I ALWAYS look forward to March. There are plenty of options, possibly more than at any other time of the year, whether it be on the beaches of Fraser Island or in the sheltered waters of Hervey Bay.
On Fraser’s ocean beach the only species that’s likely to be hard to find is the tailor, even though schools of choppers patrol the beaches throughout the off-season. Already there are indications that sand whiting are heading for a great season along the beach after a quiet period throughout the hot summer months. On the last half of the ebb tide and on the early flood, whiting tend to be concentrated in the small low-water gutters. Don’t discard a gutter because it looks too shallow, as this is often where the fish will be.
The other major beach species – dart, bream and tarwhine – can be expected in good numbers this month. Dart of good quality rarely come close to the beach during daylight hours and a good cast is needed to reach good fish just inside the big gutters or in the open surf. An early morning high tide usually gives the best results. During the night, however, excellent dart move right into calm inshore gutters.
Bream can be expected to be hungry for the next few months as they build up condition for winter spawning. I like to target them in the wash around the headlands, particularly where small gorges have been cut into the rock face. Many of the coffee rocks hold bream at this time of the year but these fish are rarely of good quality. Although bream will take pipis and worms, they much prefer frogmouth, white and small blue pilchards, or even halved WA pilchards. In good conditions lightly weighted baits, allowed to drift around in the wash, will bring results.
Often confused with bream, the tarwhine is more likely to be located around the coffee rocks like those at Ngkala, Yidney and Poyungan, or in open beach gutters. They are not at all partial to fish baits but relish a presentation of fresh pipis or sea worms.
I hate to mention it, but weed continues to be a problem along the ocean beach. Northerly winds, which have continued well into summer, tend to bring the weed in while south-easters tend to take in out. With more south-easters and fewer northerlies during the next five months we must be hopeful.
Inside, Hervey Bay spotty mackerel are still going well as I put this report together. Big schools have been working the baitfish along the inside of Fraser Island north of Moon Point as well as wider areas of the northern bay. Now that there’s a ban on commercial ring netting, anglers have been taking their bag limits of top quality fish with ease. Most have been spinning with metals like Lazers and Raiders while others have been trolling skirted lures. Other adventurous souls have been working plastics into the feeding frenzy with plenty of success but to the rapid destruction of the softie. It would be reasonable to expect these fish to be around well into this month.
A number of anglers have asked me whether or not it is safe to eat spotted mackerel taken from the ciguatera-prone Platypus Bay. It is my understanding that only fish that are part of a food chain originating with bottom-dwelling dinoflagelates (the organisms that produce ciguatoxin) are likely to be a problem. For this reason, Spanish mackerel and a number of other species pose a real threat. On the other hand, spotties appear to follow surface-feeding baitfish into the bay and are less likely to be part of such a food chain. Of course, there can be no guarantees but the fact that spotties from this area can be marketed is an indication that they are safe to eat.
We had a very lean time with tuna during the mid-summer holidays. A few schools of macks showed up briefly, with longtails conspicuous by their absence. My very latest reports indicate that longtails have appeared between Pelican Bank and Moon Point and that there have been sightings of macks further north in the bay, so we should look forward to some excitement in the tuna department.
Many of our inshore reefs have been fishing quite well while others have been disappointing. Those just off Point Vernon and Pialba have been responsible for a good class of black-spot tuskfish and easily legal coral bream (grass sweetlip). Many of the other reefs have seen plagues of undersize squire and it becomes increasingly difficult to find one that makes it to 35cm. Coral bream have been plentiful but there have been plenty of fish that don’t reach the 30cm minimum. Blackall have been plentiful with the better specimens coming in at night. Remember that there’s now a bag limit of five on blackall.
At River Heads where the Mary and Susan rivers enter the bay, there have been some very mixed results in recent months. Local heavy rain put a sudden fresh into the Susan and its tributaries, streams that drain much of Hervey Bay’s immediate hinterland. This certainly didn’t do wonders for the fishing at the time, but now that this is clearing the beneficial results are being realized. The Mary, on the other hand, had a taste of sweet water but not to the extent of that of the Susan. Anglers fishing the shallows inside the Susan have found a good class of sand and golden-lined whiting biting well on the last of the flood and the early ebb. Quite a few northern whiting have also been taken, and these can be identified by the somewhat flattened snout and by fins paler than those of the other species.
In the same areas, blue salmon have been making an appearance as incidental or targeted catches. Anglers targeting blues are using shallow running bibbed lures, bright pink softies or live baits. Pikey bream, silver bream and javelin have been reasonably plentiful along the deep snaggy banks, with javelin also favouring the many submerged rock ledges in the system. Prospects for March are very much dependent on what sort of a wet season will eventuate, but current indications suggest that these areas will still be worth visiting.
Many Hervey Bay anglers are making tracks to some of the state’s excellent freshwater impoundments to add variety to their fishing experiences. Lake Lenthall, just an easy 50-minute drive from Hervey Bay, is turning on some great bass fishing. Soft plastics, particularly those in translucent yellows, browns and dark greens, have been particularly successful in recent weeks. Many locals are travelling further afield to Boondooma Dam, Lake Barambah (Bjelke-Petersen Dam) and Lake Monduran. Anglers just returned from Lake Barambah reported hot bass action with fish to 46cm, but taken only on spinnerbaits. Just a few golden perch were taken as well.
Other locals have been making longer forays to more distant freshwater hotspots such as Awoonga Dam and Peter Faust Dam (Lake Proserpine), both famed for their outsized barra. John and Yvonne Maxwell and party were fortunate enough to connect to 12 good barra in a three-day stint at Peter Faust Dam recently. At the opening of Bay City Marine’s new showroom, Yvonne took out first place in the ‘Brag’ photo competition with a record of her 22kg barra taken on the trip.
Next month I’ll take a close look at what our Easter holiday visitors might expect in Hervey Bay and along Fraser Island’s beaches. Catch you then.
1) Yvonne Maxwell’s 22kg barra taken at Lake Proserpine – good enough to win Bay City Marine’s photo comp at their showroom opening.Reads: 359