SO MUCH for winter 2004! Now we can look forward to some warmer days and some revived fishing opportunities.
Bream catches reached their peak over the full moon at the beginning of August but there should still be some good fish taken in early September. The rocky outcrops at River Heads and inside the Susan River always fish well at this time of the year for both yellowfin bream and pikey bream. The pikey is the dominant bream of North Queensland but the Mary and Burrum systems support a fair population. They spawn later in the year, in late August and September, congregating in the vicinity of the river mouths to breed.
Diver whiting have been prolific north of the city, off Toogum, Dundowran and Gatakers Bay. Although a few good schools kept anglers busy for a while, the fishing was generally disappointing south of Urangan. Anglers shouldn’t give up on this delightful little fish just yet. There will be plenty around this month but they might take a bit of tracking down.
Hervey Bay’s snapper season will continue at least until the full moon at the end of the month. So far, the reefs wide of Fraser Island’s Arch Cliffs have proved to be most productive. The Rufus Artificial Reef has provided a smaller class of fish.
Further north in Platypus Bay, the reefy patches have been turning on some snapper, the occasional scarlet and plenty of trevally. Most of these low reefs are so flat they are difficult to pick up, even on a top quality sounder. Because they are surrounded by a sea bed of sand that is always on the move, the reefs are continually being covered and uncovered. However, even when they are totally covered or nearly so, some are still capable of holding big schools of baitfish. Others, however, are so well covered that they show no signs of life above them.
I could list dozens of marks for flat reefs that have fished well, but there’s no guarantee that all, or even some, would reveal a viable fish-attracting structure. The Wathumba One Mile is a collection of small reefs that seem to be high enough to be located most of the time. They can be found at 24deg 57.66min S; 153deg 11.71min E. This approximate position is a good starting point for finetuning the position with your sounder.
Yakkas are plentiful over the exposed reefs of Platypus Bay for most of the year and, not surprisingly, they make top snapper bait when floated out live. Pilchards, whole fresh squid and freshly filleted mullet all work well. Currents in the area are generally slight so putting out a berley trail works wonders for snapper and other reefies.
Platypus Bay is often called the ‘ciguatera capital’ of Australia. To qualify as a serious ciguatera threat, a fish needs to be part of a food chain that starts with dinoflagellates, the micro-organisms that produce the toxin. The fish also needs to be far enough along the food chain for this toxin to become sufficiently concentrated in its muscle tissue to pose a threat to human health. Older fish pose a higher risk as they have had longer to accumulate the toxin.
Irrespective of size, some species are more prone than others. In Platypus Bay the major risk species include Spanish mackerel, coral trout, barracuda, queenfish, yellowtail kingfish and blotched javelin. Spanish mackerel are thought to pose such a high risk that any caught in Platypus Bay are banned from the commercial market.
I have yet to hear of a single case of ciguatera involving the consumption of snapper. Snapper appear to be temporary residents of the Platypus Bay reefs and may only be involved with threatening food chains for short periods. The many species of trevally in the bay don’t seem to be a threat either.
There are two species of small mackerel taken in the area. Queensland school mackerel are usually located close to reef structure where they feed on abundant baitfish. There are plenty of schoolies available right now and they will be around for quite some time. Spotted mackerel will start arriving in Platypus Bay in November. Neither school nor spotted mackerel are known to be a ciguatera threat.
Two species of butterfly bream, Nemipterus sp, are common in Platypus Bay. Known locally as ‘pinkies’, these have been confused with juvenile jobfish. Catches of these beautiful fish, taken up to 30cm, have ‘saved’ many potentially fishless trips. Some years ago a family was camping on the western side of Fraser Island and making good catches of pinkies daily, then consuming the fillets at each evening meal. When most members of the family became ill after several days, they were brought back to the mainland with symptoms of ciguatera poisoning. It turns out that pinkies contain small amounts of the toxin, which doesn’t pose a threat when they’re eaten in small quantities.
The message from this is clear: avoid the high-risk species and eat only moderate quantities of the others. Ciguatera can be serious and its distressing symptoms can last for months, sometimes even years.
The annual run of sand whiting along Fraser Island’s western beach will become well established this month. The run will continue until late October, when seasonal northwesterly winds will drive dislodged weed into the inshore waters.
Whiting will be widespread along the western beach, with the stretch between Coongul Creek and Moon Point being one of the best as well as the most accessible. It’s possible to have some success fishing from a boat and casting in towards the beach, but the best plan is to go ashore. That way you can easily cover different features along the beach. If small fish become troublesome, it’s an easy matter to move to overcome the problem – at least temporarily.
Good catches are possible right along the beach but I prefer to work the points on an ebb tide when there’s a good flow in the water. Unlike their diver whiting cousins, sand whiting are more particular about what they eat, so yabbies or worms are essential.
Sand whiting will become more plentiful in other areas of Hervey Bay as well. Good locations include the inner gutter of the Urangan pier, Torquay and Shelly beaches, the Dundowran flats and the many high sandbanks.
Deeper reefs, including the Rufus Artificial, Moon Ledge, the Channel Hole and Boges Hole, have been fishing reasonably well for squire, coral bream, blackall and cod, and should continue to do so this month. The shallow reefs, however, are unlikely to improve until late October.
This year’s tailor season has made an unbelievably slow start. As I write, the Indian Head to Waddy Point closure to protect spawning tailor is already in place and will remain until the end of September. Only small catches have been reported, mainly from Waddy Point. My latest advice is that greenback quality tailor are being caught in small numbers right along the beach north from Dilli Village. I’m confident that by the time you read this the season will be in full swing. Despite the relative absence of tailor, there have been some good catches of dart and whiting.
The school vacation at the end of this month will see many keen tailor anglers and holidaying families coming to the island. If you’re planning to visit for the first time, try to plan your beach travel on the lower half of the tide. There will be plenty of tracks to follow and you’re less likely to have trouble with washouts and creek crossings. This applies particularly to visitors coming by one of the Inskip Point to Hook Point barge services. Time your arrival at Hook Point about an hour before low tide, giving you a low tide at the southern end of the island and at least two more hours to reach your destination in good tidal conditions. If you must land at Hook Point when the tide is high, you might have to use the old mineral sands road as far as Dilli Village. This road is scheduled to be upgraded in conjunction with the closure of the southern beach, but at present it’s in a bad way.
Alternatively, barge services run from Hervey Bay and River Heads to points on the island’s west coast. These eliminate the need to use the southern beach or road. Fares on these services are close to double those at Inskip Point and booking is essential.
Fraser Island’s ocean beach is continuous between Hook Point and Indian Head except for coffee rock outcrops that may require traversing short bypasses. These are at Poyungan, Yidney, Chard and McLaughlin’s rocks. There are a number of creek crossings that rarely cause problems on the lower half of the tide, provided necessary care is taken. Eli Creek is the largest of these, its mouth being well south of where it was a year ago.
At Indian Head you’ll find a partly boarded sand track behind the headland that needs to be negotiated. This can be a difficult one but if your tyre pressure is reduced to around 20psi, and you use the best gearing, it shouldn’t be a problem. The best plan is to walk the track first, noting how experienced drivers tackle it.
Just north of Indian Head it’s necessary to climb to high ground in order to bypass Middle Rocks and Waddy Point. For many years the Middle Rocks ‘Jump-up’ was one of the island’s biggest challenges. Today it is well boarded and rarely causes problems. Almost the entire route from here to Orchid Beach is made up of two one-way tracks. These can be rough and soft in places but they rarely cause problems if tyre pressures aren’t too high. Along this road there are turn-offs to the Waddy Point campground and to the beach, which is almost unbroken to Sandy Cape.
Ngkala Rocks is a large coffee rock complex that often forces drivers to use the 300m bypass track. This is now the greatest challenge along the eastern beach. It is narrow, usually very soft and has some unfriendly turns. For the average 4WD, a tyre pressure as low as 15psi is recommended. Using the best gearing, you need to attack the crossing confidently and avoid stopping or slowing down. Meeting another vehicle on the track is a recipe for trouble. The best plan is to have someone walk to a vantage point near the far end of the track, then signal when no other vehicles are coming.
Hopefully conditions for the holidays will be great, but if a heavy sou’easter comes in and makes things too uncomfortable, a better option is to cross the island to the western beach at Moon Point and target the whiting there. Turn off the beach at Happy Valley and follow the signs to the Moon Point barge landing. The crossing takes about an hour and you’re bound to find out that it’s not the best road on the island. Alternatively, turn off the beach just north of the Maheno onto the Woralie track and follow it to the mouth of Woralie Creek.
I look forward to catching up with some of our readers on the island this month. Safe driving.
1) Fraser Island tailor provide great sport for anglers of all ages. This one was taken by nine-year-old Jamie Lineburg at Ngkala Rocks.Reads: 3379