Look to the skies for big Hervey Bay tuna
  |  First Published: October 2015

Finally, October arrives and the winter begins to thaw. I heartily dislike the cold season for fishing. Don’t get me wrong – snapper, bream, flathead, and tailor are always fun to catch and can provide some great meals but big tuna, GT’s, queenfish and barra are much more exciting to hook and the warm weather will bring them onto the radar as well as making those early starts much easier.

I consider myself lucky to live in Hervey Bay during summer and even luckier to spend a few months guiding from Cape York during the coldest months of the year. Up here in the gulf, winter is a great time to fish for pelagics, while down the southern end of the state pelagic fishing can be lean pickings with the few offshore tunas and big Spaniards caught not quite making up for slow inshore action.

The season starts around September when the water temp rises to over 220 with an early run of mac tuna. Some of these fish get up to 8kg and make for some great runs on spin and fly tackle. Pound for pound they will outrun any longtail on that first run but lack the stamina for a long fight.

The tuna run

Late October and November will get a little more exciting as some big longtails arrive. Hervey Bay will see some big fish arrive in weights pushing 25-30kg. These fish are generally carrying eggs (roe) so be careful and try to release them if possible. Hervey Bay can also have a run of juvenile black marlin depending on conditions. Usually when northern areas like Townsville have a big run, the marlin will move south down the coast, hit here in mid-October through to November then a little later around Moreton Bay and the Gold Coast.

The small blacks (usually range from 15-40 kg) with the odd larger fish are easy prey – last season was great, many anglers caught their first marlin there however, these fish don’t handle stress well and should be released in the water, most fish pulled out for the photo might swim away but unfortunately die.

Recommended tackle for tuna and small blacks is quality spin tackle around the 20-30lb size. When I was guiding in Hervey Bay we caught many on Daiwa 3500-4000 sized reels and 7ft spin rods, loaded with 20lb braid.

Be aware of what’s on your plate!

In Hervey Bay, queenfish are usually best in spring and can school in big numbers, however, after being netted for years, numbers have thinned so sadly nowadays they’re almost a rarity. Be aware that in Platypus Bay there has been a known ciguatera poisoning risk so I wouldn’t recommend eating one!

Golden trevally were once famous on the Hervey Bay flats are also unfortunately on the decline but on the deeper reefs you’ll find a few. A powerful fighter, they can be caught through winter. November-March was once the best period for shallow water fishing – ten years ago schools of 30 fish were common, now 5 is a big deal. Let’s hope the netting closures further north have set a precedent and we can start to see some realistic fisheries management in the great sandy marine park.

Big Spanish mackerel usually enter the bay after Christmas, and outside the island there’s a good winter run. Spanish mackerel and giant barracuda are a strictly no take fish in Platypus Bay. Drawing a line from Roonies Point to Coongul Point it’s illegal to even have one in the boat so be aware and abide by the rules. Spaniards are known to have a high concentration of ciguatera here and many unwary fishos have been poisoned over the years, with big cobia, giant trevally, and yellowtail kingfish known carriers!

When chasing pelagics keep an eye out for birds, they are a dead giveaway especially if they are in a bunch and dipping to the water. Often travelling terns looking down are watching a school of tuna so get a quick cast just in front and crank it back fast.

Lures that work well on tuna, queenfish and macks are 20-40g metal baitfish imitations. Recently soft plastics have started to take centre stage though with 4-5”jerk shad style rigged straight on a 3/0 – 5/0 ½ oz jighead being a popular choice. These lures can double as a good lure to drop down if you see fish deep on the sounder with trevally, snapper, and macks being the most common captures.

Good fluorocarbon leader from 30-50lb is ideal, loop knotted to the lure one end with a slim beauty, FG, Japanese fishermans, or Albrightknot to the main line on the other end.

Well there you have it, fuel the boat, go looking for birds and have some fun!

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