Predictions a Prickly Subject
  |  First Published: October 2011

Predicting fishing prospects weeks in advance is very similar predicting weather conditions for a similar time.

However we must concede that the weather gurus are doing a great job these days, thanks to the much improved technological aids at their disposal. I must also concede that as a writer and gazer into the future, my fishing predictions haven’t been too successful in recent months.

I use a number of tools when trying to give some idea of what might be expected each month. For starters I take a look at what has been happening on the island lately. This includes beach and water conditions and what fish have been taken. As well as my own observations I rely on information coming in from various parts of the island.

I then go right into my fishing diary; a record that spans many decades. Here I’m able to compare fish catches with tide and weather conditions. Then I look at long range weather forecasts and hopefully put it all together to produce something that has some value.

Earlier this year I made some fairly rosy predictions for the winter months, but as those who have fished the island during July and August will know, these were two of the most disappointing months for years.

I am not trying to make excuses but this last year has been extraordinary when we think of the weather that has been thrown at us. I don’t pretend to know why, but I think it could be that the huge volumes of water coming out of the Brisbane, Mary and Burnett Rivers earlier in the year could have upset the delicate balance of systems that affect the distribution of feeding fish along the beaches of the island. Even if this is the case this year, we can be confident that the longer term effects will be positive for the future.

Having said all that I’m not too sure that I’m brave enough to give some predictions of any value for October, but I’ll give it a go.

The annual tailor run is happening and should be expected to last through until at least the end of October. I haven’t heard too much bragging about extra large specimens with small fish being the norm. Beaches north of Cathedral Beach usually produce the most exciting tailor fishing but recent reports suggest that the fish are widespread along the ocean beach north from Dilli Village.

As usual there has been no shortage of dart but whiting continue to be disappointing. I have to admit that the gradual decline in whiting catches over the last five to eight years is a mystery to me. In that time we have seen most of the ocean beach zoned yellow, which put a halt to netting, with the exception of that for bait. When this legislation came into effect many of us confidently expected whiting catches would gradually improve on the eastern beach. The situation on the western beach is quite different. Here the numbers and quality of whiting have declined but almost the entire beach, north of Moon Point, is worked regularly by commercial fishos.

Headlands Re-open

One thing that we can predict with certainty is that anglers are permitted to fish Indian Head and Waddy Point from Friday September 30 at noon. This is good news for those who don’t mind a lot of company when the tailor are on the bite. It is also good news for anglers fishing the rocky features for other species, something denied to them due to the tailor closure.

Moon Point Access

In an earlier QFM, I featured Moon Point as a viable alternative to trying to fish the ocean beach in difficult weather. Unfortunately access from the ocean beach has become very difficult. The Happy Valley to Moon Point road remains closed beyond the Northern Road turn off. This has come about because much of the western section of this road crossed marsh lands that were heavily affected by the deluges earlier in the year. The Urangan to Moon Point barge no longer operates, neither do the tourist buses from Moon Point to Happy Valley. Both of these services ceased before the wet conditions caused the road closure. The roads to Woralie and Awinya creeks remain open.

Fish File - Whiting

Time for another Fish File. There are five local species of whiting, all of which might have at least some interest to anglers frequenting Fraser Island and Hervey Bay. They are the sand whiting (Sillago ciliata), the golden lined whiting (Sillago analis), the northern whiting (Sillago sihama), the diver whiting (Sillago maculata) and the stout whiting (Sillago robusta).

The sand whiting is by far the dominant whiting along Fraser Island’s beaches. It is uniformly silver, lacking any body spots or blotches. The presence of a black blotch at the base of the pectoral fin distinguishes it from the golden lined whiting. Sand whiting are taken throughout the year along both eastern and western beaches and over the mangrove lined flats of the western shoreline. The peak times appear to be March to June along the open eastern beach, September and October at Hook Point and August to October along the western beach, north of Moon Point.

The golden lined whiting is often mistaken for sand whiting. However it lacks the pectoral fin black spot of the sand whiting. It also has a golden line along the body, just under the lateral line. While both this and the sand whiting have yellow fins, the fins tend to be more orange in colour. I often hear reports of golden lined whiting being taken along the ocean beach of Fraser Island but I have yet to see this myself. After all, it is not the kind of environment that this fish prefers. They are much more common throughout Sandy Straits and in Hervey Bay. They prefer quieter waters over sand and mud flats. Hervey Bay anglers are catching golden lined whiting along the foreshores at Shelly Beach and south of the Urangan Boat Harbour.

Another silvery fish, the northern whiting is an unlikely visitor to Fraser Island. It is quite common in the lower reaches of the Susan and Mary rivers as well as in creeks feeding into Sands Strait. Until recently, the northern whiting was unregulated, having no legal length or bag limit. There were occasions when anglers disputed being written up for having under-size sand whiting, in the belief that they were northern whiting, a much more slender fish with a flattened head. In the most recent regulations, all three previously mentioned species have a legal minimum length of 23cm and a combined bag limit of 30.

Diver whiting - aka winter whiting - are taken in big numbers throughout Hervey Bay and Sandy Strait. The dark blotches along their body distinguish them from their silvery relatives. Anglers working the inside of the island might encounter the odd one around Moon Point or over the flats at Bogimbah Creek. The catch of a diver whiting along the ocean beach would be an amazing rarity.

I included the stout whiting in this selection for a fairly obscure reason. About a year ago a trawler came to grief on the ocean beach and cases of stout whiting were scattered all over the beach. Quite a lot of interest was aroused with some visitors thinking that they might be one of the more prestigious species. The local dingo population didn’t take long to hone in on their good fortune and were last seen heading for the hills with very content looks on their faces.

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