Bay of Plenty: Harvey Bay, QLD

Destinations:  Harvey Bay, QLD

How good is Queensland’s Hervey Bay? According to SCOTT MITCHELL, who moved there with his family about five years ago, it’s pretty bloody fantastic!

HOW time flies … It sure doesn’t feel like we’ve been in Hervey Bay for five years. It’s been a huge period relocating the family and starting new careers in the real estate game, but we’re finally getting settled and enjoying the enormous variety of fishing the Wide Bay 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 doorstep is another one of its great assets.  Stretching over 120kms in length and five to 25km in width, Fraser Island is the world’s largest sand island, 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’ll cover the fishing options and seasons for the sheltered waters of Hervey Bay and the Great Sandy Straits on the western side, which run between Rooneys Points in the north and Inskip Point in the south.

There are also some fantastic inshore reefs in Platypus Bay which offer both tropical and sub-tropical species. It’s not being unusual to be catching snapper right alongside coral trout and red emperor. Then there’s the blue water fishing for pelagics like longtail and mackerel tuna and spotted, 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 Mary, Susan and Burrum rivers and their tributaries which offer everything from wild Australian bass and barramundi to threadfin salmon, grunter, jewfish, bream , flathead and whiting.

If freshwater is more your scene, you’ll find some amazing bass and barra impoundments, all within a thre-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 Boshammer pioneered the Hervey Bay flats fishery back in the early 1990s. 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 experienced fly anglers attended these tournaments over the next few years.

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 back in the bay after day one. While exploring the flats up around Roonys Point they came across longtail tuna cruising the flats in only a few metres of water. I believe it was Peter Morse and Alan “Fish” Philliskirk who first found these fish and used their tally to blitz that comp. Paul Dolan (Hervey Bay’s longest working guide) has also spent a lot of time on these northern flats and has added large queenfish, cobia , giant trevally and permit to the list of species encountered on these vast flats. There are even big threadfin salmon to be found down through the Great Sandy Strait and in the main rivers which feed this amazing section of water.

Warren Steptoe was most likely the angler to first alert the fishing fraternity to the billfishery 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 1980s and wrote about it regularly. Warren and his mates were 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.

It was the year of 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.

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

Spring runs from September to November and brings about a major transition in the fishing with the arrival of warmer days and rises in water temperatures. There’s surprisingly good snapper fishing in the bay over the winter months with good numbers being found right up to November. Snapper are 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 Roonys 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 Inskip 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. Inskip Point at the bottom of the straits can provide some fantastic tuna fishing in spring with both macks and longtails being found in as far as mouth of Kauri Creek. Large cobia are also encountered throughout Platypus Bay and the reefs off Roonys Point during spring with fish to over 30kgs being regularly encountered. For those into freshwater fishing, the local wild bass are also starting to get active after winter spawning 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 – providing great shore bites as we head into summer.

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’re keen on your fly fishing you need to chase these fantastic fish on the Hervey Bay flats at some stage. The average size of these fish 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! There are also snub nosed dart (permit) and even bonefish 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. 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 even better 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 – it’s not even an annual event. A good indicator that we will see these small black marlin in the bay is when numbers of these fish are encountered further north off Townsville and Cairns from around August each 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.

Longtail tuna numbers will also build over summer with some exceptional sight fishing being possible up the top of Platypus Bay. I’ve 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 from 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, sweetlip, emperor, nannygai and so on 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 barra and threadies 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 big fish.

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’re feeding on jelly prawns at the mouths of drains and creeks towards the bottom of the tide.

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 they move 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. Barra fishing can still be great for those who put in the ground work exploring the main rivers.  Bass fishing can also be productive in the freshwater sections of the Mary River and local weirs and dams as fish start to school up for winter.

After living in Cooma, southern 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 southwesterly winds that often blow during this period. Platypus Bay up to Roonys Point on Fraser Island also produces great fishing on the inshore reefs that load up with dense yellowtail (yakka) schools over winter.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. Like they say, so many fish, so little time!

Scott Mitchell wishes to acknowledge and thank Andrew Chorley and Mark “Bargy” Bargenquast for their research assistance and additional photos.


Fishing Hervey Bay
THE following guides and charter services come highly recommended.

Hervey Bay Fraser Island Guided Fishing: Mark “Bargy”
Bargenquast – 0427 230 261;

Fraser Coast Sport Fishing:
Paul Dolan  –  0407 674350;

Ally J. Fishing Charters: Jason Hill –
(07) 41256212;  (M) 0427 133474;

Hervey Bay Fishing Charters: Ken & Robyn Radunz – (07) 4125 3958;

For general tourist info on the Hervey Bay region go to and

A unique geographical location which sees a mix of temperate and tropical species has resulted in Hervey Bay being a diverse and interesting fishery. Depending on season, you can catch jacks, tuna, snapper and bass. Add barra, coral trout, emperor, billfish, threadfin, bream, flatties and countless other species and you begin to realise that this is a fairly special place …

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