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Options for the holidays
  |  First Published: December 2003




WITH SUMMER holidays almost upon us, it’s time to look at the best options for the hundreds of anglers that are expected to descend upon Hervey Bay.
LAND-BASED

For land-based anglers there are quite a few locations to choose from. The sandy beaches from Pialba to Urangan are expected to produce whiting with a few flathead and bream for variety. The beaches have been fishing well during the last months and there is every reason to expect this trend to continue. Although it will be possible to pick up a few fish at any time of day or stage of the tide, the best results are to be had very early in the morning, particularly if the tide is in the latter stages of the flood. It’s also very important to have premium bait, and for serious anglers the only options are live yabbies or worms. Yabbies can be pumped at many locations along the foreshores, but the most reliable spots are at the mouth of Eli Creek and between the Urangan boat harbour and Pulgul Creek. Live worms are available at some of the bait shops but they are often in great demand at this time of the year. The inner gutter at the Urangan Pier is also a reasonable option for whiting but this fishing platform can become crowded at this time of year. I recommend sticking to the beaches for whiting.

Gar are firm favourites with family anglers at this time of the year. The best places to target them are the short jetties at Scarness and Torquay, the groynes at Urangan and the Urangan Pier. Ultra light equipment, particularly in line diameter, is essential to success and maximum enjoyment. The rig is basically a light float above a short trace and a tiny no. 8 hook of any one of a number of patterns. The length of the trace and whether the trace needs to be weighted will depend upon the behaviour of the fish at the time. The best advice I can give is to take a look at what successful anglers are using and follow suit. When I was a lad, all we ever used for bait was dough and cheese. These days, however, the gar seem to have become much more exclusive in their tastes. Small yabbies are now used by most successful anglers. A very effective alternative is to use small cubes of peeled fresh green prawns. Gar are best targeted while there’s a reasonable run in the water so that the bait can be allowed to drift into the area in which they are feeding.

The Urangan pier is also good for some of our larger sportfish such as golden trevally, queenfish, tuna and mackerel. For most of these fish, experienced anglers are using live herrings and a variety of artificials. Herrings are easily jigged from the pier but cast nets are illegal here. If you are visiting Hervey Bay and want to have a go at some of these species, my advice is to have a good look at what the local experts are doing first.

BOATING

Given reasonable weather conditions, December is a great time for boat anglers to fish any of the reefs in the bay. The choice is wide. There are shallow reefs fringing the bay foreshores from Gatakers Bay to Scarness as well as Woody Island, Little Woody Island and the Picnics. There are the deeper spots like Moon Ledge, Mickey’s, the Channel Hole, Boge’s Hole and Bogimbah Ledge, to mention just a few. Then there is the very popular Rufus Artificial Reef, off the eastern side of Woody Island.

The shallow reefs, which have been fairly quiet during winter and spring, are now producing plenty of coral bream (grassy sweetlip), blackall, blue parrot, cod, coral trout, moses perch, stripeys and sand bass (reef barramundi). Late afternoons, evenings and early mornings are the only rewarding times to fish these reefs. Both flood and ebb tides work well but different areas usually perform best on a particular tide.

For most species I recommend using abrasion resistant lines of around 10kg test. For blue parrot, however, you need to go much heavier. My choice of baits for the shallows are yabbies and large soldier crabs (all-round, particularly blackall, provided there are few small pickers about), squid (all round, particularly blackall), hardiheads, herrings and pilchards (coral bream, coral trout and cod), cut baits (general) and rock crabs (almost essential for blue parrot).

Fishing the shallow reef is not without its frustrations. Happy moments (black spinefoot) can be in plague proportions during daylight hours. Fortunately they usually go to bed when the sun goes down. Of course, these fish must be handled very carefully as their numerous spines can cause painful, even sickening, stings. Happy moments are capable of demolishing the toughest baits within seconds, often with only the slightest indication. In these circumstances, the only viable option is to move. Incidentally, I’m told that happy moments are quite edible.

Another problem can be the presence of hordes of small squire. Most are undersize, and with the legal limit increasing further it will become a rarity to take a legal fish from the shallows. A shift to another part of reef is the only option here. Often small reef species, like paddies (lancers) and rainbows, make successful fishing difficult. These species sometimes indicate that you’re just off the reef and a move is warranted.

On the deeper ledges and at the Artificial Reef you can expect the same species but you stand a much better chance of connecting with a legal squire (even a snapper!). Strong tidal flows are experienced at all of these spots so it’s usually necessary to fish an hour or two each side of a flow change. The time of day is not as critical as it is in the shallows but if tidal conditions are right, dawn and dusk are by far the most productive. I recommend the same range of baits as for the shallows, but would add that live baits such as herrings, yakkas and rainbows can be particular effective here for cod and coral trout.

For boat anglers there are many more options and I’ll mention just a few. Golden trevally should be plentiful and will be targeted by flyfishers in the shallows. Sand whiting will be available to anglers wading any of the shallow banks or working the narrow gutters draining the flats. Flathead are almost certainties wherever there is a mix of sand and rocks in the shallows. There’s also a good chance that school mackerel will be frequenting the main channel north of Urangan. Spotty mackerel should be plentiful along the western side of Fraser Island north of Arch Cliffs (don’t forget that the bag limit on spotties is now five, and that can be a long way to go for five fish). Mack tuna and possibly northern blues should be working the bait schools between Woody Island and Fraser Island and further north. Last December mack tuna were in huge working schools from north of Wathumba Creek to as far south as the Picnics.

FRASER ISLAND

It’s difficult to predict just how well Fraser Island’s beaches are going to fish over the holiday period. Much depends upon weather conditions and the floating brown weed that has been an on-and-off problem for the last 18 months.

In good conditions we can expect dart and whiting to be the most abundant residents of the surf gutters. There might also be a few chopper tailor but most of the greenbacks of the past season will have departed. Bream, tarwhine and flathead are also likely particularly close to coffee rock exposures. Fishing the beaches in the middle of the day at this time of the year is strictly for the birds. Fish are unlikely to be cooperative, not to mention the expected abundance of beach traffic and the harshness of the mid-summer sun. Late afternoons and very early mornings are likely to be rewarding as well as very pleasant times to fish.

During the night, whiting, dart and bream often move into the shallow low water gutters to feed. It is here that some of the best light-tackle surf fishing is to be had, with outstanding quality of all three species. These days I like to fish with company at night as ever-hungry dingoes usually turn up to check you out. I don’t really think anyone would be in any direct danger from these dogs as they are mainly interested in any bait or fish they could steal. It is, of course, an offence to leave any fish or bait accessible to them. Nevertheless, it’s unnerving to be having a quiet fish in an isolated gutter on a dark night, then realise there’s a dog sitting on the beach just metres away.

The western beaches of the island can offer a viable alternative when weed or weather conditions make the ocean beach impossible. Tracks that lead to Wathumba Creek (from Orchid Beach), Woralie Creek (from north of the Maheno), Moon Point and Bogimbah (from Happy Valley) all take at least an hour to negotiate and the going can be rough. It is best to seek out up-to-date information before making the crossing.

Here’s hoping for some great weather and plenty of great fishing over the holiday period. Catch you again in 2004.

1) Dart will be the mainstay of beach fishing on Fraser Island during the holidays. This one was taken by Claire McMullen at Ngkala Rocks.

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