It's that time of year again, when trying to forecast fishing action is no easy task.
In my youth, July was fairly simple in that dawn and dusk would produce tailor and big bream on pilchards or flesh baits. When the tailor went off the chew, we'd use pipis and worm for bream, tarwhine, dart, whiting and the occasional flathead. In those days of the 1970s and 80s, it wasn't difficult to get a feed and the hardest part was walking the cold sandy tracks to the beach at first light. But even with the acquired wisdom of another 20 or more years, I really can't give readers any solid information on how to go about finding a feed in July any more.
Flathead seem to be the only fish caught with any regularity during winter these days. The other species that used to be here in July, there might be the occasional fish to be found, but it tends to be the exception rather than the rule. However, there is some potential for things to be a little different this year due to the good rainfall in early June that dropped near 16 inches in The Noosa River catchment area.
The subsequent stream rise is certain to prompt some activity, and the mullet and bream would definitely be inspired to spawn. Unfortunately, the main beneficiary of this is likely to be the professional angler waiting at the mouth for them to come out. A couple of good-sized hauls in their nets would probably shut down the recreational prospects, but if enough bait gets drawn into the water discoloured by the fresh, then it's possible that tailor, jew, bream, tarwhine, trevally and dart will hang around, irrespective of what the nets at the mouth are doing. I can't say that I'm optimistic about this occurring and I wouldn't expect any real numbers, but there is at least some potential for a feed. The northern end of the beach or Rainbow Bay, as far away from the mouth as possible, would be the area to look, though 'snot weed' has been a problem there of late.
In recent weeks I've been finding the odd school of tailor coming into only one or two gutters. A kilometre long coffee rock reef, about 4km south of Teewah that extends out from the dunes for a few 100m, has provided a good drawcard for tailor to this section of beach. In the good old days, this stretch was often where tailor would congregate in large numbers and sometimes stay on the chew for a week or two at a time. Nothing like that happens now, but for a few days I was able to spin up reasonable numbers of choppers from a patch of rock in a channel gutter that was only accessible around low tide.
Conditions at the time over the whole new moon cycle were tremendous and allowed catches each day to be compared. Four days before the new moon, good choppers of around 45-50cm took fast lures and were feeding aggressively. This activity slowed and the quality of the fish reduced to averaging 35cm by the time the moon was new, with slow lures being more productive. After the new moon, activity increased again along with the quality, until the fourth day when I had a memorable session on 2-3.5kg hungry greenbacks. The following day produced only a few small choppers despite conditions being identical.
This pattern of feeding is typical for tailor and emphasises how moon phases dictate results with these fish. They feed over the new and full moon phases, especially around the last large tide of the phase, to fill up before continuing their migration during the slack tides. The same rules tend to apply to other species such as dart, tarwhine, whiting and bream.
When the tides started to increase again a week later with the following full moon, tailor began coming into a gutter near the second beach access cutting. This gutter was a high tide gutter with high banks to stand on while fishing. Average choppers of around 40cm were taking fast lures over the top of the tide, but I couldn't find anything anywhere else.
The day after the full moon, a net was shot at the mouth and from that point the tailor, tarwhine, whiting and dart that had been about, disappeared altogether. Coincidentally or otherwise, this seems to have been when the last mackerel and tuna were taken in Laguna Bay. Reports of tailor out on the reefs suddenly began to arrive indicating an offshore migration.
Last year, the then Noosa Shire Council commissioned environmental consultants Jaeger Moran to do a vehicle impact study of Teewah Beach and Noosa North Shore. Invertebrate assemblages were studied and compared with Peregian and Sunrise beaches further south that don't have vehicle traffic. Their conclusions were that off-road vehicles (ORV) cause a reduction in the populations of these invertebrates. Unfortunately, the studies failed to take into account the incessant algal blooms that have plagued this beach since 2001.
These blooms are ultimately caused by nutrient run-off from the Noosa and Mary rivers and other streams flowing into the Sandy Straights and Hervey Bay. The impacted areas have been largely Gladstone to Teewah Beach with Sunrise and Peregian having had very few blooms to contend with. Toxic algal blooms kill pipis en masse where concentrations of the bloom collect in the swash and would definitely kill other invertebrates. Auralus australis killed a stretch of mangroves in the side creek at the mouth of Wathumba Creek on Fraser Island two years ago and shellfish were washing on to the shore on both sides of the island at the time.
I've seen similar things many times both here and Fraser since 2001 and before that the groin affecting red weed was killing pipis at concentration points on the northern end of Fraser. Knowing that this is the case and that the two studied beaches have vastly different algal issues, I can safely suggest that the conclusion offered by Jaeger Moran cannot be used. I can also safely say that pipis populations are not affected by ORV and that horses have a greater impact.
At this stage, there are no plans to ban vehicles on Teewah Beach, but at some stage in the future the issue will come up. This report will undoubtedly be available to any decision-making process, and on face value a decision to ban vehicles, could, under certain circumstances be an easy one to make. Another report by Jaeger Moran on shorebird health on the North Shore would also play a role in any such debate and also weigh in favour of a ban. This report is also flawed due to vital influences not being considered and next month I'll explain this in full.
These are just two examples that come to mind where researcg can cause the decision-making process to be clouded with misinformation. I wonder how many other such reports have reached conclusions that don't take into account variables that perhaps only local and experienced individuals are aware of.
In June, I'll be on the Bruce heading north to the Western Cape and Pennefather River, with stops at The Whitsundays, Princess Charlotte Bay and Weipa planned. It's a trip I've been looking forward to for some time and all my previous sojourns to Weipa in the past have been by plane, which doesn't allow for all the tackle and equipment that one would like to have to explore this remote region.
With the tinny in tow this time, we'll be able to set ourselves up on the banks of the Pennefather for a couple of weeks of what would expect to be fairly intense action. Previous visits to Pennefather have been a real eye opener with the abundance of fish within minutes of pulling the 4WD up at the mouth of the stream. I'll certainly be staying in touch with goings on here and hoping that the fishing is better than I expect.Reads: 728