Whiting wiped by bream
  |  First Published: June 2012

At last some reasonable weather conditions. Well, at least close to what we might expect at this time of the year.

For much of the Easter school holidays, the ocean beach was under the influence of heavy swells originating from distant low pressure systems and seasonal trade winds. Hopefully we can now look forward to a great winter season.

Whiting have continued to be very elusive along the eastern beach. In recent weeks I pulled out every trick in my book to try to conjure up enough for a feed. A few were taken in very shallow water along the edges of coffee rocks on a flooding tide, but the biggest problem was getting away from the mini dart.

The demise of sand whiting along Fraser Island’s beaches and within Hervey Bay is getting beyond a joke. We have tried to come up with some explanations without pointing the finger in certain directions, but it is becoming more obvious that the daily netting of estuarine waters and beaches is decimating the whiting population in this part of the world.

Much of Fraser’s ocean beach is zoned yellow, allowing only commercial bait netting, but I must admit to seeing very little in this zone. However, netting is widespread throughout the entire Fraser Coast, Sandy Straits and Hervey Bay system as well as neighbouring beaches. I suggest that whiting are not being allowed to grow up to become the breeders of future generations. There has been talk and promises about a buy-back of commercial inshore licenses. The only hope for the whiting, and its follow-on tourist industry, is for this to happen without delay.

I have mentioned previously that bream are not particularly common on the open beach, while the headlands are fishing well for them. In recent weeks however, some of the deeper holes and gutters, particularly those containing coffee rock, have been loaded with quality fish. The sorts of features that usually produce tarwhine and just the odd bream have been doing just the opposite.

While natural baits like pipis and worms have been responsible for many bream captures, small white and blue pilchards and WA pilchard halves have been most effective. As much as I can’t explain their unusual abundance at this present time, I am not prepared to predict how long they will hang around.

Inshore waters along Fraser’s ocean beach have been particularly turbid in recent months. This may be related to the incessant onshore winds, or perhaps to the flushing of coastal rivers and streams during the wet season. The abundance of bream might have something to do with this. However the usually prolific dart have been disappointing. Big dart certainly favour clear water in average sea conditions, with turbidity not to their liking at all.

Small to average dart are not affected and continue to make life difficult for anglers focussing on other species. This month we should see a beautifully clear ocean inshore with big dart back in form again.

With winter here already, many anglers will be starting to think tailor. Although I have seen greenbacks arrive as early as late June, I wouldn’t get too excited just yet. In recent years, the annual tailor run has started during July then reaching a peak in August and September. Last year the first fish to arrive were of very poor quality with many not making the very generous 35cm limit. This month there may be a few fish about, but these are most likely to be small.

As tailor schools make their way north, in the pre-season, they might be seen a little offshore, behind the breakers, feeding on pilchards and other baitfish, much to the delight of the ever-watchful terns. Then as seas settle down, and winds become offshore, baitfish move in closer followed by their predators, particularly tailor.

The western beach is becoming a popular fishing alternative during heavy weather. So much so that many campers are setting up here in preference to the ocean beach during predictably southeasterly conditions. Anglers making a day trip from the ocean beach were generally disappointed with just a few whiting, bream, flathead and dart.

Silver drummer

This month’s fish file focuses on the silver drummer, a fish that is taken occasionally along Fraser Island’s ocean beach and within Hervey Bay. The rarity of its capture is probably not a reflection of its abundance as it is predominantly vegetarian. However like the vegetarian luderick, it will take baits like worms, pipis, even pilchards at times.

The silver drummer, officially named Kyphosus vaigiensis, is not closely related to the black drummer or to the luderick. Fraser Island and Hervey Bay are probably close to their southern limit with their preference for the warmer waters in the north, extending into the Indo-Pacific tropical regions. With seas becoming warmer we can expect to see more of these turning up in captures.

In Hervey Bay silver drummer are often caught along the rocky foreshores of Woody Island and the Picnic islands. Unfortunately, they haven’t developed a high reputation as table fare. However, once bled and skinned, they become moderately acceptable.

Hopefully the start of winter will fire up Fraser Island’s beaches the way we know it has in the past.

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