Caution required at Fraser
  |  First Published: June 2013

In last month’s column I reported on the poor conditions of beaches and inland roads of Fraser Island. To a great extent these could be attributed to the fierce weather conditions of the first months of the year. Since then, very little has changed thanks, in part, to the continuing procession of east coast lows along our southern coast.

At this point I would like to take a look at what can be expected along Fraser Island’s beaches and tracks. The following takes into account the conditions that apply as I write and hopefully many situations will have eased by the time of publication.

Most vehicles arrive at the southern end of the island by barge from Inskip Point; from here, there are two options.

The first is to follow the beach around Hook Point and on to the main ocean beach. This is normally advisable only an hour or two either side of low water but thanks to the recent conditions, the available beach has become very narrow, sometimes with fallen timber adding to the difficulty.

The second option is to take the inland road that parallels the beach as far as beach access points south of Dilli Village. The road as far as the first (11km) access is reasonably good by island standards. Between here and the 18km access, the road remains closed due to erosion during the wet season. If in doubt as to which option to take, barge crew know the tidal and beach conditions and can offer good advice.

Beach travel to the north is normally trouble free with caution. However, the serious erosion has resulted in deep high water gutters actively cutting into the dunes. The effect is sections of very narrow beach that need to be avoided above half-tide. A number of significant creeks cross the beach and the combined effect of beach and stream erosion can cause some serious cuttings. Travelling as close to the water and checking creeks before crossing is the way to go. The most active creeks are Govi and Gerowweea between Dilli Village and Eurong, Eli between Happy Valley and the Maheno Wreck and Akuna between Dundubarra and Indian Head. Smaller creeks, however, must not be taken for granted.

The recent beach erosion has exposed more coffee rock than has been seen in decades. These certainly hamper the run up the beach. Not far north, Eurong, One Tree Rocks has made its first appearance for many years and has caused a few minor problems. Further north Poyungan Rocks regularly makes it necessary to take the road around the most serious rocks. Currently it is impossible to use the beach in front of the rocks. The boarded bypass is currently in disgraceful condition with vertical drops where the boarding has been washed away or broken. On the northern side of the bypass it is necessary to drive over bare rocks and crevices to make it to the other side. It’s a hot topic of conversation on the island as to why the authorities, whoever they might be, don’t keep the boarded bypass tracks in better condition. You might wonder where the money goes as thousands of vehicles are charged access fees of $42.15 each; but apparently there have been savage cutbacks in staffing and resources on the island.

Further north the Yidney boarded bypass northern access to the beach is also falling to pieces. There have also been times when rocks between here and Happy Valley have necessitated taking the full bypass through to Happy Valley township. McLaughlan and Chard Rocks between Happy Valley and Eli Creek usually produce only minor inconvenience, but this year they have caused big problems with steep rock ledges to be negotiated.

From here to Indian Head, conditions aren’t too bad except for the last few kilometres where the beach is usually very narrow and soft above half tide. The Indian Head bypass continues to identify vehicles with high tyre pressures as well as inexperienced drivers. Further north the ramp leading up to the Middle Rocks and Waddy Point bypass, had been in very poor condition but is now reported to be on the mend.

Most inland tracks continue to be in rough condition. At least, thanks to all the rain, most are firm.

Apart from the hazards of washouts, creeks, rocks and waves, a further dangerous factor has crept in, in the form of rafts of foam coming in to cover beaches, creek mouths and rocks during heavy seas. A number of incidents, some very serious, have come about when drivers have been unable to see some of the usual hazards because of the foam covering.

While on the subject of hazards, Fraser Island has received its share of hazardous canisters that have been washed up on Australian beaches. Most recently, one washed ashore during big seas near Poyungan Rocks, was reported to police to organise its retrieval and disposal. Thought to be intended to kill rats on cargo ships, the canisters contain the highly toxic and potentially fatal chemical aluminium phosphide. If you see one, leave it well alone and contact police providing accurate information about its location.

On the fishing scene, Fraser Island seems set to reclaim its reputation as one of the country’s best surf fishing venues. Although numbers are not high, whiting quality has been excellent. They have been taken from gutters right along the beach with best catches coming from the Maheno and Cathedral Beach.

Bream are almost in plague proportions in the numerous rocky gutters between Eurong and Eli Creek. The problem is that you need to catch quite a few before scoring one that makes it to 25cm. The quality is certainly well down on what was enjoyed last year.

Likewise, there are plenty of tarwhine about but also with disappointing quality.

The usual mainstay, dart, have not been very plentiful while the big seas have persisted, but the few that have been taken have been of exceptional quality.

Sooty terns have been very busy picking up the scraps of baitfish being savaged by schools of pelagics. From the appearance of the surface activity, experienced anglers agree that these are tailor. The problem is that this has been happening hundreds of metres out to sea and well beyond casting range. Hopefully we will soon see a typical winter pattern with offshore breezes and more settled seas. Then we can expect tailor to follow bait schools into inshore waters and start what we hope will be a bumper tailor season.

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