GETTING the boat up to Fraser for a bit of offshore fishing can be a challenge, and to me that’s part of the whole Fraser adventure. At many locations along the coast that have just the standard ramp and carpark, you don’t get that feeling of adventure that you get when towing the boat along the beach at Fraser and heading out through the surf.
The reefs off Fraser hold a wide range of species and the quality of the fish is something few other places can match. Fraser has the best of both worlds – there’s the beauty of catching southern species like snapper, pearl perch and kingfish along with northern species such as red emperor, red throat, coral trout, parrot and much more.
The inshore grounds and reefs also produce plenty of Spanish mackerel, wahoo and tuna, and out wide you’ll find dolphinfish, tuna and marlin – both big and small. I’ve enjoyed tangling with all of the species over the years, and that includes a big black marlin that gave the old thousand pounds a nudge. This happened while fishing onboard the charter boat Obsession with skipper Rod March.
When you consider all these opportunities, as well as excellent beach fishing, it’s little wonder that Fraser Island is such a memorable place.
For those who don’t have a big boat, don’t worry – there are plenty of opportunities for small boats around the 4.5m mark. Even a 4m boat is OK on a good day with a decent skipper.
The first place worth fishing is around Waddy Point itself. Like most prominent rocky headlands, the area attracts and holds baitfish and you can usually find some within a kilometre of the headland. Before you even get there though, it’s worth dropping a few lures out the back. The old weighted pink squid skirt is cheap and effective here on the three main species you’re likely to catch close to the headland, and in the gutter you run out from.
Mack tuna to 4-5kg patrol the outer side of the breakers a bit, and while they’re not the best eating they make good fresh cut baits. Even if you only end up using it in the surf, the bream love it.
You may have seen beach fishos with big heavy surf rods casting out beyond the breakers, looking for those big tailor. Well, you’re now there in the boat – and those squid, along with a variety of metal lures or trolled baits, will catch the big tailor. Remember that during the closed season (August 1 to September 30) the boundary extends 500m to sea and to the north, and this includes boats. Just to the north of the headland the baitfish tend to school up rather thick, and so do the tailor.
There are sure to be a few days when the conditions are too rough to head out. The headland does offer protection from the southeast so the gutter is still a safe place to launch so long as the swell isn’t up. Here you have a reasonable area to fish from Waddy Point right up past the wreck of the Marloo (in front of Orchid Beach).
You’ll also find Spanish mackerel around the headland, and the ideal bait for trolling for the Spaniards and wahoo is a few 30-35cm tailor. Most of the pro mackerel fishermen that fish these waters troll tailor with great success.
The other place that’s worth a try for both small and big boats is Ngkala Rocks, about 10km north of Waddy Point. Ngkala is easily spotted from out on the water and is a good location for anglers with smaller boats.
This patch of coffee rock isn’t just limited to the beach – there’s low lying rock running a kilometre or so to the south in the gutters themselves, and just beyond, while out in front there are patches of reef and a few higher areas for a kilometre or so to the east. Depending on how close to shore you fish, the depth will vary from 4m to 15m with a couple of high patches of around 8m.
In close, you’re likely to catch a variety of trevallies, along with blackall, various grass sweetlip and perhaps the odd cod and parrot. These shallow rock areas are great places to go snorkelling, and there’s the bonus of a few crayfish here, too!
The average fish size picks up once you start working a bit wider off the beach, with a few perch species and the odd squire in the catch. It’s not red hot fishing here, just a place to pick up a few fish for a feed.
On the surface, however, you can do really well on the mackerel. They school here at various times and you can see the mackerel and the tuna slashing the surface as they feed on the schools of baitfish. They are well out of casting range from the beach, though still visible.
Out here it’s those trolled baits that will take the fish for you. If you aren’t too flash at rigging a few baits for trolling, lures like the Blue Pilly from Lively Lures or the likes of Rapala CD 18s are reliable alternatives.
On the way to fishing this spot you almost drive over the top of the Marloo wreck, which lies out in front of the Orchid Beach airstrip. On a good clear day you can see the wreck and the upwelling of tide and current on the surface. There are plenty of small fish around it along with a few bigger fish, which tend to hug the wreck. I’ve never caught a lot here myself but I have seen a few nice fish pulled from here, including some yellowtail kingfish and cobia of varying sizes.
The days can be quite blowy, with winds anywhere from the southeast to the west. The dunes still offer protection from the wind and the inshore water is relatively calm, making these few spots worth keeping in mind.
One more close to shore spot that’s worth a mention is Browns Rocks. A much smaller patch of coffee rock than Ngkala Rocks, Browns Rocks is about three quarters of the way to the Cape from Waddy Point – about 25km.
Because it’s that bit farther away, it has a few surprises including some good parrot, scarlet sea perch to a few kilos and some big spangled emperor. It’s not a numbers spot but it’s still worthy of a fish. There are a couple of other little patches of reef close to it and a small wreck – but that’s in the closed book!
A troll around here may see you pick up a few Spaniards, and you just never know what ground you might sound over while trolling about.
One of the more well-known larger reef areas close to Waddy Point is the Gravel Patch (24 59 800 / 153 27 500). The 24m high point is on the southeastern corner of the reef and is about 10km from Waddy Point, roughly out in front of Indian Head. The reef starts coming up much sooner than this and you’ll find a few highs and lows on the way out here.
When fishing off Fraser, always keep a close eye on your sounder as you never know when you’re going to go over a bump or ledge that will hold fish. On many occasions we’ve been travelling from one spot to another, seen a show on the sounder, stopped and started catching fish. The fish can be anything from iodine bream to big red emperor. Just because it’s only a little show doesn’t mean that there will only be little fish on it. The waters off Fraser Island are known for their big red emperor, many up around 12-15kg, and you just never know when you’re going to hook onto one.
The GPS mark given for the Gravel Patch will only put you in the area. Once you get there I’m certain you’ll be punching in plenty of your own waypoints
As far as fish species go, these grounds are best known for parrot, red-throat sweetlip, spangled emperor, hussar, various perch and grass sweetlip, cod and a few pelagics suck as kingfish and cobia. And yes – you will find a few good red emperor in here.
When it comes to rigs and gear, I use a 7ft Sabre 670, TLD 25 and 30lb braid as the main outfit. This rod is just at home pulling fish to a few kilos as it is hooking onto those bigger red emperor – though one does tend to pull just that bit harder! I have another reel loaded with 30lb mono which has the same rod, and then a mean mother of an outfit with 60lb line for when I get onto a patch of red emperor and get smashed on the lighter gear.
When it comes to bait, we start off with mullet flesh and squid and then use iodine bream and hussar. When you’re after the bigger fish, don’t be afraid to use a big slab bait. It’s not unusual for us to throw on a whole fillet of a fish you might normally place in the frypan.
I have taken pillies in the past and found them only average as a bait. Sure – you’ll catch fish on them, but it doesn’t take long before they’re just a soggy bag in the bottom of the esky.
Most of the fishing is done drifting, depending on conditions. In some spots you can have a drift of a kilometre or more, picking up fish from one patch to the next. Other smaller features require shorter drifts or, in some cases, dropping the anchor.
Most of the fishing that you do, whether it be on the Patch or over the Gardiner Banks, will be between 20m and 45m, making it an easy and enjoyable depth for targeting reefies.
As you often repeat the drift, don’t run back over the same ground; work a wide curve back around your drift run. Running over the top of where you’re fishing can make the fish a bit touchy.
Try fishing one line on the bottom with the standard rig and another with a lighter weight and allow it to sit back in the current. Fish such as red-throat, spangled emperor and red emperor often take baits higher in the water, while species such as parrot and cod are taken on the bottom.
Some of the higher, though small, areas over the Gravel Patch do show up a few squire and snapper, but the inshore grounds are not overly hot on the snapper fishing. Out on the shelf though, well – that’s another story. But once again I’ve run out of space, so I’ll cover that area in the next issue as we fish around the Gardiner Banks and get into some fantastic fishing out on the shelf.