THE NEXT three months should see bream at their best in and around Hervey Bay. They should now be well established in their breeding areas, feeding ravenously as they build up condition prior to spawning.
Many of Hervey Bay’s most productive grounds are along gently shelving rocky foreshores of the mainland and of the bay’s islands. These have much in common when it comes to the most suitable tides and conditions, the most successful baits or artificials and the techniques that give results.
Without exception these rocky areas perform best at night. I like to work the evening tides leading up to, and just over, the new and full moons. From the 12th to the 15th and again from the 25th to the 29th of this month are times that I consider to be ideal. I prefer to fish the very last of the flood tide just after dusk, then two or three hours on the ebb. I have found that bream here are reluctant to move in until the tide is quite high. On the ebb tide, however, they hold in surprisingly shallow water and continue to feed well.
Land-based anglers have some good options in this region. The entire rocky shore from Gatakers Bay to Pialba is great bream country. At Gatakers Bay (1), where the rock ledges meet the sand flats and just inside the extremity of the point and the boat ramp at Point Vernon (2), are favourites of mine. The foreshore at the Point Vernon spot is made up of parallel low ledges separated by loose rocks and gravel. When fishing from the shore it’s necessary to move from ledge to ledge as the tide falls.
The rocky nature of the terrain dictates the use of extremely light leads. No use for plonkers here! In fact, the best lead is no lead at all and in many of these rocky areas there are times when this is possible.
I like to start a fishing session using a self-berleying bait like half-pilchards or mullet gut. You could even use chook gut (horrible stuff)! When the fish have been attracted into the area I often change to hardiheads, pike fillets or herring cutlets – even halved herrings when a really good class of fish is about. All of these baits are relatively heavy and easy to cast with little or no lead. Yabbies are great if the pickers aren’t around, but because they’re a light bait they’re not easy to cast very far.
Many anglers new favour soft plastics. In this very shallow water, erratically skidding the almost unweighted plastic across the ledges often results in spectacular surface attacks. Plastics may not score the most numerous catches, but they do get results and adding to the challenge. Sometimes getting away from the long toms and the pike can be the biggest challenge, as these lovers of the rocky foreshores also love to tear ‘softies’ to shreds.
The bay’s islands of Round, Woody, Little Woody and the Picnics have rocky foreshores similar to those of the mainland. When fishing these it’s extremely important to fish as close in to the rocks as the draft of the boat will allow. If you’re not in close enough you’ll probably end up with zero bream plus dozens of happy moments (spinefoot fish).
As the tide rises or falls, be prepared to move accordingly. More than once I’ve heard the clunk of aluminium on metal on an ebb tide at night with fish still biting freely. On one occasion having to walk the boat out over oyster-encrusted rocks was a bit embarrassing!
The tides and baits I’ve recommended for mainland spots also apply to the islands. Although night fishing is likely to produce the biggest catches, working similar tides in the early morning can be well worthwhile. Remember that the better class of fish won’t come as close to the boat as they might at night, so a long cast from the boat will always get more of better quality bream.
At tiny Round Island (5), the rock ledges that run towards the north can turn on some decent bream fishing, particularly during the upper halves of both flood and ebb tides.
The northern end of Woody Island (6) is the most popular winter bream spot in Hervey Bay. Good catches are made along the rock ledges on both the east and west sides of the point, and inside the western shore for about a kilometre. This entire area goes almost high and dry at low water, so plan your fishing from about half tide in to half tide out.
At about 750 metres from the point, sandy areas and gravel banks replace the typical rocky shoreline. These gravel beds, which have a few isolated mangroves growing on them, can only be fished over the top of the tide when some of the bay’s better quality fish are taken. I suspect that it is over these gravelly shallows that the actual spawning takes place. As the tide ebbs, fish are driven north towards deeper water – a time when the rock ledges at the point come into their own.
Along its south-western shoreline, Little Woody Island (9) has a typical rocky fringe capable of providing good catches. My preferred spot is the northern end of the island, where rips and eddies form features that tend to concentrate the fish. At the southern end of the island, gravel beds, similar to those off Woody Island, often fish particularly well over a big tide at night. The entire eastern side of the island is mangrove-lined and very shallow, but well worth fishing at night over the high tide. I have experienced evenings when fish were almost absent on the rocky foreshores but plentiful around the mangroves.
The Picnics (10), two small islands southeast of Woody Island, are completely surrounded by rocky ledges, although those on the western side of the southern island dip very quickly to sand flats. Most of the rocks quickly drop away into deep water, however, particularly along the western side of the northern Picnic and eastern side of the southern Picnic. It is possible to fish the entire tide cycle here without moving very far at all. Both ends of the southern island and the northern end of the northern island are probably the most reliable bream spots here.
More rocky foreshores at the mouth of the Mary River may not be the most popular grounds, but they are certainly the most productive for top quality fish.
At River Heads (12), the rocky ledges that dip into the fast flowing currents of the river between the barge ramp and the river boat ramp can really turn on the action. Some good catches are made by anglers fishing from the shore between the barge ramp and the green lateral beacon at the point. Fishing from the shore inside this beacon can be more difficult. The most effective way to fish for bream here is to use a boat and fish the flood tide in the eddies just inside the green beacon. As the tide floods it is necessary to move gradually in towards the mangroves.
Across the river at South Head (13) there are rocky points and ledges separated by mud and gravel banks. These produce strong currents, eddies and regions of completely still water – ideal bream territory. At River Heads my favourite bait is the humble yabby. These can be pumped close by on many of the banks, the most reliable being upstream from the Heads on the southern bank of the river opposite the green lateral buoys.
Although most of our better bream spots involve rocky foreshores, it’s possible to find good fish in other kinds of territory. The Urangan Pier (3) is one such spot, but if you don’t have fish cutting you off on jagged rocks, you might have them doing likewise around the pylons here. Bream gather around these structures in numbers, particularly early in the season. It’s a complete waste of time casting out from the pier when searching for bream; you need to fish around the pylons with line heavy enough to give you a chance.
There are often lots of pickers around the pier, so soft baits usually don’t last long enough to entice a decent bream. I use hardiheads or herring cutlets, which are certainly natural baits for this location.
The first gutter inside the spit fishes well over the top of the tide, while the outer gutter is likely to produce bream at another stage of the tide.
The Urangan Boat Harbour (4) is loaded with bream for most of the year. They find plenty of natural food along the walls, pylons and pontoons, as well as lots of handouts from boaties and tourists. Most of the accessible spots are out-of-bounds, but good catches can be had from both north and south walls.
The best fishing for quality bream is during March, April and May, before the main spawning season, as mature fish feed ravenously. It appears that these mature fish leave the harbour for spawning areas like the northern end of Woody Island, but it’s impossible to be really sure without a tagging and recapture program.
Again, hardiheads and herring cutlets are my choice for targeting bream around the walls. Soft plastics are also reaping rewards for boat anglers working them around the pylons.
The mouth of Fraser Island’s Moon Creek (7) can be a great winter bream location. One of the determining factors is the current structure of the mouth, which is continually changing. If a significant hole develops just inside the mouth, a good season should follow. Last season wasn’t the greatest, but it was still worth the effort of the trip across the bay.
Moon Creek has two mouths, and the latest one, marked on the map, is the most active and productive. I visit here regularly during winter, but only during daylight hours as negotiating the shallow mouth of the creek with its maze of fallen trees would cause problems at night. These snags produce some of the best fishing in the creek. True, the action might be faster at night, but in beautiful winter conditions I find bream fishing just as rewarding – if not in numbers, certainly in the challenge.
Further upstream there are more holes that are well worth investigating. Yabbies work well in the creek, and these are abundant on the banks inside the mouth, but I find that a better class of fish can be taken on hardiheads or strips of mullet or yellowtail. Daylight fishing here is well worthwhile, and Moon Creek is great for working small lures and plastics around the snags. Remember that this is a very shallow creek and can only be negotiated by small boats over the higher part of the tide.
Further north, Coongul Creek (8) is another spot that spawning bream enter. Most of what I have written about Moon Creek applies here. There are lots of snags, small holes and minor creek mouths that form the features that bream love. This is also a very shallow creek.
Further south, the jetty at Kingfisher Resort and Village (11) is a good bream spot. The head of the jetty is outstanding structure and always seems to be swarming with baitfish, mostly herrings and hardiheads. Pelagics are never too far away, always on the lookout for a quick meal.
Bream are in residence for most of the year, and when they’re in the right mood they’ll take just about any bait. I haven’t seen anyone using plastics here, but I suspect they would be highly successful.
Burrum Heads, a half hour drive north of Hervey Bay, enjoys a significant run of spawning bream. They can be taken along the foreshores of the township or, for the boat angler, directly across the river at the black bank. I always enjoy a session here as it comes as close as I can find around Hervey Bay to some of my old haunts at Jumpinpin. The black bank also provides the occasional mangrove jack and javelin.
Winter whiting have been going well lately and should be reaching their peak this month, and some reasonable catches of snapper and snappery squire should be made over the full moon. Recent catches have been encouraging, with the shallow reefs still producing blackall, moses perch, stripey perch, sand bass and a few just-legal coral bream. Anglers keen on scoring a few decent coral bream should try the Artificial Reef or the Channel Hole.
Quite a few schools of longtail tuna have made it into the bay, very much behind schedule. I have heard of a few being taken, as most schools have been difficult to get close to. How long they’ll be around is anyone’s guess.
Reports coming in from Fraser Island have been encouraging, with excellent whiting being taken in the low tide gutters right along the beach. There have been some big bream around the headlands of Waddy Point, Middle Rock and Indian Head, with bream and big tarwhine at the Maheno and around the coffee rocks at Yidney and Poyungan.
Something of a surprise was the appearance of some good tailor south of Yidney just before Easter. Maybe we’re in for an early season? Chopper tailor are likely at any time of the year along Fraser’s ocean beach, but the better class of greenbacks are not expected until late June or early July.
The weed that has plagued the ocean beach since August last year is still coming and going with varying weather conditions. It can clear quickly and return just as quickly, but it has not been bad enough to stop anglers enjoying some good fishing. Let’s hope we’ll soon be rid of it completely.
On the inside beach, north of Moon Point, it’s almost always possible to score a feed of fish – mostly whiting, bream, flathead and dart. Surprisingly for this time of the year, the quality of whiting has been quite acceptable. There are a few bream about, mostly around the coffee rocks and creek mouths, and the quality of the fish should improve this month as spawning fish start to gather around the creek mouths. There have been some big dart taken right at the mouth of Woralie Creek, and plenty of flathead around the 45cm mark around the creek mouths and close to the coffee rocks.
1) Good quality bream have already put in an appearance around the islands. These were taken by Jamie Lineburg at the Picnics.Reads: 8131