TIME to kick-start 2003 – and what a start it would be if we saw the end of the drought that’s been so devastating across our state. The condition of our marine systems is naturally affected by drought and flood on land, so let’s hope that 2003 will see a generous flushing of our rivers and estuaries. Locally, some reasonable falls have put a little sparkle back in some of our smaller streams. Larger ones like the Mary haven’t really had enough catchment area rain to give the system a boost.
On the ocean beach of Fraser Island, weed has been a huge problem for the greater part of 2002. Every second person has a theory about why it’s there, but I think that the drought is somehow responsible. I have no evidence for this – it’s just that there’s been a correlation with high infestation and below-average rainfall in previous years. Time will tell, but I know this for sure: there wouldn’t be a Fraser Island regular who doesn’t have a weed-free ocean beach on his wish list for 2003!
As I write, word from the island is that there has been a reasonable clearance of weed along much of the beach, following some serious south-easterlies. We’ve seen this happen before, just to watch all the weed come in again at the first hint of an easterly or a north-easterly breeze. A permanent clearance would be a great New Year’s present to all islanders.
Some encouraging catches have been reported from much of the ocean beach, from those gutters that stay relatively clear of weed. Excellent dart, solid sand whiting, a few tarwhine and chopper tailor have been taken. There have even been a few oyster crackers (snub-nosed dart) giving light line anglers a little more than they were prepared for.
Around the coffee rocks at Yidney, and to some extent at Poyungan, kilo bream have been taken. It might seem unusual for bream of this class to be taken in numbers at this time of the year, but it’s actually a frequent occurrence. Most of these fish are fairly lean, and are probably back in their favoured feeding areas to make up for the condition they lost while travelling from the surf bar spawning areas, and also from the spawning process itself.
Fishing fortunes for the coming month depend on the weed situation, but in reasonable conditions we can expect plenty of our light-line favourites: dart, whiting, bream and tarwhine.
Fraser Island’s western beaches have had a weed problem since mid-October. However, I don’t believe this is related to what’s happening on the ocean beach. Weed is an annual phenomenon here, and happens when a completely different type of weed is dislodged from Winter growth areas in the bay. On the inside beach, it usually lasts until early or mid January, so it should soon be worth making the trip across to Moon Point again. You can expect whiting from the beaches, bream and flathead around the mouth of Moon Creek, and flathead where sand and coffee rocks mingle around the mouths of Woralie and Bowarady creeks.
Many island tracks are in a shocking condition, courtesy of the prolonged dry conditions. The fact that we’ve had backpacker vehicles running around with inexperienced drivers who’ve got 35-plus PSI in their tyres hasn’t helped either. The couple of bouts of reasonably heavy rain lately should have hardened the sand to some extent, but tracks will remain rough for some time – at least until they can be graded.
In Hervey Bay, the seasonal northerly winds have kept most anglers at home sharpening their hooks. However, there have been a few spells of weather calm enough to make a trip worthwhile.
I recently accompanied a couple of lads from Southern Brisbane Sportfishing Club on a run up to Platypus Bay to check out the surface action. Not far beyond Moon Point, reasonable schools of mack tuna were thrashing into small baitfish, known locally as ‘rain fish’ or ‘eyes’. They appear to be very young anchovies or a closely related species.
I’ve found that if you don’t use a lure that matches the size of the baitfish, you’re usually out of the race. And with baitfish that small, it isn’t easy to get a tiny metal out far enough and into the feeding frenzy. On this day, however, it didn’t matter because the macks were attacking just about any metal propelled past them fast enough. The boys used a variety of metals, but 40g Raiders in blue and purple, and similar weight Lasers, attracted the most attention.
As we travelled further north, we encountered more and bigger schools of mack tuna and the action was thick and fast. The lads kept a couple of badly injured fish of about 6.5kg for sashimi, but we released the rest. It was the most serious tuna action I’ve seen in the bay for years. All the fish we caught were mack tuna of 5-7kg, but we did sight a few schools of longtails.
Before returning to Urangan, we called into the Wathumba Creek estuary for a few photos. Here we met up with anglers who had made the trip from the ocean beach to escape the weed and windy conditions. Although no records had been broken, these guys had made reasonable catches of bream, flathead and top quality whiting.
So it looks as though we might be in for an exciting season for tuna and other pelagics as they follow baitfish south into the bay. Our trip to Platypus Bay was probably a little early for the annual run of spotted mackerel. The fact that we saw no ring-netters probably meant that these fish haven’t shown up yet. This month, however, they should be well established. Some anglers have reported scoring a few school mackerel over the low reefs west of the mouth of Wathumba Creek.
Closer to Urangan, there are indications that this could be a good season for coral bream (grassy sweetlip) on both shallow and deep reefs. Catches haven’t been huge so far, but the quality has been excellent.
Bluey specialists have been at it again using heavy gear and black crabs. During the last week there have been a number of 3-6kg blueys taken between the mouth of the Urangan harbour and Round Island. From the edge of the reef on the western side of Woody Island there’ve been more reports of these tackle-busting tuskfish, along with some very acceptable coral trout. It surprises me somewhat that both species have become so active early in the Summer.
Estuarine waters accessed from River Heads have become very popular during the recent months of northerly winds. Some recent rains have resulted in a slight fresh in the Susan River and its tributaries – just enough to give the fishing activity a bit of a sparkle.
Anglers have been catching both king (Burnett) salmon and blue (Cooktown) salmon in the system. Most of the kings are well upstream in the Mary River, while most catches of blues have been made in the Susan River system. Both species have been responding to live bait, but there’s a growing band of dedicated anglers doing well on a variety of artificials, particularly brightly-coloured poppers. Although some kings are hitting lures, it’s the blues that have been the most responsive.
To complement the salmon, there have been reports of trumpeter (javelin), pikey bream, silver jewfish, river perch, whiting and flathead. The entire Susan River system is unmarked and has numerous rock and gravel bars, so take extreme care when navigating this estuary. It would be great to see a really big fresh in both river systems. This would have great long-term benefits, but would put a short-term stop to the fishing that’s being enjoyed at the moment.
There’s no shortage of small creeks draining the western slopes of Fraser Island and the mangrove wetlands of the mainland, and the next month or so should really tun on the heat. Mangrove jack prefer island creeks, and these fish can be found along the steep snaggy banks. Bream – mostly yellowfin in island creeks and a mixture of yellowfin and pikey in mainland creeks – usually feed well at this time of year. Javelin, cod, barramundi and salmon are all likely catches in mainland creeks, and it’s not uncommon to see large golden trevally checking out the feeding opportunities well up island creeks.
All indications are that this could be a reasonable month for fishing in and around Hervey Bay and Fraser Island. However, I don’t think anyone will mind if the heavens open up. We’ll just have to learn how to fish in rain jackets again! Cheers for a great New Year!
1) A competitor prepares to weigh in following a club outing at Hawks Nest beach, Fraser Island. As soon as the weed clears, this beach will fish well again.Reads: 1943