A few times each year head down the mountains from my New England home to get some sand between my toes.
I love fishing the beach, where you just never know what might hammer your offering. Those long, peaceful stretches of coastline with only the waves for company are a marked contrast to the Highland rivulets where trout sneak amongst the riffles.
Two of my favourite coastal spots are Minnie Water and its southern neighbour, Wooli. This area offers a heap of land-based fishing options and for those with the gear to head offshore, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
After leaving the Pacific Highway just south of Grafton, the pleasant half-hour drive leads to these villages nestled amid the broad expanse of Yuraygir National Park, which covers over 60km of wild but accessible coast.
Minnie Water lies about 15 minutes north of Wooli and is a beachfront town without an estuary. Take care when driving through the heavy bush country around here – emus and roos are plentiful and they don’t take kindly to a car bonnet at speed. The wildlife is on the move especially at dusk and dawn, so take care. Yuraygir National Park is one of the few locations where you’ll find emus east of the Great Dividing Range.
At Minnie Water you’ll find a caravan park and holiday cottage rental. For some time now I’ve been camping at the Illaroo Campground, a couple of kilometres north and within the park boundaries. This beautiful spot is very handy to the beach and offers families a wonderful, relaxing playground.
Park fees are very reasonable and the camp ground is well-patrolled. There are superb campsites overlooking the beach or, if it’s peace and quiet you’re after, head behind the dunes to isolated tent sites. Wood is supplied for fire sites and there are free gas barbecues.
Take in all your drinking water, though. There is a fresh water station just after you leave the tar road. Ensure you pack away your eskies and all food when retiring or leaving camp because the kookaburras and currawongs are highly experienced bandits. Dingos, purebred or wild dog crosses, lurk the edge of the bush after dark and patrol the beaches, so put away bait and tucker boxes.
I’ve not fished much farther up the beach than directly in front of the camping area. Generally I’ve had little trouble picking up nice whiting and some solid bream only a few minutes’ walk up the sand. On the southern edge of the beach are some reasonably flat rock platforms that in low seas offer plenty of good fishing options. An unweighted pilchard has produced for me here and I’ve heard reports of snapper coming from ‘the bricks’ below Tree Point.
Beach fishos would do well to take the time to get some fresh worms here, although I’ve taken plenty of bream on small mullet strips. Again, pick the location and tides, fish on the lighter side and you should find action pretty close to where you lay your head at night.
Vehicle access to the splendid Minnie Water Lagoon is off Hiawatha Street or opposite the service station-cum-general store, which has a good range of basic camping, fishing and food supplies, including takeaway food for those who can’t live without it. The lagoon is protected from the swells on all but the highest of tides in the roughest of seas and gives excellent access to the ocean for outside fishing via a dogleg channel with clearly marked leads.
If you have a 4WD, take a trip north along the beach to Sandon River. This delightful spot offers another great estuary, remote and picturesque. Vehicle permits are not required but it pays to keep an eye on the tides.
Much of this coastline is part of the Solitary Islands Marine Park and there are various restrictions on gathering bait or removing shells and marine life from rock platforms. Visitors should consult fishing regulations at the Minnie Water and Wooli stores. Certain areas of this coast are now closed to professional and recreational anglers and there is no excuse for ignorance of the current restrictions.
Minnie Water Caravan Park 6649 7693
Minnie Water and diggers Camp, National Parks and Wildlife Service 6641 1500
Marima Holiday Units 6642 1642
Spotted mackerel are a hot prospect from December to June.
Beats traffic lights, doesn’t it?
The beach fishing isn’t all beer and skittles – sometimes fish like shovel-nosed sharks can be pesky.