Fishing in Bundaberg is never dull, with plenty of options always up our sleeves.
The dams and rivers always give the option to go fishing during a blow. The Break Sea Spit to the north of Fraser Island is a sleeping giant in more ways than one.
The Breaksea Spit area produces some of the biggest sportfish in Australia and is virtually unknown on the gamefishing front. Large schools of sailfish inhabit the shallow areas, along with juvenile black marlin. Large black marlin and blue marlin cruise the canyons and the shelf to the east of the Spit.
If it’s not happening on the billfish front you can try some of the deep water jigging along the shelves, and you can expect to catch some huge amberjacks, snapper and trout.
If you still want to stretch your elbows you could try tossing poppers to the big GTs on the shoal areas. The shoals usually have some other big species such as cobia, mackerel, tuna and coral reef species just waiting to smash your lures.
Every day is different when you’re reef fishing up here. I don’t even try to predict the day anymore, especially based on the day before.
In Bundaberg, fishing the smallest tide of the day produces the best results. We had some great days last month, with one of the more spectacular catches being a 10kg red emperor. It was caught in the middle of the day within 20 miles of the coast. This doesn’t happen much anymore but it’s great to see it when it does.
Big sweetlip are always a big hit off Bundaberg, and we have certainly been nailing these fish lately with a new spot under our belts. We have been catching fish up to 8kg regularly.
Big schools of parrot have been around on our reef as well. I have never known anyone to call them a schooling species, but we seem to be getting runs of 10 to 20 at a time and we’re reaching our bag limits easily.
Mackerel have been very thick and the big Spaniards will be common throughout the coming month, making a tasty meal.
Be careful not to pick up the Spaniards inside Hervey Bay as they can contain dangerous amounts of the ciguatera toxin. A good rule of thumb is to rub a piece of the flesh on your cheek and then the inside of your mouth. If you have any numbness or tingling feeling, the fish is probably toxic. Don’t try the old idea of feeding it to your cat and wait for the cat to die because the cat won’t die until you’re in hospital. I recommend that you don’t keep any Spanish mackerel from in Platypus Bay.
Large schools of tuna are situated from Bundaberg to Hervey Bay with some big longtails, mack tuna, and small Watson’s bonito.
The gamefishing has been hot and cold of late. Some trips have been yielding plenty of fish, while on other days we have to work hard to find fish.
The fun trip of the month was with QFM editor Steve Booth and ad rep Trent Butler. These boys certainly know how to jazz up a charter, although Boothy has a little problem with the sea.
Our first day started in the afternoon heading over to Wathumba Creek for our anchorage for the night, and trolling a spread of lures we managed to catch a Spanish mackerel of around 6kg that we released. There were large schools of tuna around and the boys jumped up on the bow and made repeated attempts to catch one of the speedsters. Unfortunately, we managed only one mack tuna as the schools were very shy. We settled down to a great tea cooked by our deckie Alex.
The next day was a little rough, and with an early start we didn’t see the boys until breakfast time. The only thing I saw of Boothie was his back covered in sweat as he hung his head over the side yelling at the sea. This guy is a legend – not only was he sick all day but he managed to count the 37 times he spewed over the side. He was sprawled out on the deck most of the day like a chalk outline at a road accident site, but he still made the effort to stand up and shake the hand of our angler Barry who had just caught his first sailfish.
We hooked the fish just north of the shoals and we lost one of our teasers as one of the pack swam away with it. Trent managed to see other fish in the spread but in the rough conditions I saw just the one swim away with our teaser. The fish gave us the run-around – we backed down on it for 30 minutes, filling the cockpit with water and soaking our dead body, who was at this stage showing signs of sunburn. We eventually pulled the fish on board but the fight had taken its toll. We returned the fish to the water ASAP and it survived, but because we were very rushed the photos were ordinary.
The sailfish Barry caught was one of our best and it would have weighed over 60kg. Hooked on 10kg tackle, this may have made an Aussie record – who knows?
We managed to catch everything in the morning – yellowfin tuna, mack tuna, mackerel and striped tuna, but after the turn of the tide everything went dead. We decided to try some heavy tackle and opted to take the dead body home early. Poor Boothy had put in a big day and he pleaded with me to take him home, but Trent assured me that he wasn’t too bad, as the blood vessels in his eyes hadn’t popped yet.
Anyway, he survived. What a legend – most people would have died. [I must have nine lives – Ed.]
The shoals have been fishing well for GTs on poppers and there have been plenty of amberjack caught jigging on the shelf. We have also managed to catch plenty of mahi mahi (dolphinfish) and wahoo this month while chasing billfish on the shelf. These fish often make it to the BBQ for our evening meal.
Don’t forget we are still after bookings for Cairns from September 2005 onwards. The Fraser Island charters are available still and we suggest you get in before the end of April to catch the last of the billfish for the year. We will still be doing plenty of jigging and popper-tossing charters during winter, and then we’re off to Cairns and then the Coral Sea. If you’d like to book a charter with us give me a call on 0427 590 995 or (07) 4159 0995.
The water has been very warm in the creeks and dams this summer, but with winter almost upon us the waters will cool, slowing many of the fish down. We always seem to be able to pull a flathead or bream though. It’s not a bad time to catch some jack just before the water cools down, especially in the Baffle Creek. Big schools of dart, queenfish and mackerel can be caught at the mouth of the creek.
One thing you must do is take a kid fishing. My son loves to go fishing with me but in the last few months I’ve been too busy taking every one else. I finally got the chance to take him out the other weekend and he had a ball catching some good size bream. Now that he’s six years old he is casting much better and enjoys learning to drive the boat.
An interesting thing happened while we were fishing along the wall at Burnett Heads when we were catching plenty of pike. One of the pike fell onto the deck and regurgitated a soft plastic lure. It was one that we didn’t have so obviously someone had been mauled by this big pike earlier.
One of my mates has started up his own charter business in Bundaberg and we wish him all the best. Paul McKay has a great pedigree in the fishing industry, going right back to his days working as a line fisherman and trout fisherman in the Coral Sea. Paul has taken a novel approach, specialising in family trips, and with plenty of room on his new Sweetwater Challenger you couldn’t be in better hands.
This pontoon-style boat is set up for fishing, and I was very surprised at its manoeuvrability and fishability. I fished with Paul for a day on the Burnett River and had a great time. Paul provides a great lunch and I didn’t mind a cold beer at the end of the day either.
Being 40 years old like myself, Paul has a great depth of knowledge about the area and fishing in general. He can take you out on the Baffle Creek and fish for queenies at the mouth, and jacks and barra on the rock bars. And if you want to do some good old whiting fishing, he can show you the way. Paul has developed some great strategies to wear out the kids, with activities such as pumping yabbies and a good old swim. If you’d like to tour the dams, Paul has an extensive knowledge of barra fishing in Monduran and you’d be able to do it in comfort and style.
I don’t know how many times I have fished in a tinnie only to come home sunburnt and exhausted. With Paul’s boat you have plenty of shade (that doesn’t restrict casting), and toilet and shower facilities. So if you’re looking for a day out with the wife and kids, or if you’re after a serious angling tour, call Paul at Fish ‘n’ Cruise on 0427 011 264.
If you are visiting Bundaberg and you would like some info on what’s hot you can give Paul a bell, or call me at Bundaberg Fishing Charters on (07) 4159 0995 or 0427 590 995.
1) Des Ikeman with a 10kg red emperor caught on The Watch-Tower.
2) We’ve been catching plenty of mahi mahi and wahoo this month while chasing billfish on the shelf.
3) Trent Butler and Stephen Booth casting to tuna on the bow of The Watch-Tower.
4) Paul McKay in his latest charter boat – one of the most comfortable boats you can fish out of.Reads: 1310