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Inshore reefs productive
  |  First Published: August 2005



I have calls every week from QFM readers wanting info on what’s biting around Bundaberg, and it’s great to see those visitors bringing their children so the whole family can enjoy the fishing on offer. It’s good to see these kids enjoying sportfishing for its own sake, rather than as a means to fill the freezer, and you can see their pleasure as they watch their released fish swim away healthy. Anglers as a whole are much more responsible with fishing practices these days, so it’s sad that we are pressured by organizations which want to close down more areas to fishing.

THE LOCAL SCENE

Bundaberg has many waterways not known to most of the tourists that visit our area, with the result that most people only touch the surface of what they can do in Bundaberg. You can catch barramundi in our dams over a metre long (in the rivers they are mostly smaller) and in the estuaries you can find some of the best mangrove jack fishing in the state.

We also have all the other great bread and butter species. After all, as I tell people, you can’t catch big barra all year! Just the other night I had someone who wanted to go on a charter and catch a barra mid-winter and be guaranteed of a fish. There are no guarantees in this game – even at the top end of Australia the barra don’t readily bite during the colder months of the year. I’m amazed at some of the requests I receive as a charter operator, but nine times out of 10 people can usually catch what they are after.

Bundaberg is due west from the northern tip of Fraser Island, and this area to the north around the spit of Fraser Island is one of the most under-explored places on the Queensland coast. Because of the 50nm journey from the coast and some very dangerous currents and the extremely hazardous bar, this place has received little fishing pressure. The amazing thing is the amount of really big fish that live here. The biggest giant trevally in the world can be caught on the shallow reefs that surround the spit in 6m of crystal clear water, and I can guarantee that you won’t find a more exciting fish to catch on poppers.

Small black marlin and sailfish also gather around the spit all year round, creating some of the best light tackle fishing and flyfishing anywhere in Australia. Larger blacks and blue marlin are regularly caught here as well and this, combined with the huge population of juvenile blacks, has led many to believe that this place is a spawning ground for the big black females that visit Cairns every year. This place has the potential to rival places like Cairns as a major heavy tackle destination. In the near future we hope to unravel the mystery behind the spawning behaviour of the black marlin in the Coral Sea and around the northern tip of Fraser Island.

In my last article I stated that I wasn’t doing any bottom fishing charters anymore. Well, didn’t I cop some abuse for this! Because I’m the only operator in the area, people had thought I had let them down and I was inundated with requests to resume bottom-fishing charters in the area. I couldn’t have kept doing it for some people but not others, so I’m now back in the bottom-fishing business.

REEF FISHING

It has been great this winter with many weekends of great weather for smaller boats to access some of the inshore reefs.

Big cobia have been around in large numbers and the place to catch them is on the wreck sites. Plenty of big reds and sweeties have been caught on the inshore reefs, with snapper starting to turn up in big schools.

Dave Woollard has been fishing offshore regularly over the past month and has made some great catches, but has had to fight through the triggerfish.

The month ahead looks great for reef fishing with some big snapper to be caught, and the parrotfish seem to love to bite at this time of the year too. Plenty of bait will inundate the smaller inshore reefs so you will still find the odd mackerel around.

We had a great weekend just gone catching our bag limit of snapper and plenty of small mackerel on one of the inshore reefs.

SPORTFISHING

Juvenile black marlin are still around on the inshore bait grounds and have been falling for livebaits. Small sails are still hanging around the spit but they’re not biting as well as they did during the summer months. It’s still good to see them hit the teasers though.

Inshore, the big schools of mackerel and tuna have started to thin out in response to cooler water temperatures. However, with huge schools of bait in the estuaries the small pelagics have given local anglers a hiding on small chrome lures.

David Magner has had a great time with his boys chasing these fish in the mouth of the Burnett River System. The lures he has had the best luck with are purple Spanyids and Halco Twisties.

I myself had a great fight with a longtail tuna on 6kg. I saw the school swim towards the back of the boat, made a cast 3m ahead of the last rise and the longtail smashed the lure as it hit the water. I felt all the elation of a hole in one, but my work had just begun as I had to muscle this guy into the boat – only to have him confiscated by a huge shark at my feet!

We also had a flyfishing charter this month with our client having a great time hooking into big trevally, longtoms, tuna and a big Spanish mackerel.

We have been testing these new skirted lures for Tropic Lures and found them to be the bee’s knees when it come to catching light tackle billfish. These small cup-head lures are finished beautifully and are cheaper than most leading brands. The only drawback is you catch a lot of fish with them, which means you have to keep replacing skirts as you wear them out. Keep an eye out for these in your tackle store as they could set the standard for small-skirted lures in the future.

With the game fishing tournament coming up in Hervey Bay, make sure you prepare your boat and crew. This will be an excellent game tournament for small boats, giving everyone the chance to stay overnight at Fraser Island and to experience light tackle billfish action in enclosed waters. Watch this space for more on the tournament or call me for details. Special thanks go to Paul and Helen from Wellsys Tackle on the Sunshine Coast for their support in the upcoming tournament.

Estuaries

At this time of year the river is usually full of tailor, but at the time of writing the water was still around 21 degrees. Hopefully these fish will move into the rivers this month in big numbers. Huge schools of bait have been in the estuaries and this has really given the fishing a kick-start. The schools have been breaking the surface everywhere, with huge flocks of birds smashing into the water from great heights. It’s not hard to find the fish.

Plenty of good size flathead have been caught in Baffle Creek and the Burnett River. They’ve been falling victim to soft plastics, with my favourite being the Berkley Drop Shot Minnow.

The bream are huge now and are so easy to catch around any structure. Like the flathead, they have been snapping up Berkley soft plastics. You don’t have do anything special to catch fish in the Burnett River this time of year.

My mate Paul McKay has been catching plenty of fish in Baffle Creek. If you’d like to learn the best way to fish Bundaberg’s estuaries and dams, I recommend going on a charter with him on his big pontoon style boat.

This month we will hold a free seminar in Salty’s tackle store in Bundaberg showing the basics of light tackle gamefishing and rigs. We will follow up with some on-water demos on The Watch-Tower, so come and join us.

Robert Wood’s charter business, Bundaberg Fishing Charters, provides a range of options, from reef and gamefishing tofishing the estuaries and impoundments. For information on booking a charter or hiring a boat, or just for the latest on what’s biting around Bundaberg, phone 0427 590 995 or (07) 4159 0995, or email Rob at --e-mail address hidden--

[CAPTIONS]

1) Ian Borland with a brace of pan-size snapper.

2) Phil Hunter and friend with a nice black marlin.

3) James MacDonald with an 11kg Spanish mackerel caught on The Watch-Tower.

Reads: 1910

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