End of Seasons
  |  First Published: November 2011

This year’s tailor season on Fraser Island is drawing to a close but there will still be a few good fish snapping on pilchards and metals this month. The best fish are expected to be taken on both sides of Indian Head, particularly on dusk or later.

Reviewing the last season, one can only say that it was not up to the usual standard. The much anticipated greenbacks were late in arriving and then behaved spasmodically for the season. Early season fish were generally of very poor quality, some not even making the very generous 35cm limit.

Periods of heavy weather conditions also contributed. I have spoken to a number of anglers who couldn’t get a line into the surf for a full week during the peak of the season. Others fluked reasonable weather and reported fair catches. Other species were also light on with dart, a few tarwhine and bream in most of the gutters.

Into Cockroach Country

As much as I enjoy the challenges of fishing Fraser Island, the Sandy Straits and Hervey Bay, I set aside a few weeks each year to venture south into northern NSW for experiences that are a little different. Our trips have taken us as far south as South West Rocks but in recent years Evans Head has been our destination.

Regular readers may have picked up on the fact that I am an unashamed luderick fanatic. Let’s make one thing clear: I am not one of the sleepy brigade that dozes off waiting for a float to bob. As luderick are not always prolific one has to be continually on the move checking out the changing tides, eddies and other conditions.

Different forms of baits and the various depths at which fish might be feeding all need to be addressed. This year’s trip produced some particularly large fish, or bronzies as they are known, that had come into the river during extremely heavy weather outside.

Visiting the same place for almost 17 years certainly builds up a lot of useful information. Part of this comes from one’s own experiences, but also from getting to know many of the locals and regular visiting anglers.

A few of them are as silly as I am and love to chase luderick, but there are others who have brought suitable craft and like to head out onto the reefs to the southeast of Evans Head. Others poke around the walls chasing bream while there are some who fish the channels and banks further up river for flathead and whiting.

There are also those who venture out through the National Park to the headlands looking for tailor, jew and bream. Yet another group fish the beaches north towards Broadwater for bream, jew, tailor and whiting.

Although I admit to spending most of my time with my first love, when conditions suit I like to fish the headlands and the beach. On my last trip across to the rocks, I surprised myself by connecting with a 2kg sombre blubberlip, a species well known on Fraser Island as bruin. I was surprised at the capture, as I was under the impression that this fish was well south of its accepted range.

Fish on the Move

Once again it prompted me to think about the effects of rising water temperatures on distribution of species. Whether or not we attribute these changes to the accepted views on global warming, the undisputable fact is that ranges are changing. The luderick is a case in point.

Two decades ago, these were quite common in and around Hervey Bay, albeit close to their northern limit at that time. Almost every year I check out the favoured spots between Hervey Bay and Tin Can Bay without any joy at all. Although luderick are still being taken in some Sunshine Coast streams and further south including Jumpinpin, catches are well down on what has been. One can only guess at how far this trend will continue down into NSW. It is interesting to note that our Fisheries decision makers suddenly imposed a bag limit of 10 on luderick, presumably because they were seen to be in decline.

In recent times we have seen the ranges of more tropical species heading south. Of course there might be a host of other reasons why many of these may have become more abundant in certain areas. Increases in food supply and cleaner rivers could be contributing factors.

Fingermark is a prize capture across Northern Australia and until recent times they were unknown in the lower latitudes around Bundaberg and Hervey Bay. Now they are quite common in Baffle Creek and in the Burrum River. Anglers casting nets for prawns in Baffle Creek have reported an abundance of juvenile fingermark. Another example, among many, that comes to mind, is the Burnett salmon, or king threadfin. Its abundance in the Brisbane River is well known but this has only been in the last decade.

Bucking the Trend

Bucking the trend of southward moving ranges, the east coast Australian salmon stands alone. Possibly due to flawed Fisheries decisions or the closure of fish canneries, salmon have not only become particularly abundant along their existing range, but have been steadily moving north.

Many anglers despise salmon, not only because of their supposed inferior eating qualities but also because of their effect on baitfish schools, so reducing a food source for more attractive species like tailor and mulloway.

The arrival of Australian salmon in southern Queensland waters is well known; from as far north as Caloundra, catches are being reported. Two years ago, there was an unconfirmed report of a salmon catch near Eurong on Fraser Island. More recently there have been several reports and these have been confirmed. So it looks like beach anglers on the island could be in for some action as numbers continue to increase.

Salmon don’t seem to be too fussy about what they eat. Light gear anglers baiting with pipis and worms could experience some spectacular sport, or bust offs when salmon connect.

Back to Fraser

Back on the Fraser Island, November should turn on the usual beach species, but probably not in big numbers. Strong northerly winds often make fishing difficult along the beaches.

At this time of the year, the western beaches can be plagued with weed that sometimes is piled up into metre-high ridges by sea and wind. This makes fishing very difficult. My latest information is that the Moon Point road remains closed but those to Woralie and Awinya creeks remain open.

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