High hopes for early months
  |  First Published: December 2013

After a hectic tailor season along Fraser Island's eastern beaches, fishing almost came to a standstill in early November. So rapid was the decline that Island regulars have been wondering why. I am inclined to agree with others that the decrease in clarity of the inshore waters has something to do with it. Many species are reluctant to venture into this turbid water for reasons that evade me.

I guess that in the first column of the New Year, it might be expected that after some crystal ball gazing, I might have some predictions Fraser island's beaches in coming months. My attempts to do this in previous years have turned out to be disasters, no doubt due to the extraordinary forces of nature that eventuated in the last two years. So with more uncertainties ahead, I am not going to attempt it this year. Of course we can only hope that we will see a more typical pattern for the first months of the year.

On the western beaches of the island, the persistent northerlies have made fishing difficult. Along many sections of the beach seasonal weed is lining inshore waters and being washed up. Frequently weed washed onto shallow flats at high tide can accumulate to be up to 50cm in thickness. Build up of sand over this weed can produce one of the island's most serious hazards for beach driving. This is particularly common on the western beach, but when weed has been a problem on the eastern beach, it is just as dangerous there.

The build-up of sand along the ocean beaches has been most welcome although there are still a few tricky spots where high water gutters have eaten into the sand cliffs. On the other side of the island, there are still plenty of stretches of coffee rock that sand is yet to cover. The inland tracks have continued to be soft and rough due to the long dry conditions and the extent of traffic on the most used access roads. It will take a good deal of soaking rain, and attention, to get the tracks back to an acceptable condition.

It has been good to hear reports of mac and long tail tuna coming in from all over the bay. The inshore reefs were quiet until the end of November but the persistent northerly winds didn't produce too many opportunities for anglers. Until then the better catches were being made on deeper reefs like those at Boges Hole, the Channel Hole, and the channel between the harbour and Round Island where coral bream, juvenile snapper and cod have been taken.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on your preferences, giant salmon catfish are sill in residence. They give an extremely good account of themselves and are often scorned for the amount of time they take up when other species are being targeted. Apparently they make excellent eating but for the sake of putting up with the body slime and dangerous spines, they will for me remain catch and release species only.

As part of our series on land-based fishing in Hervey Bay, we looked at the rocky foreshores between Gatakers Bay and Pialba. Heading east from here we have the broad stretch of sandy beaches that extend along the front of Hervey Bay's popular esplanade. At the western end, extensive shallows extend out towards the fringing reefs. On very low tides, these reefs are great to explore. On the making tide in particular, these shallows can fish well for whiting. There are also yabbies to be pumped.

Continuing east, the intertidal zone becomes narrower and extends almost as far as the Urangan Pier. In its earlier years, Hervey Bay built up a reputation for the abundance of whiting along its foreshores. Certainly they are not as prolific as they used to be but given serious thought to conditions, bait and techniques, it is still possible to catch a good feed. Although all parts of this beach can fish well, the best catches are made along Shelly Beach and from the steps close to the pier. The very best set of conditions for catching whiting here is a high tide between 7-9am, from late August to late November, fishing from first light until the first of the ebb tide. Worms or yabbies are essential. Other times of the year can be almost as productive.

Of course I have been referring to sand whiting, minimum length 23cm and bag limit 30. Diver whiting are sometimes taken with sand whiting. Occasionally big schools of divers come very close to the beach and can be caught in abundance. They have no legal length but have a bag limit of 50.

At Torquay rock outcrops offer a little change from the Sandy beach. As well as producing whiting, bream and flathead are on offer. Small plastics worked along the edges of the rocks have taken care of some acceptable lizards.

There are small jetties at Scarness and Torquay, over the high tide they can be worth trying. As well as whiting and bream around the pylons, golden trevally are often taken by anglers using live baits or large plastics.

At the eastern end of Shelly Beach, there are two groynes associated with storm water run-off. These popular vantage points not only fish well for whiting but they are great spots for chasing gar with floats, light lines and small hooks. Very small yabbies are out on their own for gar fishing.

The steps of the sea wall at Urangan is particularly popular over the high tide when whiting move right in to the turbulence caused by waves crashing into the wall. This can be a very comfortable place to fish provided the seas aren't too big. It can also be a very wet place to fish.

A little further east is the iconic Urangan Pier, deserving of a thorough treatment in next month's column.

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