This article is aimed at answering quite a few of those questions and while I have tried to provide as much information as I can, I realise that I am only just scraping the surface of information, given the sheer size and diversity of the fishery along the Fraser Coast, but hopefully it is a good starting point.
First of all, not everyone who visits Hervey Bay owns a boat nor do some boat owners bring their boat with them while holidaying, luckily we are gifted with a number of brilliant land based fishing options for the beginner through to the seasoned angler. While many of the beaches along Hervey Bay’s shoreline or rocky points around areas such as Point Vernon are great fishing locations, the most iconic shore based location would have to be the Urangan Pier, stretching a good 868m, it is one of the longest remaining piers in Australia. A number of deep channels pass under the pier as you make your way to the very end which provides access to one of the main deep water channels feeding the Great Sandy Straits. The range of species caught from the pier is diverse, from 15kg+ GT’s, tuna, flathead, jew, bream, squid, down to the humble whiting, there is plenty on offer to keep any angler interested.
Located around 100m from the pier is the Anglers Den, a small family owned and operated tackle store. While Steve Brooker the owner is quick to point out that his store provides information and goods for both shore based anglers and boaties, it makes sense, given the stores close proximity to the pier that the Anglers Den has to be your first stop prior to heading out onto the pier for a fish. Not only does Steve have his finger on the pulse regarding what is being caught and importantly how, but he also offers a range of Pacific Harvest and Tweed baits, all the tackle you could possibly need for a day’s fishing and he even hires out beginner kits starting at $10 for the day, which includes a rod, reel, bucket and knife, absolutely perfect for those people wanting to give fishing a go for the first time.
Now if your holidaying without your boat or are looking to get stuck into some serious sports fishing there are a couple of other options. You could hire a boat from the Boat Club or Boabs Boat Hire and head out on your own, or to save time and fuel money you can make a booking with one of the local fishing guides who will know exactly where to take you and show you exactly how to catch, potentially, that fish of a life time.
For those people lucky enough to own and be holidaying with their own boat either for the first time visiting Hervey Bay or a return visitor then I highly recommend stopping in and saying g’day to the staff at Fisherman’s Corner, heck give them a call while planning your trip. Located at 59 Torquay Rd, Steve Bell and his team hold a massive range of stock, knowledge and expertise, almost as diverse as the fishery itself. They even provide a weekly fishing report through their Facebook page and through the local channel 7 news. They will point you in the right direction for a successful day on the water.
One of the topics you will more than likely discuss while visiting either the Anglers Den or Fisherman’s Corner will be which boat ramp to launch from. The Urangan marina is the largest boat launching facility in Hervey Bay, boasting an eight lane boat ramp, two pontoons and a sizable car park dedicated to cars with boat trailers. It is protected by a large rock wall making launching your boat quick, easy and safe. Its location makes it the ideal launching site if you are planning on fishing any of the inner reefs, the western side of Fraser Island or if you wish to slip across to Kingfisher Bay resort for lunch. There is also a boat ramp at Gatakers Bay on the western side of Point Vernon, my recommendation however, is to only use this ramp if you are an experienced boat owner. It is single lane, quite narrow and the car park is quite small, while it does provide quick access to a number of inner reef locations between Burrum Heads and Point Vernon it can be a tricky getting in and out of the ramp as the channel leading to the ramp is very narrow, lined with rocks and almost inaccessible at low tide.
If fishing further south into the Sandy Straits is your thing, or even heading into the Mary River to chase barramundi or threadfin salmon, then the River Heads boat ramp is probably your best bet. There are two ramps at River Heads, a narrow single lane ramp on the eastern side of the car park and a duel lane ramp on the more protected western side. It can prove a little tricky to launch and retrieve a boat on either ramp if a big tide is running due to the exposed positions of the ramps, it is also very rocky with little room available for loading and unloading a boat either side of the ramp, but it is certainly the best place to launch for access to the Mary River.
Regardless of which ramp you decide to launch from, please ensure you log on with the local volunteer marine rescue once you are on the water. Volunteer Marine Rescue Hervey Bay (VMRHB) have fully trained radio operators monitoring VHF channels 16, 73 (local area) and 22 (north of Fairway Beacon) and for 27 MHz channels 88 and 91, the radio room operates daily from 0600 to 1800 hours, with afterhours coverage provided by VTS Gladstone who monitor channel 16 for emergencies only.
Okay, so you have planned your trip, stopped in or given one of the local tackle stores a call to find out what is biting and where, identified your launching site, remembered to put the bung in, logged on with VMRHB and are now ready to find the fish. For a first timer fishing the waters of Hervey Bay the task can seem quite daunting as the expanse of water you are confronted with is literally immense, but hopefully the following will provide you with a good starting point. Let us launch from the Urangan marina and head north. Within a few minutes you will be passing Woody Island, which, along its eastern side, provides a large number of artificial reefs which are well sheltered from any strong winds from the south. During winter snapper are regularly found throughout these artificial reefs and during the warmer months, sweet lip, coral trout, emperor, nannygai & golden trevally are just a few of the species on offer. I recommend you spend the time with a good quality sounder scouting this area, be aware of the tides and moon phase and be prepared for some fast moving current. Anchoring can prove difficult as during the big tides the water rips through the deeper channels between Woody Island and Fraser.
Heading further north you will need to keep an eye on your chart as around Pelican Bank there is a maze of shallow sand banks. Keeping to the eastern side of Pelican Bank is your best bet, and you will soon find yourself in the vicinity of Moon Point, Fraser Island. Throughout this area there are a number of shallow reefs and rock ledges which prove to be productive all year round. There are also a number of creeks spilling into the bay and fishing these creek mouths generally results in some nice flathead, bream, whiting and even the occasional dart filling your esky.
Continuing north from Moon Point, you enter into Platypus Bay a huge expanse of water littered with areas of reef, gravel patches and deep holes. Too many potential fishing locations to mention in a single article. The point I would make about Platypus Bay, is to be aware of the distances involved and ensure you are carrying enough fuel. A run from the Urangan Marina to Wathumba Creek, about two thirds of the way up into Platypus Bay can take a good hour and if your target destination is Rooney’s Point you can add another 20 to 30 minutes. For those people willing to cover the distance and who have the fuel to burn then Rooney’s Point does offer some fantastic fishing, especially during the warmer months, with baby black marlin and big cobia regularly visiting that part of the world.
If you decide to launch from River Heads you have the option to either head west into the Mary River system or east towards Fraser Island and areas such as Ungowa where a few patches of reef can be found. Whatever you do, don’t overlook a number of the rock ledges located only a few hundred metres from the River Heads boat ramp, these are well marked on charts and regularly hold large barramundi and threadfin salmon. Trolling lures at the turn of the tide does seem to be the best time to target these rocky ledges. If you decide to head east towards Fraser Island and then turn south towards Ungowa then I recommend you have a good sound around any of the creek mouths that you come across. Finding the ledges where the creeks spill into the main channel is always worth the effort with many of them holding queenfish, grunter, salmon and the humble flathead all of which lie in wait, ambushing bait as it enters or exits the creeks.
Remember preparation is the key and ultimately good preparation will save you time on the water. Either go with a local if you can or seek local knowledge, the best places for this are our local tackle stores. Know your tides and weather, the water moving in the channels between Woody Island and Fraser Island can really stand up if the tide is pushing against some wind and can be quite dangerous. Carry extra fuel, especially if you are planning on entering Platypus Bay and chasing longtail, golden trevally or mackeral. Always log on with VMRHB, it could save your life and finally, target a species or a specific location for success. While brief I hope this article provides you with a starting point for enjoying the pristine waters of Hervey Bay and as always I hope to see you on the water.