THE URANGAN Pier at Hervey Bay is one of the most recognized fishing platforms along our coast, and almost every day it provides opportunities for a variety of angling tastes.
Young families, armed with nothing more than basic gear and a packet of prawns or squid, take advantage of balmy winter days to fish the inner gutter. Most catch little more than a couple of small whiting or bream, with a few green toads thrown in, but it doesn’t matter – they still enjoy the experience. For many young anglers it is a Hervey Bay giant sea-toad that gives them their first taste of a decent-sized fighting fish on the end of the line. Of course, these extremely toxic fish, with teeth like side-cutters, need to be dealt with carefully and returned to the water. Sadly, some anglers – and I’m not referring to the young families here – think they are doing the rest of us a favour by stabbing these unfortunate creatures to death, leaving them to rot on the planks of the pier.
At the other extreme, serious light game anglers armed with very some very impressive equipment head mostly to the outer gutter to target various species of mackerel, tuna and trevally as well as queenfish and barramundi.
Following the truncation and renovation of the pier some years ago, it has become a safe platform for everyone to enjoy. It has continued to act as a major fish attractant, with massive schools of hardiheads, herrings, gar and other baitfish milling around the pylons, or not far from them. Spectacular sprays of hardiheads are often seen as larger predators make forays into them. Then there are the ambushing flathead and pike that live under the pier, waiting for feeding opportunities.
The best advice I can give if you’re interested in light game angling is to have a good look at what happens out there. Ask questions – there will be many who will be happy to help. Although lure fishing can be good in the right conditions, livebaits, particularly herrings, are better. Cast-netting is not permitted on the pier nor anywhere near it, so jigging is the only option.
As most target species are either mid-water or surface feeders, most anglers feed their livebaits into the prevailing tidal run, often with the assistance of bobby corks or balloons. As I write this article, catches of school mackerel, golden trevally and a few mack and longtail tuna are being made. Most of this light-game activity happens in the deep water near the end of the pier, but in the inner gutter some very respectable golden trevally are taken on live herrings.
Whiting can be taken from the pier throughout the year but the big run of fish takes place from late August through to December. They are predominantly sand whiting but a few golden-lined whiting are also seen, particularly early in the season.
The right bait is particularly important, with local mud worms and yabbies being at the top of the list. It can be a waste of time using anything else. On some days the fish will feed only on worms – and on other days, only yabbies.
There are times when the whiting are widespread and can be caught pretty much wherever a cast is made. More often than not, however, whiting hold under the pier in the small holes and eddies formed by the pylons. Then it is necessary to face the tide and allow the rig to drift slowly under the structure. If this is where the fish are you will see anglers standing on the rails, looking down with rods pointed vertically towards the water. The amount of lead used in these conditions doesn’t seem to matter much, as long as it is great enough to hold the bait in the bite zone. Most whiting are taken in the inner gutter but the outer shallows of Dayman Spit can also be productive.
The best times to fish are the second half of the flood tide and the early ebb, particularly when high tide is around eight o’clock.
Bream also prefer being close to the structure of the pier. They can be targeted in much the same way as you’d target whiting. I like to fish for them over the top of the tide when there is little run in the water, as that’s the only time you can get away with little or no lead. Pier bream don’t take kindly to heavily weighted baits.
These fish will take a variety of baits but herring fillets, half-herrings or even whole herrings if they are small enough, are out on their own. Berleying can also pay off in these still conditions but it’s best not to overdo it.
Once hooked, good bream seem to know exactly where they need to go to damage your line and give themselves a chance to escape, so be prepared to go to 10kg if you want to give yourself a chance.
Bream are likely throughout the year but are best from May to August. Both inner and outer gutters fish well. Anglers working the early morning and late afternoon high tides are scoring some good fish at the moment.
At low tide when the inner gutter is reduced to a series of waterholes, it’s easy to see the flathead marks, or lays, in the sand, and these are never too far from the structure. Opportunistic flathead just lie around waiting to release a huge burst of energy on passing baitfish. Many of the hardihead sprays close to the pier are courtesy of flathead.
Live herrings, pike and gar, drifted around the pylons, are deadly baits. Many anglers are also having success with pink plastics, jigged slowly around the structure.
When a big flathead (or any large fish) is brought to submission, it is rope-gaffed and hauled up onto the deck. I have a problem with this, particularly as flathead now have a maximum legal size of 70cm to protect breeding stocks. I have seen big flathead, well over the limit, killed by gaffs as they are being retrieved.
The gar is a firm favourite with hundreds of holidaymakers who flock to Hervey Bay during the Christmas holidays, and the pier is one of the best places to find these fish. Most gar are taken in the inner gutter quite close to the shore but they are a likely catch from any point on the pier, even out to the very end.
A reasonable run in the tide is needed to work floated baits away from the pier to the feeding gar. At the pier, the late morning flood and then the ebb are favourites for gar fishing. Light lines are rigged to a short trace and float and a lightly weighted or unweighted size 8 hook. By far the most effective baits are small live yabbies. At times the gar will look at nothing else. Good quality gar of at least three species are taken in good numbers here and produce substantial sweet fillets. Although they’re particularly popular in mid-summer, gar are around for most of the year.
Like any other fishing spot, the pier demands careful thought and planning if success is going to follow. A little luck never goes astray either!
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