Superior fishing from beaches
  |  First Published: October 2013

The potential exists for this October to provide superior angling from the beaches of Cooloola and Fraser Island than we have experienced for many years.

Even though August and September have not shown an increase in fish numbers, October should be free of algae. For the past 12 years, algae has discoloured the surf zone through October and into the summer months and limited fish numbers coming into the surf.

The algae, Anaulus australis, has since 2001 tended to bloom at Fraser Island in late September or early October with the onset of warm northerly winds. The bloom then extends quickly southwards into Cooloola without regular cooling southeasterly winds to prohibit its growth. While the southeasterlies may or may not be a factor this year, the total absence of algae during winter for the first time since 2001, could be a sign that a cleaner surf this summer is on the cards.

At this point the surf is crystal clear and by far the cleanest I have seen it this century. Last spring and summer’s blooms were a vast improvement on previous years with no serious outbreaks recorded, but the surf was still slightly discoloured after a winter of mild algal presence. It would seem now that the combination of big seas and high rainfall over the last few years has finally beaten the algae into submission – we can only hope.

Also assisting anglers to find fish in the surf this October in comparison to past years is the quality of surf gutters and holes that have been created by the removal of beach sand during erosion events earlier in the year. The variety of suitable water for each of the usual surf species on all tides is as good as I have seen for decades. From shallow gutters close to the shore that can hold whiting to deep holes that can entice predatory species, such as tailor, mackerel, cobia and sharks, there is water to be found that serves the purposes of all beach anglers.

All things being equal, there should also be more fish of all species available to anglers following six years of high wet season rainfall that benefits species’ spawning and feeding success. Fish spawned during this period, depending on species and the growth rates of each species, would now be attaining legal length and be available to fishers. Although there is some evidence that this is occurring, the signs are that the anticipated high recruitment has perhaps not eventuated to the extent that is desirable, but a slight improvement is noticeable nevertheless. October will hopefully provide a better gauge as to whether there has been good recruitment of surf species over the last few years as August and September can still be adversely affected by beach netting and don’t necessarily indicate the overall health of the fishery.

While tailor remain a fairly rare catch from Teewah Beach and those that are being caught are of a small size, but they do still exist. Dawn and dusk as well as during the night have been producing the odd tailor and persistence at these times should not be a wasted exercise. Spinning metal lures over patches of coffee rock in the surf during the day has produced an occasional chopper of late, but again, persistence and lots of casts in multiple locations is required to find the fish.

Late October often sees the first of the Spanish mackerel arriving from the north and baits intended for tailor can often be taken by Spaniards around dusk and after dark. Cobia, while not a common species taken from the surf, are another potential catch on tailor gear and shovel-nosed or bull sharks fairly likely at this time of year after dark.

Dart remain very conspicuous by their absence. I can’t recall the last one of any size that I have seen in a wave which, in the currently very clear water is more than a little worrying. Only the occasional dart has been caught over the last couple of months at a time when they should be abundant, but oddly, almost all have been taken at night. This may reflect a change in feeding habits by the dart and could be as a result of less predators such as tailor being present in any numbers.

Bream and tarwhine also have failed to be regularly caught after an autumn that promised a better than usual year. Gauging by the bream I have recently been seeing while snorkelling the rocky gutters, there are some available. Flathead also have been regular sightings in amongst the rocks with a few trevally and giant herring visible prowling the seaward edges of the rock patches.

The flathead will be in many of the gutters this month however, and fishing around the rocks isn’t necessary to find them. Whitebait or frog-mouthed pilchards are ideal baits for flathead and are proving successful on a regular basis for mobile anglers that are moving from gutter to gutter to find the fish. Flathead are notorious for taking plastics and hardbodied lures of course, but very few surf anglers have taken to using artificials for reasons unknown. If ever there was a time for experimentation, this October provides excellent opportunities to do so with the possibility of tailor, bream, trevally or mulloway as by-catch.

There are many shallow gutters that are ideal for whiting and anglers targeting these fish with worm or eugarie baits have occasionally reaped healthy rewards. While worms are reportedly not all that plentiful, eugaries have appeared this year in greater numbers than we have seen for many years and provide an excellent, if not superior bait for whiting and the larger fish.

Using a whole eugarie is not advisable for whiting, which have small mouths and it is recommended that they be cut in half with the valves of the eugarie providing a third and terrific bait from each shellfish.

Recent dry conditions and the formation of high banks of sand on the beach are causing problems for many vehicles with boggings all too regular. Beach access cuttings and access to Teewah Beach campsites are currently quite soft and there would be little chance of rainfall arriving soon to firm things up. Low clearance vehicles and vehicles towing trailers and vans are most affected, but of these, most are not letting air out of their tyres until they are bogged which is too late. For these vehicles in particular it is imperative at the moment to let tyres down to around 18psi prior to attempting to drive on to the beach and especially if arriving from the south and accessing the beach at the 3rd cutting. However, it would be sensible for drivers of any vehicle coming to the beach to let tyres down first as it makes any soft sand driving so much easier.

For the first time in many years, Rainbow Beach is now driveable from the Leisha Track to Rainbow Beach township without risking the loss of vehicles to the surf. Depending on surf conditions, low tide through to halfway in allows relatively simple navigation of the beach and Mudlo Rocks. It should be expected that sand will continue to build along the beach and that this particularly pretty beach can be enjoyed by all without everybody crowding around the Double Island Point lagoon.

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