A tough year still produced
  |  First Published: December 2012

Twelve months ago we were looking ahead into 2012 with optimism and anticipation of good catches along Fraser Island’s beaches. Now with mixed memories we will turn our attention towards the final month of the year, a time when hundreds of keen fishing families flock into campsites on both sides of the island.

During the first six months of the year, lengthy periods of extremely difficult weather dominated the scene. There seemed to be an almost unending procession of east coast lows with associated rain and, at times, gale force southeasterly winds. Along the eastern beach, possible fishing conditions were hard to come by, and when they did most species were even harder to come by. Conditions just didn’t seem to settle down long enough for the usual beach fish to move back in.

With almost impossible conditions on the east coast, many anglers deserted in favour of the protected western beach. Camps were established right along the beach from Moon Point as far north as Awinya Creek. Although far from spectacular, the western beach produced good catches of whiting, flathead, bream and dart, even a few queenfish and trevally.

Almost as if someone threw a switch, the first day of July heralded a bright start to the final six months of the year. The first of the new season’s tailor were starting to see beach conditions to their liking as they moved in to feed. The tailor season showed great promise with this early burst of fish, but the season was not to become an outstanding one.

During August, along beaches north of the Maheno wreck, the class of fish was so poor that only about one in two were making the 35cm limit. During the September school holidays, usually productive beaches between the Cathedrals and Dundubara were not living up to their reputation. However, ever-reliable dart did remember to come to the party. For a lengthy period in August and September, a long gutter just south of the Maheno, produced what seemed to be a never-ending supply of dart.

Although it is late in the season, tailor are still being taken along the beach with best catches coming in from Poyungan and Yidney, and north of Waddy Point towards Ngkala Rocks. I have no recent reports from north of Ngkala Rocks, but suspect that Sandy Cape would still be fishing well.

At long last, sand whiting have been turning up in good numbers in the shallow low water gutters and in the sandy patches between the coffee rocks. Flathead have also been taken around the small patches of coffee rock between Poyungan and Eli Creek. This has been another good season for mulloway with fish up to 20kg being taken. However, the majority of fish have been released, as most were under the 75cm limit.

Along the western beach, some good catches of whiting, bream and flathead persisted until September when the first of the season’s northerlies arrived. The western beach tends to lose its popularity in these northerly conditions. Also it usually signals the arrival of weed, dislodged from offshore growths in rough conditions. Latest reports indicate that some weed has washed in, but clear areas are still producing whiting and a few bream.

With Christmas school holidays coming up this month, there are going to be lots of people, lots of traffic and probably some very hot days. These are factors that don’t exactly suggest that fishing is going to be easy. The only strategies that are going to be successful during the day are fishing very early in the morning, very late in the afternoon.

On the beach I would be seeking out the blind-ended low water gutters for whiting and the white water spilling into the deeper gutters for dart. Dart can be quite prolific at this time of the year provided the sea is reasonably clear.

Although the tailor season is all but over, they must not be discounted with a few fish of all sizes likely on the beach or from the headlands.

By far my most successful fishing at this time of the year has been during the night. This is when the beach has cooled down and most of the traffic has finished, making it attractive for fish to move close to the shore to feed. For it to be worthwhile you will need to find a well developed shallow low water gutter, one mostly protected from wave action. I like to find a suitable one during the day, note its location, and then return at night over the bottom of the tide and early flood. I use my standard light whiting outfit with almost no weight. Fish coming into such a gutter are looking for the harvest of the beach including worms, pipis and crustaceans. Although whiting, bream and tarwhine are expected catches, anglers working these shallow night gutters are often surprised by the number of big dart that are taken.

I have mentioned in earlier columns that it can be a little disconcerting to fish on the beach at night, only to discover a dingo sitting behind you. I have never felt threatened in such circumstances but must suggest that this sort of night fishing is best done in company.

The headlands and the gutters along their northern flanks should not be overlooked during this month. I particularly like Waddy Point as the rocks will produce dart, bream, tarwhine and reef species, and the gutters should hold whiting and flathead.

Many anglers have been getting into the action at Poyungan Rocks, and the ladies seem to be having the most success. My wife Judy has been doing what she likes best – searching the beach and coffee rock features for some great feeds of whiting; young Jennifer Attwood caught her very first fish, a nice whiting; and that evening Kate Terry caught her PB tailor.

P9241240. jpg – Jennifer Attwood (see text above)

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