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Tailor season looking positive
  |  First Published: September 2012



Fraser Island’s annual closure between, and including, Indian Head and Waddy Point is well underway this month, so anglers will be hoping for the kind of conditions that suit fishing the ocean beaches.

With the closure including all species, it won’t only be the tailor fishers looking for reasonably calm conditions. In a normal cycle, August is when offshore winds flatten out the seas and baitfish and their predators come close inshore. However, the idea of a normal cycle is almost becoming a distant memory. With the weather gurus talking about the end of La Nina and welcome back El Nino, maybe there is light at the end of what has been a very dismal tunnel this year.

Nevertheless, some positive reports seem to be heralding the start of a reasonable tailor season, so if this continues to gain momentum, it could mean good news for the thousands of anglers who come to the island during the September school holidays.

During September last year tailor were in abundance, particularly between Cathedral Beach and Indian Head. All the popular camp sites resembled mini cities with parties of anglers, and families, displaying their temporary homes with all sorts of flags and banners. For many, the social interaction between groups who come back to the same sites year after year is primary with a few tailor each morning as the bonus.

I have had quite a bit to say about Fraser Island’s dingos in past issues and I have had to think twice about taking up space in articles that are meant for fishing reporting and enlightenment. However we cannot escape the fact that the dingo, or the legislation that it has brought about, does impact on the Fraser Island angler. The debate as to how the dingo should be managed has been raging in the Fraser Coast district for years. Clearly the management strategies, initiated by the Department of Environment and Resource Management of our recent state government, are not working. Certainly any success in these strategies requires the cooperation of every person, local or visitor, on the island. Even if such total cooperation was obtained, it is doubtful that all the problems would be solved. Having said that I have serious doubts about many of the alternative ideas that have been put forward by opponents of the present strategies.

In the most recent development our new minister for Environment and Heritage Protection, Andrew Powell, has appointed Professor Hugh Possingham of the ecology discipline of University of Queensland to chair the steering committee overseeing the scientific review of the Fraser Island Dingo Management strategy. Without getting too excited I am cautiously optimistic. It is hoped that the working committee will include the valuable input of those who know the island and the dingos well.

For the time being at least, the status quo persists. It is not difficult to find people who question why Fraser Island should continue to host dingos. Of course this is not a majority view, nor is it the view of the current management plan or its opponents. It is a widely held view, although many would dispute it, that the Fraser Island animal is the most pure dingo, and so should be preserved. It is only in recent decades that other dogs were not allowed on the island and it is more than likely that genes from previous exposure would have entered the gene pool of the dingos we see on the island today. So that’s one reason for having them around. The other is that they are indisputably a major tourist attraction for short term visitors to the island, and therefore have economic value. The fact remains that it is only on Fraser Island that the dingo is protected while those in neighbouring areas, just across Hervey Bay, are declared feral pests where baiting and other methods are employed to control them.

During the autumn and winter months when adult dingos are first thinking about making and rearing babies that they are most dangerous. These last months have been no exception with a number of ugly incidents being observed right along the beach. In its latest Fraser Island conditions report, the department issued warnings of which the following is part:

The area between Eli Creek and Dundubara is of particular concern due to a group of dingoes linked to numerous recent aggressive incidents.

Visitors, particularly those with children, are urged to be extra vigilant in these areas.

It has not been my intention to invoke unnecessary fear in visiting anglers. However here are some of the situations where there might be a direct impact. Despite the insistence by some that dingos are well fed and not hungry, the fact remains that they are continually looking for food and the bait and catches of anglers give them potential opportunity.

One of the reasons why I like to fish with the breeze on my back is so that it becomes unlikely that the dingo’s keen sense of smell will alert it to some bait, or a fish in the bag.

Dogs that are being attracted to anglers are becoming more and more brazen each year. In most cases they won’t come too close, but still close enough to be frightening. I have yet to meet a dingo that enjoys being hit with a handful of wet sand. Beach worming is very popular on Fraser’s ocean beach and the traditional berley bag of fish scraps is a magnet to any nearby dingo. Again the wet sand trick is handy.

The Fraser Island dingo presence never used to be a problem, however for a complex selection of reasons including the current management strategy, it has become one. I certainly don’t have the answers but I hope the new scientific review can find some of them.

Finally a little memorable moment. Judy and I were taking it easy on the beach with our portable radio perched on a rock behind us. When the slightest sound aroused us, we turned to see a dingo heading into the scrub carrying the radio by its handle. We wished we had taken note of what was playing at the time. We might have learned something about dingo musical preferences. Fortunately when I expressed my displeasure rather audibly the dingo decided that we could have our radio back.

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This is the dingo that stole the author’s radio.

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