Full steam forward
  |  First Published: March 2014

I really do love being optimistic, like I was when I wrote last month’s column. After the succession of most unfriendly conditions during the first weeks of 2014, we must look forward with as much enthusiasm we can muster into the months ahead.

The ocean beaches of Fraser Island have seen little fishing activity with the only worthwhile catches coming in between the succession of alternating strong northerly and south easterly winds. The unrelenting heat, quite appropriately, has kept most anglers out of the sun, with most worthwhile fishing happening early morning and late afternoon, as well as at night.

Dart have been the mainstay of many surf catches, but small numbers of sand whiting have been taken from the low water gutters right along the beach. There have also been some bream and tarwhine around the coffee rocks and in the larger gutters, and bream have also been reported from Waddy Point.

On the western side of the island, there have been fair catches of whiting along the open beaches and on the spits near creek mouths. In the discoloured water coming out of the major creeks, and around the coffee rock exposures, some big bream have been reported. The recent prevailing strong southeasterlies have suited most of the western beach, but when the strong northerlies blow, fishing comes to a standstill.

Although some western beach fishers arrive by boat from Hervey Bay, the majority make the journey across the island from the ocean beach. For some time until recently, the only track available was from north of the Maheno, at K’Gari, to Woralie Creek, a track that continues to be soft and rough. The Happy Valley to Moon Point track has been closed for some time, but with cautionary notes it is now open. This means that the beach south of Coongul Creek can be accessed without crossing that creek.

Further north, the beach between Towoi and Wathumba creeks is now closed, meaning that there is no access to the western beach from the campground at Wathumba Creek. The original North Wathumba road from Orchid Beach to Platypus Bay, north of the creek mouth, has been closed to vehicles for some years, being used only by authorised government vehicles mainly as part of an emergency route to Sandy Cape. Quite understandably, Orchid Beach residents and visitors have fought to have this track re-opened for general use, particularly as their only route to the west coast was no longer possible with the Towoi Creek closure.

On a boat trip to Platypus Bay soon after Christmas, we noticed many vehicles on the beach near the North Wathumba track entrance. We have received reports that the road was opened to ‘local’ or ‘residents’ provided they did not use the beach a 100m or so north and south of the track entrance. Just how residents and/or locals were defined or identified is something that remains unclear. The original closure of the North Wathumba and other island tracks and some beaches was part of an earlier administration’s policy of locking up parts of the island. Surely common sense will now prevail and this road re-opened officially. Hopefully I will have a clearer picture for next month’s column.

Over the last few months, we have been looking at some of the land-based fishing opportunities south from Beelbi Creek at Toogoom. Last month we made it to the iconic Urangan Pier and looked at the wide range of available species from whiting right through to light game tackle busters like Spanish mackerel and GT. This month we head a little further south to the Urangan boat harbour. On the way we notice the banks and channels associated with the end of the pier’s inner gutter, and the southern end of Dayman Spit; plenty of good country for targeting whiting and flathead.

As well as being the departure point for whale watching and adventure tours and hundreds of boat anglers, the Urangan boat harbour provides some worthwhile opportunities for land-based anglers. Most of the harbour is now taken up by floating marinas with the supporting pylons, and the decking itself, providing plenty of structure. For most of the year, masses of herrings attract an impressive variety of predators.

This article was intended to cover land-based opportunities but I need to mention boat accessed possibilities as well. Fishing from the marina is not permitted but there are an increasing number of anglers fishing from small boats around the structure. Others fish live herrings and a wide variety of plastics around the trawlers and wharves. The list of species taken within the harbour is impressive. It includes bream, javelin, mangrove jack, mulloway and barramundi.

The northern (short) wall of the harbour can be reached through the car park and boardwalk. You don’t need to be a mountain goat to get out to the end, but it helps. Particularly on big tides, there is plenty of water movement with associated eddies on both sides and at the end. You can expect bream, javelin and occasional reef species. The inside of the wall is a particularly good spot for bream during autumn and early winter when fish are feeding freely in preparation for spawning.

The southern (long) wall leaves the mainland at the extreme end of Boat Harbour Drive. It hosts a narrow roadway that hosts vehicles servicing the commercial fishing fleet. The curving wall extends through mostly shallow water to the first of the trawler wharves. At low tide much of these shallows would be uncovered. The flats south of the wall see a lot of yabby digging activity as well as some good whiting fishing by wading anglers. From this part of the wall you can expect whiting, bream and gar as well as flathead that like to lie in the sandy patches between the rocks.

The wall continues past the trawler wharves to the harbour entrance, the final low part of it being the remnants of the very first harbour wall. Fishing is not encouraged around wharves or boats, and for good reason. Along the inside of the low wall beyond the wharves, the water is quite shallow but it can fish well for bream and flathead with those larger predators, already mentioned, always possible.

The tip of the southern wall is, without a doubt, the harbour’s most popular spot. It is unusual for there not to be two or three anglers working the eddies that form around it. Along with the outer 100m of the low wall, just about any local species is possible. Certainly the most popular targets are jacks. Since the wall was first built, locals using heavy gear and live baits have been scoring big fish. Today live herrings continue to rate well but artificials of a wide range are now being used with success.

The problem when fishing structure you are standing on, is keeping the jack out of the cover. So much so that we now see anglers fishing from boats, casting into the structure, or trolling deep divers along the wall. As well as jacks, cod, trevally, bream and javelin are caught here. Bream can be prolific during July and early August.

Relatively new walls form a triangle of ponds used for storage of sediment pumped from the harbour. Except for the southeastern corner, these walls have not attracted a lot of attention from anglers.

The pontoons at the boat launching ramps have become very popular for cast netting for prawns. In peak season, netters almost have to line up for a cast. During the last season, the banana prawns were plentiful and of excellent quality. Herrings are often netted here and they make great bait for most species around the harbour. I like to use herring cutlets for the big bream that are available for most of the year.

On the subject of bait netting, using either cast or haul nets is allowed within the harbour and on the beach to its south. However north of the short wall and around the end of the Urangan Pier, and across to Point Vernon, all forms of netting are illegal. I should have mentioned this last month when dealing with the pier where masses of herrings and hardiheads cannot be netted. Fishing is allowed around the boat ramps and pontoons but anglers need to respect the fact that they are there for the convenience of the boating community.

Next month will see us at the end of our land-based journey from Toogoom to River Heads when we look at some of the options south of the boat harbour to the northern shores of the mouth of the Mary River.


The boat harbour walls are a popular fishing spot.

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