I ALWAYS look forward to February because it’s the first in a series of months that present plenty of challenges, and also because the dreaded Hervey Bay northerlies have usually called it a day by this time.
Of course, we can still expect our share of unfishable weather; this is cyclone season, after all. But although we don’t want the destruction one could cause, the residual rain depression after a cyclone crosses the coast is just what we need. As well as a desperate need for rain on the land, out rivers and creeks need a long-overdue flushing. Usual weather patterns should see more south-easters, which are much more conducive to a variety of fishing expeditions.
Hervey Bay experiences a range of tide heights between low and high water, and these range from less than a metre to close to four metres. Tide ranges have great significance for anglers targeting a variety of species, as do the actual heights of low and high water. Top anglers who log their experiences have a record of tidal conditions for their outings, both successful and unsuccessful. This is a huge topic, and is worth exploring in more detail in the future.
If there’s one factor that turns off the action on Hervey Bay’s shallow reefs, it’s the very small neap tide. This is the opposite of what we refer to as a king tide; really an extra high spring tide. On February 11 the morning flood tide will raise the water level at the Urangan Pier just 75cm, and the afternoon ebb will cause a fall of just over a metre. The water will hardly move and, unless influenced by other weather factors, it will be as clear as crystal and most reef fish will take a break from feeding. These conditions don’t suit the shallow reef or the deeper reefs and whiting banks. As the tides build up towards the full moon on February 16 the reefs should start firing again.
Some good catches of coral bream, blackall, sand bass and stripeys have been reported, but the better quality coral bream have been coming in from the Channel Hole, the Artificial Reef, the Picnics and the red beacon south of Little Woody Island. I don’t think I’ll be reporting too many squire catches from Hervey Bay’s shallow reefs in future. It was difficult enough to find a couple over 30cm but, with the 35cm limit now in force, keepers will be rare.
While on the subject of the new regulations, in a short session recently I took a flathead that measured 40.5cm. I hadn’t thought too much about what a 40cm flathead looked like but, having done so, I’m happy that the increase of the minimum legal length to 40cm has been made.
Mackerel catches have been reported on two fronts. The mid-Summer run of spotties has been providing some good sport along the inside of Fraser Island north of about Arch Cliff. This is a fair run to bring home just five fish (the new spotted mackerel limit) so many anglers are topping up with the various trevally species that are often plentiful on the low reefs off Wathumba Creek. Anglers are even turning to the humble pinky (butterfly bream) to bring home a decent feed.
Queensland school mackerel are still being taken in the shipping channel leading out to the fairway. The quality has dropped right off and I wouldn’t be too optimistic about seeing good catches during the next month or so. Anglers who regularly make the long haul to Wathumba Creek to camp for a week, and to fish the offshore reefs for squire and snapper, are far from happy. Now that they’re limited to five fish per person, they feel disadvantaged compared with the angler who makes a two-day charter trip and has a much relaxed limit. I can see their point. These guys spend heaps in fuel, bait and camping fees – easily as much as the cost of a charter trip.
Whiting have been fairly quiet throughout the bay, but this was to be expected. Anglers usually begin to make fair catches by the middle of February. Bream have been making an early run at the Urangan boat harbour, and boat anglers working the pontoons with soft plastics have taken fish to 900g. Anything orange seems to be the go. Cut baits and hardiheads are also working well.
Fishing is not permitted from the pontoons or boardwalks but the inside of the northern breakwater is holding plenty of good fish. As bream head towards their pre-spawning feeding spree, the fun should continue for the next two or three months.
Pelagic action continues throughout the bay, with mack tuna continuing to be the main players. I haven’t seen any longtails for a while, but some anglers who’ve seen them say that they are very spooky and difficult to get close to. The mack tuna that were running at 5-7kg are still in the bay, but they’ve been joined by a smaller class of fish of around 2kg. These are still great sporting fish though, particularly on a lighter line class.
In an area as diverse as Hervey Bay and its feeder streams, it’s not unusual for a few interesting species to turn up from time to time. The lower reaches of the Susan River often produce a small ‘jewfish’, most likely river perch (Johnius australis). I caught dozens of perch in the Brisbane River during the ‘50s, but the 900g fish in the photograph is much bigger than anything I caught from the river. It’s possible that it’s a silver jewfish (Pseudosciaena soldado),but if this is true it’s well out of its northern habitat. Both species are similar as far as fin counts are concerned.
Not a common capture in Hervey Bay, the silver drummer, or southern drummer (Kyphosus vaigiensis) is better known further south. A 1kg specimen was taken on yabby at the northern end of Round Island, and others have been taken along the ledge between the Picnic islands.
I wish I could bring the good news that the weed on Fraser Island’s ocean beach has cleared but, unfortunately the dreaded stuff is still hanging around. South-easterly winds take it out beyond the breakers, and then, on the first sniff of an easterly or north-easterly, the weed returns. Without being over-optimistic, there are some encouraging signs that the density of the weed mass is decreasing. Hopefully, long spells of south-easterly weather in the coming months will have a positive effect.
In the few clear gutters, the usual selection of dart, whiting and tarwhine have been available. On the inside of the island, weed has also made fishing impossible from the beach. Even the creeks have been full of the rotting mass.
Those of you I’ve met out on the bay might be interested to know that my trusty 26-year-old Quinnie has been pensioned off. Now I’m the proud owner of a brand new Honda-powered Quintrex Coast Runner, courtesy of Bay City Marine. I even have a new call sign: Anneka. If you hear me on the water, give me a call. Until then, enjoy it out there!
1) The lower reaches of the Susan River sometimes produce river perch, which anglers often mistake for small jewfish.Reads: 825