Winter action kicks in
  |  First Published: July 2004

IT WAS always going to be a great winter season – late summer rains and abundant freshes in local streams made sure of that. Not only have the traditional winter fish kicked in, many of the other species have stayed around. With winter having two more good months to run, Hervey Bay and Fraser Island anglers have plenty to look forward to.


Plenty of snapper have been taken at the Roy Rufus Artificial Reef, but these early-season fish haven’t been of outstanding quality. I’ve seen a few fish over 5kg but the majority of squire would be flat out making 2kg. It’s early days yet. Hopefully the big fish will be more plentiful this month.

The reef is also turning in some excellent coral bream (grass sweetlip) and a few blackall. Some anglers have also been connecting to the large golden trevally that roam the shaly sand between the major drops.

Further afield, reefs off Arch Cliff and Wathumba Creek have also been fishing well for small snapper. Anglers visiting the Six Mile off Arch Cliff have also been having fun with school mackerel and longtail tuna. Both popular grounds will undoubtedly come good for better quality snapper this month, and should continue to fish well until late September or early October. The brilliant early winter weather has given anglers plenty of opportunities to visit these more distant grounds, and many have been able to travel even farther to the southern and African gutters and the Rooney Point and beyond. All areas been fishing exceptionally well for a variety of reefies including trout, red emperor, grass sweetlip, cod and venus tuskfish.

At this time of the year the shallow reefs of Hervey Bay hardly rate a mention due to the low water temperatures that send most species into warmer offshore waters. Blackall, however, don’t seem to mind the cooler water and can be expected in the shallows throughout winter. Otherwise, unless you want to be driven crazy by happy moments, rainbows and lancers, give the shallow reefs a miss until late October at the earliest.


This year’s bream season is right on schedule and is shaping up to be one of the best in years. Find some rocks in the lower reaches of the Mary River and you will almost certainly find some bream, and plenty of them. Some of the better fish have been coming from Lower Rocky, King Rock and Beaver Rock between River Heads and Maryborough.

As I write, bream catches at River Heads are picking up nicely and should be in full swing this month. At River Heads, land-based anglers are doing well between the barge ramp and the green light, while those with boats are also scoring along the rocky ledges of Inner South Head. As expected, the popular spawning grounds around the islands have been alive with small, mostly male fish, but this month will see the arrival of better fish. Some good bream are also being taken around the pylons of the Urangan Pier and from the groynes between Shelly Beach and Urangan.


When trawling for diver whiting was banned some seasons ago, some anglers expected an immediate and dramatic improvement in the following season. This was not the case; the first season without trawling was quite ordinary.

It has taken a couple of years but the seasons of old have returned. After the usual flurry of whiting activity in the northern parts of the bay, these fish are now working their way into popular haunts along the western side of Woody Island. Anglers returning from all parts of the bay have been delighted with the quality of this year’s ‘crop’. It’s rare for big catches of diver whiting to be made from city beaches – the old hands tell me it hasn’t happened more than three times in the last 20 years – but this year, for a week or two in late May, the whiting settled in along Shelly Beach. On a couple of days there would have been 200-300 anglers shoulder to shoulder between the western groyne and Torquay. The quality of the fish was as good as I’ve seen in the bay for many years, every bit as good as that being enjoyed by the boaties. Unfortunately, there were quite a few undersize sand whiting amongst them but it was good to see most anglers returning them to the water.

At time of writing, there are still no restrictions on diver whiting catches. Conserving diver whiting stocks was the major issue at a recent Sunfish public meeting at Urangan, with many members suggesting a bag limit while others suggested a legal minimum size. I don’t think one restriction would work on its own; without the two restrictions together there would always be some people who would ‘get around’ the system. Now we need to wait and see what’s in store in the coming Inshore Fisheries legislation.


Whiting, bream, tarwhine, dart and tailor and plenty of them – that’s been the story along Fraser Island’s eastern beach. The whiting have been particularly plentiful in many of the numerous low-water gutters between Happy Valley and Indian Head. The gutters with northern blind ends and openings to the south are usually the pick spots. I suspect this is because these are developing gutters with new food sources being uncovered by the gutter’s migration along the beach. It could also have a lot to do with the way food is washed off outer banks into the deeper water.

Bream have been unusually abundant along much of the beach. Few are worth bragging about but most are comfortably legal. Tarwhine have been going well over the coffee rocks at Poyungan and Yidney, and around the Maheno. Dart catches have been spasmodic, with quality fish coming inshore only in ideal conditions. Small dart, of which there seem to be untold millions, have been making life tough for whiting anglers as they often swarm on baits of worm or pipi as soon as they hit the water. The trick is to find a gutter without ‘mini dart’ – and that isn’t always easy.

Tailor catches have been improving steadily and these fish should fire well this month. In recent weeks they have been taken in open water by casting metals from the outer banks at low tide. They have been particularly plentiful over offshore coffee rock banks. Small GTs and school jew have also been attacking lures worked from the outer banks. Anglers fishing with pipis and sea worms have been scoring some big tarwhine and the occasional snub-nose dart.

Some anglers have been asking me about the floating weed that has been a problem on the ocean beach for the last few years. At the moment it continues to come and go, arriving with inshore easterlies and northeasterlies and leaving with calm conditions or offshore winds. It has rarely been bad enough lately to bring fishing to a standstill. By travelling along the beach it’s usually possible to find relatively clear water. Seasonal conditions over the next few months, however, should keep the horrible stuff out to sea. Let’s hope so anyway.

Catch you next month!

1) Spinning for tailor from Fraser’s ocean beach often produces surprises. This fish was one of many small GTs caught from the outer bank, and was taken on a surf rod matched to a high-speed Okuma with 10kg braid and 65g Raider.

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