Following months of floods and massive oceanic swells, at last there is some good news to report. Recently we have had a glimpse of what these autumn months can turn on. Ocean swells have been coming back to 1-2m along Fraser Island’s ocean beach while glassy seas inside the bay have attracted boaties like bees to honey.
With the Mary River experiencing no less than three major floods this year with neighbouring streams, including the Burrum River and the numerous creeks that flow into the Straits also making significant contributions, it is little wonder that things just haven’t been easy.
Despite the conditions the deeper inshore reefs have continued to produce blackall, cod and coral bream. Blue parrot have been conspicuous by their absence as they do not handle fresh and dirty water at all well. As usual after a good fresh, mulloway, javelin and barramundi have been turning up in numbers along Deep Creek, North White Cliffs, Bogimbah Ledge and the artificial reef. Over the flats between the Urangan boat harbour and River Heads, the few anglers venturing down that way have tangled with king and blue salmon.
Since the return of blue water, baitfish, mostly small blues and whites, eyes (or rainfish) and hardiheads have been prolific. Not surprisingly they have been accompanied by predatory mackerel, queenfish and tuna. Both mac tuna and northern blues (longtail) have been charging into bait along the tidal current lines, anywhere between Coongul Creek and the Picnic Islands. The tuna are hitting fast retrieved metals but only on sizes that match the bait fish.
Most recently, the shallow reefs fringing Point Vernon, Gatakers Bay and the bay islands have been turning on some of the best catches seen at this time of the year. The usual reef species, apart from blue parrot, have been plentiful but it has been the quality that has been quite noteworthy. These reefs usually support big numbers of under-sized snapper but for reasons probably associated with the recent conditions, fish that easily make the legal mark of 35cm are being taken regularly. In fact shallow reef regulars have needed to be reminded that a limit of four applies.
Spangled emperor are not uncommon captures in the shallows where they are often mistaken for grass sweetlip, to which they are closely related. Other welcome visitors to the shallows recently have been grunter (javelin) and mangrove jack, both possibly being relocated from their usual habitats courtesy of recent floods. With mostly good news in the shallows, most anglers have not welcomed the return of gummy and toothy sharks as well as large salmon catfish.
Certainly Fraser’s ocean beach might not be as adversely affected by flood water, but the incessant pounding that it has had courtesy of ex-cyclones and east coast lows, had just about wiped out any reasonable fishing. The inshore waters have also been quite discoloured due to the combination of fresh water and big seas.
The turbulent times we have had in recent years have brought about massive sand movements, picking it up here, and depositing it there. The beach landscape is continually changing, exposing great coffee rock outcrops and burying others. With sand not being allowed to settle down and consolidate, it doesn’t take much to whisk it all away again.
Serious erosion of beach and dune sand has meant that beach travel has been made more difficult than usual. This has been particularly significant for visitors arriving from Inskip Point ready to head north. Beach travel has been possible only at the lowest level of the tide. The inland track from the barge landing to the first beach access is open but its continuation to the second access has been closed.
Travel along the southern beaches has been so difficult that a recent party of guests was redirected to use the barge from River Heads. Elsewhere along the eastern coast of the island, large coffee rock outcrops have been exposed, some very much more than seen in years.
Traversing Poyungan Rocks is as bad as, if not worse, than it was six months ago. The bypass behind the southern part of the headland has been in atrocious condition. On the northern side of the bypass there has been no alternative to negotiating bare rocks full of holes and crevices. Hopefully by the time you read this, some of our vehicle access fees will be put into rectifying this and other similar problems on the island. Most of the roads that cross the island have been open but mainly in very rough condition. However at last report Bogimbah Road, from Poyungan Valley to the mouth of Bogimbah Creek has closed, as has the tourist road from Bogimbah Road to Lake Garawongera.
I might be sticking my neck out a little but I am optimistic enough to suggest that this month might bring some good conditions on the ocean beach. Even as I write, seas are settling down and some good catches of sand whiting are being made, particularly between the Maheno and Cathedral Beach. This is the most promising sign for the return of whiting that we have seen in years so we can expect them to be gathering in their usual haunts in the low water gutters and over the flats north of Waddy Point. Hopefully there will be bream in the bigger gutters but they are almost certainties around the bases of the headlands.
Dart should be widespread along the beach, provided the water has cleared. Tarwhine should not be overlooked as in the past, May has been the month for excellent catches. There will be odd ones in the bigger gutters and around the headlands, but if they are true to form, the white water breaking over coffee rocks will be the condition to check out. Expect the odd chopper tailor this month but don’t get too excited until the first of the spawning fish start moving up the beach late next month or in July.
The western beach between Moon Point and Wathumba has become something of a refuge for anglers wanting to escape the wild weather of the ocean beach. Having seen its share of dirty water during these last months, these beaches have not been firing particularly well. Along the junctions between relatively salt water and dark fresh water running out of the major creeks, some reasonable catches of very average, but legal, bream have been taken by some of the few anglers who have suffered the rough track across the island. With conditions improving the western beach should be worth the effort this month.
Well, I am optimistic about this month and I hope I don’t have to go and hide under a mangrove tree if I am proved wrong.
Spangled emperor and grass sweetlip
Spangled emperor are often mistaken for grass sweetlip, to which they are closely related. Here lies a trap for anglers who haven’t made themselves aware of the identification of the two species and the different legal requirements. The grass sweetlip has a minimum legal length of 30cm and a bag limit of 10 while the spangle, being a coral reef fin fish, has a minimum length of 45cm and a bag limit of 5. The easiest way to distinguish between the two is the presence of bright blue spots or bars on the body of the spangle while that of the grassy is somewhat drab.