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The Year That Was
  |  First Published: December 2010



It’s that time again, when we welcome in a new year and start thinking about the fishing opportunities that lie ahead.

But before launching into that, let’s look at some of last year’s highlights for anglers on Fraser Island’s beaches and headlands.

2010

For most of the year, the eastern beaches have been clear of the dreaded brown weed that can choke up inshore waters. We had a bit of a scare when it made a slight show south of Indian Head in September and more recently at the end of November, it reappeared along much of the eastern beach. Unfortunately, it could still be a problem this month.

The almost transparent ‘snot’ weed that comes in on your line, and is a real pain to remove, still comes and goes but this is nothing new. On the inside of the island north of Moon Point the seasonal weed infestation hasn’t been too bad this year, probably due to the fact that the seasonal northerly winds of late spring and early summer have not been as severe. Relative absence of weed on both sides of the island has been great for the tailor season and for whiting and flathead on the inside beaches.

It has been another disappointing year for sand whiting on the ocean beach. In fact the last few seasons have been well below what we remember of a decade ago. I can offer no explanation except to suggest that there are climatic and other factors that we do not understand at work here.

The whiting season was not a complete disaster but anglers were finding that ideal low water gutters that would normally hold a good number of fish, were holding just the odd one. This has resulted in the necessity for the ‘gutter crawl’ from one to the next, with the hope of picking up one or two from each. I understand that the beaches downstream from the Hook Point barge landings produced some whiting on the early morning ebb tides in late August, but this was also disappointing compared with previous years. On the inside beach, the normal spring run of whiting eventuated but almost half the fish were undersize.

It was another big tailor season in 2010 with the usual tent cities springing up between Cathedral Beach and Dundubara and other popular sites. In some years we have seen a concentration of tailor along certain sections of the beach, with generally poor fishing elsewhere.

The much publicised and photographed lines of shoulder-to-shoulder anglers happen every year along the gutters north of Cathedral Beach. Last year, however, there was a much more even distribution of tailor along the eastern beach. This was a real bonus for those, myself included, who like to find a few good fish in just about any decent looking gutter without needing to join the crowd.

The annual closure between and including Indian Head and Waddy Point once again saw huge schools of fish milling around the headlands. On opening day, the afternoon 30 September, hundreds of the faithful were on hand to experience the exciting fishing that Indian Head can turn on. However within days the tailor had all but disappeared.

Bream are rarely prolific along Fraser’s beaches although there are always plenty hanging around the headlands. During 2010, however, they had a resurgence with double figure caches of big fish coming in regularly. This may have been the result of the heavy run-offs from mainland streams. On the other hand, the related tarwhine were down in both quantity and quality.

This was a year that had everyone talking about the abundance of mulloway (jew) along the eastern beach. They were more abundant than in any other year in my memory. As I have said in an earlier article, most have been under the legal size of 75cm and were carefully released. Based on the sessions I was involved in, I have estimated that only one in about 50 made the grade while most of the undersize fish measured between 55-75cm. Unfortunately we saw a number of anglers taking undersize fish and without any respect for the bag limit of two.

On talking to some of these anglers, we found that some were ignorant of the laws and were happy to fall into line. Others didn’t have a clue as far as identification was concerned. Still others knew what they were doing and, some impolitely, suggesting we concentrate on our own fishing. On a positive note, the abundance of these sub-adult fish augurs well for future years and it will be interesting to see if more legal jew are taken this year.

Another highlight was the abundance of snub-nosed dart (aka oyster cracker or permit). This wonderful and quite famous sportfish turns up often but rarely in big numbers. Last year there were multiple catches, mostly taken on pipis by anglers targeting whiting and dart on light tackle. Then there were the bonefish (yet another famous sportfish) that had lots of whiting anglers excited, thinking that they had scored the mother of all whiting.

Overall 2010 was a good year on the Island. In fact as the years progress, they seem to be getting better. I have no doubt that the closure of most of the eastern beach to netting has made a significant impact. When the Marine Park was legislated, most of the eastern beach was zoned yellow, the only exceptions being at the far southern and far northern sections that are zoned blue.

In a yellow zone, recreational fishing is permitted with just one line used while in a blue zone recreational and commercial fishing is allowed. As well as the blue and yellow zones, a small section of Green Zone (no fishing of any kind) is in place around Middle Rocks, between Indian Head and Waddy Point. Apart from the favourable zoning, other factors such as increased sizes and bag limits may have contributed.

2011

What can we really expect in this new year? The major determining factor will be the weather and, from what the experts tell us, we’re going to be in for it! Hopefully the expected cyclones and east coast lows will not be too savage.

With most of the savage weather expected early in the year, a look back at 2010 tells us that we can expect heavy conditions at anytime. At least it doesn’t take long for the fishing to come good after a big blow. New gutters formed or filled in, or new rocks exposed or covered up produce new features producing new food sources that quickly attract fish inshore.

In reasonable conditions we can expect the usual species like dart, tailor, tarwhine and jew to be as cooperative as they were last year. I am going to be optimistic enough to expect those magnificent sand whiting to return to our low tide gutters, the way they used to be.

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