February is one of those months that doesn’t often excite anglers on Fraser Island. With inshore water temperatures remaining high, there is little incentive for beach species to enter the shallow gutters.
It would appear that we might be entering a fairly typical late summer weather pattern with persistent southeasterly trade winds. Latest reports from along the beach indicate that sand whiting are still being taken in the low water gutters south of Dilli Village and also north of the Maheno wreck. Dart have been producing some sport in most of the bigger gutters, but only on the early morning high tides.
There wouldn’t be a visitor to Fraser Island who doesn’t know Eli Creek. This delightful little stream that carries crystal clear water from a spring in the water table to the ocean beach, continues to be a delight to all who come. In these days of massive visitor attention, its fragility has brought about necessary management that include board walks and no-go areas.
Eli Creek, like other island streams, is a totally protected sanctuary for all life forms. A number of species of fish live here and some can be seen in open stretches of the creek or perhaps hiding amongst the reeds along the water’s edge. The largest are the eels, which are often seen sliding from one deep pool to the next. For the angler it is the population of rock flagtail, or jungle perch, that attracts most interest. Closely related, if not identical to the highly credential sportfish of northern streams, the Eli Creek flagtail doesn’t seem to be having any problem maintaining a sizable population of healthy individuals. And being totally protected, helps.
The other Eli Creek couldn’t be more dissimilar to its namesake on the island. This is a small mangrove-lined stream that drains into Gatakers Bay, on the western side of Point Vernon, a western suburb of the city of Hervey Bay. Originally draining the marshes and low lands to the west of the city, the upper reaches of the creek are now also associated with a limited tidal exchange lake system around which has been built the suburb of Eli Waters.
Before the development took place I was one of a number of commercial and recreational fishermen asked to look at the proposals and give opinions. It looked good to us, in fact it has probably been more successful than we envisaged.
On a spring tide, above a certain minimum height, water enters the lake system at well positioned inflows, but also to be able to drain into the creek at other points as the tide falls. The result is not only a refreshment with ocean water, but a circulation brought about by the positioning of inflows and outflows. Of course water enters the lakes naturally through rainfall so the degree of salinity is determined by both fresh and salt water inflows.
Prior to the development of the suburb of Eli Waters, built up on very low, even marshy land, it was supposed that there could be big problems due to both rainwater and tidal inundation. The lakes are acting as flood retention basins, at the same time maintaining a healthy brackish water environment. With oceanic water levels on the rise, there is plenty of concern about low lying developments such as this. I made a point of visiting the lakes at the top of the highest tide of 2012 and after watching the water rushing in at a major inflow, was left with the impression that the system should be able to handle predicted rises for quite some time.
Fishing is permitted around the lakes except where properties have absolute frontage. The western shore of the main lake can be reached through a short walkway from Whistler Court. There is currently access to a major inflow from Endeavour Way, through a developing urban area. One can’t be sure how long this one will be available. Without going as far as saying that the lakes are teeming with fish, it is certainly true that a wide range of species have adapted to this brackish environment with its continually changing salinity levels. It should not be surprising that these species include those that have demonstrated these adaptabilities in more natural situations. Bream, mullet, barramundi, javelin, tarpon and king salmon are all in residence. Those who fish the system regularly, and who are successful, tend to be a little guarded about where and when, but this is to be expected. A major inflow on a big rising tide is always a good place to start.
Below the lake system, Eli Creek meanders through mangroves towards the ocean. Most of it is inaccessible but sometimes visited by anglers in kayaks and car toppers. Bream, estuary cod, tarpon, barramundi and the occasional javelin are often taken below the lakes.
Access to the lower reaches and mouth is through Martin Street and Eli Creek Road. At the first point of contact a short rock wall lines the northern bank. This has become quite popular as an easy land-based venue. Particularly on a rising tide, this is a good spot to try for bream during the winter months. Downstream from here, the creek becomes very shallow and at the bottom of the tide is reduced to a series of narrow channels weaving through the banks. This is particularly good flathead country. Walking the lower creek sand banks and working baits and lures through the deeper holes, rarely fails to produce. The sand flats between the mouth of the creek and the rocks of Gatakers Bay are very popular with anglers wading for whiting, particularly on an early flood tide.
Eli Creek becomes very popular with cast netters during the banana prawn season early in the year. At its peak, netters have little trouble reaching the limit in a short time. For the bait angler, yabbies are plentiful on the banks, particularly around the small island downstream from the rock wall.
It is unlikely that Hervey Bay’s Eli Creek will ever attract thousands of visitors as does its namesake on Fraser Island, but for the angler, keen to explore land-based opportunities, it is worth a visit.
I must apologise for an error in last month’s Fraser Island Western Beach feature. The mouth of Woralie Creek is well south of the Woralie track entrance, not north as printed.
Eli Waters main lake has public access on its northern shore.
Above a certain minimum height, water enters the lake system at well positioned inflows and drains into the creek at other points as the tide falls.Reads: 5357