Better pickings for May
  |  First Published: May 2012

The succession of major freshes in the Mary River and other streams has had an effect on fishing prospects on both the eastern and western shores of Fraser Island for some time.

Even minute changes in salinity, turbidity and food supply result in changes to fish movement and behaviour. I recently fished a number of areas in reasonable conditions but for very lean pickings. Given a break in the recent wet conditions, we might expect better for this month.

On the inside of the island, the Mary River floods have greater effects, some negative but and some very positive. While many of the estuarine and shallow reef species take a break or move to more saline waters, there is a significant movement of barramundi, king and blue salmon as well as javelin, out of the Mary River.

The ledges and snags along the edge of the island at Ungowa and Buff Creek hold barramundi in normal times but during a good fresh their numbers are significantly built up, as are those of salmon and javelin. North White Cliffs, near Kingfisher Resort, and Bogimbah ledge are also beneficiaries of Mary floods. Jew and javelin have been reported by anglers working the Rufus Artificial Reef and Moon Ledge in dirty water.

The western beaches of Fraser Island, north from Moon Point have been almost deserted during the last months of unkind weather. However a few anglers have been making the trip across to escape the blustery southeasters of the ocean beach. Reports are of just a few whiting but heaps of bream in and around the creek mouths. It is almost as if they have their timing a little out as this is what we are used to seeing towards the end of May and early June when they congregate in preparation for spawning.

The Happy Valley to Moon Point Road continues to be open as are the Cathedrals to Woralie, and the Awinya Branch Road. All are rough but mostly firm; after all the rain some may still have boggy patches. While mentioning cross-island roads, the busiest of all are the mostly one-way tracks that cater for vehicles between the Woongoolbver Creek barge landing and Eurong. Currently these are in the best condition I have seen in years, due to some extent to recent grading.

When I wrote the feature Hervey Bay’s Inner Secrets (March QFM), I looked at expectations in a typical, or normal, year for these close in spots. I guess I was naïve enough to think that we were in for a ‘normal’ season. I am starting to think that normal seasons just don’t happen anymore. Certainly for this year at least, things are far from normal with a succession of floods pouring out of the Mary River. The inshore shallow reefs have certainly suffered most with a number of species including coral bream and blackall becoming very scarce. The most common recent reef catches have been the sea perches, stripeys and Moses perch. May is normally the last month before winter for any good catches.

If no more floods come down the Mary River, there is time for the shallows to fire again this season. Bream have already turned up in good numbers so an early start to their winter season around Woody and Round Island can be expected. May usually sees the diver whiting season well underway but with the amount of fresh still in the system prospects are uncertain. On a positive note, it is always great to see how quickly these recreational fisheries respond, often better than ever.

May is a great time to be chasing squid along the western shores of Fraser Island, as well as in many other parts of Hervey Bay. The two main species are the aptly named pencil squid and the more robust local squid. At the Urangan Pier during the night, squid are attracted to bright lights lowered by ropes close to the water surface. On a walk along the pier it isn’t difficult to see when squid are plentiful as large blotches of black ink decorate the planks.

The larger ‘local’ squid are targeted around the rocky shores of the bay’s islands, particularly Woody Island and the Picnics. Unfortunately, the once squid hotspot, along the western shores of Little Woody Island, is off limits in the Green Zone. The snags between Ungowa and Buff Creek are particularly attractive to the local variety.

Squid jigs come in an increasing variety of sizes, colours and special features, all with their merits in different ways. Exceptional skill is not required for success, just a steady retrieve is enough. In fact a jig laid in a steady current behind the boat will often work well. When hooked, a squid will empty its bag of ink in an attempt to confuse its predators. The best plan is to allow this to happen in the landing net before bringing it into the boat. Otherwise it could mean a big clean-up job, or even worse, a face full.

Here are some suggestions for Fraser’s ocean beach this month.

Find a well formed gutter with white water spilling over the outer bank into reasonably deep water. This is where you should find bream, tarwhine and dart, particularly early morning and late afternoon.

The blind ends of the same gutters would be worth checking for sand whiting on the last hours of the ebb.

The white water around the rocks of Indian Head and Waddy Point are bound to hold bream and reef species, and there should be no shortage of dart off the front wall at Waddy Point.

Before being tempted to try the very attractive waters around Middle Rocks, remember that this is now a Green Zone and closed to all fishing.

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