In one of the year's busiest periods, island visitors were keen to make the most of the long weekend with many extending through the following week to the next long weekend. At Inskip Point, long queues of vehicles waited for barges for the short trip to the island while at River Heads extra barges were needed to cope with the demand for transport to the western coast of the island.
This is a main road like none other. There are no centre lines, no lanes, no traffic lights and thankfully no roundabouts. The speed limit is set at 80km/h with 40km/h restrictions, mostly in front of townships and at tourist attractions. Apart from the expectation of keeping left, the driver is left to make his own decisions, hopefully based on sensible beach driving experience, as to which part of the beach he uses.
Ideal driving conditions usually involve low tide when there is a hard surface close to near the bottom of the beach slope. Of course this with due respect to creek crossings, washouts and melon holes along the edges of shallow gutters. These stretches of beach produce easy travelling with most drivers following the expectation of keeping left. Unfortunately there is often the clown, travelling north, who believes he has the right to travel closer to the water than anyone else.
There are other situations where there may be uncertainty as to the intentions of an approaching vehicle. Although left indicating may not be mandatory, it makes sense to hit that left indicator on approaching other vehicles. This is something that was drummed into me by my island mentors decades ago. For many years I was disappointed in the number of motorists that did not indicate. During the last months, however, I have been encouraged to see many more drivers following this procedure. As well as its use in approaching oncoming traffic, the indicator also needs to be used when leaving the traffic lane to enter a campsite or just to park prior to fishing.
Another concern can arise when a vehicle overtakes another. When sensing he is about to be overtaken, the driver should hold his course and speed and allow the overtaking driver to pass in the safest way that only he (the overtaking driver) can see.
Another concern comes about when vehicles simply stop in the main traffic flow. The main offenders here are usually parties stopping to dig pipis out of the beach. It is the pressure of vehicles on the beach that stimulate the buried shellfish to move closer to the surface to produce the familiar pipi mounds. Whenever it is desired to stop for pipi hunting or simply stopping to fish, the best plan is to reverse off the current traffic path onto sand further up the beach, so that the orientation of the vehicle is at right angles to the traffic flow, immediately identifying it as being stationary.
Although beach travel is best done near low water there are times when it is necessary to use softer sand closer to the dunes. Often much used tracks develop and these can make travelling easier when vehicles are prepared to stay in the tracks made by other vehicles.
Unfortunately travelling Fraser Island's eastern coast is not all plain sailing as various rock outcrops need to be negotiated. As I write, the Poyungan Rocks bypass needs to be used except at the lowest tide. It is particularly rough at its northern end and not at all friendly to low clearance vehicles. Likewise, Yidney can be passed at low water, otherwise it's bypass needs to used. Both Poyungan and Yidney bypasses are single lane. Currently Chard and McLaughlins rocks, between Happy Valley and Eli Creek, are nowhere to be seen thanks to a thick sand coverage. The Indian Head bypass track is in reasonable condition thanks to recent rainfall. The bypass of Middle Rocks and Waddy Point is mostly dual tracks as far as Orchid Beach. Further north, the single lane Ngkala Rocks bypass needs to be used at all stages of the tide and its approach from the north is challenging to say the least.
I need to stress that what I have written reflects how things are as I write this report. Fraser Island's beach is continually in a state of flux with massive amounts of sand on the move at the whim of the sea.
I wish I could be enthusiastic about the island's beach fishing in recent weeks. Possibly due to some very indifferent weather conditions, catches have been poor. Regular readers will be aware of my concern for the whiting fishery on both eastern and western beaches, and how I was just starting to be optimistic about their return. During months when I would expect good catches, particularly along the ocean beach, whiting have been almost non-existent. I don't need to elaborate on my thoughts on the commercial over-fishing of this resource in Great Sandy Strait.
Once again it has been the humble dart that has come to the rescue along the eastern beach. The better fish have shown reluctance to come into the inner gutters during the day, preferring to hold just outside the first break. A few tarwhine have been taken around the coffee rocks, but the quality has been disappointing for this time of the year. Juvenile potato cod continue to be caught around the coffee rocks. These beautiful fish are better known as the huge cod seen in many Barrier Reef movies. From the numbers that are taken here, it could well be an important nursery area. The fish photographed, and immediately released, is by far the largest taken by your correspondent at Poyungan Rocks.
Both Moon Point and Woralie tacks to the western beach are open, and mostly quite firm thanks to autumn rain. Fishing has not been too exciting with a few flathead taken around the creek mouths and just legal bream around the coffee rocks.
Inside Hervey Bay the excellent run of longtails appears to be winding down, but continues to be worth the run up to Platypus Bay. On talking to some of the boys who have been getting into the tuna, I asked which particular artificials they were finding successful. Knowing that the gut contents of the longtails comprised almost entirely of tiny rain fish, or ‘eyes’ as these tiny fish are known as locally, I expected the answer to include small metals, plastics or flies, matching the size of the baitfish. However the universal reply was that it didn't matter. From 85g Raiders to 5” Z-Man jerk shads, all were attacked enthusiastically.
Hervey Bay reefs have been producing mixed bags of grass sweetlip, blackall and blue parrot, but with cooler weather this month, the better reef fishing will be on the deeper reefs. With lower water temperatures and the changing seasonal habits of species, we can expect to see snapper moving in over both wide and inshore reefs as well as bream moving into feeding and spawning areas.
The last two bream seasons, particularly that of 2013, have been very disappointing at River Heads and around the bay islands. I suspect that the floods in the Mary River may have disrupted these last seasons. Following this dry season, bream anglers are hoping bream will be returning to their usual haunts.
Next month should see the start of Fraser Island's annual tailor season, and I hope to bring you some good news in that department.
Juvenile potato cod continue to be caught around the coffee rocks.Reads: 747