Back in the Hunt
  |  First Published: February 2008

I wasn't overly disappointed that the holiday period was a total right off here and at Fraser Island. In fact, I'd been touting for some time a Christmas low-pressure system (albeit a little tongue in cheek) as the impact on holidaymakers and tourist related business has been dramatic.

I'd been forecasting the same thing for the previous seven years with generally perfect weather and northerly breezes resulting. And although I have been shut down in my activities as much as everybody else during the holidays, the fact that this weather has finally arrived is cause for celebration for anybody wanting to fish the region – and the locals here love it.

Past summers have delivered weed and algal blooms and the only cure for these blooms are severe weather events such as cyclones and low-pressure systems. Unfortunately they are a fairly short-term fix, but when the seas settle and the fresh disperses, we can expect clean surf from the Noosa River mouth to Sandy Cape. This in itself is fantastic news as the weed that was on the entire length of Fraser before Christmas and the algae that refused to leave Teewah Beach will be gone.

The fishing can fire after weather events such as this and my experience is that will be the case here. Combined with the gutter creating erosion that we've experienced and the patches of coffee rock that become exposed in the process, February looks to be the most promising for many years. My only concern at this stage is that we haven't finished with tropical lows or cyclones for the year and the indications are that there will be more severe weather to come.

The most recent similar weather event was in the last week of February 2004 when a low-pressure system cleared the surf of weed and triggered a feeding frenzy that continued into May. On that occasion, spotted mackerel and tailor along with mackerel and longtail tuna were available from the beach in large numbers. Each day for over two months, mackerel worked just out from the Noosa River mouth and tailor herded bait into shore to the delight of many anglers using spinners. With big tailor currently moving southwards and mackerel season upon us, the river mouth should be the focus for anglers. As we've had this occur so early in the year there will be several months of quality angling before mullet netting commences in May. This always shuts down any fun being had by recreational anglers.

Bread and butter species such as whiting, dart, bream, tarwhine and flathead are likely to be on offer from all of the newly formed surf gutters too. It's also oyster cracker (snub-nosed dart) season and each year some lucky anglers manage to beach these impressive fish. Usually taken on pipi, snubbies test anglers’ equipment and skill and can be taken either side of low tide. I once landed three of these fish in one day when targeting them many years ago which ranks among my most fond fishing memories. And I recall one angler landing two fish over 6kg on the same day during Easter last year.

Rainbow Beach is another location that would be worth checking out this month with the likelihood of pelagics being available off the beach using spinners. Queenfish come into the equation and have been a favourite target of mine over the years from the beach. Quickly retrieved spinners around bait schools or over rock always have the potential for queenies at this time of year. Broad barred mackerel also put in appearances after swells and can sometimes be seen herding bait with their dorsal fins out of the water. Large spinners between 65-85g work better on the broad barred mackerel with smaller slugs of 25-40g most effective on the other species. All of the now uncovered patches of coffee rock on Rainbow and Teewah beaches now provide habitat for a variety of species and are worth spinning slugs over or fishing around with baits.

The inshore reefs near the river mouth such as Jew Shoal and Little and Big Halls will benefit from the fresh run-off. Sweetlip tend to fire after floods in these areas and live baits can deliver some excellent fish. Spanish and spotted mackerel will also be found in these areas and again livies or trolled baits or lures would be effective. I like to cast and retrieve small slugs through schools of mackerel when they are on the surface as they will be at some stage. Tuna will be showing up in numbers during February in Laguna Bay and although not my favourite eating fish, they do provide wonderful sport and are easy to target using small spinners between 8-40g.

In last month’s edition, I wrote about the algal blooms that have plagued us for some years now. Since then I have received further information on the one that has been permanently present here since mid September following the August floods. The samples I supplied to council have been identified as being Anaulus australis. The available information that was forwarded to me by council stated that this algae is naturally occurring, is not prompted by nutrient outfalls, has no adverse affect on marine populations and has only one recorded blooming incident in Australian waters. It also stated that marine life actually feed on the algae.

I've seen this algae many times here and at Fraser Island since the mid-90s with incidences increasing in more recent years. Given that it was the August floods that apparently triggered this bloom then nutrient is probably a major contributing factor. Fish and prawns may feed on the algae when it is in its natural state, but when it blooms unnaturally it putrefies (deoxygenates) the water so that these species can't survive in it. According to the council and governments, this alga is harmless. I believe it is not harmless and the effect on marine life can be devastating. I believe that fish cannot spawn where they should when it is blooming and this year’s tailor migration could have been adversely affected. Bream were being washed on to the beach during the bloom indicating a possible harmful aspect in itself. There is also the affect on fishing related tourism: reports indicate virtually no fish are caught when alga is in full bloom and the complaints on this that I have heard are persistent.

In my opinion we have a very significant situation when algae inundate the Sunshine Coast and Fraser Island at the same time. The only long-term cure for these algae, I believe, is to reduce nutrient outfalls, which has been identified around the world and in other parts of Australia as a contributing factor. So I would like to ask why our councils and state government are doing so little to address this issue?

It is indeed fortunate that we are getting back to a La Nina weather pattern which will assist in the short-term in controlling this algae and allow us time to hopefully do something proactive for the long-term. To do nothing now will most certainly be devastating for the future of our inshore marine environment.

Despite all this I'm in the process of servicing reels and loading them with new line in expectation of finally being able to fish with some confidence. Now is the time to best enjoy some of our fishing. I would encourage those anglers that have given up on Teewah Beach in recent times to dust off the tailor gear, grab some spinners and come and have some fun. We're finally back in the hunt!

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