FIFO camping on the Cape (Part 2)
  |  First Published: August 2015

In last month’s issue I mentioned just how easy it is to organize a fly-in camping trip to Cape York, with Weipa as a base. If you book extra baggage you can bring icebox with tackle and camping gear in it to complement your usual baggage of rod tubes and other kit. Hiring a 4WD in town provides transport, and from there you can enjoy really great fishing at virtually every bit of accessible water. I prioritised tackle in last month’s article, but there’s more to tackle for a successful FIFO trip to the Cape!

Minimal camping gear

My camping essentials were a dome tent, Trangia stove, Helinox chairs, Maison table, frypan with removable handle, poly tarp for shade with extra bits and pieces purchased in Weipa. Tucker, supplemented with fresh fish of course, is as easy as shopping at Woolworths at Weipa, which has almost as big a range as city Woolies at similar prices, which amazed me. There’s also lots of tinned tucker and biscuits as back-up food when you’re heading to places where ice isn’t available. Just remember that the Weipa Woolworths is closed on Sundays; I didn’t know and it was a rude shock. Off the plane and no tucker! Luckily I scored a barra behind the campgrounds, otherwise it would have been leftover aircraft snacks for tea.

Fishing Options

Many people like to stay in town in the well set out Weipa Caravan Park, which is within walking distance of the shopping centre, and use it as a base. There’s a cleaning table at the park, emphasising how easy it is to catch fish locally. You can just walk out the back of the campgrounds to the nearby low tide rocks to the right and catch a barra or jack as the rocks become either exposed or covered. We did just that on our first visit to Weipa. The main beach area behind the park is also worth some fishing effort at full tide for queenies, trevally, blue salmon or giant herring. It’s that easy.

Out Evans Landing way there are also plenty of beach areas to fish. There are good-sized golden trevally, grunter, the odd barra and queenies on hand for the shore-based angler. The Weipa Caravan Park also has hire boats, which are very convenient for a half or full day on the water. With your hire boat in tow, the ramp at Evans Landing allows access to the Albatross Bay area plus the shipping channel markers, which hold lots of great eaters such as grunter, fingermark (golden snapper) and the like. If you intend to fish those channel markers take tackle set up with 40lb braid, as there are some powerful resident cod there.

As good as the fishing is around Weipa (a drive around the town’s outskirts will show where people are profitably wetting a line) it’s always good to get away from the mob and enjoy some peace and quiet. Just remember that a permit to enter and camp is necessary in some instances.

The Pennefather campsite (permit required) with the adjoining lagoon and Pennefather River outlet isn’t far out of town. Stones Crossing on the Wenlock River is also handy for either a day visit or an enjoyable camp set up on a freshwater section of the Wenlock. A 4WD is essential to visit both of these areas. Don’t try to get there without one! For the shore-based angler, the Pennefather camp site is well worth the small effort required to reach it as the beach is renowned for blue salmon, queenies, giant herring, golden trevally and the like.

Travelling to these areas is great but you have to bear in mind that nearly all journeys out of Weipa proper involve travel on unsurfaced roads – and this means red dust. Lots of it. If your hire vehicle has an open tray, anything you put there (boxes of food, camping gear, baggage etc.) will quickly get covered in that dust. It’s recommended to bring a supply of very large garbage bin liners and zip ties to cover items that you don’t want coated in red grime. You can buy these items at Mitre 10 if you haven’t packed them in your luggage.

Beach fishing tips

The fishing prospects in the area are immense, even for novices, and some of the best fishing around Weipa is on the beach. There will be ample sand, maybe some offshore reef evident at low tide, but in all there’s plenty of beach to play with. Interestingly, the best fishing here is usually just as the tide starts to ebb from full, and this tends to continue until around half tide down. And that’s at any given time of day, which is very convenient.

Predators like blue salmon, queenies, tarpon and giant herring work right into the very edge of the wave break, hammering bait. Interestingly, despite the fact that there’s little pressure on these fish they still take instant notice of an angler (such as old Wayno with his beloved 8wt fly rod) sneaking up for a shot. If they spot you they’ll take off to deeper water. Casting a plastic, hardbodied lure or fly from a little distance off is the clue.

Generally speaking, you can downsize your tackle considerably when beach fishing to add just a bit more excitement to the mix.

Rocks and Creeks

If, on your Cape York travels, you drive close to rocks on the beach, or you’re able to get close to a creek or river mouth, it’s time to think of barra and jacks and rig up for these iconic fish. Water clarity towards high tide usually shuts down a bite, so if you want fish for dinner you should concentrate your efforts during the last hour of the ebb tide and first hour of the flood. Stronger terminal tackle of around 15kg is wise as you just never know what species will latch onto an offering cast to rocks or snags. Possibilities include big cod, barracuda and mega queenies.

Lastly, bait fishing. If you’re keen on bait fishing make sure you pack your cast net into your icebox as there’s rarely any shortage of baitfish to be had in these waters.

And that concludes my FIFO fishing trip hints. Yes, you will need to do a bit of preparation but there’s a lot of satisfaction to be had when it all goes to plan.

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