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Teewah trials and theories
  |  First Published: July 2009




Readers will have noticed the lack of a Teewah Beach reports in recent editions, and my apologies for that. However, the lay off has allowed more than just fishing updates to accumulate, so I'll endeavour to cover as many of these as possible in this edition.
Fishing Prospects

Beach fishing has been an incredibly mixed bag over the past few months with periods of excellent angling interspersed with slow periods. Most of March and April delivered few results for any anglers with only infrequent catches of dart and tarwhine, which isn't surprising given the foul weather that prevailed. Some of the tarwhine however, were quality fish approaching 1.5kg.

Good whiting made appearances towards Double Island Point during March. Many fish were well and truly in the elbow slapper category, but catches of more than 3-4 whiting in a session were rare. Tailor and bream were no-shows during March and April, which are traditionally the months when bream are around in good numbers.

Unfortunately, the bream situation hasn't improved into May and June, and following similar trends in recent years, it seems unlikely that July will be much better. Dart seem to have also disappeared during July, despite being caught through May and June in small numbers and sizes.

Late season rainfall in late May and early June caused stream rises up and down our coastline. For the first time since 2004, this triggered an accumulation of baitfish in Laguna Bay, which were then herded to shore by mack and longtail tuna. Chopper tailor and school mackerel also took advantage of the bait schools and were often well within casting range of the beach while they were feeding. Each outgoing tide for several weeks during June and July, generally had schools of tuna along with mackerel and tailor on occasions, boiling the surface close to shore.

This had many anglers, myself included, cruising the beach each day looking for birds working or feeding schools between Teewah and the river mouth. The ocean surface during this period was mostly flat with little wave action, making spotting fairly simple. Teewah Beach also has quite a build up of sand on the lower part of the beach from dune erosion, which created a number of access points to the channel where the pelagics have been feeding. The tuna were unusually cooperative in herding bait to areas with good channel access and reaching the fish with cast assisting westerlies, was at times all too easy.

But casting distance still needs to be adequate to land the lure past the fish and then retrieve through the feeding school. My set-up of 9lb mono main line with around 6m of 15lb mono casting leader and 55-85g slugs, is an ideal combo for this type of fishing. It allowed me to retrieve a lot of lures through or around schools, which dramatically increased chances of hook-ups. The mack tuna often turned up their noses to the large lures but the longtails, mackerel and tailor had no such qualms.

Patience is required to time your cast to maximise effectiveness. Wait for the tuna to start busting up and to position yourself so that you have a reasonable chance of achieving sufficient casting distance before sending the lure on its way. Opportunities for good retrievals through schools when the fish are feeding in close can be rare, so it’s important to make each cast count. Casting lure after lure, and especially as a group, when the fish aren't actually feeding, will only spook the school and send them outside of casting distance.

Netting Effects

The May rains and floods also prompted the mullet to leave the estuaries on their annual spawning migration. With the K8 netters camped at the mouth of the Noosa waiting expectantly for the mass exodus of fish, the results were none too surprising. By the end of June, 30-tonne of fish was taken, including several hauls of mullet and other species.

Conventionally, just one haul of this size is sufficient to spook any of the targeted species in the area, making recreational angling very difficult. Other species such as dart, bream, tarwhine and whiting all became very scarce very quickly and the mullet disappeared from the gutters entirely. However, the presence of vast quantities of bait after netting had commenced, which is a circumstance that I can't recall occurring before, encouraged predator species to stay and feed on this bait. This is very significant, and for me there were several important pieces of information to be derived from this occurrence.

I happened to be spinning up tailor from a rocky gutter south of Teewah and had been for a few days over the Queens Birthday long weekend when the first net was shot on the Tuesday afternoon after the public holiday. The tailor had chewed through the bottom of the tide and were feeding more aggressively as the tide started to run in, when lures suddenly began arriving back to me without being struck at. The mullet, which had been sitting idle in many of the gutters including the one I was fishing, then began swimming quickly through the gutter in a southerly direction.

I later discovered that it had been at this time that a net had been shot north of Teewah. I knew the pros were up that way and I had suspected within minutes of the tailor going off and the mullet fleeing south, that a net must have caused this.

The next day, feeling somewhat deflated about the likelihood that tailor fishing would be off the agenda for a while, I went down to once again test the theories post netting. As expected, the tailor had gone, but to my surprise, small school mackerel had taken their place in the gutter and mack and longtail tuna could be seen busting up further out. Having seen mackerel and tuna spooked by mullet nets in the past, this was a turn up for the books, but one that didn't take too much analysis to understand.

I have long said that netting only causes fish species that are netted to abandon an area after successful hauls. The last time I saw mackerel and tuna spooked by nets was around 2005. This indicates the mackerel in 2009 have either forgotten the threat that nets once posed, or the fish present are of an age that have never been exposed to nets, as since 2003 when ring netting of mackerel was banned, there have been a many new generations of mackerel spawned.

Tuna on the other hand, have never been netted in this region as far as I'm aware, but may have been a significant by-catch in nets intended for mackerel. Alternatively, the tuna may have been spooked in the past, not by the nets, but by the mackerel feeding beside them spooking when a net was shot. Much the same as zebra may spook when a cheetah is stalking smaller game.

About five days after the first nettings and a couple more sessions on the schoolies, small chopper tailor started showing up with the mackerel. The number of tailor increased over a three day period and we were lucky enough to have a couple of wonderful spinning sessions at the 2nd cut before another net was shot. Further attempts at finding fish over the next few days proved futile and reports of bread and butter species were thin on the ground.

Again, five days after the last successful haul of mullet, with westerlies prevailing and water clarity improving at last, fish began arriving back into the gutters. At the same time, tuna began herding large shoals of baitfish to the shoreline with tailor and mackerel present. The tailor were all large choppers of around 40-45cm, the longtails were all around 6-7kg and the mackerel barely legal. But again a net was shot and the tailor disappeared except for some juveniles, and again the mackerel and tuna remained.

As of early July, the odd school of small mack tuna can still be seen working. But tailor have become rare with only juveniles occasionally being caught and anglers chasing the bread and butter species are not happy. It seems the baitfish have dispersed, the mackerel and tuna have returned to warmer waters and the tailor and other normally present species have been spooked away from the area, as is the norm at this time of year.

I am in little doubt that the presence of large quantities of baitfish has influenced the conventional level of spooking that nets cause. The Chinese net massive quantities of baitfish in the Solomon Islands that they dump overboard to reverse the 'area abandonment' of yellowfin tuna that their netting causes. This is similar to the wildebeest migration across croc-infested rivers to reach the juiciest grasslands; the rewards are deemed to be worth the risk for these animals. It can be assumed that with heavy concentrations of bait inshore, that there isn't such healthy numbers offshore and the tailor need to eat.

Many people have questioned my theories, as their fish have been available during netting here. But my theories have now been reinforced and simply refined based on the logical nature of how fish behave around nets. My theories have also been supported by the worlds leading fish biologist that specialises in this field. He tells me that his and his colleagues observations, nearly exactly mirror my own. And lacking any realistic argument whatsoever to the contrary, this now gives me total confidence that I am on the right track.

Pipis

Pipis or eugaries, or the lack of, is very much a talking point around Teewah and has been for a couple of years now. There are also similar conversations taking place at Fraser, Moreton and Stradbroke islands. I personally have been watching the situation all of my life and I am in absolute agreement that a significant problem exists. I tend to think that algal blooms have played a role here, but we aren't likely to slow these up in a hurry and therefore can't be a part of any short-term solution or restoration process. The only measure that we have at our disposal for the preservation of eugarie stocks is to limit the number taken by beach goers.

A bag limit of 50 pipis is enormous when there can be three baits to be had from each pipi. Even half this number per person is more than I have ever needed to fish for long periods of time and under the circumstances still seems excessive. When thousands of people can be on this beach at any one time, a ridiculous number of eugaries can disappear very quickly, The June/July school holidays this year had as many eugaries as I've seen for two or three years pop up on the beach with the calm seas. But at low tide most had already been collected.

It’s time to reduce the bag limit to a more sensible figure like 20 per person and provide education to visitors on the best practice methods of using and caring for pipis. Taking eugaries away from the beach needs to be prohibited like in NSW to deter large quantities being used for human consumption. As a vital part of the inshore marine ecosystem, it is essential that measures be adopted that ensure the survival of the eugarie. The occasional presence of Fisheries Inspection Officers every now and then might also be of assistance.

Local Teewah Updates

Visitors to Teewah Beach in recent weeks will have noticed work being carried out on The Wilderness Track, which runs from behind the 1st cut to the 3rd vehicle access cutting. The track is due to be covered in bitumen and an upgrade of the 3rd cutting to accommodate all north bound traffic on Teewah Beach. The beach between the 1st and 3rd cuttings can then be closed to vehicular traffic with the 1st cutting providing access to the beach south to the river mouth.

It’s likely to be late 2009 or early 2010 the time these things are completed and the Cooloola region is declared a ‘Recreational Area’ under management of the Department of Environment and Resource Management. Permits for vehicles to access the region cannot be issued until all of this is completed, so Teewah Beach could well still be a free beach at Christmas.

I am always interested in receiving feedback from readers relating to any relevant subject matter. So anyone wishing to contact me is most welcome to email me at --e-mail address hidden--

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