I’VE spent the last couple of weeks dodging water hyacinth, and have not minded one little bit! The February rains have produced enough fresh in the Mary River and its tributaries to bring acres of the stuff out into the bay. According to news reports there are still miles of hyacinth clogging up some of the streams so, with some more good rain, we might see a lot more of it. In parts of the bay it has been so thick that even dodging it has been impossible.
The fresh that has accompanied the hyacinth has been very welcome. Nutrients being washed into the marine system, even those from the decomposing hyacinth, will be of tremendous benefit in the long term.
There has been a slowdown in the tuna action in the inner bay since the fresh. I have had a few reports that they are still going well further up the island, off Arch Cliff and Wathumba Creek. There are still masses of baitfish in the bay, so when things settle down the tuna should return.
Mackerel, on the other hand, have continued to keep anglers happy. Both school and spotted mackerel have been taken, with most of the action coming from the shipping channel marks out as far as the Fairway. The Eight Mile, off Burrum Heads, has also been fishing well.
It has been quite a good season for golden trevally, with flyfishers practising catch and release on many of the bay’s shallows. There have been some huge schools of goldies around Moon Point, Pelican Bank and Christies Gutter, but more often than not they haven’t been in feeding mode. The boys who specialise know the conditions in which the goldies are likely to feed in a particular location.
When golden trevally feed in the shallow water that flyfishers work, they are most likely to be sucking yabbies out of their holes. This is when we area able to see the spectacular ‘tailing’ display as the fish do headstands in the shallow water with their tails protruding above the surface.
Bait and lure fishermen have also been finding plenty of goldies on some of reefs, particularly those north of Moon Point. I am confident that there will be plenty of goldies around this month, so if you want to take your flyfishing to that higher level, head for Hervey Bay.
The reefs of Hervey Bay have attracted the most attention from anglers over recent months, and will continue to do so until mid- to late May. Both deep and shallow reefs have been producing good fish.
Early in the season, coral bream (grassy sweetlip) of any size were scarce in the shallows but were reasonably plentiful in deeper water at the Artificial Reef, the Channel Hole and Boges Hole. During the last month, fish of better quality have moved in to the shallow reefs.
Blackall have been consistent on most of the reefs, with best catches coming in after dusk. Blue parrot (black-spot tuskfish) are still being taken in good numbers but these will probably the first species to as the weather gets cooler.
The big surprise package this season was the abundance of coral trout. Many haven’t made the 38cm limit and (hopefully) have been released, but there have also been plenty of respectable catches of fish up to 3kg. Some have been taken by anglers targeting general reef species, but the best results have come from casting or trolling shallow running bibbed lures or using whole, preferably live, herrings. I have no idea why we have experienced this excellent run of trout, but I like it! The numbers of undersize fish that are being caught augurs well for coming seasons, provided anglers are doing the right thing. If you come to Hervey Bay this month, perhaps over the Easter holiday period, you can still expect the reefs to be fishing well.
Whiting anglers have experienced mixed fortunes of late. The city foreshores from Scarness to Urangan have been producing plenty of fish, but a lot have been undersize. The better fish have been caught at night or early in the morning. The high banks are also holding plenty of fish but again, there are many that don’t make 23cm. Substantial schools of big whiting can be seen almost every day in the shallows at the Urangan pier but, despite all kinds of strategies employed by anglers, the fish are not responding. At least we know that the big whiting are still around.
Diver whiting usually don’t start becoming serious until April, but to everyone’s surprise some good catches were made as early as late February. Whether the fresh run-off has had anything to do with it, it’s hard to say. The first big schools of divers usually appear off Toogum and Gataker’s Bay. You only need to watch for the tight gatherings of small boats to determine whether these fish have arrived.
With their winter spawning season only a couple of months away, bream are now feeding well throughout the bay. The walls of the Urangan boat harbour are fishing well but only at night, while good fish are being taken from around the pylons of the pier, particularly over high water in the inner gutter. As I write, the rivers are carrying good fresh run-offs and bream are not easy to locate.
Bream devotees can expect a top season this year. My own records show that the best seasons have followed flood run-off between January and March.
At the Urangan pier, specialists in their own particular fishing disciplines are going about their business. Others enjoy the walk out there to watch any action that comes along. At the inner gutter, garfish anglers set up with ultra-light lines, floats, tiny hooks and supplies of small yabbies, scoring catches of these delicately flavoured fish. Flathead anglers, ready with lures or live bait, prowl the pier in search of any signs of their quarry in the shallow waters below. When the tide is in, bream fishermen lean over the rails and work their lines around the pylons. Schools of mullet, large and small, play follow-the-leader and dozens of huge diamond-scale mullet cruse around on the surface.
Further out beyond the spit, the ‘big guns’ are ready to fire as numerous set light game outfits, baited with live herrings or pike, are ready to scream. When one does, it’s all action as the fortunate angler does his best to avoid the dozens of other lines that are still waiting, as well as the barnacle- and oyster-encrusted piles. A rope gaff, one of dozens on hand, is made ready to bring the battle to a close. Captures include golden trevally, great trevally, mackerel (Spanish, broad-barred, school or spotted), queenfish and barramundi. Everywhere the owners of the set lines are jigging for herrings and then keeping them in aerated buckets.
It’s been a bag of mixed fortunes at Fraser Island during the past month. The weed that has been making its presence felt for the best part of a year is still coming and going with different weather conditions. It’s possible to find gutters that are not too badly affected, and I’m optimistic enough to suggest that the situation is improving.
Along the ocean beach, from south of Dilli Village at least as far north as Indian Head, sand whiting have been prolific. Most have been taken in well-formed gutters on the second half of the ebb and first of the flood, but many others are being located in the sandy patches around the coffee rocks. In the bait department, sea worms and pipis are both working well. Although we can expect good sand whiting catches throughout the year, the months at the top of my list are March, April and May.
The same gutters have also been turning up some good dart, particularly on an early morning flood tide with a high around 9:00am. Bream, tarwhine and the occasional flathead are also coming out of the gutters.
Anglers working the headlands at Waddy Point, Middle Rocks and Indian Head have been bringing in some good mixed catches. Bream of particularly good quality have been coming from most of the narrow gorges and washes. Lightly weighted half-pilchards allowed to wash around in the white water have been particularly successful. Large tarwhine have been there too, but they’re not particularly partial to pillies and have been responding better to sea worms and pipis.
Rock fishermen have also been scoring a few school jew as well as netted blubberlip (locally known as spotted perch). The rocks can be a good option when weed makes the gutters difficult to fish.
Few anglers have been fishing the inside beaches in recent weeks, but those who have fished there haven’t had anything exciting to report. There is no shortage of whiting but the majority are undersize.
During the next month or two I recommend looking for a few flathead and bream around the coffee rocks and at the mouths of the creeks.
Fraser Island’s roads should now be in better condition, thanks to recent heavy rain. However, although they will be a lot firmer to travel on, many could still be quite rough following the treatment they received during the dry conditions.
1) Julian Zorzo scored this 7kg golden trevally at the Meringa pinnacles, just north of Moon Point.
2) Coral trout have been plentiful on Hervey Bay’s reefs this season. This one fell to Dave Weston’s trolled blue Rapala near Round Island.Reads: 612