Mulloway mecca on the beach
  |  First Published: September 2015

In my last contribution I was able to write down some of my thoughts relating to driving along Fraser Island’s beaches and inland tracks. These included the importance of using genuine high-clearance 4WD vehicles.

The ink was barely dry when the news came in of yet another drowned medium sized AWD after attempting to cross one of the creeks flowing through the eastern beach. Fortunately there were no reports of injury but informed opinion had it that the vehicle would have been a write-off. Apart from the financial loss, the owner had to come up with a hefty recovery fee and passengers needed to endure plenty of expense and inconvenience in returning to their homes.

I don’t want to prolong this but I just want to make final plea and it is this: don’t bring a low clearance 2WD or AWD to Fraser Island.

The annual tailor season has been in full swing since the first cold westerlies made their appearance in mid July. Early season fish were not huge but there were plenty of them. This month we should see them widely distributed and of generally better quality. Although there are times when they can be taken throughout the day, best catches are expected very early in the morning and again in the late afternoons, when the shadows of the hills meet the water.

Thanks to usually favourable weather and the anticipated tailor season, September is always a busy month for the island. This is particularly so in the latter part of the month during the spring school holidays. This is when the tent cities spring up along the best camping zones, mostly north of Cathedral Beach. Fortunately some of the best tailor gutters form close to the popular sites. This is also a great time for the children and other light gear enthusiasts to get into some action as dart and, to a lesser extent, whiting are usually plentiful in the shallower sections of the gutters. Most of the tailor anglers will be using the traditional surf rods and Alveys and baiting with WA pilchards. For dart and whiting, both pipis and worms are ideal.

Just a reminder that the beaches and headlands from 400m south of Indian Head to 400m north of Waddy Point are closed for the entire month and will reopen on 30 September at noon. The closure applies to all fish species, not just tailor.

During the last month, there have been some good mulloway taken from a number of locations along the eastern beach. One of the better fish, reaching 17kg, was taken by mulloway specialist, Keith Stevenson, out of a narrow gutter between Poyungan Rocks and Poyungan Valley. Regular readers might recall my reports about the numbers of juvenile mulloway taken in recent seasons. A few years ago, an angler might land a dozen fish in one session, yet not score one that can be taken home. At least during the last couple of seasons the chances of scoring a legal fish have improved.

When connecting with a 70cm mulloway, the angler needs to devote a deal of time playing the fish and bringing it to beach, just to find that it is well under the legal limit of 75cm, yet probably weighing as much as 3.5kg. As carefully as possible the angler needs to remove the hook, cradle the fish back to the sea and swim it through the shallows into open water. They then returns to their fishing, hoping that the fish he has just landed will survive. Sadly, many don’t, and are found washed up along the beach. In the hope of scoring a legal fish, the angler might go through the procedure a numbers of times and then leave the beach fishless

I don’t have a problem with the bag limit of two fish, but the unrealistic minimum size of 75cm has been responsible for the unnecessary waste of fish we regularly see on the island, and indeed, probably elsewhere along our south coast. With a more realistic minimum length, anglers would be able to take one or two very acceptable fish without potentially destroying fish in the process of scoring a legal fish.

The legal length of mulloway in NSW is now 70cm, a huge increase. Having fished in northern NSW prior to the increase, and seen the sizes of mulloway on filleting tables, I can well imagine that this wouldn’t have gone down too well south of the border.

In our in-depth tour of Fraser Island’s eastern beaches, we made it as far north as Happy Valley. It is timely that our next stretch of coast takes us through the popular camping areas mentioned earlier. About 6km north of Happy Valley, we reach Eli Creek, one of the island’s top tourist spots. On the way we might need to negotiate the coffee rock structures of McLaughlans and Chard rocks. Currently due to the build up of sand, this should not be a problem. Some good gutters often develop along this stretch of beach. After cautiously crossing Eli, just 3km takes us to the wreck of Maheno. Speed limits of 40km/h apply in the vicinity of Happy Valley, Eli Creek and Maheno. You also need to be aware of marked aircraft landing areas. These are well regulated and vehicles are required to obey flagmen when aircraft are likely to be landing or taking off.

The beach from Eli Creek to Maheno is often very soft except at low tide. North of Maheno, the beach settles into a pattern of typical open beach with lots of large and small gutters, ideal features for targeting most species. About 2km north of Maheno, the Woralie track leaves the beach to take vehicles to Lake Allom and to the western beach. Soon after passing the much-photographed Pinnacles, there is a road leading up to Cathedral Beach Resort where there is a shop and excellent private camping. Beyond here we pass some of the best camping areas mentioned earlier, before reaching the Dundubara National Parks camping area.

In Hervey Bay, the bream season is winding down but there are still a lot of well roed fish about. The better catches have been coming in from the river, particularly downstream from Beaver Rock. Pikey bream should now be coming into breeding condition and will be well worth chasing during the next couple of months. There is still plenty of diver whiting about but it will soon be time to concentrate the larger sand whiting.

There have been some encouraging snapper catches around Rooney Point, further south off Wathumba Creek, along Moon Ledge and at the Rufus Artificial. Local experts are predicting that the best is yet to come.

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