IN THIS month’s article I’ll continue with my beach fishing theme by explaining how to read the beaches of this region in order to find the fish.
With all the freshwater about in the creeks and estuaries, now is a good time to fish the beaches. Many species have been either washed out with all the floodwater or are attracted in from offshore by all the exposed baitfish. I love fishing the green/brown water interfaces around the estuary entrances at this time of year. It is one of those times when good catches of many inshore species are pretty well guaranteed, but you have to find that interface of the salt- and freshwater precisely.
You’ll find beach lagoons on the leeward side of rocky headlands. In this region the big tides enhance these features. Usually a sand bar will form at 90o to the inside of the headland, some distance off the protected beach. A deepish pond can form after rough weather between the three sides represented by the beach proper, the rock headland and the offshore bar itself.
On the neap tides at many of these lagoons, the offshore bar will not be covered by water, or be just barely covered. Not so on the big tides. They go right over this offshore bar, by a good metre or more in many cases, dumping plenty of water between the barriers. Predators surge over the bar, chasing the food washed out of the sand bar and the baitfish trapped in the lagoon. On the flood tide the fish can be found on the inside of this bar and at the entrance to the lagoon – the open ‘side’ of the lagoon. Whiting love these conditions and school up in numbers, and often in the better size ranges than in the estuaries.
As the tide peaks the fishing generally goes quiet (this is usually the case with the top-of-the-tide doldrums wherever you go). However, once that large body of trapped water starts to ebb away, it reaches a certain stage where it can no longer escape sedately back over the sand bar. It really is trapped, along with its remnant fish, and is forced to escape through the bottleneck. These drains can really roar. At the peak of the run the flow is akin to rapids, and varies from half a metre to a metre deep.
At this stage of the tide the predators gather at the exit to the lagoon, snacking on the goodies washing away. Along with the ever-present whiting, gar and long-tom, there are some real ‘hit and run’ speedsters that turn up to create all sorts of havoc. These include queenfish, trevally and salmon in these parts. Seeing the action of these predators in shallow water – sometimes only 200mm deep – is amazing. These are great areas to fly fish, and the new style plastic prawns are dynamite as well.
In early February we made a hike down Hummock Hill Island’s coastline, and found a classic lagoon formed following the rough weather kicked up by Cyclone Beni inside a rocky headland (see photo). There had been some erosion onshore on the big autumn tides, and several large casuarinas and paperbarks had crashed across the draining creek running from the lagoon into the surf. We were able to scramble across the trunk of a big paperbark that formed a bridge across the raging torrent.
In the lagoon the water was very clear, and we could see the fish glinting in the sun. Because the hike was long we’d left our fishing gear back in the boat, but large whiting had previously been caught at this lagoon’s entrance/exit into the surf. We’ll certainly be back.
Similar beach structures pop up all over the Curtis coastline. A few include Station Point and Cape Keppel, the bar at Yellowpatch (north) and between the Cape Capricorn lighthouse and Yellowpatch headland itself. More southern ones include Turtle Street at times, Wild Cattle Island front beach (no headland), Norton Point (southern Hummock Hill Island) and the first inside beach at Turkey Beach. Remember that some lagoons are quite small; don’t always be looking for a big feature like the one in the photo.
Local angler Mal Hodgson was walking the gravel bars at Toolooa after the recent floods only to spot a funny-shaped turtle on top of a gravel bar – a bit like a WW2 German helmet. On closer investigation it proved to be a long-necked freshwater turtle a long way from home. It fitted nicely into a 20-litre bucket for the trip back to Lake Callemondah – only 20km away!
1) This classic lagoon at Hummock Hill Island was formed during the rough weather kicked up by Cyclone Beni.Reads: 600