MORE Fraser Island anglers are rediscovering the humble dart as a very worthwhile target, and for many good reasons. Often scorned by tailor fishermen for the way they can destroy a fresh pilchard in seconds, and spoken unkindly of by those who are wounded when not handling the fish correctly, there’s still no doubt about it: the dart is making a comeback.
Certainly dart can make a real mess of a pillie and it’s likely that these fish will be in the company of tailor, ready to pick up the scraps on offer. Tailor anglers sometimes have to move to another part of the gutter, even to another gutter, to give themselves a chance. Every once in a while, a decent dart will find itself attached to a gang of 4/0s and a worthwhile tussle results. In a good session, however, tailor fisherman are never pleased to hook a dart. After all – he’s using expensive bait, relatively heavy equipment and has the chance of scoring a really big fish.
To enjoy dart fishing you need the right equipment. Sure – you can catch dart on tailor gear, but the experience will be much more enjoyable of you use a lighter balanced outfit. The rod needs to be long enough to produce the lengthy casts that are sometimes needed, but it should also have greater tip action without sacrificing body strength. You can go right down to 4kg (0.25 to 0.30mm) mono without fear of being broken up too often, and the light line combined with the sensitive tip makes for good casting.
During daylight hours big dart are usually found in the deeper gutters or well wide in the breaking green water. They are often seen riding the waves in the clear water prior to breaking. This gives you a good idea of their quality and whether they’re worth targeting. If there is plenty of white water pouring into a gutter from an outer bank, dart often use this cover and move in to feed. What a lot of anglers haven’t discovered is that at night, dart move right into the calm waters of protected low water gutters. This is where I have taken my very best dart on Fraser Island’s ocean beach.
Premium dart baits on the island are right at your feet. Pipis can be dug from the ‘pipi mounds’ along the lower half of the beach. If you can’t see these mounds it’s likely that the shellfish are further down the beach in the wash. Here you can find them by shuffling your feet in the sand. Sea worms are readily available for those who have the skills to catch them, and they are also available for sale. Both pipis and worms are irresistible to dart. For many years, serious dart anglers have been using lime-green beads successfully above their hooks in much the same way as red plastic is used by whiting fishermen. More recently, fluorescent brightly-coloured plastics have been adding a new dimension to this exciting fishery. However, anglers are finding that the plastic needs to be retrieved at a much greater rate than you’d expect before the dart will tackle it. Experience also shows that this fish is pretty hard on plastic, so you’ll need a good supply of plastics if you’re using them exclusively.
Some people consider dart to be a second rate tablefish, but when these fish are bled on capture, filleted and skinned they are most acceptable. They are definitely the best beach fish to kipper (hot smoke). We roll fillets in a dry mixture of brown sugar and salt (4:1). The salt draws moisture out of the fillets, resulting in a syrup in which they marinate for about an hour before being drained and smoked in a small kipper box or larger apparatus.
The dart is Fraser’s most abundant species, and they can be caught throughout the year. Currently there is no size or bag limit.
Although most of the tailor season is behind us, November should see quite a few good fish taken. In fact, I have fishing mates who wait until November to target the giants of the species around Indian Head. Dart and whiting have also been in good supply and this should continue at least until the end of the month. Weed continues to be a spasmodic problem but it has usually been possible to locate fishable sections of beach.
In Hervey Bay, seasonal northerly winds have been making their presence felt. There has been a lot of weed washed up on local beaches and there is a lot more floating in the water. This is the time of the year when many keen local anglers take a break and work up some leave passes. In the relatively calm weather between the northerly blasts, however, it is well worthwhile fishing the gutters and banks of the bay for sand whiting. The western beaches of Fraser Island, which have been producing whiting, will be doubtful because of washed-in weed.
It’s a little too early to expect much from the shallow reefs, but those in deeper water will be well worth trying. Good coral bream are already showing up on the reefy bottom between the Urangan boat harbour and Round Island. Other reefs that I expect will fish well this month include the Channel Hole, Boges Hole, Bogimbah Ledge and the Artificial Reef.
Further north, the low reefs off Arch Cliffs and Wathumba have been producing snapper, frying pan snapper, large pinkies, school mackerel and various varieties of trevally. Catches of snapper will probably taper off but other species should continue to make the long trip worthwhile. Spotted mackerel should start arriving in the same areas this month. A bag limit of five fish in possession per person now applies.
A few months ago I urged anglers to look out for the draft plan for the Sandy Straits Marine National Park (northern section) due to be released in August. As I write, this plan has not materialised but sources in the know say it isn’t far off. The draft plan will be issued for public comment and will include proposals for green zones (no fishing) and yellow zones (fishing permitted with one line) as well as many others which I’m looking forward to checking out. Hopefully its proposals will be ones with which we are all comfortable. If not, we need to let them know.
Next month we’ll look at Christmas holiday prospects for Fraser Island and Hervey Bay. Catch you then.
1) The author’s daughter Karen with a typical Fraser Island dart.Reads: 5579