How Good Is Hervey Bay – Scott MItchell – Sep 14

How time flies! It sure doesn’t feel like we’ve been in Hervey Bay for eight years! It’s been a huge period, relocating the family and starting new careers in the Real Estate game from scratch, but we’re finally getting settled. We also have a new boat, our fantastic new Signature 543sf, and have been enjoying the enormous variety of fishing the Fraser Coast has to offer.

The fabulous fishing found in Hervey Bay has a lot to do with its geographic location, offering a truly unique variety of both warm and cool water species side by side. Having World Heritage listed Fraser Island on the door step is another one of its great assets.  Stretching over 120kms in length and 5 to 25 km in width, Fraser Island is the world’s largest sand islands, interrupted only by the spectacular headlands of Indian Head, Middle rocks and Waddy point. You could write a book on the fabulous beach and rock fishing found on Fraser Island alone. In this article we will cover the fishing options and seasons for the sheltered waters of Hervey Bay and the Great Sandy Straights on the western side, which run between Rooney’s Points in the North and In-skip point in the South.

There are also some fantastic in-shore reefs in Platypus Bay which offer both tropical and sub-tropical species, with it not being unusual to be catching snapper right alongside coral trout and red emperor. Then there is the bluewater fishing for pelagic species like long tail tuna, mackerel tuna, and spotted mackerel, narrow and broad barred mackerel. There’s also a host of trevally species, kingfish, cobia and even billfish.

We also have some fantastic estuaries and river systems , including the Great Sandy Straights, Mary, Susan and Burrum rivers and their tributaries, offering everything from wild Australian bass and barramundi to threadfin salmon, grunter, jewfish, bream , flathead, whiting etc, etc.

The historic Urangan Pier was originally constructed to access deep water for cargo handling of sugar, timber and coal back in 1917 at a length of 1.1kgs. The pier was decommissioned and closed after the last ship docked in January 1985 and was in serious need of repair with 239 metres being demolished. However, due to public outcry, 868 metres of the pier was left, and a full restoration project began. The pier is currently being fully restored with the original timber pylons being replaced with plastic covered steel pylons. The pier provides shore-based anglers with great access to deep water and attracts huge schools of baitfish and the predators that feed on them. Everything from bream to huge Spanish mackerel and giant trevally are encountered regularly by the “jetty rats” throughout the year.

If freshwater is more your scene, you’ll find some of the best stocked bass and barramundi impoundments within a three hour drive. These include Lenthalls Dam, Lake McDonald, Lake Monduran, Lake Awonga, Lake Callide, Cania Reservoir, Bjelke-Peterson dam, Boondooma Dam and Lake Borumba.

Sid Boshamer pioneered the Hervey Bay flats fishery back in the early 90’s. When exploring the shallows with renowned saltwater fly angler Dean Butler they came across large fish tailing on the flats inside Moon Point – these turned out to be golden trevally. In order to explore and promote this unique fishery, it was decided to hold a fly fishing tournament in 1995.  Some of Australia’s most experience fly anglers attended these tournaments over the next few years including Dean Butler, Peter Morse, Rod Harrison, Allan Philliskirk, Kaj Busch, Leeann Payne and others.

This sort of experience really opened up the potential for Hervey Bay as an important fly fishing destination. It was during the second tournament that a few switched-on anglers headed to the top of the Island after working out the boat traffic had put the goldens off the flats and back into the Bay after day one. While exploring the flats up around Roony’s Point they came across longtail tuna cruising the flats in only a few metres of water. I believe it was Peter Morse and Allan “Fish” Philliskirk who first found these fish and used their tally to blitz that comp. Mark Bargenquast, Andrew Chorley, Paul Dolan and Tri Ton have since spent plenty a lot of time on these northern flats and have added large queenfish, cobia, giant trevally and permit to the list of species encountered on these vast flats. There are even large threadfin salmon to be found down through the Great Sandy Straights and in the main rivers which feed these Everglades-like waters.

Warren Steptoe was the most likely angler to first alert the fishing fraternity to the bill fishery at the top of Fraser Island and Platypus Bay. Warren caught many small black marlin on trolled baits and lures along the edges of the flats back in the 80’s and wrote about it regularly in Modern Fishing magazine. Warren and his mates where mostly lure fisherman but also carried fly fishing tackle and caught plenty of spotty mackerel and tuna in the Platypus Bay area during the same time.

We first moved to Hervey Bay in 2006 when two young anglers from Hervey Bay, Justin Nye and James Otto landed what is believed to be the first black marlin sight cast on the flats with fly fishing tackle – without any teasers. That same year local fly fishing guide Nat Bromhead also added two of his clients, Jono Shales and Frank Concilias to the Flats Marlin hall of fame. I also teased up five fish in one day for good mate Jack De Pasquale who landed his first marlin on the beach after hooking it in only a few metres of water. The 2012 season was one of our best billfish seasons on record with dozens of anglers landing their first marlin on a range of tackle, from live baits, lures and on fly. The indicators look good again for this season with both Cairns and Townsville experiencing good lumbers of small blacks so far.

Even with so many fishing options and species available, Hervey Bay’s fishery is still driven by the seasons. I’ll break the year up into our four main seasons and we’ll cover the key target species that you can expect to encounter at these times.


We’ll start with spring which runs from September to November and brings about a major transition in the fishing with the arrival of warmer days and water temperatures. There is surprisingly good snapper fishing in the bay over the winter months with good numbers being found right up to November. This year has actually been great with good fish being found on the many artificial reefs along the eastern side of Big Woody Island as well as the many small reefs throughout Platypus Bay all the way to Roonies Point. Flathead become most active during spring with some great fishing to be had around River Heads and the flats south of Moon Point to Kingfisher Bay Resort and further down the Straits towards In-skip Point and Tin Can Bay.

The winter whiting will start to thin out as the summer whiting numbers build. There are also good numbers of grunter (javelin fish) found throughout the main river systems and great Sandy Straits with best numbers being encountered from May to October. Tuna are found through the year with good numbers of mackerel tuna usually being encountered in spring. In-Skip Point at the bottom of the Straits can provide some fantastic tuna fishing in spring with both mackerel and long tails being found in as far as mouth of KauriCreek. Large cobia are also encountered throughout Platypus Bay and the reefs off Roonies Point during spring with fish to over 30kgs being regularly encountered. For those more into your freshwater fishing, the local wild bass are also starting to get active after winter and spawn in the main tidal rivers. Bass will also be found schooled up in the impoundments over winter and will start to disperse as the margins warm.


December to February is when the local fishing scene really fires up and your biggest decision is often what to chase next! The local icon species, the golden trevally, are found throughout the year but start showing up on the shallow flats from mid to late November. If you are keen on your fly fishing, you need to chase these fantastic fish on the Hervey Bay flats at some stage. The average size of is also much larger than most other areas in the country. Fish averaging 6-8kgs are common with some above 10kgs being encountered often enough to keep you on your toes! Snub nosed dart and bonefish are captured each year in Hervey Bay. These species would be much more prominent if commercial netting was removed from the Great Sandy Marine Park to bring it back in line with every other marine park on the planet! (Go to if you would like to be a part of “correcting” the GSMP). Giant trevally are also found throughout the bay over summer with fish to 30kgs being encountered from the famous Urangan Pier each summer.

There are a number of mackerel species found in the bay including broad bar, narrow bar and spotted. Spotted mackerel numbers have really improved since the removal of ring netting in 2002 with large schools being found throughout Platypus Bay from December to February. “Spotties” are great sport and great tucker!

Black marlin can also arrive in numbers from November to February. It does need to be understood that this unique marlin fishery is not a consistent or predictable fishery – it’s not even an annual event. A good indicator that we will see numbers of these small black marlin in the bay is when good numbers of these fish are encountered further north off Townsville and Cairns from around August which has been the case this year. These fish aggregate around known baitfish grounds inside the Great Barrier Reef. Once they show up in these locations in numbers it is generally understood there will be a good migration of these fish down the East Coast as they follow the warm water south and arrive in Hervey Bay from October. They will generally stay in the Bay until Christmas, depending on the currents and baitfish.

Longtail tuna numbers will also build over summer with some exceptional sight fishing being possible up the top of Platypus Bay. I have not seen any other area where these fantastic sportfish regularly patrol the beaches in less than a few metres of water – making for some fantastic sight fishing on both conventional and fly-fishing tackle. These fish can also range in size form 6-8kg school fish to jumbos over 20kgs!

The inshore reefs around Point Vernon, Big Woody and Platypus Bay also turn on some surprisingly good reef fishing over summer with coral trout, sweetlips, emperor, nannygai, blackall etc all being available for those who put in the time. For those with larger boats, a wider run to the Southern Gutters will even turn up red emperor.

On the estuary front, our resident barramundi and threadfin salmon fire up over summer. The Mary River truly is an amazing system and regularly produces barramundi and threadfin salmon over the magic metre each year. Mark “Bargy” Bargenquast really assisted in putting this fishery on the map and has spent a number of years refining techniques that consistently produce fish up to and over the magic metre mark which has been featured on many DVD segments.

Trolling the many rock bars and snaggy banks around the tide changes will allow you to cover more water and locate these fantastic sportfish. Fly anglers can also target these species while they are feeding on the growing jelly prawn numbers at the mouths of drains and creeks towards the bottom of the tide when you will be able to see them feeding.

The Burrum River is another expansive system that produces consistent fishing for barramundi over summer with three other major tributaries being the Gregory, Cherwell and Isis rivers. These systems also provide quality fishing for mangrove jack over the warm summer months as well. The freshwater scene can be great over summer with fantastic top water bass fishing being available on many of the local weirs and dams, both early and late in the day. The rivers are dependent on how much rain we get, with flood events slowing the fishing opportunities.


March to May heralds the start of beautiful blue sky days and calm conditions as both water and air temperatures cool off after summer.  Longtail tuna numbers will remain high until late May before moving into deeper water over winter. Golden trevally will still be found up on the flats until cooling water temperature send them into deeper water also.  Mackerel numbers will also start to drop off in autumn, with some big Spanish mackerel usually showing up in May. Barramundi fishing can still be great for those who put in the ground work exploring the main rivers.  Bass fishing can also be great in the freshwater sections of the Mary River and local weirs and dams as fish start to school up for winter.


June to August. After living in Cooma NSW for 18 years, we love Hervey Bay’s mild winters! We also get some great fishing over winter with snapper being one of the key species to chase. The string of artificial reefs on the eastern side of Big Woody Island fish well over winter and provide shelter from the south westerly winds that often blow during this period. Platypus Bay up to Roonies Point on Fraser Island also produces great fishing on the inshore reefs that load up with dense yellow tail (yakka) schools over winter. Fishing soft plastics for these great sport fish has really changed snapper fishing forever. You can fish with quite light tackle with most of the fishing being in quite shallow waters between 20 to 30 metres. My favourite combo consisting of a fast tapered 7ft rod like the Shimano Terez 72MH matched with 4000 threadline reel spooled with 20lb Power Pro braid as main line, 20lb Ocea fluorocarbon leader, 9-11 gram jig heads matched with Squidgy 145mm Whipbaits and 160mm Wriggler soft plastics. We also see a number of large longtail tuna and cobia throughout winter on the deeper reefs when fishing around these bait schools. Fish in excess of 20kgs are not uncommon and provide interesting sport on light snapper gear!

Hervey Bay also provides some great bream fishing over winter, although they don’t attract a lot of attention with so many other species being on offer. I love chasing bream with so many different areas being available, from clear sandy flats, shallow rocky reefs, points, piers and beacons to snaggy creeks and rivers. We often encounter a number of other species while fishing for bream, with beautiful diamond trevally, flathead, grunter and large summer whiting in the 30+ cm range often falling to both hard bodies and soft plastics. Winter whiting numbers also build throughout the bay with large schools being found off Point Vernon across to Burrum Heads. These small, tasty fish attract hundreds of anglers from our cool southern states over winter who base themselves in the bay to escape the cold. Jewfish numbers also improve during winter with fish from schoolies to over the magic metre being available from the artificial reefs and rivers.

Hervey Bay truly offers an amazing array of fishing opportunities and is one of the fastest growing population regions in the country. There are a number of renowned local fishing guides operating in Hervey Bay with Tri Ton ( and Andrew Chorley ( both offering access to our great sport fishing. You can also head off on an extended long-range charter aboard local whale watching charter vessel Freedom III ( who are now offering three day/night trips out over the top of Fraser Island and Break Seas Bar outside of whale season (November to July), accessing some of the most remote waters in the country. Your hardest decision will honestly be what to chase first.

So many fish – so little time…