One of the main decision making factors for our move to Hervey Bay originally was the fabulous fishing variety the region has to offer. This has a lot to do with geographic location & the unique mix of warm & cool water species to be found side by side. Then there is Fraser Island, World Heritage listed; it ranks up there with Uluru, Kakadu and the Great Barrier Reef. Stretching over 123 kilometres in length and 22 kilometres at its widest point. With an area of 184 000 hectares it is the largest sand island in the world. It truly is a fishing, camping & four wheel driving Mecca that everyone should spend some time on at least once in your life time!
Prior to moving to Hervey Bay we spent a number of our annual family holidays at Kingfisher Bay resort on the Western side of the Island in January each year. Kingfisher is a fantastic place to stay in luxury, with plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy & the fishing from the main barge jetty can be great. Kingfisher Bay provides a central base to explore the Island from & all the creature comforts of an award winning resort.
Now that we are Hervey Bay “locals” we have had some great holidays camping on the island and will cover how you can to in this article!
The first decision to address is where to camp or base yourself? My family have never been keen on sharing their space with Dingo’s, so that ruled out the front beach camping zones. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) manages a number of formal campgrounds, where camping permits are required & you need to book & pay camping fee’s. These formalised camp sites feature water taps or tap stations, and toilets. Most have gas barbecues, deep sinks for washing dishes and information displays. All campgrounds have a 9pm noise curfew and generators are not permitted. We elected to base ourselves at the Waddy Point - top camp ground, which is fully fenced, has plenty of shady camp sites and a good toilet block with coin operated showers. Waddy Point is also sheltered from the prevailing south east trade winds & conveniently located near to a few of our favourite areas, the Champaign pools & Indian Head. You can book directly on line @ http://www.nprsr.qld.gov.au/parks/fraser/camping.html#camping_on_fraser_island or by phone on 13 74 68 (24 hours). It is wise to secure a camp site as far in advance as possible with limited sites booking out a year in advance during peak holiday periods. All vehicles must have a current Fraser Island vehicle access permit, purchased before entering the island and fixed to the lower left side of the windscreen, which can be booked on-line above as well.
Now that you have your camp site booked & vehicle permit sorted you just need to arrange the car ferry. You have a number of ferry/barge options available depending on where you are departing from. You can depart Hervey Bay via River Heads to both Kingfisher Bay & Wanggoolba Creek or Inskipp Point if coming up from Rainbow beach. Barge Bookings can be made on line @ http://mantarayfraserislandbarge.com.au/ and http://www.fraserislandferry.com.au/
We generally get the earliest barge to Kingfisher Bay Resort from River Heads which gives you an excuse to have breaky at the resort! The trip across generally takes around forty minutes to an hour which allows you time to slip in a little extra shut eye after an early start if needed. Once on the Island we like to stop off at the resort cafe for a bite to eat & coffee before deflating our tyres for the drive ahead. I have found that deflating your tyres straight down to 18-20psi works best for us. It is amazing how many 4X4 vehicles you will see struggling along or bogged with fully inflated tyres. Just ensure you avoid sharp turns and sudden braking, as tyres can roll off their rims at low pressure. We always carry an accurate type pressure gauge & compressor. Tide times play an important role when travelling on the eastern beach with the best time for travel being a few hours either side of low tide - avoid driving two hours either side of high tide. There are bypass tracks at Poyungan & Yidney Rocks.
Normal road rules apply with all inland roads, vehicle tracks and beaches being designated roads. Speed limits also apply at 35kms on all inland roads & 80kms on the eastern beach with 40km zones around the main resort entrances .Police do patrol all areas of Fraser Island with speed checks and breathe testing being conducted at any time of day.
There are stretches of the eastern beach which are used as aircraft landing/take-off strips. Take note of the signs in designated areas and watch for aircraft.
When driving on the eastern beach keep an eye out for the numerous gutters that have been created by the numerous freshwater creeks flowing into the sea. Some will have quite deep banks which could lead to you over turning your vehicle if hit one at speed. Eli creek is often one of the deeper ones.
On 'good beach days' the sand is hard-packed and makes for excellent driving conditions. On bad days, the tides may not have been high enough to wash way the ruts from the previous day's traffic - resulting in build-up of sand banks.
When driving in deep banks of dry sand, keep the car in a low gear, do not change gears, keep the revs high and do not lose momentum. Where possible, follow someone else's tracks - choose a set of tracks and stay on them. Do not stop the vehicle in soft sand or in creek beds. We always carry a shovel, snatch straps & shackles – just in case!
Cornwells Road leads across from Kingfisher Bay to the eastern beach and we generally detour across for a quick swim at Lake McKenzie. Lake McKenzie really is the blue jewel in Fraser’s assets and is a must to visit on every trip. It is a 'perched' lake, which means it contains only rainwater, no groundwater, is not fed by streams and does not flow to the ocean. The sand and organic matter at the base of the lake forms an impervious layer, preventing rainwater from draining away. The sand here is pure white silica and feels great under your feet.
From here you can head across to central station. Central Station was once the centre of the forestry industry when logging was allowed prior to 1991. Many walks leave from Central Station. We had a quick stroll through the rainforest along Wanggoolba Creek down to the boardwalk where Eleasha & Jess had their picture taken alongside a huge strangler fig. We have previously made the big hike up to Basin Lake & admired the impressive satinay trees in Pile Valley.
Next stop is generally Eurong Beach Resort where you access the Eastern Beach before heading north. It really is a great experience driving along the Eastern beach – which feels like it is never going to end. We always enjoy a quick dip in Eli creek along the way to Waddy Point, which always revives you. I am not sure why but the water always feels like its source is at the South Pole – its freezing! You can feed the resident jungle perch population a few march flies as well.
By the time I reach the camping ground at Waddy point I’m generally itching for a fish, driving past endless fishy looking gutters for two hours will do that too you ! We always look for a shady spot with in strolling distance from the main toilets and shower block. Nothing beats sitting around a BBQ and enjoying a few drinks after a big day!
Once settled you need to set off on a bait collecting mission. Starting with pipis we generally head south of Indian head an hour before low tide. In the past our best results have come from looking for clusters that had shown themselves in the sand like little domes in the main traffic area. Apparently the vibrations of the tyres cause the pipis to work up through the hard sand?). So at low tide on beaches with car traffic, this is the easiest. Note that sometimes they can be little depressions or holes rather than bumps – then it is just a matter of digging them out.
Beach worms are your next bait target and due to my lack of practise I look areas with plenty to get the fingers back in tune! I have done well previously North of Orchard Beach around Orange Creek, but any sections of beach with long wet flat areas are worth a try. I like to use an old stocking with some pilchards & used pipi flesh as the main baits. Now catching beach worms does take practice – not to mention patience. The key really is getting the worm to bite the bait while you have your fingers depressed around its head. I was always taught to use my finders so you can “feel” the worm & you will wind up with less heads than when using pliers. The worm will arch its head when it bites the bait & I like to wait until it goes for a second bite, feeling more confident you clamp down with your thumb & index finger as it reaches the top of its arch. Beach worming is good fun & the family will have a ball!
Fraser Island produces some great fishing for a variety of species depending on time of year. Although you can generally expect to find bream ,tarwine, whiting & flathead year round with the best of the tailor fishing occurring from June to December when massive schools of tailor migrate to spawn between the island's only rock headlands, Indian Head and Waddy Point. Although fishing on and between these headlands is closed for all of August and September, to leave spawning fish undisturbed and to protect this unique resource, all other beaches are open to fishing and crowded with schools of fish. The largest tailor, up to 5kg, can be encountered later in the season. You will also encounter the elusive mulloway or Jew fish during the winter months when fishing around the tailor schools. Some even chase large Spanish mackerel , trevally & tuna off Indian head throughout summer.
Generally a basic running sinker rig is ideal when chasing bream ,whiting & flathead with approx half metre leader between swivel & hook. I like to use a standard ball sinker when there isn’t too much run or current as you will cover more ground. I prefer a paternoster rig with star sinker at bottom & a set of ganged hooks on a dropper when chasing tailor. Breakaway or grapple sinkers will help when fishing in a rip or heavy current.
It's important to be able to read the beach to find the gutters. Weather and tides combine to alter the beach producing low tide and high tide gutters where you will find fish. These surf gutters form between the beach and outer sand banks. You will find gutters open at one or both ends. I find short, narrower gutters that have openings or rips at both the north and south ends generally provide better results. Dawn and dusk are generally the best beach fishing times, but if the conditions and the gutters are right, anytime is a good fishing time. The best gutters are generally found north from the Maheno wreck to Indian Head and Waddy Point.
If you experience a big south easterly blow while on the Island you can head across to Wathumba Creek on the western side from Orchard Beach. I have had some great fishing in Wathumba creek from both the bank and kayak. You can also launch small tinnies in the creek and chase pelagics just off shore. Fraser Island truly is a magical place with so much to see & explore and I have really only covered the top section in this piece. There can be amazing fishing right at the top around the sandy cape. Not to mention main passage down at In-skip point where tuna from the beach are possible. Then there’s the coffee rock ledges on the inside at Ungowa – so much to explore – so little time!!!