Catching a Christmas feed
  |  First Published: December 2004

It’s that time of the year again! Thousands of hopeful holiday anglers will be heading for Hervey Bay and for the sandy beaches of Fraser Island. Some will be towing offshore craft to the sheltered waters north of Waddy Point where they will launch and head out to the prolific offshore reefs.

With high temperatures during the day, and heavy traffic on the water and the beach, the best times to fish are early in the morning, late in the afternoon and in the evening. Hopefully the worst of the strong northerlies will be finished for the year, but we can still expect some stiff afternoon breezes, making early morning fishing very attractive.

Fraser Island Ocean Beach

Anglers heading for the ocean beach of Fraser Island should still be prepared for the nuisance of the brown floating weed that has been causing problems since late August. It’s has been an ongoing problem through early summer for at least three years. Fortunately, it’s usually possible to find gutters that are not too badly affected but this might require a fair drive away from home base.

During the last couple of months, good catches of dart, whiting, tarwhine and bream have been made in fishable gutters, but tailor have been disappointing. Beach anglers can expect the same species this month but any tailor are likely to be in the chopper class.

At this busy time of the year I like to get away from the beach traffic and fish the headlands for bream, tarwhine and reef species like sombre sweetlip and spotted perch. These are fish that feed around the bases of the rocks so you don’t need to cast far. Using as little lead as possible and letting the bait drift around in the turbulence is the way to go. Both sea worms and pipis are great for beach and rock species but I do like to have a supply of white pilchards or halved WA pilchards when looking for the better quality bream around the headlands.


Now for a look at some of the species that anglers will be looking for in and around Hervey Bay.


Sand whiting will be available along all the beaches and flats from Dundowran to Urangan, and from the jetties at Scarness, Torquay and Urangan, with the early morning flood tide being most productive. The island beaches north of Moon Point will be worth fishing if the annual weed invasion hasn’t become too serious.

For boat anglers there are plenty of banks and gutters that will be worth investigating. If you’re seriously chasing whiting you need to have fresh worms or yabbies. City foreshore yabby banks are coming under a lot of pressure these days and many anglers are travelling further afield to pump a good supply. For boat anglers, there are acres of prolific banks to work.

School mackerel

Both school and spotted mackerel will be available this month. Schoolies can be taken throughout the bay but the more reliable areas are north of Urangan in the shipping channel and around the navigation marks as far north as the Fairway. Some are taken from the Urangan Pier and many are located over the low reefs along the inside of Fraser Island, particularly off Wathumba Creek. Schoolies respond well to cast or trolled metals, and also to WA pilchards. They have a legal minimum length of 50cm and have a bag limit of 30.

Broad-barred mackerel, queenfish and golden trevally will also be possibilities around the Urangan Pier. Light gamefishing from the pier is a specialised exercise, so watch and learn before joining in.

Prolific spotted mackerel and tuna

Spotties should be at their peak along the inside of Fraser Island north of Moon Point and as far as Rooney Point. Most are taken on trolled or cast metals, with 45g and 60g Raiders being the most effective. Many anglers are using spin sticks with plastics, and wand wavers are also applying their skills. Schools of are usually located by spotting feeding terns and other sea birds over disturbed water. It’s easy to reach the bag limit of five (min. length is 60cm) so this has largely become a catch and release fishery.

In the same areas as those frequented by spotties, and further south into the bay, tuna are also expected to be working the bait balls. Both mack tuna and longtails should be plentiful and are best targeted by locating a feeding school and then casting and retrieving with metals that match the size of the baitfish. I prefer Raiders, right down to their smallest size. They need to be retrieved through the feeding tuna at high speed, so high ratio spinning reels are a must. There are no size and bag limits for tuna.

Shallow Reefs

With inshore water temperatures increasing, many popular species should return to the shallow reefs this month. Most of the reefs are close to launching ramps so anglers don’t have too far to travel.

Reefs that fringe Gatakers Bay, Point Vernon, Pialba and Scarness can be accessed from ramps at Gatakers Bay, Point Vernon and Scarness. With the exception of a user-pays facility at Gatakers Bay, these ramps aren’t protected and can be difficult in onshore wind and swell conditions. Reefs around the northern end of Woody Island and along its eastern shore are reached from the totally protected and excellent ramps in the Urangan Boat Harbour.

Grass sweetlip (coral bream) are common over most reefs. They feed best just on dusk and during the first few hours of daylight. They’ll take just about any well presented and fresh bait. An early morning flood tide trip to the edge of the reef on the eastern side of Woody Island almost always pays off. The grass sweetlip has a minimum legal length of 30cm and no bag limit.

Blackall (min. length 25cm, bag limit 5 fish) are also widespread across the reefs but they prefer to feed after dark. Yabbies, soldier crabs, prawns and squid are the preferred baits. Blackall up to 4kg are frequent catches over the shallows.

Coral trout (38cm, 7 fish) respond well to trolled deep-running lures and also to livebaits. Moses perch and stripeys (25cm, 5 fish), members of the sea-perch group, are likely catches on the reefs. It is quite usual for them to feed ravenously for the first hour of complete darkness. Black-spot tuskfish, also called blueys (30cm, 6 fish), have already returned to the shallows. They show a marked preference to crustacean baits, particularly black rock crabs.

Just a reminder that the combined bag limit for regulated coral reef is fish is 20. These include blackall, sea perches, coral trout and tuskfish.

Great flathead country

Hervey Bay has some great flathead territory, and the art of outwitting these fish with plastics is becoming increasingly popular with local and visiting anglers. The mouths of small creeks along the inside of Fraser Island provide ideal spots for flathead to ambush their prey, as do the holes inside the creeks where water runs off the shallows on the ebb tide. Shallow shorelines where rocks meet sand, or where rocks mingle with sand patches, are also ideal. The flathead lie in the sand, waiting to pounce on baitfish that are attracted to the cover of the rocks. The coffee rock exposures along the inside of Fraser Island and sandstone ledges around the bay islands are all worth checking out.

Have a great Christmas with many tight lines.


1) This coral bream was taken by Judy James off Woody Island on a dark night in December last year.

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