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Tailor time
  |  First Published: August 2014



Tailor time again at Fraser Island! As I reported last month catches have been improving steadily and with the expected increase in offshore winds, even more will be moving into the inshore gutters. As expected, early fish have been little better than chopper quality but the prized greenbacks should not be far away.

At midday, August 1, the annual closure of headlands and adjoining beaches comes into effect. Specifically this means that from 400m south of Indian Head to 400m north (effectively west) of Waddy Point, and up to 400m seaward from the low water mark, is closed to all fishing. The closure extends to midday on September 30.

I need to say that I do have a problem with the extent of the closure in that it covers all species. When a barramundi closure is in place, there is no restriction on the capture of other species. The expectation, however, is that anglers would not use equipment designed for targeting barra. Of course the barramundi closure is state wide, and such a closure applying to all species would be unthinkable. Admittedly, the Fraser Island closure covers a smaller area but the total species restriction is unjustified. As for barramundi fishing, one would not expect to see anglers using ganged tailor rigs and WA pilchards, or high speed metals working into the tailor schools. However there are other challenges that visiting anglers like to pursue. For example, bream and reef species can be taken around the rock faces and dart are available to anglers using worms or pippies from the headlands or adjacent beaches. A further consideration is that the closure covers almost the entire school holiday period. This is a time when, in heavy south easterly conditions, protection is available on the northern sides of Indian Head and Waddy Point – a good opportunity for families to fish the beaches and gutters here in some comfort.

Strong south easterly winds can make fishing close to impossible on the ocean beach, and they are likely to come in at any time throughout the year. One way to escape is by heading for the lea side of the headlands. The other is to take one of the two tracks across the island to the western beach where there are likely to be lily pond conditions. Conditions of both tracks can be extremely variable. In dry conditions the western sections, away the canopy of forest vegetation, can become dry and powdery and this applies particularly to sections where vehicles have already been bogged. These sections of track would be in desperate need of substantial rain. A small amount of rain simply wets the very top layer leaving the dry sand alone. Of the two routes, my preference is for the Woralie Track that leaves the ocean beach north of the Maheno and meets the western beach just north of Woralie Creek. The Moon Point Track is open to vehicles but it offers some very demanding conditions. These are now the only options as vehicle access from the Orchid Beach to Wathumba Creek road is no longer possible thanks to the wise decision of closing the section of beach between Towoi Creek and the Wathumba estuary. It is possible to walk from the Wathumba camping ground to the western beach at low tide by wading through the mouth of a small creek. This is the only true estuary of Fraser Island and is zoned yellow, in recognition of its significance as a breeding and nursery area.

In Hervey Bay, the seasonal change from summer to winter has been quite slow, thanks to the persistence of quite high water temperatures. However we are now starting to see what we might expect for this time of the year. The incredible run of pelagics has just about come to an end except that longtails and grey mackerel that are still chasing baitfish well south into the system. The deeper reefs such as Moon Ledge, the Artificial, the Channel Hole, Boges Hole and Bogimbah Ledge are still turning on mixed bags of blackall, coral bream, squire and cod. The most noticeable effect of lower water temperatures in the shallows, is the possible departure of coral bream and blueys. I am more likely to believe they continue to be in residence, but have become less active in cooler water. Blackall appear to be more active at this time and so are still caught in good numbers.

This is the time of the year when reefs around Rooney Point and Platypus Bay, also Moon Ledge and the Artificial, play host to good numbers of breeding snapper. So far it has been a slow start to this much anticipated season but there is still plenty of time during the next two months.

The first ‘normal’ season in years has seen bream working their usual feeding and spawning areas in the river systems and in the bay. In the Mary River, Beaver Rock has been producing the best quality fish with South Head and the Frying Pan at North Head also fishing well. Rock ledges at the northern end of Woody and Little Woody islands form ideal habitat for winter bream, as do the Picnic islands. Bream fishers have been taking bonus fish like small snapper and javelin (trumpeter). For shore-based anglers the rock ledges at Point Vernon and Gatakers Bay will be worth checking out this month. Plenty of good bream are being taken around the pylons of the Urangan Pier, in both the inner and outer gutters.

Winter (diver) whiting are responsible for attracting the greatest amount of activity amongst local and visiting anglers. Like other winter species they made a slow start this year, but should now be firmly established in their favourite haunts. By far the most popular, and productive areas, are offshore between Point Vernon and Toogoom. Between the boat harbour and the southern end of Woody Island, fishing has been unusually slow, but there is at least another month for them to show up in their usual numbers.

Until fairly recently there were no regulations controlling this fishery. Some said that the regulation should be by size limit, others by bag limit, and others by both. No doubt after much consideration, the bag limit of 50 became the only legal requirement. The big problem with this is that it is so easy to upgrade. This is fine if the smaller fish are kept alive, as they are in major bream and bass competitions, before being released. It is common knowledge that some, likely a minority, catch 50 fish, keeping the smaller ones separate, then catch, say, another 10, then drop the smaller 10 (dead) fish over the side. Perhaps a realistic size limit of 20cm could have been more appropriate, with fish under the limit returned live to the water. All debateable points, but my own view is that they should have both bag and size limit, just like most of our other species. It is obvious that many anglers do not understand the concept of bag limit. The fact that bag limits are an in possession limit has landed many local and visiting anglers in trouble over recent years.

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