Darting About
  |  First Published: May 2011

When the change of seasons comes around it is always a bit of a guess as to how local fishing will be affected.

The best estimate might involve what was happening a year ago, or perhaps how the recent months might influence what is ahead. Last May, conditions turned out pretty well all things considered. On most days, conditions were at least fishable and there were plenty of fish ready to cooperate, so that’s a positive for this year. On the other hand while we are still in the grip of La Nina, we should not be so optimistic.

The rains continue, albeit not to the same extent experienced during the floods, and no more than we would expect in a normal season. Large outpourings of freshwater from local rivers and streams certainly have negative consequences. In neighbouring Hervey Bay, coral reefs in the more open waters around Gatakers Bay and Point Vernon have been affected more noticeably than those around Woody and Round islands, and reefs that more regularly submitted to freshwater out of the Mary River.

Along the beaches of Fraser Island, we don’t really know what long term effects there are, whether or not there have been long term problems in the offshore habitat, problems that might affect fishing in the short term. To be optimistic, however, we can only see positives. All this freshwater coming off the land is bringing essential nutrients to the marine system; nutrients that every member of the food chain ultimately depend upon.

These next few months are going to be very interesting, and I for one will be watching them closely.

Fraser Fish File

This is the first of what I hope to feature in some future monthly reports. Here we will take a look at some of the important angling species of the eastern and western beaches of Fraser Island, as well as those in Sandy Straits. I will include some background information, as well some of the best locations and methods being employed by top anglers.

This month we will take a look at a group of fishes that make up some of the many members of the Carangidae family. These are the snub-nosed dart, species of dart and queenfish.

The darts are closely related, all being of genus Trachinotus but the queenfish is more a distant cousin. I am including the queenfish in this group because of similar markings to the dart, and because it is sometimes known as giant dart.

The snub-nosed dart, aka oyster cracker and permit, is a prize catch on Fraser Island’s ocean beach. In my column in March QFM, I included a photo of such a prize fish. Throughout many parts of the world, permit is keenly sought by saltwater fly enthusiasts. Here at Fraser Island they are taken right along the eastern beach, probably more so south of Indian Head.

By far, the snub-nosed dart’s favourite bait is the pipi, hence the common name of oyster cracker. They are not solitary fish as when one is taken there is a fair chance there will be another close by. I have often been asked whether they might also be located over the flats of the western side of the island where golden trevally are often targeted by fly fishers. To the best of my knowledge, they don’t frequent these flats, but it would be nice if they did.

The common dart, aka swallowtail, needs no introduction as this is by far the most common beach catch. There would hardly be a piece of beach or rock from Sandy Cape to Hook Point where it wouldn’t be possible to catch this fish. Not surprisingly, I have something to say about dart in just about every column I write.

Big dart make great sport and when bled and skinned, make excellent table fare. Smaller dart, ranging from just a few centimetres up to its legal minimum length, are prolific to the point of being a dreaded nuisance. They are well known for ruining whiting fishing in the island’s shallow gutters.

Dart are not totally restricted to the eastern beach as they often taken around Moon Point, Coungul and Woralie creeks. The top baits for dart are the naturally occurring sea worms and pipis, although the bigger fish will attack WA pilchards and can become a real problem for serious tailor anglers. I learned many years ago that a bright green bead would help to attract dart. More recently I have used small lime-green grubs with some success.

A second specie, the northern swallowtail, occasionally turns up along Fraser’s east coast. It can be readily distinguished from the common dart by the presence of about three distinct dark spots along the lateral line where the common dart has about five less distinct blotches above the lateral line.

As already mentioned the queenfish, aka leatherskin, giant dart or skinny, is a distantly related specie. Although not commonly abundant along the ocean beach, they often turn up in numbers as they chase baitfish towards the beach or rocks. I have caught them around Ngkala Rocks and just inside the Sandy Cape spit.

On the western beach, queenfish are often seen patrolling the shallows north from Moon Point. Fly fishers stalking golden trevally often tangle with them along the flats. The queenfish pictured was taken at Moon Point by Brad Baldwin using a 5” Electric Chicken Snapback on a 3/0H 1/4oz jighead.

This month, the big dart are going well for the few anglers who are working the gutters. It has actually been very quiet as far as visitors are concerned with backpacker numbers also well down. I have also received the sad news that the shop and other facilities at Happy Valley have closed down. I don’t have any details but I am sure I am not alone in hoping that it is up and running again in the not too distant future. To the best of my knowledge, the Cathedral Beach and Orchid shops are still operating and the shops and bakery at Eurong are operating as usual.

In next month’s column we will take a close look at Indian Head.

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