Exploring Fraser’s West Coast
  |  First Published: February 2012

In some of my earlier columns I have been taking a look at some of Fraser Island’s west coast options, ones that are accessible from the eastern beach. These have included the Wathumba estuary, Woralie Creek, Moon Point and Ungowa.

Now it’s time to hit the island tracks again and visit the Fraser Island locality of Bogimbah. Of course we will check out the fishing at our west coast destination but on the way we might look at a little history.

Bogimbah is the locality bounded by Bogimbah Creek in the north, and Urang Creek in the south. From the beginnings of the logging industry in the late 1800s to the mid 1900s Bogimbah was a very busy place. Logs harvested from the rainforests were brought to various west coast sites to be taken to Maryborough by barge and this continued until the closure of the industry in 1991. At Bogimbah, there were log dumps on the beach and at Urang and Bogimbah creeks, the latter of which continues to be in evidence.

Before heading off, we need to remember that Fraser Island’s tracks are not always in A1 condition. Even those that are officially designated tourist drives might not be the easiest to negotiate. But the more isolated and less used tracks, are often in better condition than the tourist drives.

However, particularly after storms or strong winds, there could be fallen trees obstructing the road. Rangers make regular inspections of tracks so obstructions do not become permanent features. Another important consideration is that some tracks may not see a vehicle in days. For these reasons I recommend that this trip across the island be done by at least two suitably equipped vehicles travelling together in the unlikely event that one gets into trouble.

Leaving the ocean beach at Poyungan Valley, approximately 12km north of Eurong and 2km north of Poyungan Rocks, the track takes us past a small group of houses before climbing the eastern ridge. These first kilometres are part of the Lake Garawongera tourist drive, and may not be in the best condition.

The first road junction sees the tourist drive peel off to the right, with our track going straight ahead. A little further along we pass through Bogimbah Scrub, a good sample of Fraser Island’s rainforest. Here the remarkably level track skirts steep valleys and passes through sharp cuttings as it follows the alignment of one of Fraser Island’s logging railways. This particular line operated from 1905 until 1913 when it carried logs to Urang Creek before being barged to Maryborough sawmills.

A second road junction is reached not long after leaving the rainforest. To the left, Postans Road cuts across to the main north-south track connecting with ones to Valley of the Giants, Kingfisher Resort, Lake McKenzie and Central Station.

The track to the right takes us down to Bogimbah after passing through, or close to, areas that saw lots of activity during the early years of the twentieth century. Just a few hundred metres from the Postans Road junction, it is still possible to see the remains of a loggers’ camp near a walking track that heads off to the right. The walking track leads down into the valley of Bogimbah Creek where other remnants of the logging industry can be seen.

Today, the road across to Bogimbah and Urang creeks sees minimal traffic, but there were times when it was one of the most used cross-island tracks. During the ‘80s and early ‘90s, Noel Mathison’s barge Watoomba 2 was making regular high tide trips from Urangan to Urang Creek. To reach the ocean beach, many would use this road through Bogimbah Scrub, or take an alternative track to Happy Valley. The former had easier grades and was generally in better condition, so it was usually the track of choice.

The next major junction is with the main north-south road, which continues on to southern parts with a short branch to the mouth of Urang Creek. The map shows a few of the access tracks from here to the western coast. Many of these are partly overgrown but I recently used the one that runs directly from the major road junction without a problem.

The map shows a narrow beach between two stands of mangroves. Please don’t be tempted to drive on the beach. Not only is it illegal, but it is full of potential hazards.

From here the shallow flats extend almost to the deep waters of Bogimbah Ledge, a favourite venue for boat anglers. Most of those who fish these flats like to work the flooding tide as fish move in over the rich environment to feed.

A big advantage in fishing the flood tide is that yabbies, which are abundant here, can be pumped before the flats cover. Whiting is certainly the most likely catch, particularly early on the tide, while bream tend to show up a little later. I like to start on the outer edge of one of the high banks, then work the various undulations as the tide floods. Towards high tide there are usually plenty of bream feeding along the edges of the mangroves.

There are two particularly good options for the flathead angler. On the last of the ebb tide they like to lie along the edges where water is spilling out of the creek. This is a classic situation for flathead where they wait to ambush small fish like hardiheads moving down with the tide. While hardiheads make the choice of bait easy, allowing lightly weighted plastics to wash out of the creek is also deadly.

Close in to the beach and mangroves there are often low outcrops of coffee rocks. At the top of the tide flathead come in to lie amongst these structures, waiting for opportunities. As the tide starts to ebb, they are reluctant to retreat but hold in the shallowing water until absolutely necessary.

It is then that they have good feeding opportunities as small fish withdraw from the shallows. So the early ebb tide is a good time to target flathead around these structures. Apart from Bogimbah, there are similar situations along the inside of Fraser Island and they all fish particularly well on the early to middle ebb.

Of all the creeks of Fraser Island, including the popular east coast Eli Creek, it is Bogimbah that carries the biggest volume of fresh water into the sea. Towards the bottom of the tide, the creek is mostly running fresh. As the flooding tide pushes salt water in, the creek experiences different degrees of salinity.

Except for the vicinity of the mouth, the creek is virtually inaccessible by land. The old logging dump, just inside the mouth, is worth trying towards the top of the tide. It is not unusual to see big schools of bream moving into the creek to feed.

Hervey Bay is well known for its flats fishing for golden trevally and those at Bogimbah are amongst the many that are visited. I am not going to stick my head right out by guaranteeing these great sportfish on a particular visit. However as goldies are tailing over the banks, they are feeding on yabbies and other marine critters, so it is not unusual to pick one up when using yabbies here.

For readers whose interest lies in the possibility of visiting by boat, it is possible to work quite a long way up Bogimbah Creek in a small boat, but only when the tide is well in. There are quite a few holes and mud ledges with the first being at the first left-hand bend upstream from the log dump.

There are many such interesting features right up to the point where you need to make a three (or more) point turnaround. The salinity in the creek varies from zero to that of ocean water in a very short space of time. However this is no problem for the bream, mangrove jack and other species that stay in the creek over all stages of the tide.

The entire area shown in the map is zoned yellow, but just a little further south is the boundary of a green zone that extends further south and includes Urang Creek. I mentioned Bogimbah Ledge earlier: this extends from north to south just beyond the high sandbanks. This is the main drop-off from the island into a major Hervey Bay channel. In some places, directly outside the creek mouth for example, it is a very abrupt and clean ledge.

Further south tends to be very broken and in more than one stage. It holds a variety of reef species including estuary cod, coral bream (grass sweetlip), blackall, black-spot tuskfish and small snapper. My preference is to fish here on the last of the ebb and early flood on a late afternoon tide change.

No wanting to end on anything but a positive note, be reminded that there are dingos on the west coast as well as on the ocean beach, so the same precautions should be taken. Like the early families at Bogimbah discovered, biting midges (sandflies) try to make life unbearable. At least we can do something about that.

Back to the ocean beach briefly: February fortunes here will be at the mercy of the weather but in good conditions there should be little trouble coming up with a mixed bag of dart, whiting and bream.

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