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Fisho's Weekly Fishing Report - 17 November, 2023

by Fisho's Tackle World 17 Nov 2023 07:07 UTC
Deb Munchow was stoked with this 96cm fatty from Mondy. She and Charlie were still catching them when this photo was sent © Fisho's Tackle World

Finally, there's wet weather on the way

It's very warm, muggy and windy here on the Fraser Coast right now. Storms have been brewing out west and they are heading our way today. Indeed, there is every chance that quite severe storms could impact any part of our region this afternoon or evening, or possibly even earlier - which will be somewhat exciting.

Today's 25 knot north-wester will give way to a south-east change overnight. Saturday is likely to dawn a little cooler but still quite humid, as onshore winds of around 20 knots maintain the rage in a rather moist atmosphere. Another band of storms is possible, with cloudy skies prevailing. The breeze could ease back to 15 knots during Saturday, maintaining a steady 15-20 knots and tending more easterly for Sunday. Expect showers.

An unstable atmosphere and an onshore air flow means the chance of showers (and perhaps the odd storm) throughout much of the working week. The chance of rain increases pretty much daily. An easing breeze should average 10-15 knots tending more northerly during the week.

We will all welcome some showers and storms, and even more-so the chance of steady rains. It hasn't hit the ground yet, but it looks pretty good. We might not see much of the moon under cloudy skies this week, but rest assured it will be there, waxing daily, right through the first quarter phase Monday and onwards towards the full moon Monday-week. Neap tides for now, building as we go - a great week to be on the water somewhere.

Tough times on the billfish front

The 2023 Garmin Hervey Bay Game Fishing Classic was run last weekend, from Friday through Sunday. The inshore and offshore billfish scene was super tough before the event, and unfortunately, it didn't improve at all during the comp.

There was a good turn out for the event, with some 40 vessels and 129 anglers registered (including 5 ladies and 6 juniors). The weather wasn't ideal, but we have certainly seen far worse for this time of year. The 15-knot easterly and a lumpy bar crossing made the smaller boats work hard offshore, but offshore was where you needed to be to have any real chance at a billfish.

Bad water inshore continues to deny inshore marlin fishos any glory this season. Throughout the whole 3-day event, there was only one marlin landed inside Hervey Bay. Indeed, even the prolific inshore vermin (non-billfish) bycatch was quite minimal. This pool of unappealing green water in the bay is showing no signs of moving on or improving this spring, but we still hold a candle out in hope.

The scene offshore was very tough too, with many experienced crews failing to bring a billfish to the tag pole. All up for the whole event, there was a total of 116 strikes for 91 hookups and 59 tagged fish. Only 16 billfish were tagged, whilst 43 "other species" went back sporting little yellow bits of plastic.

Of the billfish caught, 7 were striped marlin, 6 were blues and there were 3 baby blacks. The stripes came from the crest of the shelf in 100-150m, the blues wider and deeper, and the little blacks closer inshore. Offshore bycatch included wahoo, yellowfin tuna and mahi mahi (dolphinfish). There appeared to be good numbers of flying fish taking flight and sub-surface bait schools here and there out deeper, but the overall bite was lack lustre and captures were well down in every department.

It is hard to write about such a disappointing bite and overall results from what has been a very exciting and developing fishery for so many years. Even more-so at this time of year when the fishery should be peaking, and during a reasonable spell of weather to boot. Sadly, any competitors that might have gotten bored enough to consider alternative fishing exploits were foiled by the Qld Coral Reef Fin Fish Closure that denied them any moments of joy deep dropping or reef fishing during their down time too.

Nonetheless, the Hervey Bay Game Club, its committee and its sponsors put on a great competition, and there were many happy times enjoyed both on the water and back at the club's finale thereafter.

For the record, the winners list looked something like this:

  • Champion Boat Over 7.5m - "Play n Hard"
  • Champion Boat Under 7.5m - "Radonkulous"
  • Champion Boat Fishing Inside Only - "Dragon Lady"
  • Champion Heavy Tackle Angler - Ben Kelly
  • Champion Light Tackle Angler - Adam Argus
  • Champion Female Angler - Rylee Howe
  • Champion Junior Angler - Max Proctor
  • Runner Up Junior Angler - Harper Penne
  • First Billfish Tagged - Adam argus
  • Last Billfish Tagged - Adam Fooks
  • Champion Hervey Bay Angler - Wayne Thomsen
  • Heaviest Wahoo - PJ Bennett
  • Alien Photo Comp Winner - Mat Hubs

Bay tuna fixated on tiny baitfish

Trolling skirted lures intended for marlin in other parts of Oz will often see you hooked up regularly to tuna of all sorts. Not so much here in the bay this time of the year though. Yellowfin tuna out wider being the one exception, Hervey Bay's longtail and mack tuna are very much focussed on gorging themselves on the hapless tiny baitfish that flood into the bay as our waters warm.

If you want to get hooked up to a Hervey Bay tuna in spring, then best you follow the tried-and-true methods of high-speed spinning with small metal slugs and/or tiny jerkshads matched to diminutive jig heads. Slender profiled metals are the go. Leave the spoon types for your mackerel forays (spotties being the exception of course).

Apparently, there is hordes of tuna in the central bay right now. There are also big schools up the island as well, but they are already proving a little flighty and fussy. The way you approach the surface feeding schools and the lures you throw at them will determine how successful your tuna outing will be. This early in the spring-summer tuna season you will need to carry lures that will match the smaller-sized baitfish.

Those of you that are inclined to target tuna on relatively light tackle can opt to throw small jig head rigged jerkshads their way. Shortening some softies to match the hatch is advisable and quite easy (trim the fat end of course). Re-think your light tackle approach if there is evidence of sharks harassing the tuna schools however. Word is that they are already proving to be an issue.

The first of this season's spotted mackerel have been caught already. Only very small numbers of larger scout fish, as predicted, but a sure reminder of what is about to come. Once the skies clear and the sun comes back out after this week's rain events, local spotty fans might be seen scanning the horizon for the tell-tale signs of schools of surface-sipping mackerel amongst the tuna. By month's end, we should be hearing of increasingly more common captures. I say "should", as we've all seen what has become of the marlin scene this spring!

Platypus Bay should be alive with baitfish and their pursuing predators after this blow. The water might be too "dirty" for marlin, but the tuna have already gathered in numbers off Wathumba and are feeding hard. There has been plenty of small flying fish mentioned amongst reports this week, yet the tuna are still playing hard to get for anyone denying them the tiny profiled lures they demand.

Mackerel and goldies on offer inshore

A good run of school mackerel in the western and southern bay preceded this latest blow. Bag limits were quite easily achieved via the usual methods, and the average size of the fish has been good too. The Burrum 8 Mile, the Fairway, the Outer Banks and undoubtedly a few other bait-laden hotspots produced mackerel last week.

They could scatter or consolidate after a blow such as this. The bay looks filthy right now, with 25 knots of northerly pumping inshore. Baitfish will seek shelter, and that shelter can be in the form of deeper reefs in an area. A quick troll or scan of likely grounds will soon reveal their presence once the weather settles.

Golden trevally have been quite prevalent over a vast acreage of the bay. There has been big goldies harassing schools of yakka and herring in Platypus Bay, in the western bay and out around the banks. On occasion, the goldies have been clearly visible in the water, as they circle their temporary hangout.

Unfortunately, the flaming sharks have been building in number once again. Not all goldies are making it to the boat for the usual snapshot and release. Hanging around when the sharks are menacing is foolish and totally inappropriate - no matter your target species. Their return in bigger numbers probably spells the end for your snapper fishing exploits inshore, at least for the bigger, harder-fighting knobbies anyway.

Reef fishing worth a crack when the winds ease

Now that the last of the annual reef fish closures are over and done with, you can once again head north and gather a feed of tasty reefies. If you don't venture up the Bruce, then the northern bay might be worth a prospect. Coral trout can bite quite well this time of year out wide. Yet they get a much-needed reprieve from angler effort due to the north wind, its perceived poor bite, and most fishos' reluctance to punch their way into it for 30+ miles.

Should you get the chance soon, then take it perhaps, as it will only take a prolonged spell of better weather to see an increase in traffic and the resultant amassing of large sharks on all of the commonly known grounds. Ledge country such as the Gutters could give up a feed now, but be very frustrating very soon.

Staying inshore, particularly during less-than-ideal weather will still see you heading home with a feed if you are smart. You can try the shallow reefs for coral trout and grass sweetlip, or target the same species over the deeper reefs as well. Try night sessions if the sea breeze relents, as the best sweeties and some very nice squire are on the cards inshore.

Taking a few deep-diving hardbodies for a stroll might encourage a roaming mackerel or golden trevally throughout the shipping channels, or better still, a coral trout, a cod, or even a snapper nearer the hard reefs and ledges. Obviously, slow it right down for the reefies and speed it up for the pelagics. Tumultuous weather events such as these offer many varieties of otherwise semi-sedentary fish an opportunity to roam and find greener pastures. You might be surprised where a quality reef fish can turn up on a random troll along otherwise unfished ledges and channels.

Local effort focussed on the estuaries

Filthy weather denies access to the open waters of the bay, but not so the estuaries. Indeed, some intrepid river regulars will relish the chance to mix it with angry mangrove jacks and hyperactive king salmon as storms threaten in the west. Take no chances, and make sure you have somewhere to retreat or shelter if the storm clouds tower high, as hailstones and extreme winds are downright dangerous.

Chances are the worst of such storm activity will move out to sea this evening, leaving you with a weekend to wander our rivers and streams. Not everyone will favour a day out in what might be wet and windy conditions, but those that do, should be rewarded.

The Mary River will be hosting a fleet of salmon pursuers once again. Some will go home empty-handed, some might only find the blues, whilst others will get to tangle with large kingies. Any salmon will give you plenty of sport if they are large (and neither if they are small), but only the threadfin (kingies) really appeal in the culinary stakes.

Enhanced feeding opportunities arise from filthy weather such as this for a host of estuarine predators and foragers alike. Whiting and bream can scout about in shallower waters in the wind-swept wide-open stretches picking up morsels dislodged by recent turbulence. Avoiding flotillas of similarly dislodged weed may be necessary, but the opportunities are still there.

Flatties will retreat to deeper waters or sheltered waters whilst the blow is at its worse. The opportunity to pounce on unsuspecting prey sheltering in the same waters making their strategy sound. Hop a lure past one - you will soon see that they are active.

Grunter will take advantage of turbid waters and can often feed for longer in the shallower margins during times such as these. They've been on the chew in the Gregory River of late, and very likely elsewhere within the Burrum system too. Straits' grunter will be worth pursuing as well, and better results than usual might be anticipated over the neaps, purely due to recent turbulence.

Your chance to help fisheries research into threadfin salmon

Whilst a growing majority of folks release each and every king threadfin salmon they catch, some others keep all, and many keep just the odd fish to feed their family whilst releasing the majority. If you are keen on a feed of threadfin salmon, then go ahead and keep one.

You can even aid in the current round of genetic sampling studies that Fisheries Qld is undertaking, by letting them come and collect your fish's frame. Just bag the frame, then give them a call on 0419 672 689. They will come and collect. An added bonus being that disposal of the waste product is sorted.

If you are yet to retain a threadfin salmon for the table, then be prepared for a few hassles. The first being their general large size compared with what an average estuary fisho's esky might cater for. Bending large fish to compress them into smaller eskies is commonplace but quite problematic.

Carrying the you-beaut Insulated Cooler Bags from Daiwa just in case is becoming more common. Often, we have no intention of killing a large salmon, yet it dies anyway. Poor or unnecessarily prolonged handling is often the culprit as the captor fusses about taking happy snaps. At other times it is just bad luck due to a torn gill raker or badly bleeding fish from an unlucky hook-set. In too many cases, simply catching these fish from deeper waters often results in them suffering the effects of barotrauma. Keep them in the water for better releases.

Here's a good tip for any fishos limited by esky space that have to bend their fish to make them fit. Once you get home, simply fillet the sambo whilst it is still bent. It is easier than you think. Once the first fillet is removed, the remainder of the fish will relax and flatten out.

Resist the temptation to flatten the fish back out before you fillet, as after rigor mortis has set in (and hopefully the flesh has set in a super-chilled ice slurry), any attempt to do so will tear the flesh and ruin it. You will likely consider king salmon mushy-fleshed if you do this. Ask around, that is some folks' opinion of threadies, and that is the reason why.

Be warned though, even if you are an accomplished fish filleter, you are not going to enjoy filleting your first threadfin salmon. There are large nodules of bone located annoyingly along the uppermost parts of its body. The first, right where you insert the knife behind the head, the next below the main dorsal and (in some larger fish) another mid-way down the tail section. The larger lumpy bones of the backbone aft also favour the careful and meticulous filleter.

Get it wrong and rush it and you risk ruining a quality eating fish. Take your time. Use just the tip of your knife and whittle your way carefully. If you mess it up, maybe cut up the frame and BBQ it. Fisheries research might miss out on an opportunity, but you haven't wasted a precious fish.

Whiting and gar along our beaches

Catching numbers of whiting from our town beaches is largely a spring tide affair, or at least during the "makes". A blow such as this can be a potential game-changer though, stirring up our beach waters and creating enhanced feeding opportunities for the whiting. Given that a few intrepid fishos have been catching whiting bettering the 30cm mark with some regularity along the Urangan beaches/flats this week, a serious session might be warranted.

Topwater has been the method of choice for those willing to report their recent whiting captures. The seas will need to settle dramatically before such activities can be replicated, so bait fishos will likely lead the charge once the worst of the winds ease. Yabbies will be the bait favoured by most whiting fans. Random grunter catches from our beaches or piers would come as no surprise this week.

Fishing for garfish has also been popular over the past few days. Some garfish fans take up elevated positions from rock groynes or piers, whilst others pursue them from the sand. Either way, a little light berley, some tiny long-shanked hooks and a float attached to the lightest outfit you own is the go. Pieces of yabby or prawn are popular baits. Some people eat garfish, others just gather them for bait. Fun stuff for the kids if you want to give it a try.

Tumultuous times on Fraser Island beaches

Fraser Island locals have mentioned that there is still a lot of bird activity behind the surf break and above some gutters along the island's surf beach. Exact whereabouts unknown, but supposedly somewhere between Eurong and the Cathedrals.

There are some very nice gutters once again, some deep and others more likely to house whiting if they were about. Fishos have been observed spinning for tailor through deeper gutters, particularly where the birds have been swooping.

The beach is wide and flat once again, and beach travel is quick. Inland tracks are still powdery dry and boggings are commonplace. Rains this week will be very welcome. There is still the ongoing threat of returning weed to some gutters, so being mobile and willing to travel is advisable. This week's weather will have an impact on fishability, but we will bring you any gossip in coming weeks if it seems pertinent.

Impoundment barra on the move

Barra numbers have been thinning out in many of the far flung reaches of Lake Monduran, as unprecedented traffic continues to impact those areas. Just recently, Bird Bay topped the score cards for quality and numbers versus the other big bays in the mid reaches and further beyond.

The barra are starting to school and move. Numbers of bigger fish are making their way towards the lower reaches of the lake. By the time you read this, trollers have likely discovered this unfolding fishery. From the main basin, through the wide-open river course and through deep creek channels, larger barra are becoming more pelagic in nature and suspending, cruising and hunting in deep open waters.

Hot and humid conditions over the past few days have had these open water barra fired right up. They won't "bite" the whole time, but boy, when they do, it's a trollers' paradise. If you thought the Mondy ramps and parking was an issue so far this season, then bite down on something next time you visit.

Trolling for big barra in open waters appeals to many folks (but not all). So too, hanging off suspended schools and casting at fish in deeper open waters appeals to many too (but not all). With any luck, a lot of the unrewarded effort so many folks new to the lake have expended wandering its vast margins can be refocussed on the simpler and (for many) very rewarding storm season open water fishery.

The fish being hounded and pinged so relentlessly in some stretches might even enjoy the reprieve and return to the previous hotspots. The bite has been good all week, just not from all the fish. Pinged, caught and pestered fish in the shallow reaches react negatively to constant pressure. A few of us know that from history on this lake and in other local waters.

Schooling barra that have travelled great distances are hungry and aggressive. They will bite well, regardless of boat traffic - for a period. So, if you've been lagging at the wrong end of the numbers scale, then you can join the fun in the main basin and surrounds with the gathering crowds and troll up a dozen or two big barra for a session. What happens on days and nights like the last couple may be hard to replicate when different weather patterns evolve.

Flash side scanners, electric motors and high end barra tackle aren't even necessary for trolling exploits when the big barra turn pelagic. Those factors certainly enhance your chances greatly though. What you see on raw old school sonar is nothing compared to what a side scanner will reveal, enabling you to direct your lures through the fish spied to your sides.

An electric motor will certainly beat anchoring on the big open bay points where tying off to trees is not an option. Casting at schools of fish retreating from the open waters during the periods of high sun can be highly productive. Here's your chance to experiment with your growing arsenal of lures - or just use the same as everyone else.

Bargains galore for Black Friday

Are you seeking some genuine retail therapy? Are you keen to get in early and get Xmas sorted? Or are you just keen to replenish or renew your tackle supplies and save big bucks? Well, you don't have to wait long now, as Fisho's mighty Black Friday Sale is on next Friday through Sunday.

Anyone who knows Fishos and has been into our store for recent sales knows that we don't do things by halves. There will be a massive range of products heavily reduced storewide. Fishing tackle, apparel, marine electronics, boating accessories, snorkelling and spearfishing gear as well as a wide array of sundries will be priced to sell.

As always, we will match online prices and won't even wait for you to ask. So, don't waste your time and money elsewhere, save up for now and rock on down to Fisho's for one of the biggest sales of the year.

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