A guide to better fishing (Part 1)
I’VE BEEN fortunate to have spent a lot of time at Fraser Island. This started with family holidays when I was a kid, and every chance I had as a teenager and into my twenties I headed to Fraser Island for some more serious fishing. In the past few years I’ve been making family trips with my children.
Over the decades I’ve seen and fished a lot of the Island in good and bad times, and learned a lot about where and when to catch a feed. Editor Stephen Booth recently sat in on one of my talks at a show on fishing Fraser and he told me the information was just want QFM readers wanted – tips for serious fishos as well as families hoping for a feed on the table that night.
Over the next few issues we’ll do the tour of Fraser Island, both the eastern and western side, where I hope you’ll not only find a few fish but discover the many beautiful faces of Fraser Island that just keep drawing me back. I’ll cover each area in depth so as to pass on a pile of info, but it’s up to you as to how seriously you fish these areas.
Because you don’t always have a choice on when you take your holidays or how the weather is going to be you can never be quite sure of what to expect – and this is why it’s good to be prepared and have a few options up your sleeve.
The fishing starts the moment you hit Inskip Point, the southern stepping off point and barge pick-up over to Hook Point on the end of Fraser Island.
If you have ever stood on the barge waiting for a few other 4WDs to come along and looked into the water you see quite a diversity of fish from bream, whiting and dart to herring, hardiheads and butter bream.
There are a few bigger fish that hang in the shadows, but I’ll get to that shortly. Instead of being super-keen to get over to the island, I recommend that you skip a barge or two and catch some livebaits. A bait jig thrown in will soon see a few live baits caught. It’s mainly the herring and pike that we’re after, though plenty of unwanted fish will grab the jig as well.
Your mates can work the jigs too or they might want to try for a few bream and whiting or perhaps move away from the barge a little and throw one of those livies back out.
Trevally, tuna, mackerel, jew, cod and sharks are all taken along the beach here. On the right day you might find yourself missing more than just one or two barges while hooked onto one of these brutes that will keep you busy for a while.
Once you’ve done your thing here and travelled over to Fraser you’ve got a couple of choices, and the first we’re doing is turning to the left.To do this you’ll need the bottom half of the tide. If the tide is too high, take the old mining track and turn left. This will take you a kilometre or two west then back down to the beach at the site of the old mining jetty, which has since been pulled down. There is still a small boat ramp here which comes in handy for those taking over a small boat.
Fishing the small section of beach to the left of the barge is mainly whiting fishing, and during spring and summer you can secure a good feed here. Bring a good load of bloodworms with you so you’ll be ready to fish the moment you hit the sand.
You’ll pick up a few bream, dart, tailor and flathead along here, but whiting on the incoming tide is a better option. The same goes for the stretch of beach from the barge around to the right and to the point.
Like the Inskip side, there’s also the option to put out a few bigger baits and fish for those bigger fish which cruise along the ledge, which is an easy cast from the beach. The only thing you need to watch is the tide, as this stretch of beach is narrow and soft. Around the point itself, any more than a few hours either side of low tide and it’s just asking for trouble to try and get around. The waves come right in against the dunes and there’s a maze of fallen trees on the narrow beach.
Moving around to the site of the old mining jetty we have a few options up our sleeve. It’s not a bad spot to spend a night or two so long as you don’t mind mossies and sandflies.
From this little camping area the beach runs a short distance before the first western creek on the island, Coolooloi Creek. It’s only a very small creek, draining from a small mangrove swamp which lies just behind where you’ll camp. You are better off just walking along here as you can work your way along fishing for a few whiting or flicking for flathead.
In the old days the jetty was a top fishing spot, always loaded with bream, baitfish everywhere and all sorts of fish. I remember fishing here one time and a few big Spanish mackerel came tearing through the pylons, sending baitfish spraying all over the place and me scrambling through the tackle box looking for a suitable lure. Now that the jetty’s gone so have most of the fish that it used to hold, but you still spot a few mackerel and tuna moving through.
These days I like to walk down to where the little creek runs out and fish for flathead and whiting. Down the beach where the barges land I prefer to fish the top half of the tide, but where the creek runs out the outgoing fishes better. When the little creek empties it carries with it tannin-coloured water which the fish use as cover as it moves into the clear water of Sandy Straits.
Cast your worms in a number of areas – in close, at the edge of the dirty water and out towards the drop-off. You just never know just where the schools of whiting will be. If you run short of worms you can pump a few yabbies in the creek behind you. There aren’t heaps there but there are enough to get you out of trouble.
As you look across the creek you’ll spot quite a few snags lying in the water, mainly small logs and branches. This is where I like to throw a few lures or some of the livebaits caught back at the barge landing.
With plenty of small whiting and mullet around it’s only natural that the odd flathead will be around here. They often lie alongside these logs for cover and then dart out and grab any food that swims by. There are a few bream here too, and while I haven’t fished this spot with soft plastics I reckon a few casts around the snags would pull a few bream and flathead.
For those who don’t mind a bit of a walk you can wade through the creek and start fishing the little beaches and snags towards the Bluff and Elbow Point. You’ll get some big flathead in here because it’s inaccessible by vehicle, and most anglers are too lazy to walk the distance on the chance of finding a few fish. Because it’s a quiet little stretch the flathead move right in close over the shallows to sunbake, so don’t go blindly wading through the water – you’ll scare more fish than you’ll catch.
For those who’ve gone to the trouble to bring a little boat, these shallows have plenty to offer as you can work further afield. When not working the shallows in close, look for those shallow banks that see the water flow nicely over the bank and into a bit of deeper water. There might only be a foot difference but this is the spot to fish – and once again I think you’ll find working plastics like the shads will do quite well for you.
Being a mangrove estuarine area there’s the opportunity to drop a few crab pots in for both sandies and muddies. Keep your pots out of the strong tidal flow, however, or they won’t be there when you go back. If you’re after mud crabs drop the pots in close to the mangroves on the top of the tide, as the crabs move along these mangrove fringes at night. The sand crabs are out a little further.
If you haven’t bothered catching those live baits or at least some fresh baits, don’t stress too much – just out in front of the mining camp you’ll just about always spot a few dark patches moving along the shoreline, generally on the outgoing tide. These are hardiheads, and if you make a couple of throws with the cast net you’ll soon have enough bait for the rest of the trip (and some fish soup if you get desperate).
We’ve also done well on the gar here on those glassy calm days. While these might not be what you had in mind for your trip to Fraser, they are fun to catch on light lines, are good eating and add to your range of fresh and live baits.
Those flats just a little further up than Coolooloi Creek are great for those who enjoy flyfishing. Flyfishing is not my forte, but I’ve caught enough queenfish and trevally to a few kilos over these flats to know that they and bigger fish are here and eagerly take a fly.
If you happen to have a boat, even if it’s just a dinghy, you may find that you can’t bring yourself to leave this spot. The very bottom of Sandy Straits has plenty to offer. I’ve done the trip from here straight across to Kauri Creek in my 3.9m Hornet a number of times without a worry.
Across into Kauri Creek and the flats around it there are more sand and mud crabs, more flats to fish and up the creek some of those deeper holes hold a few mangrove jack. In the water between the two spots there are banks for whiting and tailor, and if you see a few tuna or mackerel moving through you can at least chase them in the boat.
Bad weather can soon be on your side here as well. A strong south-easterly will see the ocean beach blown out. Around here though you have the protection from the island, and once you walk around a little further you can soon forget that it’s blowing 30 knots just around the corner.
Finally, I’ll mention a few things you should take with you. The first is a pile of insect repellent, followed by some firewood (none is supplied here as it is not a dedicated camping area). There are a few dingoes that hang around here and a couple of big goannas so make sure you take the relevant measures to put this gear away.
National Park rangers do make regular trips here and any breaches, especially on the dingo-safe camps, carry rather nasty on-the-spot-fines. Camping and vehicle permits are required.
I’ve already filled my QFM space allocation for this month and I haven’t even covered the beach yet – and that’s why you just keep going back to Fraser!