A Hervey Bay holiday


JULY in my hometown of Canberra is the pits. With the mercury dipping as low as -8 degrees C at night and struggling to get into double figures during the day, it’s a depressing place in the depths of winter.

Sometimes the only antidote is to head north, which is what a lot of Canberrans, including me, try to do when the bitter weather starts to take its toll.

The latest destination my family and I chose to escape the chill, Hervey Bay, isn’t exactly a stone’s throw from home…but the 1500 km road trip is worth it when you take into account the region’s glorious winter days and sublime saltwater fishing.

It’s an area of the Queensland coast that’s attracted a fair degree of fishing media attention of late and I can assure you it lives up to the hype. From the inshore grounds that abound with flathead, bream and mackerel to the offshore waters boasting world-class fishing for tuna, trevally, snapper, cobia and marlin, Hervey Bay is a boating angler’s paradise.

A day on the bay

Protected from the weather by Fraser Island, Hervey Bay is tailor made for trailer boats. The island acts as an effective buffer from the prevailing south-east winds and swell, creating near-perfect conditions for craft of all shapes and sizes.

When I was up there, I fished with Hervey Bay Fly and Sportfishing, the region’s premier fishing guides. My guide, Murray, who works for owner operator Andrew Chorley, took me out on his 5.5m centre-console, which is the perfect Hervey Bay fishing machine.

After an hour’s drive in mostly smooth conditions, we found ourselves a patch of likely looking water along the western edge of Fraser Island.

The water here is relatively shallow and the bottom is largely featureless. Locals have established a handful of artificial reefs in the area – and that was our area of focus.

Winter on Hervey Bay is all about snapper. The reds enter the bay to breed and some spectacular fish to 10 kg are caught every season.

Throwing soft plastic shads on medium spin gear – in much the same way we target reds down south – is the preferred method.

In 40-50 feet of water there was also a chance we’d tangle with diamond and golden trevally, which mooch over the sand and give anglers a real hurry up on sportingly light spin tackle.

The reds were in a funny mood on this particular day and we struggled to get a decent hit. We were kept entertained, however, with some solid little tea-leaf and gold spot trevally – both new species for me and tremendous fun.

One last cast


With my half-day on the water running out it was time to put ‘Plan B’ into action. The snapper and larger trevally were clearly not interested in slowly worked soft plastics so it was time to switch tactics –  and out came the Murray cod lures!

Yes, that’s right, the hard-bodied lures we were about to troll looked more like the deep divers I’d throw for cod and big golden perch in the freshwater back home.

The classic Dr Evil minnows are the gun anglers’ trolling lure of choice up Hervey Bay way because they dive deep – really deep.

On 10 lb braid, Murray was able to get these lures to dive down to around 40ft – just above where the reds and other species were feeding.

This approach has been used for winter reds in the Bay for years and works a treat; it’s hard to believe it hasn’t been adopted more broadly Australia-wide, especially in places like Port Philip Bay and Western Port.

On literally the last trolling run of the day, over an artificial reef in 50 ft of water, one of the lures was smashed, and what was obviously a quality fish started peeling line from the little Saragossa at an alarming pace.

“That’s either a big snapper or a good golden trevally,” Murray said as I tried to win back some line on an outfit more suited to flathead or bream.

I could feel some solid head-shakes through the braid so I was pretty sure it was a decent snapper. But I didn’t care either way. A golden trevally would suit me fine, too.

After a lengthy battle, a sizeable red materialised from the depths and Murray slipped the net under the 5 kg fish – my best snapper to date.

During the week I was up there other clients caught similar sized snapper, as well as some quality goldens, decent tuna and big queenfish, demonstrating the variety on offer in the bay during the cooler months.  

Pier review


If you don’t have access to a boat, or can’t get out with a guide, Hervey Bay has plenty of land-based options for holidaying fishos.

The most obvious is Urangan Pier, the 1.2 km jetty that juts out into the bay, providing landbased anglers the chance to tangle with everything from bream to barramundi.

With an excited five-year-old in tow, I walked to the tip of the pier, not knowing much about what species were biting or how to catch them.

I’d heard reports of mack tuna being caught in the early morning by anglers with spin gear. And there were also some big flathead up to 90cm lurking around the pylons.

The water at the end of the pier is between 8 and 10 metres deep and, with a bit of tide flowing, we decided to rig up with a simple running sinker rig and a whole hardihead rigged on a long shank hook.

It wasn’t long before we started hooking fish – landing them was another matter! The school mackerel we’d discovered were armed with an awesome set of choppers and they were making short work of our monofilament traces…even when I upgraded to 30 lb line!

We eventually brought a few lip-hooked fish onto the jetty, along with some solid bream, which snaffled the baits that were allowed to sink to the bottom.

Overall the pier is a very fishy place and it’s easy to understand why it’s produced massive sharks, big mackerel, solid tuna, hefty trevally and even a few barra and queenfish over the years. There’s even a bloke who bases himself out at the end from whom you can hire tackle and buy bait.

Fun in the sun

In a nutshell, Hervey Bay is the perfect winter escape for frost-bitten southerners. Daytime temperatures hover in the low 20s, winds are generally light and there’s an abundance of fish on offer right on your doorstep.

It’s a wonderful place to take the family, too, with whale watching the big drawcard over the winter months. There’s also Fraser Island just a short barge trip away – and that’s a place that’s worth the drive alone.

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