If it weren’t for Indian Head, Fraser Island as we know it wouldn’t exist. There would be no great beach drive; no crystal clear lakes; no dingo controversies; and no world class tailor fishing.
To be correct, Waddy Point and Middle Rocks, the other volcanic rock structures, as also hugely influential in Fraser’s development over time. Geologists say sand being carried north by ocean currents and wind piled up against these headlands to form Fraser Island. The coffee rocks outcropping on both eastern and western beaches are much younger and had their beginnings in island swamps, where sand and organic matter was compressed and hardened, then later exposed by erosion.
Driving up the eastern beach the first glimpse of Indian Head through the salt spray mist gives the appearance of the headdress of a Native American Indian chief. However it was James Cook, on 19 May 1770, who named it Indian Head for the many natives on the headland. These early inhabitants certainly would have appreciated Indian Head as much as the thousands of visitors today who enjoy spectacular views and sightings of a great variety of marine life throughout year round.
The winter months are particularly good for spotting huge schools of tailor arriving for spawning and as well as sharks, rays, turtles and dolphins. Most spectacular are the frequent sightings of humpback whales that almost come under the headland. The experience at the top of the headland has even lured some of the keenest anglers away from their main pursuit.
The last few kilometres of beach south of Indian Head can be narrow and soft and should be avoided above half tide. There is plenty of firm beach to park on next to the southern face of the rocks. From here there are tracks up onto the headland; it’s not quite mountain goat country, but it’s close.
From the northern face there are better tracks leading on to the headland. The rocks here are not easily fished but when the tailor are on, you don’t need to be too fussy. There is an interesting little gorge here and when not sanded up, it’s worth fishing for bream, tarwhine and sweetlip.
The track behind the headland is a mix of soft sand and rock ridges. For the inexperienced, this is Fraser Island’s horror stretch with more vehicles bogged here than anywhere else on the island. If you’re not familiar with the track, walk through for a good look first and then develop a plan. Then it is a matter of suitable tyre pressure, correct gearing and positive driving.
Indian Head’s main parking lot is the beach under the rock on the northern side. From here there is good access to the top of the headland, and to the best fishing spots.
Indian Head is probably best known for its brilliant tailor fishing. During late winter and spring, spawning fish congregate around the headlands. In August and September these fish are protected by a total ban on fishing. While there are usually plenty of fish available before the closure, the best quality catches of tailor are made during October and into November.
On this side of the Indian Head, the southeasterly swells curve around and brake into the shallower waters and gutters. The expanses of white water are ideal tailor territory. An area of large, rounded boulders, known by many as The Pebbles, is one of the most popular tailor spots. You do need to be sure footed and have good shoes on to negotiate these often slippery rocks.
Beyond The Pebbles, there is a somewhat precarious track takes you to a narrow ledge that doesn’t accommodate many anglers. This is a prime tailor spot, but it also fishes well for bream, tarwhine, drummer and sweetlip. Larger sportfish like GTs, mackerel and queenfish cruise tantalisingly close to the rocks, and are often targeted successfully with just about any metal that be put in the right spot.
There is more fishable country beyond the ledge towards the eastern tip of Indian Head, which produces access to more open water. This area is ideal for particularly big tailor and there are often large pelagics cruising the area as well. But be warned, the anglers who fish this location regularly are very experienced and know the area well, particularly in the precarious path that needs to be followed. I would not encourage risking this journey.
From Indian Head it’s just a short trip up the beach to the Middle Rock jump-up. Before it was boarded it was often the end of the road for less able vehicles. At the top of the jump-up there is a parking area for those visiting the celebrated Champaign Pools, and beyond is the pair of one-way roads leading to Orchid Beach, Waddy Point and points further north.
June has to be close to my favourite month on Fraser. With the worst of La Niña weather behind us we can look forward to some glorious early winter weather. Almost any of our beach species will be available at this time of year.
Early in the year there were some encouraging indications that this could be a top season for sand whiting along the ocean beach. But as a result of conditions over the recent months, whiting catches have been down so far. I will stick my neck out again, though and predict that we will soon see the whiting back to their old ways as the beach conditions settle down.
The tailor season rarely makes a start in June, in fact it has been many years since this month has produced catches of big tailor. I recall a season about 10 years ago when we were totally unprepared for a massive run of big fish in mid-June. The only tailor that can be confidently expected will be choppers hanging around the coffee rocks.
These formations at Poyungan, Yidney, Chard Rocks and Ngkala Rocks are also well worth fishing for tarwhine, bream, dart, trevally and jew. In the sandy patches amongst the rocks, flathead and whiting are also on the cards. This is also a good month for targeting big bream in the sudsy water around the gorges and platforms at Indian Head and Waddy Point.Reads: 4532