Dingo Debate
  |  First Published: June 2011

Like everybody else in Queensland, I am desperately hoping that June will finally bring some consistently good weather patterns. Opportunities throughout the summer and autumn to get amongst the fish have been extraordinarily rare and anglers state wide would be feeling similarly frustrated.

Compounding the frustration for anglers in this region has been the surf algae that has been permanently present. However, it would now be safe to say that the algae is unable to survive the cooler winter conditions and strong southeasters and ground swells during April and May have managed to at last beat the algae into its winter submission.

The surf today is the cleanest that I have seen it since early September last year.

The novelty of a blue water surf is certainly one that should have anglers fired up for the annual arrival of tailor that are currently marching their way up the coastline from New South Wales. June generally has chopper tailor well and truly present at Teewah Beach, and often with the odd big greenback in their midst feeding on their injured and weak junior counterparts. The past two years has seen fairly healthy numbers of tailor present in June and healthy baitfish stocks promises that little should change this year.

Bream are a species that traditionally have been fairly prolific in the surf gutters along Teewah Beach. Recent years has unfortunately seen a significant decline in numbers and quality, but the 'summer of angling discontent' could well see an improvement. Bream respond well to fresh water outfalls from the estuaries, which is universally hoped will see a bumper season for this once staple part of an angler’s diet.

Tailor and bream can be taken using pilchard baits rigged on gangs of attached 3'0 or 4'0 hooks. However, it is generally only the larger bream that have a mouth large enough for hooks of this size with the smaller members of the species seemingly able to pick between the hooks. Downsizing hook size to a 2'0 is the obvious tactic to alleviate this problem while still being suitable for tailor.

Worm and eugarie baits on a #2 size hook are always effective on bream with mullet gut and flesh equally productive at times. Bite offs from chopper tailor on these smaller baits and hooks are to be expected and just simply have to be tolerated.

Dart are a species that are available all year round, but June will have the more mature fish scouring the gutters in search of eugarie and worm prey. I have always had a preference for eugaries when chasing dart. But the poor availability of eugaries lately means that they can no longer be relied upon to be on the beach, making worm the best available option. Prawns and yabbies can also be used as a substitute with some anglers actually preferring yabbies over eugaries.

Whiting are still being caught all along the beach when conditions allow and flathead have been a very consistent catch for anglers with numbers seemingly on the increase. Several snub-nosed dart have been beached and bonefish continue to make unexpected appearances. Tarwhine haven't been plentiful, but will certainly be available in June for those using worm and eugarie baits.

Jewfish will no doubt make the odd appearance but this beach has never been renowned as a location where large numbers of the species are taken.

Inevitably, the commercial beach haulers will again be active and their impact is always a factor for recreational anglers and their ability to find fish. Of course, little can be done at this stage about this less than desirable method of commercial fishing and we all must suffer the consequences for yet another year. However, there is potential for change regarding commercial beach hauling on Teewah Beach and at Fraser Island. In the coming months I will inform readers of a move to have alterations made to beach hauling practices that will hopefully lead to a far healthier recreational fishery in this region.

During the Easter long weekend at Hook Point on Fraser Island, a 3 year old girl was bitten by two dingoes with much debate ensuing as to the adopted dingo policy on the island. The debate has generally been whether to cull or not and whether feeding stations should be set up. However, there are factors at work that have not been discussed and I would like to point these factors out here.

The current policy of trying to have dingoes lose their scavenging instincts and not associate humans with food, is in my opinion, nothing short of absurd. For this policy to have any chance of success, campers must never leave any food scraps for the dingoes to scavenge. But the reality is that this will never happen as young children are forever dropping their sandwiches etc on the ground as other things arouse their interest. Even the most diligent and responsible parents can't always prevent this from occurring and young children will always be a percentage of those camping on the island. And there will always be the irresponsible individuals who flout any law that they are confronted with.

Furthermore, thousands of anglers fish Fraser each year with the annual tailor run being the biggest drawcard of all. Pilchards are the main bait of choice for tailor anglers and it is common for anglers to have a portion of pilchard remaining on the hooks after a bite. This portion is dropped on to the ground with a fresh pilchard replacing it. When hundreds of anglers are all chasing tailor and fishing shoulder to shoulder, the accumulated pilchard portions add up to a fairly substantial meal for many dingoes who simply scour the water's edge where they are guaranteed a feed.

Add into the equation that fish frames are inevitably left on the beach by careless or intoxicated anglers and are always visible to anybody driving along the beach where tailor have been caught in numbers. I have seen Rangers that are employed to police appropriate fish frame disposal methods, drive directly over frames lying on the beach without any attempt to pick up the offending items. It is an unfortunate reality that humans cannot be relied upon to universally do what the Minister for Environment and Resource Management hopes they will do.

While these situations of humans providing food to the dingoes persists, it is simply not possible for the current policy to have any chance of success. Similarly, to alter the above mentioned food resource that the dingoes rely upon seems to be an impossible task.

In the summer and autumn months when very few anglers are on the island and this food resource for the dingo is near non-existent, the dingoes who are in healthy numbers on the island become hungry due to a lack of natural prey and an instinctive reliance on scavenging which has been their mainstay for generations. Therefore it is natural to expect that the dingoes will become more aggressive in the manner in which they try to feed.

Also lacking consideration is the health of the dingo's natural prey. While culling numbers to the level that Queensland Parks and Wildlife would like to see is now apparently not an option, these animals become under increasing pressure from predation. It now seems certain that a particular species of wallaby that has never been positively identified and was apparently only in existence on Fraser Island, has now become extinct due to predation by inflated dingo populations. The remaining swamp wallaby population is now under great pressure not to follow the same path of destruction. To not cull and not have feeding stations, means that this situation cannot be controlled.

There is only one answer to the problem and that is to cull and to abandon the current policy. As undesirable as it may be to kill these animals, to not do so consigns other native and potentially unique animals on the island to endangered or extinct levels. Restricting tourist numbers on the island at any one time and spreading tourist numbers across the year is also of benefit to the dingoes and potential victims of their attacks. Whether we like it or not, the dingoes will forever scavenge from tourists and for there to be periods of low tourist numbers will always cause dingoes to become excessively hungry and aggressive.

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