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When the Weed Clears…
  |  First Published: December 2002



AS I write this report, gale force northerly winds and a discouraging forecast are saying that there won’t be much fishing for at least for another two or three days. Even the more sheltered waters will be difficult due to the sheer strength of the winds.

Fortunately, November usually sees out the worst of the northerlies. In the breaks between the winds some reasonable catches have been made in Hervey Bay and, for most species, the trends should continue into December.

OFFSHORE

School mackerel have been hitting pilchards, herrings and high-speed metals throughout the shipping channel north of Urangan as far as the Fairway. They are also turning up at the Snapper Grounds, the Outer Banks, off Arch Cliffs and, in smaller numbers, further south around Kingfisher Resort and River Heads. Schoolies should still be around during the Christmas vacation, so this is a species for holiday-makers to look out for.

While on the subject of mackerel, spotties should be well established inside the island between Rooney Point and Arch Cliffs. They will also attract the attention of commercial ring-netters in this part of the bay.

Offshore from Wathumba Creek, snapper, squire and trevally have been making the long trip from the harbour worthwhile. The One Mile and the Washing Machines have been reliable. These spots should perform during the coming month but I wouldn’t be too optimistic about scoring many nobby snapper. Quality squire and various trevally species should be in good numbers. These reefy areas, and those right along the inside of Fraser Island as far south as Moon Point, usually support big populations of a fish known locally as 'pinkies' or 'butterfly bream'. These fish can be taken in big numbers on light gear and make a good option for visiting family boaties prepared to make the trip up the island in good conditions.

Pinkies usually range from 20-30cm. They take just about any bait with enthusiasm and make excellent eating. However, be careful when considering fish taken from the Wathumba Creek area because Ciguatera poisoning is a possibility when eating fish from here. Current proposals, should they become law, will prohibit the taking of larger species such as Spanish mackerel for this reason. Smaller fish such as pinkies don't pose a big threat, but I don't advise eating huge quantities in a short time. Years ago a case of mild Ciguatera was suspected to be due to the fact that the family concerned had been dining almost exclusively on pinkies for a whole week.

Inshore reefs, no more than half an hour’s run from the Urangan harbour, have been producing fair catches of blackall and coral bream. The latest bout of strong northerlies has washed a lot of weed over the reefs, making fishing difficult. We expect this in late October and November each year, and hopefully weather conditions will settle down by the Christmas holidays.

Holiday boaties should certainly put the shallow fringing reefs on their list of options. These reefs extend from Gatakers Bay to Pialba and Scarness, north from Round Island and Woody Island and along most of the east coast of Woody Island. The western side of Little Woody Island and the eastern fringes of the Picnic Islands also have good shallow reefs. These don't fish well during the heat of the day, and you need to fish late afternoon or early morning for worthwhile results. Throughout the night, blackall can be taken in good numbers but coral bream tend to be less active. Blue parrot are seldom caught at night but will feed on dusk right up to the very last light of day.

Deeper local reef areas will also be worth investigating during the holiday period. The most popular spots are bound to be the various drops of the Roy Rufus Artificial Reef. Best results are to be had on dawn and dusk and during the night. It's necessary to fish either side of a change of flow, particularly on big tides. At this time of the year we can expect coral bream, blackall, blue parrot, coral trout, cod, golden trevally and squire to be available over the artificial reef. Many of you will have seen my detailed map of this reef in the Fishing Queensland annual magazine. My article also includes GPS marks for a number of the sunken vessels as well as other top fishing spots in the inner bay. These spots include the Channel Hole, Bogimbah Ledge and Boges Hole, all of which should be worth investigating during the holiday period.

I have mentioned squire as a possible target this month. Please be aware that most of these deeper reefs are alive with squire at this time of the year, but few make it to the current minimum legal length of 30cm. Even fewer will make it if the proposed increase in the legal size becomes law.

BEACH AND ESTUARY

Sand whiting catches have been pretty much in line with expectations. Just about anywhere along the foreshores between Toogum and Urangan, light line anglers have been doing quite well. The Urangan Pier has also seen its share of good whiting brought over the rails. Most have been taken on bloodworms fished right under the structure. Moon Point, Bogimbah and the bay’s many high sand banks have also been producing some good fish. Unfortunately, whiting catches tend to fall during the very hot part of the year but holiday anglers can still expect to score a feed or two by fishing very early mornings on rising tides. Boat anglers fishing the high banks should fish a couple of hours either side of low water. For early morning fishing of local beaches, there are ideal tides from 3rd to 7th and from 17th to 23rd of December. Ideal tides, with sufficiently low levels for fishing the high banks, occur from 1st to 4th and 17th to 20th of December.

The estuary of the mouths of the Mary and Susan rivers has experienced some excellent fishing during the last couple of months. This surprises me, because in drought conditions these systems usually come to a standstill - or almost. Most estuarine fish head well upstream, seeking out whatever food they can find. This year, however, much of the upper parts of the Mary River are choked with hyacinth, and fish are dying for lack of oxygen. Perhaps a lot of fish prefer to stay downstream as a result. Nevertheless, in a recent Tiaro fishing competition, a bream of almost 800g was taken near the town. I'm not brave enough to predict just how well the estuary will fish during the holidays, but it should still be worth a visit - particularly when conditions out in the bay are unreasonable. The usual species are bream (both yellowfin and pikey), javelin, blue salmon and silver jewfish.

FRASER ISLAND

It's not easy to be optimistic about Christmas holiday prospects on Fraser Island’s ocean beach. I'd love to be able to predict that the weed which has plagued the beach for months is about to clear. However, nobody seems to know why this has been such a bad year or how long the infestation will last. There are suggestions that the drought conditions on the land are in some way responsible, but I'm unconvinced.

During my recent two-week stint on the island, only three or four days were fishable - and that was only in a couple of relatively clear gutters between the Maheno and Cathedral Beach. Then it was a matter of patiently de-weeding the line and terminal gear after each cast. Fortunately there were still plenty of good fish about, mostly tailor around the 2kg mark and top quality dart. It was only the few days when the wind swung around to the south that a few relatively clear gutters appeared. As soon as the wind found its way to the east and northeast though, the weed was back in force. Hopefully a change to regular and persistent southerly weather will clear the weed, at least temporarily. If this comes about there is almost certainly going to be an abundance of dart, whiting and bream along the beaches.

Persistent drought conditions have affected the island roads. Many are in a deplorable condition, having been cut about and heavily rutted by vehicles with high tyre pressures, and/or being driven by the inexperienced. Many of these roads are in desperate need of maintenance. The tracks from Happy Valley to Moon Point and from Central Station to Lake Birrabeen have been particularly bad and, unless there is plenty of rain and maintenance, I recommend that you don't use them.

That’s about it for 2002. As the New Year breaks, I hope I'll be able to give you better news on the island scene. A happy Christmas and a New Year full of tight lines to all!

1) Despite the problems with weed, fish of this quality were commonplace in the latter part of Fraser Island’s tailor season.

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