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Island escape this September holidays
  |  First Published: September 2016



September sees us heading into one of the year’s busiest periods on Fraser Island, only rivalled by short periods of the Easter long weekend and the Christmas to New Year period. Why? This is the time of the year when we experience three powerful influences aligning.

Great Weather

Firstly, there is the weather – usually beautiful cool spring conditions with lots of sunshine and light offshore breezes. Of course, we can always expect the rogue southeasterly coming in to spoil the party. The way the weather has been this year, we need to be able to expect anything. Having said that, we should be optimistic about enjoying a beautiful month on the island.

School Holidays

The latter half of the month is taken up by the Queensland school holidays – a great opportunity to pack the tents or camper trailers then head for beautiful Fraser Island. Sure, there will be plenty of like-minded souls there too, but plenty of great times to go around. It might not be easy to secure holiday units, particularly during the school holidays, as bookings have been very heavy. There are plenty of great sites on the beach and in areas that aren’t closed for restoration. There are also a few private grounds that can be booked. Don’t forget the camping and vehicle permits. These can be obtained at a number of outlets but for convenience, on-line is the way to go. Go to http://www.nprsr.qld.gov.au/experiences/camping/camping_bookings.html for more information.

Getting There

At this busy time of the year, transport services are stretched. For barges running between River Heads and either Kingfisher Bay Resort or Woongoolbver Creek, bookings are essential. They need to be made well in advance for the busy times. You don’t need to book for the Manta Ray barge from Inskip Point to the island but at busy times you might need to join a queue. For this barge, it’s best to choose an earlier time, so you can take advantage of a low tide on the island.

Great Fishing

I am often asked, what is the best time to fish on Fraser’s ocean beaches? Without question, my response is September. The annual run of spawning tailor is well underway and started in July and August. Combined with usually favourable conditions, the fish are easily targeted by conventional bait fishing, or by using high-speed metals and other artificials. Tailor can be located anywhere along the eastern beach, with the more reliable areas north of Dilli Village. Gutters, holes and spits, particularly those associated with white-water washing into deeper water are all you need to find them.

During September, and particularly during the school vacation, tent cities spring up along the beach, particularly north of the Cathedrals. Fortunately some great tailor features are usually close by, so it’s standard to see long lines of anglers, almost shoulder to shoulder, working a school of feeding fish. These can be challenging sessions with frequent interference of gear, and a few unkindly words. If this is not your scene, then make a move and locate your own fish. You might not score as heavily, but you will have much more fun.

You don’t have to catch tailor to enjoy the fishing that this month can offer. Dart are almost always available and can be taken amongst the tailor or quieter sections of gutters. I am always thrilled to see whole families participating in fishing for dart as well as whiting, bream, tarwhine and the odd flathead. Often we see a young boy or girl excitedly catching their first ever fish, possibly a big dart that makes the drag of their tiny reel scream. Great stuff!

This month also sees the peak of the mulloway season along the eastern beach. These are best targeted after dark for an hour or two. Last September fish of up to 25kg were taken between Eurong and Happy Valley.

On the western beach, the catch of a tailor during September would be greeted with surprise. This month we can expect good catches of whiting along the open beaches with flathead and bream around the creek mouths and coffee rocks.

Besides Fishing, what else?

There is the social life, and the walks along the beach, but many visitors like to take the opportunity to see more of the island. The beach drives to Indian Head and Middle Rocks are almost mandatory. The views from the top of Indian Head should not be missed. There is no view of anglers fishing from the rocks, as the headlands and beaches between Indian Head and Waddy Point are totally closed to fishing during August and September. Taking the 4WD tracks north of Middle Rocks, you can reach Orchid Beach and Waddy Point within another half hour.

Sandy Cape

I am often asked whether a day trip to Sandy Cape is feasible. The further south you begin, the more difficult it would become. You need to be travelling on the beach when water level is half tide down. Even so, prevailing beach conditions may complicate things. Based at Happy Valley for example, I would look for a midday low tide, and leave as early as practical on the ebb tide. Even at this tidal stage, there might still be creeks to cross and coffee rocks to negotiate. All going well, you could be at Orchid Beach while the tide was still ebbing.

The beach drive from here to Sandy Cape is interrupted by the notorious Ngkala Rocks bypass track. Its approach from the north can be very demanding, particularly on vehicles that are not meant for this kind of work. Return departure from Sandy Cape should be no later than low water, to ensure a fairly easy return to home base. Depending on tidal and beach conditions, it may even be possible to use the reverse tides, visiting Sandy Cape over high water.

Inland and to the western coast

Many of the island’s attractions can be reached taking the 4WD tracks that leave the beach at a number of locations north of Dilli Village. Those that lead to Lake Birrabeen, Central Station, Lake McKenzie and Kingfisher Bay Resort are likely to be used heavily during the school holidays. With the exception of the Eurong to Central station road (mostly two one-way tracks), these are single lane with limited passing places. Unless you are prepared for hold-ups due to the excessive number of vehicles, and vehicles being bogged, I don’t recommend using these tracks during this time.

The road to Woralie Creek and western beach, from north of the Maheno wreck, is used by campers heading for Woralie, Bowarady and Awinya creeks. With day trippers, this road can be crowded. This is an interesting drive that isn’t usually overused, and leaves the beach at Govi Creek near Dilli Village. This enables visits to South White Cliffs, Buff and Deep creeks and to the old wharf and camping ground at Ungowa. From Ungowa, the circuit can be completed by following a track to Central Station, then to Eurong on the eastern beach.

Hervey Bay

The visitors to Hervey Bay during the school holidays will include lots of keen anglers. Some will bring their capable offshore craft, others their 5m alloys and tinnies. Many will be content to fish from the pier or the beach and all should be rewarded, provided they put the effort into preparation and planning. Based on recent reports, you can expect snapper and a variety of reef species coming in from the northern area. Further south in the bay, school mackerel should be active, and scattered schools of tuna should be following baitfish.

In the inner bay, deeper reefs like the Rufus artificial, the Channel Hole, Bogimbah Ledge and Boges Hole are producing snapper, grass sweetlip and cod. The rips and eddies around the ends of the bay’s islands have provided some excitement for both lure and bait anglers. Golden and giant trevally, as well as Spanish and school mackerel have been taken in recent weeks. The shallow reefs have been quiet apart from a few small snapper.

Diver whiting have been scattered and unreliable so far this season, but they should be back in force for the holiday period. Land-based anglers would be advised to check out the pier. There has been a very good run of bream around the pylons of both inner and outer gutters. Out near the end of the pier, expect to see specialists targeting mackerel, trevally and tuna. Fishing the cool inshore waters from the beach may not be too rewarding.

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This Spaniard, taken in the rip between the Picnic Islands, was a welcome present for one of Hervey Bay’s newest residents.

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