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Hervey Bay – Month by Month
  |  First Published: December 2002



SO YOU’RE thinking about visiting the Bay for a little fishing this year? Great idea! This article should help you pick a month that will most appeal to your fishing interests.

In this article I’ll be discussing the areas that are within easy access of Hervey Bay’s major boat ramps at Gatakers Bay, Urangan and River Heads. Anglers with long-range offshore vessels can travel to the Southern and African gutters, to the reefs off Fraser’s northern and eastern coast and to the lightship at the tip of Sandy Cape shoals. These distant reefs are not as affected by changes in water temperature, and they fish fairly consistently for a range of reef species. Weather is the dominant factor when considering trips to these outer areas.

JANUARY

With the early Summer northerlies behind us (hopefully), the reefs should be fishing well for all reef species. These include coral bream (grassy sweetlip), blackall, blueys (black-spot tuskfish), coral trout, cod, sand bass (reef barramundi), stripeys and moses perch. The shallow reefs should really come into their own this month, particularly in view of the expected demise of the northerly winds of previous months.

Fringing the mainland from Gatakers Bay to Pialba, and the islands of the bay, these shallows fish best during the early morning, late afternoon and during the night, and most can be worked successfully over the bigger tides. Deeper reefs, like those at the Artificial Reef, the Channel Hole, Moon Ledge, Boges Hole and Bogimbah Ledge, will continue to be productive. Most of these reefs need to be fished over a tide change, with the exception of neap tides.

Spotty mackerel should just about be at their peak this month. Most are taken along the inside of Fraser Island between Wathumba Creek and Arch Cliffs. Tuna, both longtails and macks, should be widespread throughout the bay. As I write, mack tuna are prolific along the inside of Fraser Island and between Woody Island and Moon Point.

Golden trevally should be widespread this month, and can be targeted with live baits, poppers and flies. Calm, warm days are ideal for sight-fishing goldies over the flats.

Whiting won’t be at their best this month, but there should be enough along the foreshores to provide a feed.

How well the Susan and Mary estuaries will fish depends on what sort of a wet season we have. In big seasons, this whole system can be wiped out with heavy fresh run-off. Great in the long term though! Given reasonable conditions, the system should produce a mixed bag of flathead, bream, blue salmon and javelin. Island and mainland creeks are also worth checking out for mangrove jack. January is always a lively month for jacks.

FEBRUARY

This fishing in February won’t be much different from January. If anything, the reefs will fish even better. Spotty mackerel should still be available, but numbers will taper off towards the end of the month. These fish will likely be well scattered after the attention they receive from ring-netters.

Longtail tuna and mack tuna should be well established throughout the bay, even as far south as Ungowa, and golden trevally will be around in good numbers for a few months.

Sand whiting catches should improve in February, with the best catches coming from the high banks throughout the bay. Island and mainland creeks will continue to be worth investigating, as will the river estuaries.

MARCH

Another great month for fishing the reefs! Higher evening tides produce some hot sessions at dusk and early evening along the edges of the shallow reefs. Spotty mackerel will be harder to find, but there shouldn’t be any shortage of tuna. This is month usually sees a higher proportion of longtails in the tuna populations.

Bream will start to make their presence felt this month as they go into pre-spawning feeding mode. The walls of the Urangan Boat Harbour fish particularly well for bream at this time. Sand whiting should continue to keep light line anglers happy along the foreshores and over the high banks. The very first diver whiting for the Winter season might start to appear at the end of the month, but don’t count on them.

Local and island creeks will still fish well during March. Pre-season bream are often prolific in the creeks, particularly those creeks along the inside of Fraser Island. The Susan and Mary estuaries will be chancy this month. If we have a good fresh in January, these spots will really fire.

APRIL

The reefs will continue to deliver some great fish in April, although there might be fewer coral bream. Coralies don’t like to hang around too long when water temperatures start to drop.

The Artificial Reef usually performs well at this time of the year, with the first of the season’s snapper showing up. Squire seem to be permanent residents of the reef, but the majority of those taken are undersize.

Bream will continue to feed well in preparation for spawning, and there should be some good catches of sand whiting. With the higher tides of the day swinging into the Winter pattern of big evening highs, many serious whiting anglers will be starting to fish the early evening full and new moons at the Picnics, Little Woody and along the inside of Fraser Island between Bogimbah and Bun Bun Rocks. The first serious schools of diver whiting are almost certain to show up off Toogum, Dundowran, Gatakers Bay and Point Vernon.

Tuna and other pelagics will still be about but in smaller numbers.

Lower water temperatures usually result in reduced activity in local and island creeks. However, there are always a few good bream ready to attack a bait or soft plastic.

MAY

After four or five months of excellent fishing, the shallow reefs will start to slow down in May. Only blackall will ignore lower water temperatures. The more temperate waters of the deeper reefs will continue to turn on good catches of coral bream and cod, and snapper and squire catches will improve on the Artificial Reef.

This month we can expect to see the first signs of bream moving into spawning areas like those at the northern end of Woody Island and at the mouth of the Mary River. However, early arrivals tend to be small male fish. Night fishing for sand whiting should be even better, and diver whiting should start to move further into the bay. The popular areas south of Round Island and off the south-western side of Woody Island will become reliable.

JUNE

Most species of reef fish will slow down when June brings lower water temperatures. Blackall and squire will still be available in the shallows and on the Artificial Reef, and snapper and coral bream could be in good numbers.

Bream numbers will continue to increase but, if previous years are any guide, the better quality fish won’t have turned up in the spawning areas yet. Diver whiting should be at their peak this month, and the big full moon tides will be ideal for chasing elbow-slapping sand whiting at One Tree on Woody Island and on the western side of Big Picnic Island. June should be another good month for snapper at the Artificial Reef and also at Moon Ledge.

JULY

If you want to chase big bream at Hervey Bay, this is month to do it. The major spawning areas are loaded with big fish that are ready to hammer baits, small neutral-buoyancy lures and a variety of softies. The northern end of Woody Island fishes well on the early ebb tide, while the new mouth of Moon Creek performs best on the flood. Both North Head and South Head, at the mouth of the Mary River, are prolific bream spawning grounds and fish every bit as well as Caloundra and the Jumpinpin.

Diver whiting continue to command attention from visiting anglers. However, at this time of the year the schools tend to scatter and are likely to turn up at the most unexpected places.

Good catches of Winter snapper continue in July. At this time, little to the north off Burrum Heads, school mackerel are likely to make their first appearance for the season.

AUGUST

The bream season should be in full swing this month, with the better fish often coming from the mouth of the Mary River. Winter whiting should still be available, but they become more difficult to locate at this time.

The August full moon usually sees a good run of sand whiting along the inside of Fraser Island, north of Moon Point. Some local clubs visit this beach each season, and members enjoy good catches of whiting with a few bream, dart and flathead.

School mackerel, after coping with plenty of attention by commercial fishermen, will find their way further south into the bay, but probably not much further south than Woody Island. There is often a run of small schoolies around River Heads and Kingfisher Bay. Tailor of little better than chopper class often accompany the schools of small mackerel.

Snapper and coral bream will still be available on the Artificial Reef, but numbers are expected to be reduced. On the reefs off Arch Cliff and Wathumba Creek, snapper, squire and a variety of trevally species should be available.

SEPTEMBER

Most of the bream have done their thing by September, and are headed back to their favourite haunts. Pikey bream have a later breeding season, and they tend to take over spawning areas in the lower Mary and Susan rivers. Winter whiting will have become well scattered, but sand whiting should be plentiful along the inside of Fraser Island, along city beaches and from the Urangan Pier.

School mackerel are likely to be found throughout the bay, with the better class of fish dwelling in the shipping channel north of Urangan. The Artificial Reef will be worth fishing for snapper, large squire and coral bream. Further north, reefs wide of Arch Cliffs and the One Mile and Washing Machines off Wathumba Creek could be close to their best for snapper and trevally. Full moon tides usually give the best results on these reefs.

OCTOBER

October is the first of a couple of months that are often adversely affected by strong northerly winds. These make it impossible to venture out for periods of a week or more. To make matters worse, masses of dislodged weed often wash in over the shallow reefs, making fishing particularly unpleasant. Only the protected waters of the river estuaries are worth fishing at this time of the year. Here it is usually possible to score a feed of flathead, yellowfin bream, pikey bream, blue salmon and javelin, with good whiting possible over the many banks throughout the system.

During breaks in the weather, anglers visiting the deeper reefs find that catches start to pick up with the slightly warmer water in October.

Sand whiting can still be expected along city beaches and from the pier, and the inside beaches of the island will hold plenty of fish if weed infestation isn’t too serious. Last year, the beaches between Moon and Coungul creeks were clean right up to the middle of October.

NOVEMBER

Another month for northerly winds. However, during this time the whole range of Summer reef species start to make their way back onto the inshore reefs. Deeper areas such as the channel outside the Urangan boat harbour, and the Channel Hole between Woody and Little Woody islands, probably produce the best fish. By the end of the month, the shallow reefs should also hold plenty of reefies. Again, the Susan and Mary estuaries should be good for mixed bags.

Pelagic action should be on again with the first of the spotted mackerel showing up in Platypus Bay and tuna thrashing into baitfish in the same area and even further south. Last November saw the best run of mack tuna for a number of years, and there was no shortage of fish up to 7kg.

DECEMBER

Hopefully some better conditions this month. It is still very likely that northerly winds might try to spoil the party, but the northerlies tend to be replaced to some extent by south-easterlies and lighter winds.

By this month, reefies should be well established over the shallows as well as on the deeper reefs. Some of the best coral bream are usually taken during December. Golden trevally, which never really disappear from the scene, should be widespread over the warm shallows. Fly fishermen are likely to be out in force, stalking these fish.

December isn’t usually an exciting time for sand whiting, possibly because of the higher inshore water temperatures. There will still be a few school mackerel about, but their numbers will be declining. Off Wathumba Creek, spotted mackerel will be just about at boiling point. These fish will suffer a lot of attention by ring-netters though, so the long trip up the island isn’t always fruitful.

THE PIER

I deliberately left the Urangan Pier out of most of this month-by-month guide. This is because, to a great extent, fortunes here are determined by the presence of baitfish sheltering around the pylons. The big, bruising tackle-busters that zero in on this smorgasbord of bait are what pier anglers are there for. The baitfish include hardiheads, a number of herring species, various gars and yellowtail pike. All of these are likely to be present at any time of the year, but they tend to taper off in mid-Winter.

The main species targeted at the pier at various times of the year include Spanish, school and broad-barred mackerel; great and golden trevally; mack and long-tail tuna; queenfish; and barramundi and flathead. Although some anglers use artificials at the pier, most fishers use live bait. A great deal of the pier activity is involved with catching (and keeping alive) favoured baits like herrings and yellowtail pike. All types of bait netting are prohibited here, so you need to take your live bait with jigs.

FINALLY

I hope that what I’ve written here will assist you in your planning. If you have any more questions, please email me.

Hope to see you up here some time!

1) During September pikey bream replace yellowfin bream in the spawning areas of the Mary-Susan estuary. This pikey was taken at South Head.

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