Beakies hit the bay
  |  First Published: January 2016

There’s been some exciting times on the Fraser Coast for anglers with a great range of fishing on offer. The last couple of months has had something for just about every keen angler.

The run of juvenile black marlin right along our state’s southern coast has everyone talking. Around Rooney Point at the northern end of Fraser Island, light game anglers are enjoying a season that would seem to be as good as last year’s. The only negative has been the persistent northerly winds that can make the trip from Urangan or from Burnett Heads very uncomfortable.

Fortunately, there have been enough breezes out of the south or east to make it an easy trip from Hervey Bay, a short crossing to Moon Point, and to use the protection of Fraser Island for the majority of the trip. There have been plenty of fish in the shallows, not far off the sandy beaches of the island.

The fish are easily sighted and targeted using fly, plastic or hardbodied lures. Trolling skirts has also been effective, as have live yakkas. To the best of my knowledge, anglers are following a strict catch and release policy with most released while still in the water. A quick cuddle, photo and release is fine, with care.

Spotty mackerel have arrived, and scattered schools patrol Platypus Bay and the eastern part of Hervey Bay as far south as Arch Cliffs. Their arrival may be a little earlier than some would have expected, but it certainly looks good well into the summer season. The mackerel are following schools of small baitfish so small metals are the most effective.

Anglers need to be aware that a bag limit of five, as well as a sensible minimum length of 60cm applies. Spotted mackerel are often confused with Queensland school mackerel. Both have spots but those of the spotties are smaller, more distinct and more numerous than those of the school mackerel. A legal schoolie is at least 50cm long and a bag of 10 fish is permitted. When the spotted mackerel are running, it is fairly unlikely that schoolies will be in the same catch, so it is safest to work with the legalities for spotties.

I am often asked if it is safe to eat spotted mackerel as they are frequently taken in the Platypus Bay where ciguatera poisoning is known in a number of fish species. It is my understanding that to be a ciguatera threat, a fish like large Spanish mackerel needs to be near the top of a food chain that includes, or originates from, the bottom-dwelling dinoflagellate algae that produce the ciguatoxin. It is most unlikely that the very mobile spotted mackerel, feeding on equally mobile surface baitfish would be part of the ciguatera food chain. However, you can never be 100% sure, but I am yet to hear of a case of ciguatera poisoning attributed to eating spotted mackerel.

On Fraser Island’s ocean beach, there hasn’t been too much to excite. The usual resident beach species like whiting, tarwhine, dart and bream have kept anglers busy. As expected, the most successful fishing is happening early morning and late afternoon. The beaches have been in good condition with very few extensive coffee rock exposures.

Hervey Bay’s reefs are now performing well after a slow start in November. The deep ledges at Boges Hole, the Channel Hole, Moon and Bogimbah ledges have produced some excellent coral bream, tuskfish, cod and blackall. The only negative has been the frustration of losing so many good fish to sharks. Sharks have been a big problem further north in the bay for months, and it looks very much like the problem has moved south.

After a disappointing season last summer, blueys (tuskfish) have returned in force. On the deeper grounds, blueys in excess of 8kg can be expected while on the shallow reefs, a fish over 3kg would be exceptional. Wherever they are targeted, seriously heavy lines are needed to stop them seeking the protection of the reef. Once hooked, there is no time for finesse. It is a matter of ‘hang on and don’t give an inch’. It might seem like overkill, but I have to admit to a 24kg line on a direct retrieve Alvey when fishing the shallows.

For bait, black rock crabs, blue claw or small paddlers are almost mandatory but coral prawns and yabbies are also worth using. The problem with yabbies is that often they will get taken by small reef fish. There is a huge range of plastic crustacean lookalikes as well. I am yet to locate a bluey that has been fooled by an artificial, but I haven’t tried some of the latest offerings.

Elsewhere in the bay, flathead have been plentiful around the island creek mouths while sand whiting continue to come in from the banks south of Moon Point, Bogimbah Creek and the flats on the eastern side of Little Woody Island.

At River Heads, and well up the Mary River, blue salmon are again quite plentiful. Both pikey and yellowfin bream are still being taken around South Head, Beaver Rock and along the steep mud banks in the Susan River.

The year has finished well for Fraser Coast anglers. Hopefully the New Year will bring more of the same.

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