continues to improve and the barra are biting quite regularly.

55-70cm barra are the norm out at Lenthalls. It would be nice to believe that there is still bigger fish in there, but it is quite unlikely. Freaks have turned up and towelled up the odd fisho in similar scenarios in the past though, so you never know.

The cows have eaten the vast majority of the lake's lily pads. Topwater is still a very viable option in Lenthalls though, as this lake's residents have always been fond of surface lures. Frogging is simplest and most effective, yet in the right hands, poppers and stickies are deadly too. Otherwise, it's just a matter of twitching suspending hardbodies or slow-rolling plastics in the downwind reaches to get hooked up to a Lenthalls barra.

Talk of bass stretching the tape to 50cm has made the grapevine this week too. Kayakers and boaties alike can have a ball on the bass in this lake, and when they are on, it can be a serious numbers game. This is going to be an interesting summer out at Lenthalls for those favouring the light tackle approach. A bit of peace and quiet and avoiding the big roar of Monduran will appeal to many as well.

Monduran continues to fish well, though not great. The big fish get spookier and spookier the heavier the traffic. Many are already showing signs of retreating to deeper waters - good news for trollers perhaps. Bycatch of 70cm barra is common, and for an increasing number of folks, their only catch.

The big fish are still active and very much catchable, but you might need to think outside the square and stop copying each other, and throwing all the same lures at the same fish. If fishing heavy timber isn't appealing, or your gear lacks the grunt, then mix it up in open water and try something different. Take it from someone with a stupid number of hours (years) on this lake - the barra will respond to some extreme variants.

The weather looks awesome for dam fishing this week. Consistent north-easterly sea breezes for days on end, leading into a northwester and storm weather. It doesn't get much better. The lake will be dead easy to read, which will mean lots of traffic in all the obvious locations. Once again, the crowds are the only thing getting in the way of big numbers of big fish.

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