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Fraser Info

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The article below was first published summer 2009 in “Destination Fish Magazine” in the USA. It contains interesting information about Fraser Island and its fishing. Some edits have occurred to keep it updated.

Casting For Gold by Randall Bryett

The fish stopped dead in it’s wildly zig zagging track. Its golden tail gently popped out of the water vertically swaying gently like a circus acrobat recovering from brief over rotation from flip to hand stand. With the sandy sediment clouding the water around the business end of the fish it was impossible to see what the big blubbery lips attached to the protrusible jaws were pumping out from the bottom of the flats, however, we knew the safe answer was yabbies or nippers. Yabbies or nippers are the local name for small burrowing Ghost shrimp that live on the sand and mud flats of Hervey Bay. These soft bodied crustaceans are a staple food of the Golden Trevally on the flats around Fraser Island although they also eat small baitfish and many other shrimp and crabs. Fooling these fish with an artificial when they are focused on pumping the burrows of yabbies is extremely difficult which confirms (1) that Yabbies must taste really good and (2) your casting has to be in the zone. Not just “on the money” accuracy, you better be in casting form to have a chance to get this gold in hand. My guide Paul said “wait”… The fishes tail slashed in excitement and then dropped beneath the water before continuing on a search and devour swim pattern. The first fish was followed closely by a second and they seemed to be working together in a patterned swim down the flat. Maybe one was picking off bait fish disoriented by the sediments being puffed up in the current or they were just snarfing critters that one or the other missed. A fisherman always likes to see two fish in competition for food as there is at least 50% more chance one will make a greedy mistake. Chances improve even further when there are more fish in the flats raiding party. Paul quipped “quick, lead him by a few feet” I cast the fly trying my best not to make too much movement at such close range. “Leave it, sit, hold on, now strip it slowly, stop…” Paul said. He followed quickly with “He’s got it!! Strip tight!”. Now all I had to do was land it. That is never a given with Goldens as often you may have just grabbed a little bit of the fleshy lips and not a deep hold with your hookset. The hard running, thudding fight of a Golden will soon sort out any weakness in the connection from hook to backing. All lines were fairly tied and after a huge initial power run, some solid head bumps and a little surface thrashing, the fish was brought to hand.

The waters of Fraser Island where this scene unfolded surround the largest sand Island on the planet. It is a World Heritage listed location as are a few of Australia’s other “must do” fishing spots. The Great Barrier Reef, Shark Bay in Western Australia, Lord Howe and Fraser Island all fall in the World Heritage sites category and, as such, use the concept that UNESCO adopted stating they belong to all the peoples of the world. By the count of international visitors that come to see these locations rightly so, UNESCO selected well. Anglers generally seem to fish in the most beautiful and interesting locations around the globe. Fraser Island is a 125 kilometer long island that I consider to be in the top 5 spots of all time. Fraser Island is serviced by the slow paced but steadily growing town of Hervey Bay which is the hub of tourism for this location. As many attractions as the island has on offer ( including ancient rain forests, pure water lakes both perched and dune, crystal clears creeks, sand blows and colored sands of which there are 72 different shades, wildlife such as dingoes , snakes, birds, dugongs, turtles and whales) the fishing available around the Fraser Coast area is just as varied and wide spread. The angler in this area can fish freshwater or salt, lake, estuary, beach, surf, inshore, offshore, reef, game, sport or fly. If that is not enough to make you want to come here immediately, the species count is high and ranges from local species such as bream, whiting and flathead through to the high end more worldwide known predators such as marlin and sharks. Fraser Island is the southernmost point of the Great Barrier Reef. At the island’s north end it marks a roundabout end of range for some species such as the Barramundi. This is a result of the temperature range here which for humans is idillic but for some of the nasties of the tropical north, like the deadly box jellyfish or Australia’s famous saltwater crocodiles, it is too cool. This makes for a very watersport friendly environment, especially for fisherman. As such this area does receive some recreational fishing pressure and still has a local pro fleet, some of which continue to net. All in all however, the fishing still provides anglers ample opportunity to catch lots of fish. If I was going to rate this Fraser in golfing terms I would say it can be a tough course but the greens and fairways are outstanding and it is always a pleasure to play. Much could be improved here by the removal of netters similar to what was done in the Florida Keys. Both Bonefish and Permit have been and are caught in these waters. They would flourish if left alone. Lets not forget the local highly sought after Barramundi, a kissing cousin of the Snook. Recall how much the Snook highlighted the benefits of the net removal in Florida demonstrating a major increase to the resource, the same could be easily done here.

What I really like about the fishery out of Hervey Bay is the mid range tackle fishing. Fast running tunas like the Longtail and Mackerel Tuna ( a species that we would call Bonito here in the states) are just a few species you will find here. Other pelagic visitors to the flats such as the Trevallies (giant, diamond, big eye and bludger), Giant Herring, Queenfish, all the Mackerels (spotted, spanish and grey), Yellowtail Kingfish and Cobias are also here in numbers. All of these fish are available and frequent the waters just outside the harbor and on the western side of the island. The first fish holding flats, called the Pelican Banks, are only 30 minutes from the boat ramp by skiff and the equally famous Moon Point is only another 10 minutes.

If that is not enough to get the juices flowing for most anglers a developing but not so reliable fishery for juvenile Black Marlin on the flats with fly gear, yes you just read that!, has been quietly having it’s secrets recently unlocked. Two free swimmers have been sight cast caught on the flats proper to my knowledge and a lot more teased to the boat. The shallow clear flats Marlin visit hold bait and seem to also play some key part in their life cycle and migration. These flats may be just as important as other land masses and reef systems Black Marlin visit for spawning purposes. The protected western side of Fraser Island, in particular Platypus Bay at the Northern end, is also a known nursery for Humpback whales between July and October. The small Black marlin visit in December which seems to mesh with a visiting spawning period of the Giants from September through December on the GBR and the push of the East Coast Current south. The Golden Trevally are active from October through May.

On my last trip to Hervey Bay I was accompanied by my son Daniel who has fished with me in a few remote locations in the the far north of Australia and who lives 3 hours south of Hervey Bay on the Sunshine Coast. A mad offshore spearfisherman and surfer Dan was completely blown away with what we were shown by long time friend and guide Paul Dolan. Paul guided Dan to his first Golden Trevally and helped him catch both tuna and flathead on lures sight casting. Having fished with Paul for several years he has never failed to put me, my friends, family and/or clients on to fish of some sort.

This trip was dedicated to Goldens on fly and although our back-up plan was a nearby lake in Paul’s freshwater vessel for Barramundi, we would only take this very appealing option if the North easterly winds got too strong. The amount of fish on the flats was too big a draw card to not play our dealt hand. With several good Golden trevally hooked over a three day period, this the last portion of a month’s fishing felt like I was peaking for medal contention! We were tested to the fullest at times by fish that refused to be enticed away from tailing on the nippers. At other times fish came very easy exemplified one early morning when a fish gobbled a deceiver dropped beside him in full sand pumping mode. The warm up fishing provided by a trip to Queensland’s famous Cape York for Permit followed by fishing the Great Barrier reef for Giant trevally helped my casting accuracy, distance and timing. All that practice certainly helped me hook up with some gorgeous Gold at Fraser Island.

Fraser Island and Hervey Bay are 155 miles north of Brisbane and 607 miles north of Sydney. Direct flights to Hervey Bay from Sydney or Brisbane are scheduled daily and driving a rental car from Brisbane will take about 3.5 hours. There are many hotels, motels, backpackers hostels and bed and breakfast accommodations in Hervey Bay. Fraser Island itself is accessed by vehicle and passenger barges and light planes. Barges are scheduled to depart a few times per day to the island and back. As Fraser Island allows permitted camping many four wheel drive vehicles are ferried to and from Island each day. Four wheel drive and camping equipment rentals are available in Hervey Bay and series of roads and old logging tracks on the island allow access to all the points of interest on the island and the Eastern beaches where most people camp. The western side of the Island is not recommended for camping and has a good supply of sand flies long the mangrove lined beaches. This area is called the Great Sandy Straits and is best fished from boats anyway. There are a couple of small service centers for basic supplies on the island. Tours of the island are available at Hervey Bay and use the barge a four wheel vehicles to get you to and from.

Paul Dolan can help arrange accommodations that will suit any budget. He does practice catch and release but if you wish to keep a food fish you can. Golden Trevally are all released. Paul uses artificial lures or flies either by use of spinning tackle, bait caster or fly rod. Handling of fish is done with extreme care as he knows that the fish are too valuable to be caught only once! You can find out more about fishing this area at Paul’s website http://www.frasercoastsportfishing.com

Bring Your Camera!

Fraser Island boasts over 200 species of birds with many mammals,
flying foxes, snakes, goannas, wallabies , possums, dingoes and
freshwater turtles. The headlands and sand dunes offer some of the most
magnificent panoramic views over the ocean and surf. Whales and other
marine creatures such as Dugongs grazing on sea grasses often are close
to shore and in clear waters. Giant Kauri and Hoop Pines tower over the
rainforest of strangler figs, vines and orchids and crystal clear
creeks flow as they have for thousands of years.

Other Notes of Interest

Fraser Island has developed over a period of approximately 700,000 years by a series of overlapping dune systems.

Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world stretching 125 km long and covering an area of 166,038ha.
40 freshwater dune lakes occur on the island and is home to half of the known ‘perched’ lakes in the world.
The dingo’s (native dogs) on Fraser are regarded as the purest strain of dingo remaining in Australia.
Fraser Island was discovered by Captain James Cook in 1770.
Fraser Island was World Heritage Listed in December 1992.
The Island was named after Eliza Fraser who was shipwrecked there in 1836.
Eli Creek on the eastern side of Fraser pours about 120 million litres of fresh water a day into the ocean.
Lake McKenzie’s beach is considered amongst the world’s top ten beaches.
The water is so pure and nutrient free in the freshwater lakes that they
only support a few species of plants and have two or three fish species