Scoring summer species
  |  First Published: February 2004

BY THE time you read this article I will have moved from the beautiful township of Rainbow Beach and will be settling into a new job in the south-western town of Surat. I love all forms of fishing so I’ll check out the fishing opportunities, gather some local information and adjust my saltwater techniques. For the next few years it looks like my offshore fishing trips will be restricted to my holidays or include long drives to the boat ramp!


The hot weather and reasonable rainfall has certainly stimulated the summer species into action. Crabbing has picked up and during the lead-up to the full moon some excellent catches were made. Most of the muddies come from up the many creeks that feed into the Sandy Straits and mangrove jacks can be targeted in the same location. Greg McIlroy, his son Matthew and brother-in-law Grant recently set out with this in mind and scored some great muddies and good jacks. These hard fighting fish are really hard to handle in the narrow, mangrove-lined creeks and the boys tell me they lost plenty of other fish to the snags.

During February I recommend targeting crabs, jacks or pelagics such as mackerel and tuna in the channel between Inskip Point and Fraser Island.


The weed is still a major problem in the local area and the stench in places is almost unbearable. Long periods of south-easterly weather will hopefully improve the situation but no one seems to know what’s causing it. Some of the old timers who’ve known Rainbow for decades have never seen anything like it and it makes fishing anything but relaxing. Try having to cut your terminal tackle off to clear your entire line after every single cast!

For those lucky enough to find a clear gutter or for those with extreme dedication the fish are there to be caught. At the last fishing club weigh-in Cedric Bryne and Gary Enklemen brought in some spectacular fish yet again, including a 12kg jew. During February I recommend that you try for the ever-reliable dart along with whiting. If you want to get your arms stretched try for golden trevally at Inskip Point.


Last month I had fairly low expectations of the reef fishing due to increasing current and more widely dispersed fish, but lately there have been regular exceptional reef catches. Tony Stewart and his boat Baitrunner have been getting clients onto good numbers of scarlet sea perch and mixed bags of quality reef fish. Ed Falconer and his boat Keely Rose have been consistently catching some really nice red emperor, along with good quality mixed bags including some of the biggest grass sweetlip I’ve ever seen and large mahi mahi (dolphinfish). Mackerel species are being taken outside the bar and on the pinnacles north-east of Double Island Point. During February spotty and Spanish mackerel should be in full swing and, current permitting, the bottom fishing might still be good.


There is now a total fishing ban extending from Wolf Rock for a radius of 1.2 km. It applies 24 hours a day and includes surface trolling. Snorkelling and scuba diving is permitted. The popular ‘Pinnacles’ area will be very close to the outer fishing boundary so be very careful. When trolling it would be very easy to get blown into the restricted area whilst fighting a large fish but I doubt this excuse would be accepted.

I was very disappointed with the lack of consultation and the limited promotion and timeline on the Grey Nurse RIS. I’m amazed that a closure of 1.2km has been applied when research demonstrates the grey nurse sharks spend 100% of daylight hours within 500m of the rock and 85% within 200m and that they lie motionless on the bottom for hours at a time, only becoming active at night. However, it’s apparently OK to have divers swimming around and poking cameras into these important breeding and aggregation sites. Seems to me that fishermen are paying penance for the sins of many divers, who in the past, killed thousands of sharks with spear guns equipped with powerheads.

Fishing is under increasing pressure. Lately, I’ve even had to justify taking fish for the dinner table to people who think that killing fish is unethical. Recreational anglers already have strict bag and size limits in place and many of us practice catch and release or tag and release. We’ve lost heaps of access to the Barrier Reef and the ‘Grey Nurse Aggregation’ sites. What’s next?

At the moment the government listening to some very vocal minority groups, so we need to make ourselves heard because we certainly can’t be dismissed as an insignificant minority. It’s important that we all stay vigilant and make sure we’re united and proactive when it comes to preserving our sport.

I have really enjoyed writing the Rainbow Beach area reports for QFM, and later this year I’ll let you all know about what’s happening on the inland freshwater scene. A great 2004 to all.

1) Grant and Greg McIlroy with a good feed of mud crabs.

2) Matthew McIlroy with a brace of quality mangrove jack.

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