At this time of the year, it’s a good idea to do most of the serious fishing over dawn or dusk, or during the night. This applies particularly along the beaches of Fraser Island.
Given reasonable weather conditions I like to locate a wide shallow gutter during the day, then return to it later at night. A rising tide is probably best but not essential. This is when most of the beach species are keen to move in searching for the bounty of worms and crustaceans that thrive in the inshore waters. Many anglers associate dart with deep gutters and white water, but at night they can be taken almost at your feet. My own records reveal that my best sand whiting, including my PB, were taken in one of these gutters. Other visitors to the shallow gutters at night often include bream, tarwhine, permit and mulloway.
Looking at Hervey Bay’s land-based opportunities we have worked our way south from Toogoom through Craignish, Dundowran, Point Vernon and the City beaches. This month we look at what must be one of Queensland’s most popular for the angler without a boat.
The iconic Urangan Pier is Hervey Bay’s most popular land-based fishing location. The original pier, complete with railway and storage sheds, was built between 1913 and 1917 and until 1985 when the last ship, MV Leonard, called with its load of petroleum products, the pier served the district in the export of coal, sugar and oil. Almost as soon as shipping activity ceased, the outer 250m, including the wharf structure, were removed in very controversial circumstances. Apart from the times ships were tied up, some fantastic fishing was enjoyed amongst the pylons of the outer pier.
Thanks to the ‘Save the Pier Association’, and the local council, the remaining 870m survived and has continued to be a magnet not only to fish but to local and visiting anglers. Since its truncation, considerable maintenance has been ongoing. At this present time a large scale operation is under way that will see the replacement of pylons and decking. It is good to report that during this huge undertaking, a portable gangway has been provided to give access around the sections under repair. It is great that Fraser Coast Regional Council recognized the value of the pier to locals and visitors, many, of course, being anglers.
As it extends seaward, the pier crosses four distinct zones, the inshore beach, the inner gutter, Dayman Spit and the outer gutter, and for the angler, each can be productive in the right conditions. On the lowest tides all but the outer gutter are almost dry.
Particularly during late August, September and early October and on an early morning high tide, it is common to see dozens of anglers fishing from the inner part of the pier over the beach. This is the red hot time for big sand whiting. Fishing up to the top of the tide and early ebb is the best plan.
Whiting here can be particularly fussy about what they eat. Local worms or small yabbies are almost mandatory. This inner section also attracts a following of gar anglers who allow float rigs baited with small yabbies, prawn meat or dough to drift out with the current.
The inner gutter also fishes well for whiting, particularly at lower stages of the tide, and along the edge of the spit while masses of baitfish, mostly herrings and hardiheads seek shelter amongst the piles and it is not unusual for predatory golden trevally to be taken. On the higher tides and particularly during winter months, there are plenty of bream around the piles of the inner gutter. Flathead are also common right along the pier where they hide amongst the structure waiting for opportunities.
Dayman Spit, when covered, can produce good whiting fishing. Along with the inner gutter it often hosts schools of huge diamond-scaled mullet, much to the frustration of visiting anglers who try all sorts of tricks to get them to bite.
The outer gutter is where most of the serious action takes place. Here, baitfish congregate around the jetty structures at all stages of the tide in the deeper water. Just about any of Hervey Bay’s predators are likely to show up as they make forays into the schools of herrings and hardiheads. They include Spanish, broad-barred and Queensland school mackerel, queenfish, golden trevally, GT, mac and longtail tuna, and barramundi. Although there are a number of anglers using their favourite artificials for particular species, the favoured method is to catch herrings or yellowtail pike on bait jigs keeping them alive in aerated buckets, then sending them out live on floating lines. The use of balloons has become particularly popular in recent times. The furious activity that often develops has become something of a spectator sport as many non-fishers turn up to watch the action.
Barramundi are not a particularly common catch on the pier but most are taken on live bait in the early months of the year after the closed season.
Many of the serious local fishers have purpose built trolleys, sometimes bicycle propelled, carry their collection of rods, buckets and rope gaffs. Some even erect temporary shelters for protection from unkind conditions. The gaffs are essential for bringing large fish onto the jetty deck after they have been played out. With all the structure under the pier it is not surprising that many a battle is lost as big fish dart under the pier.
Apart from those already mentioned, reef species such as grass sweetlip, juvenile snapper and Moses perch are sometimes taken. At just about any time of the year, squid can be taken on jigs. Most are taken around lanterns that have been lowered on ropes to just above the water level at night.
If you have come to the conclusion, after reading this, that fishing the pier comes with guaranteed success, then you would be disappointed. Like anywhere else you need to be prepared to talk to and watch the experienced local anglers, see what baits and methods are being used, and be prepared to fish at the best times, which are usually early morning, evening or during the night.
Next month we will look at what the walls of the Urangan boat harbour and surrounding beaches have to offer.
The restoration work continues on the Urangan Pier. This photo shows the beach, inner gutter, Dayman Spit and outer gutter.
The perfect transportation for a day on the jetty.
Serious equipment is at the ready for the seaward end of the pier.Reads: 11447