TR by sunshiner
Wind: calm until we got back to the beach when the northerly kicked in
Swell: about 1m ESE
Water temp: 25.6°C
Tides: Low 03:40am (0.27m); High 10:21am (1.93m)
Current: gently toward north at Jew Shoal
Launch point: Middle Groyne and Doggie Beach
Surface action: Some bait on surface but no big splashes
Participants: diesel, panno, tunny, scottyD, jaro, irish_luck, sunshiner
My trip distance: 14.5km (had to have a sleep afterward)
Redmap: No sightings provided
Keen Angler Program: At least one snapper frame donated
All except scottyd launched at Middle Groyne. I'd briefly considered launching at Doggie Beach, where scotty launched, but based on the latest info I thought that northern Laguna Bay would have better prospects. Oops!
So there we were, at 4:00am, afloat and setting up in a glassy sea at Middle Groyne. We'd launched at dead low tide but the swell was tiny. A waning moon overlooked us and peeped through and between clouds moving slowly and low from the west. In the end, jaro, diesel and I headed for Jew Shoal, while tunny, panno, and (a bit later) irish_luck, went for Little Halls Reef.
Diesel and I, the forward scouts of our component, were on the shoal just as the sun peeped over the horizon. Probably panno and tunny were simultaneously arriving at Little Halls Reef. Radio comms were excellent between the locations and, as it turned out, very useful.
As diesel said "It doesn't get any better than this". He was, of course, referring to the weather. The sea surface was smooth, but unfortunately, not punctuated with explosions of baitfish and predators, as I hoped it might be.
Jaro was about 20 minutes behind us and was the first to get a strike on his trolled lure somewhere en route to JS, boating (and releasing) an undersize school mackerel. He also reported a good strike right on the edge of the shoal which failed to hookup properly.
After trolling onto the shoal without result I found some sign of baitfish down deep and decided to try an SP around them, mostly without success, unless a couple of grinners and an undersize pearl perch count. Neither diesel nor jaro were getting anything better apparently, as there was no triumphal announcements over the radio from them.
The Little Halls Reef push were doing better, for panno and tunny had happened upon some bait balls. The first we heard of this was when panno announced he'd had a solid strike and bite-off. (I reckoned it was likely a school mackerel as I've had that happen to me in that area before, successfully boating schoolies after beefing up the terminal tackle.) Soon the radio commentary between panno and tunny was making us feel envious. Apparently shoals of baitfish were visible on the surface, unharassed by terns. Using SPs, panno was picking off predators from underneath the shoals, using his sonar to advantage. First a small snapper, then another, then a flathead.
We were unaware that scottyd had launched until he came up on the radio, telling us that he was east of Doggie Beach (about 6km away on the other side of Noosa Head) and had just had a double hookup on spotty macs and boated both fish. He sounded chuffed, as you'd expect. As for us at Jew Shoal, we were torn between the two. Diesel and I decided for the west (3km paddle) while jaro, on his first paddle trip for ages and perhaps feeling frisky, opted to chase the spotties, a daunting 6km paddle there, and another 6-8km paddle home, some of it perhaps into the forecast northerly. By the time we were underway scottyd had confirmed that he was bagged out (as often happens when you find a patch of spotty macs) and heading back west to Doggie Beach. You can see scottyd's post on our Facebook group page; thanks for posting scotty.
Diesel and I knocked off the 3km in about 30 minutes, he a little less, I a little more. On arrival we could see panno and tunny paddling gently in circles on the millpond that was Little Halls Reef. The baitfish were moving quite quickly so to maintain contact with them required some effort. Patches of bait which weren't on the surface were also visible on sonar. Presumably, the baitfish which were on the surface were being harassed by snapper and other minor league predators, while the other sub-surface patches were simply resting between attacks, or lying doggo. Whatever, panno by now had picked up a third small but keeper snapper and a quite large slatey bream (to be confirmed when panno provides a photo).
I pulled up next to the first patch of bait I came to, whacked an SP into the milling throng and let it sink (the whole reef is only 14m or so deep) and quite quickly picked up a small keeper snapper.
The surface patches of bait were moving quite quickly, as demonstrated when tunny and I started following one patch to get within casting distance. The whole patch was moving and we were paddling at about 5-6kph for several minutes, slowly catching them; several terns were having brekky on these fish as they moved. We could tell that we were not overrunning them because they weren't showing on the sonar until we actually caught up. So why were they moving so quickly? Either they were chasing smaller (and unusually fast swimming) prey or were themselves being spooked by the few predators present. My guess is the latter.
Panno had decided to head home, as he had a nice gift for his mother-in-law (touching, isn't it?) then diesel also departed the scene. This left only irish_luck, tunny and me. Tunny's persistence finally paid off when he boated a nice school mackerel about 70cm on a pillie bait and soon after that with the air temperature rising rapidly and the first signs of the forecast northerly we three headed for the groyne, arriving there about 0900. Jaro's sail was visible on the NE horizon as we approached the groyne and he came ashore soon afterward, fishless, knackered but still enthusiastic.
Now we know the spotties are around, it's likely just a matter of time before they enter the bay and start smashing the bait. Dust off your slug casting outfits, guys.
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