With the cooler months upon us, a lot of the fishing will slow down in the estuaries, dams and offshore areas around Bundaberg. This doesn’t mean it’s all over; you just have to work a little harder to catch fish, especially on lures.
I like winter though. It’s a lot more comfortable to fish at this time of year, and it’s great to come home without suffering the effects of frying in the sun all day.
Winter is one of the great times for small boats to access the closer reefs and catch snapper. Reefs like the 2-Mile, Ryan’s and the Cochrane artificial reef are good places to start.
One technique that works well is to berley the water to encourage the fish to come close to the boat. At the same time the schools of yellowtail often build up in numbers on the reef and will engulf most of your berley. They make really good baits though.
When it comes to berleying, less is more. This is especially true around Queensland’s shallow reefs, as you can easily attract unwanted fish.
One of the great ways to fish with berley is to float your bait down the berley trail without restricting the bait’s movement with line tightening or any weight. This is not as easy as it sounds, as the bait has to look like part of the berley trail. Some days you’ll find that the fish won’t fall for it, but you can still catch them if you change your approach.
One alternative method that’s been working down south is to use soft plastics in the berley trail, or to just drop the plastics on and around structure. It’s certainly something worth trying, as a lot of snapper are being nailed this way. Anglers have been using the same techniques that they use when fishing for bream, just with bigger weights and plastics to find the structure on the bottom of reefs. Try working plastics in the berley trail and see how you go.
Plenty of good reef fishing happens off Bundaberg in the winter months, with offshore winds making for great fishing conditions. The fishing this year has been exceptional and winter should be no different. The only slow times I experienced last year were around July and August when things were really cold.
I believe that fish stocks around Bundaberg have increased due to the decrease in fishing pressure over the last couple of years. Reducing the number of licensed fishermen in our area has surely been beneficial to the fish stocks, aided by the reduction in recreational anglers fishing offshore. New bag limits on reef fish have caused many recreational anglers to fish the dams and estuaries instead, and the new finning regulations have also reduced the black market fish trade.
The GBRMPA have really knocked us around in the Bundaberg area with a lot of the good offshore reef fishing now designated as green zones. This has affected the amount of recreational anglers and put most of the smaller professional fisherman out of business.
I believe this will create a large black market for reef fillets – a particularly attractive money-making option for people in the regional areas of Queensland with high levels of unemployment. And many tourists will stop visiting Queensland in favour of places like Vanuatu, South Africa and Indonesia. It’s an unfortunate situation.
Plenty of juvenile black marlin have been caught this year, probably as a result of changed netting regulations, and this has really excited a lot of the local people. With increased experimentation by anglers, the catch rates have increased considerably and this just adds another great sportfish to our portfolio in Bundaberg.
The other encouraging thing is that these small blacks obviously have mothers and fathers spawning nearby. We’re most likely sitting very close to a great game fishery, like the one off Cairns, with large female black marlin over 1000lb. We’ll never know if it’s in a green zone though. My thoughts are a lot of the big females come from the Coral Sea and spawn right along the Bunker group of islands right down to Fraser Island.
Many juvenile black marlin and sailfish are caught right down in Hervey Bay. In a recent fly and spin tournament held by our local game club in Hervey Bay, two juvenile blacks and one sailfish were caught right down inside the bay. These fish were very small and I know the growth rates are very quick, but I believe we’re sitting right on the edge of a great game fishery – it just hasn’t been discovered due to the distance needed to travel to the shelf, and the onshore trade winds offering enough protection from small boats. The long liners who work the seamounts around these areas off Fraser Island and Mooloolaba may be able to complete part of the puzzle.
Still, we have a great fishery at the northern end of the spit, which is home to schools of sailfish and nomadic marlin. It would be great to know whether the sailfish population of this area is nomadic or stays here most of the year. It’s likely there are schools that stay most of the year and other schools that move on. Tag recaptures are only around 1% in sailfish, but the new game fishing club in Hervey Bay should help provide more information, with a tournament in November that will encourage boats from all over Southeast Queensland.
The shallow reef areas are a special up here, and throwing poppers can create a big disturbance as the large fish smash the lures and run for cover amongst the reef bommies. It’s spectacular to see and you never know what you’ll hook next. The large giant trevally of this area are particularly popular with angling tourists.
Jigging on the large ledges of the continental shelf is always exciting, with large amberjacks, kingfish, snapper and coral trout often encountered. I always like to see an angler’s feet leave the deck; the fish smash the large jigs with so much force you almost get pulled over the side.
Paul McKay (from Fish ‘n’ Cruise Charters) and I love to go to Monduran Dam and put a big day in on the impoundment. This year this place has really gone off and we have caught heaps of barra over the past month. I’m only hoping this year they might hang around a bit longer with the colder weather upon us. If you would like to try you hand at barra fishing, just give us a call. Paul and I will be able to put you on the right track.
Baffle Creek is most famous for its mangrove jack and barra but, being such a diverse system, there is always something to catch. Many people who are new to the area are keen to go out and catch a fish here but they know nothing of casting lures and fancy overhead reels. This is where Paul is a specialist. Over Easter he took charters up on Baffle Creek and they started their day catching whiting and drummer, catching bait and getting a real feel for the fishing.
The whiting are currently on the bite in the Baffle and there are still a few jacks around. Big oyster-cracking drummer can be caught at the mouth and these fish are great fun on the soft plastics. There’s also the chance of catching one of the big queenies or salmon that haunt this area.
If you’re visiting Bundaberg and you’d like some info on what’s hot or were they are biting, call me at Bundaberg Fishing Charters on 0427 590 995 or 0741 590 995.
1) Roger Cowl with a giant trevally caught about Watch-Tower.
2) Paul McKay with a Monduran barra caught on a B52.Reads: 821