Reaping the benefits
  |  First Published: May 2004

AFTER the trouncing belted out by the weather during February and March, we should now look forward to reaping the benefits of flood rains and, although it might not seem apparent, the near-cyclonic winds. As I put this report together, conditions are looking good and anglers are starting to hit the water again.

The Hervey Bay Boat Club’s annual competition in early March managed to find a small window of opportunity during a time of frustrating weather conditions. The larger fish weighed in were dominated by golden trevally and blackall, the latter being particularly plentiful. Both species are expected to be in full swing this month. It has been interesting to see the effect on fishing competitions, where dusky flathead continue to be accepted as an eligible fish. With a maximum legal length of 70cm now in place, it really comes down to finding the flattie that just doesn’t quite go over the limit, rather than trying to track down the fattest old mama in the sea. It has been interesting to see that in this and other events, the flathead competition is no longer being dominated by the big-fish specialists. Now it may not be a matter of how to stretch a fish, but how to make one shrink. It might be better to leave them out of the competition altogether.

There has been no shortage of fresh water flowing into the bay and straits from major rivers like the Mary and Burrum and from the many smaller streams. Major current lines have been developing along the junctions of clear bay water and muddied waters from the streams and vast areas of shallows. Between the Picnic Islands, Woody Island and Little Woody Island a major current line has been developing on the ebb tide as dirty water from the river and Mangrove Island flats runs up against the clear waters from the straits. Baitfish have been concentrating along the vicinity of the current line and there have been plenty of longtail (northern bluefin) tuna working on them and occasionally falling for 65g Raiders that almost perfectly match their natural prey.

I can’t recall ever seeing so much baitfish in the bay. At Moon Point, small blue pilchards were so abundant that the terns were just plucking them off the surface without the aid of predators stirring them up. We couldn’t find a single mackerel or tuna interested in them. Out at the Fairway buoy on the same day, however, big schools of spotty mackerel were making a feast of them. With so much bait in the bay as I write, it seems likely that there will be plenty of pelagic action for some time.

The recent flood run-off has brought on some excellent fishing in the lower Mary and Susan rivers as well as in the northern parts of the Sandy Straits. At River Heads, barra have been falling for livebaits and bibbed lures along the rocks at South Head and in the confused waters of the ‘Frying Pan’ at North Head. Blue salmon made an appearance as the first hint of clean water started to make its way into the rivers. There have also been a few good king salmon, a species more at home further upstream. Trumpeter (javelin) have been fairly hard to track down in recent years but seem to have made quite a comeback, particularly along South Head and along the deepwater ledges and snags at Ungowa and Deep Creek on the west coast of Fraser Island. This month, catches of these species should be maintained, particularly if we receive another burst of fresh water from local streams.

A bumper bream season almost always follows a good fresh in the river, so we can expect good catches to start this month. This is the time of the year when bream feed ravenously, building up their reproductive tissues, and start to move into their favoured spawning areas. In the Mary River, between Maryborough and River Heads, rocky outcrops at Top Rocky, Lower Rocky, the Grid Iron, King Rocks and Beaver Rocks usually fish well early in the season. By the end of May, spawning fish are usually well established at River Heads. The walls of the Urangan Boat Harbour and the pylons of the Urangan Pier are also likely to produce plenty of bream this month. However, don’t expect too many bream at the northern end of Woody Island as this prime spawning ground doesn’t normally come good until mid June or early July.

To some extent, Hervey Bay’s reef fishing has been knocked around by the extensive fresh and exceptional heat. The shallow reefs have been most affected but are now showing signs of recovery. There have been plenty of coral bream (grass sweetlip) about, but few are making the 30cm limit. As mentioned earlier, blackall have been plentiful and will continue to be so this month. There are still a few blue parrot and coral trout coming off the reefs, particularly those at Gatakers Bay and Point Vernon. Deeper areas like the Artificial Reef, Moon Ledge, Mickys and Bogimbah Ledge will probably be better options as the inshore waters cool down.

Diver whiting are expected to be in full swing this month. I can’t give you any exact locations at this point except to say that they almost always appear first off Toogum, Dundowran and Gatakers Bay. Just look out for that tight cluster of boats. By the start of the month they may well have moved farther into the bay to feed wide of city beaches, south of Round Island and at the southern end of Woody Island.

Fraser Island’s ocean beaches certainly copped a battering from a tropical low followed up by Cyclone Grace. Extensive areas of coffee rock have been exposed, some for the first time in decades, as huge masses of sand have been sucked out to sea. As I write this report, locals and visiting anglers are still waiting to wet a line as conditions slowly abate. It’s also going to be interesting to see what effect the conditions have had on the floating weed that has plagued the ocean beaches for a number of years.

May is usually a great time to be fishing the ocean beach. Sure – you won’t find too many big tailor, but there shouldn’t be any shortage of solid sand whiting, dart, bream and tarwhine. The headlands and coffee rocks should also be worth exploring again this month, particularly if conditions aren’t too boisterous. Next month – midwinter prospects.

1) Bob Grant and Cec Woodland were happy with their catch of coral trout and coral bream after a short session at Gatakers Bay.

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