South Australian Offshore Islands

By Jamie Crawford

SA is well regarded for its inshore table-fish, with a lot of accessible and productive waters suiting the small-boat brigade. However, not as publicised is our offshore scene. Although a tad harder to access given our fluctuating weather patterns and distances involved, our offshore islands offer superlative sport fishing for a host of southern species.

Our offshore islands and reef systems hold good numbers of pelagic fish each season, and combined with the resident reef and shallow-water species you have some pretty good fishing on tap. Our pelagic fish include Southern Bluefin and a few albacore, plus visiting schools of kingfish and Samson fish. These pelagic fish are at their peak from Nov through until April, but you still get a few ‘stragglers’ outside these times.

Aside from the pelagic species, our offshore islands produce some fantastic reef fishing for small to mid size snapper, plus red snapper (nannygai), blue morwong, blue groper and the occasional harlequin fish. Aside from being great sport, these reef species are top table fare too. Some of our offshore islands also support sheltered sandy beaches on the lee shore, which offers good fishing for large KG whiting, flathead, snook, salmon and squid, thus offering a wide array of fishing options.

Below I’ll offer a quick run-down of our more popular and productive offshore islands in our states waters.

Wedge Island is one of our states most popularly visited offshore islands. This towering island is around a 34km run from Pondalowie Bay on the bottom of Yorke Peninsula. The island, which spans around 6km, offers the full fishing spectrum with big whiting close to the island, plus reef fish and pelagics on nearby reef systems.

The Sir Joseph Banks Group of islands is a cluster of around 17 isles, located 22km wide of Tumby Bay on the eastern coast of the Eyre Peninsula. As these islands fall within Gulf waters, they lie in quite shallow water. The largest island is Reevesby at around 5.5km, with Spilsby the next largest. The SB group of islands is well known for producing big KG whiting, plus other standard shallow water species including garfish, snook and flathead. The group also produces a few small to mid sized snapper, blue morwong and gummy sharks on nearby reef systems, but there’s no pelagic action around the Group given its locality within Gulf water. There’s plenty of calm water to access around the Group with plenty of islands and sheltered beaches.

Thorny Passage is a narrow body of water surrounded by 8 islands to the south east of Port Lincoln. The largest island is Thistle at 17km in length, with Taylors and Williams the next largest. It is a 40-odd km run from Port Lincoln to access the better water, with snapper, nannygai and blue morwong the usual reef species, with a few SBT’s in season. There is also some really good whiting fishing around some of the shallower margins, and there’s always some protected water to access with many lee shores.

The Neptune Islands are a couple of low-lying granite isles 68km (North Neptune) and 80km (South Neptune) from Port Lincoln. These islands are well known for diving with white pointers, but they are also great islands for fishing. Both islands play host to good numbers of SBT’s in season, with a few kingfish and Samson fish patrolling the islands and nearby reef systems. These nearby reefs also produce good numbers of nannygai and blue morwong, with some good salmon, silver trevally and big whiting taken over the shallower regions of these islands.

Greenly Island is a towering granite landmass 85km from the Coffin Bay boat ramp. The island spans around 2.5km, and is well-known in fishing circles for producing big kingfish. There are also some really good reefs nearby which produce SBT’s and a few Samson fish, with the usual nannygai, blue morwong and blue groper down deep. During the peak SBT months, it’s common to score school-sized bluefin right in close to the island. There is a sheltered anchorage in Greenly, but nowhere safe to disembark onto the island. Greenly is a rugged island, and is definitely no place for small vessels.

Rocky Island is another well-known granite outcrop wide of Coffin Bay on the Eyre Peninsula. This low-lying clump of granite rocks is perched 105km from the Coffin Bay boat ramp, and is definitely big boat only country. There is no safe lee shore on Rocky, and is generally surrounded by foam created by the consistent southern ocean swell. There are some fantastic lumps nearby to Rocky, and these are the fishing attraction. These lumps, rising from around 80m up to around 30m at its highest peak, are consistent producers of bluefin during season, with kingfish, Samson fish and big silver trevally sitting deeper.

Pearson Island is the finest of offshore islands here in SA, in my opinion anyway. Towering 238m above sea level and spanning 3.3km, this granite island is a spectacular isle to visit. Lying 65km offshore from Elliston, or 130km from the all-weather ramp at Coffin Bay, Pearson Island is a long trip for any vessel. The island boasts a couple of protected anchorages along its lee shore, which fishes very well for big KG whiting, flathead, snook and even a few kingfish and Samson fish. There are some significant reef systems within easy travelling distance from the island which house tuna, kingfish and Samson fish, with reef-dwelling species such as nannygai, blue morwong, blue groper and big silver trevally holding deeper.

Flinders Island is a large low-lying island located mid-way between Pearson Island and the mainland. At 12.5km in length it boasts plenty of protected water in which to hide from prevailing winds. The sheltered waters also produce some good KG whiting, flathead, squid, and a few pan sized snapper. There are quite a few reefs nearby to Flinders which fish well for small to mid sized snapper, nannygai, blue morwong and groper. 

Armed with a decent boat, quality tackle and a good weather forecast, some mind blowing fishing is available around South Australia’s offshore islands. There are many other islands I haven’t detailed – but the above offers a quick snapshot of our most popular offshore fishing isles.