Maheno Wreck to Indian Head
THIS STRETCH of Fraser sees a lot of fishing activity, particularly in winter and spring when the tailor are running. At that time you can just about always find a gutter somewhere along here with a few tailor running in it.
Over the last few years while fishing up here around the full moon in August we’ve found no shortage of tailor in a couple of gutters just south of the no-camping boundary on the lead-up to Indian Head. The hard part over the last two years especially has been finding somewhere to fish away from the weed, which has been very thick.
As for reading the beach and looking for a suitable gutter to fish, once you’re past the Maheno wreck you’ll note that the gutters start changing shape. There are some great long narrow gutters which are reasonably deep and often hold schools of fish such as tailor.
The first run along this section sees changes not only in the shape of many gutters but the contours of the dunes. The dunes like those you see to the south are replaced by the high coloured sand cliffs, with prominent features like the Pinnacles and the Cathedrals towering along the landscape. It’s not until you get further up the beach towards Indian Head that the cliffs are once again replaced by dunes, although in this case they’re more barren.
There are some nice camp sites along here but nowhere near as many as the number of flat grassed camps under trees back down the beach. Many of the sites are closed for regeneration, but most of the campers along here are fishermen and we tend not to be fussy about a camp so long as it’s close to where the fishing action is.
This section of beach isn’t just about tailor fishing; all the other surf species are caught along here too. I’ve caught more big whiting in this location than anywhere else along Fraser’s Eastern Beach. You may recognise the picture of my nephew with the big whiting (a previous QFM cover), just on a kilo, that I caught here a few years back. In general though, when I say big whiting I’m talking of fish from 400-600g, and these are good fish for surf whiting.
There are two general areas that we target – around that Cathedral area and around ‘Little Eli Creek’. I’m not sure of its correct name but it’s the biggest creek along here this section of beach.
You’ll find your typical style whiting gutter here. The bigger fish tend to come from areas which are more shallow melon holes rather than an actual gutter, and these shallow holes are hard to pick out without a decent pair of sunglasses and tend not to start filling with water until around half tide. The bigger whiting seem to move about and feed more than the smaller whiting, which concentrate at the end of a shallow gutter or along a bank.
Like all surf fishing, a keen eye is very important for locating fish – not just for finding a gutter but looking for fish while you’re moving and while you’re actually fishing. While you’re standing in the water and feeling relaxed it’s easy to let your mind wander, so train yourself to constantly scan the water, especially when waves curl and you can see into them. Not just big waves either, as those tiny little dumpers almost at your feet will reveal a surprising number of fish. On many occasions I’ve spotted whiting in these tiny breakers, cruising along looking for a feed. As the wave breaks and washes up the beach (and we may be talking only a few metres of wash here) the whiting use the momentum and cover of the water to move up over the shallows looking for a quick feed before moving back with the receding wave.
If you’re fishing straight out in front it’s easy to miss the fish moving along with the wash because they avoid where you’re standing. By keeping a keen eye out you can spot the fish and change your plan of attack accordingly. On many occasions I’ve stood high and dry, cast into only inches of water and have caught good whiting.
To do this it helps to change the size sinker that you use. Instead of going light for whiting in the shallows I drop on up to a number five ball sinker. This keeps the bait in that fairly limited and shallow area where I’ve spotted the fish. The wash will still move the bait at the end of the trace around a bit and the heavier sinker stops the bait from washing back up out of reach of the fish. Try it – you might just be surprised at what you’ll catch.
As far as bait goes, live surf worms are the pick of baits for whiting and they stay on well and can be caught along most of the beach.
Along this top stretch you’ll come across some great gutters which are loaded with dart. Where the gutters along most of this run are long and narrow, once you get up to those low dunes in that 5km or so before Indian Head. Here you get some good, short, steep and deep gutters. They are pretty easy to fish in most conditions and lend themselves for a good night fish. The hard part about this is that you can’t camp along this zones and the fore-dunes drop a couple of metres straight down to the beach. On a reasonable high tide the waves lap the dunes so you have nowhere to park the car. The beach changes a lot though and while at times there is nowhere to park, other times you’ll be right. You’ll just have to pick out the dry sand during the day and check out the tide height – or just avoid being here a few hours either side of high tide.
When it comes time to track those tailor down, if you haven’t got a lot of fish-finding skills don’t worry – where there are plenty of tailor there are plenty of anglers. The beach will be lined with cars and the water with anglers madly casting lines into the fish.
Late winter and spring generally offer the best tailor fishing and it’s not hard to plan a couple of solid days of fishing if you work it right. Tailor generally tend to have a good bite around dawn and dusk so you’ll need to be up and at it early in order to make the most of the bite. After an early fish you can then clean your catch and use the middle part of the day to catch a few worms and track down some whiting. You’ll often find a few dart as well. Come late afternoon, it’s time to catch a couple of tailor again.
The bag limit for tailor is 20 fish per person in most areas. On Fraser Island, if you stay for 72 hours or more you can keep a limit of 30 fish. When the tailor are bitting it is not hard to catch this limit. In fact, you can just about do it in 30 casts so long as your rig stays intact and you don’t bust off. This is why it’s good to have a few other options up your sleeve.
Tailor, when cared for, bled and iced are very nice eating, especially fresh. Even the minimum legal size fish of 30cm will give you a decent fillet. If you find that you really can’t help yourself and have to keep fishing, just let the fish go. When you’ve nearly reached your bag limit, stop keeping them and swap your ganged pilchards for a lure that has a single hook. This doesn’t do as much damage to the fish and you’ll have all that fun of casting, hooking up and fighting the fish.
I can’t overemphasise the importance of teaching yourself to look for gutters and fish in the waves. It may be a single fish, a heap of dart in a wave or just a flash of silver that’s caught your eye. A keen eye really will help you no end. Once you’ve spotted the signs a few times and you know what you’re looking for, you’ll find it becomes second nature and you’ll spot the signs with little effort.
It’s also important to keep an eye on the beach traffic and other anglers and families on the beach. There have many incidents along our beaches where cars run into each other, hit wash-outs and, worse still, run into pedestrians. In popular holiday times the beach is a busy place, and even in quiet times it’s easy to be distracted and before you know it a young child has raced down the beach. Not only should you be very aware of this as a driver, you should be very aware of this as a pedestrian on the beach and as a parent.
If you want to head up here for a few days’ fishing and cover as many options as you can, plan a trip around the full moon in August. If possible, allow a few days before and after the moon and you should get some hot bites and some good weather. By keeping track of a few of the options I’ve outlined in this series on Fraser (which I’ll continue in the next few issues) you should be able to get into a few fish whether it’s blowing 30 knots or the beach is full of weed.
* Basic supplies including fuel and gas can be obtained from Cathedral Beach Resort, which also has camping and toilet facilities.
* Camping grounds at Dundubara have toilets and coin-operated hot showers, and being a National Park Camp ground there is a stock pile of hardwood for fires. At the time of writing there is still a total fire ban on Fraser.
* High tide beach travelling is restricted over Eli Creek and sometimes Little Eli Creek, along with the dunes prior to Indian Head.
* There is a closed zone to all fishing from September 1 to October 31 in an area 400m South of Indian Head to 400m North of Waddy Point and 400m to sea of this area.
SPECIESSIZE LIMITBAG LIMIT
Dusky flathead40cm min to 70cm max5
Tailor30cm20 fish / 30 fish over 72 hours
WormsNone30 or parts thereof
1) The stretch of beach from the Maheno to Indian Head is best known for tailor. It’s usually easy to find the fish.
2) Only a few choppers but good fun none the less, and great eating when fresh.
3) Whiting like this beauty are few and far between along the beach, though along this stretch you have a good chance of finding a few over half a kilo.
4) The middle of the day is a good time to track down some bait. Always keep an eye out for kids though as they can forget about beach traffic.