Fabulous Fraser

Story and Photography by Paul B Kidd

Queensland's Fraser Island is one of the best fishing - and family fun - spots in the country

If you love camping and four-wheel-drive adventure then Fraser Island, the world’s largest sand island situated just off the coast in lower Queensland, is an absolute must. In fact, even if you just enjoy 4WD adventure without having to “rough it” in a tent, you can still do it in style on Fraser and enjoy some of the best beach, estuary and offshore fishing Australia has to offer, as well as take in a rainforest wilderness and its mysterious inhabitants at the same time.

Here's the one that didn't get away. 

There are a couple of ways that we can fish and 4WD Fraser Island, but whichever way we do it, it will be an adventure you will never forget and I guarantee that it will keep you going back to time and again.

Firstly and most obviously, we can pack the wife, kids, (no, not the dog, sorry, no pets allowed) the tent and camping gear, the beach barbie and the trailer boat and drive to Rainbow Beach just past Noosa.
Plenty of fish - and room - for all.

From there we can catch the ferry over to Fraser and set up in one of the recognised camping areas, either private or public, and cook our own fish meals, drink cold beers from the Esky, wash under a bush shower, squat on a bush dunny and sleep behind insect-proof mesh while we go back to nature for a week or two.  Or, if grandad’s just chipped into the bunker and left an Arnott’s biscuit tin full of old 20 pound notes and a couple of 1930 pennies, we can do it in style: Fly to Hervey Bay, rent the 4WD of our choice at a reasonable rate, freight it over to Fraser on the ferry and toff it up at the five-star Kingfisher Resort. From there we could do our fishing and exploring with a packed picnic lunch and a couple of chilled bottles of sauvignon blanc and come home to a lime daiquiri and hors d’oeuvres, served up on the balcony as we watch the sun set in the west.

And then again we could go back to nature with all the mod cons and stay in the heart of Fraser at the Fraser Retreat or the Aeorong Resort and fish the nearby beaches from there after a tropical breakfast of fruit and juices and a good night’s sleep among the noises of the bush animals and birds.

But whichever way we do Fraser, we’re in for a treat. Not only is the beach and estuary fishing sensational, but offshore on the eastern seaboard there’s just about every bottom and surface species that you could wish for.

There are coral trout, red emperor, snapper, parrot fish, cod and nannygai on the reefs, and tuna, wahoo, Spanish mackerel, mahi-mahi, sailfish and small marlin (depending on the time of year) are there for the taking for the bluewater angler.

Onshore there are bumper bream, whiting and flathead in the Wathumba Creek and at the mouths of the Moon, Coongul and Awinyah creeks and many of the 250 or so filler creeks that run into the ocean.

Bait’s never a problem on Fraser, just pump some of Australia’s biggest and juiciest yabbies on the spot or drag a dead fish along the beach and pluck out as many beach worms as you need.

The Inside Beach is sensational most of the year round for pan-sized whiting and the locals will tell you the best spots to fish and what tide to fish them on. Casting a small lure or a bait into the crystal clear waters on the beach at dawn or dusk on the western side of Fraser and catching a feed is one of the pure pleasures of fishing in Australia.

But, even with all of this on offer from the offshore reefs and current lines and the sheltered inshore river mouths, estuaries and western facing beaches, it is the eastern ocean beach fishing that makes Fraser one of the fishing wonders of Australia.

Fraser’s beaches resemble perfect snow-white highways and driving along them, especially at low tide, is a dream and high speeds, though not recommended, can be attained with the maximum of safety. But be warned. You can get booked for speeding and drunk driving on Fraser’s beaches just as you would be on a public highway.

The gutters and backwashes along the beaches provide fantastic fishing for the family angler and, on high tide especially, whiting, dart, bream, tailor, flathead and trevally can be taken by even the smallest and oldest members of the clan.

But the beach fishing at Fraser is really famous for four things: the annual tailor run in August, the giant queenfish caught from the beach at Sandy Cape on the northernmost tip of the island, the Spanish mackerel that are taken from the rocks at Indian Head and Waddy Point in summer and autumn, and the three-metre, man-eating whaler sharks that patrol the beaches just behind the first line of breakers.

When the tailor are on it is one of the most amazing sights in fishing to see hundreds of anglers standing in the surf elbow-to-elbow with their huge surf rods and sidecast Alvey reels casting whole garfish or pilchard baits to the tailor as they boil just behind the breakers.

To allow the tailor to spawn, no fishing is allowed from Waddy Point to Indian Head during the month of September.

The queenfish is one of the toughest fighters in the ocean that jumps well clear of the water when hooked and is usually found only in estuaries and river mouths. So catching them up to 10kg in the surf at Fraser in the months of May and June makes for exciting and unusual fishing.

The queenies take chrome lures cast to the back of the breakers and retrieved at a rapid pace, thus resembling the baitfish that they can be seen pursuing down the face of the waves as they break on to the shore. It is spectacular fishing both visually and physically.

Late summer sees a run of the exceptional fighter, the Spanish mackerel, and anglers catch them from the rocks by setting live baits beneath balloon floats and letting them drift out into the currents that sweep by the protruding headlands of Indian Head and Waddy Point. It is a rare feat to catch such bluewater gamefish from a land-based position and Fraser Island is one of the few spots in Australia where it can be done regularly.

And those brown shadows you’ll see lurking behind the breakers at Fraser aren’t patches of drifting weed. They are the notorious resident bronze whalers sharks, one of our most deadly man-eaters, and they have become so cheeky over the years that on numerous occasions they have been known brazenly to snatch fish from angler’s hands as they clean them in the surf. Fortunately, nobody has been taken lately. But the day ain’t over yet.

Yes, the fishing at Fraser justifies its position as one of Australia’s wonders of fishing. But the surfing? Well, that’s an entirely different proposition altogether. Oh, that’s what I forgot to mention. Don’t bother packing the surf boards.  

Fraser Island Facts

FERRY CROSSING: 

Inskip Point, Rainbow Beach at bottom of Fraser Island; $60 per vehicle, $2 per passenger. Hervey Bay to western side of Fraser Island; $70 per vehicle. For times on either service ring_(07) 4124 8741.

PERMITS: 

Access permit for vehicles $30. Camping permits $3.50 per person per night or $14 per family. Permits available at Marina Kiosk and general store Hervey Bay, and Parks and Wildlife Office Rainbow Beach. Maximum stay 28 days

OUT OF BOUNDS: 

The area from Wathumba to Rooney Point on the eastern beach is permanently closed to 4WD vehicles. The area above Waddy Point to Sandy Cape at the top end of Fraser is zoned “Hazardous”.

BEST TIMES OF THE YEAR: 

February, March and November and August when the tailor run is on. Avoid Easter and Christmas – it’s packed!

RESORTS ON FRASER: 

Kingfisher from $120 per night, (07) 4120 3333. Fraser Retreat from $90 per night, (07) 4127 9144. Aeorong Resort from $90 per night, (07) 4127 9122.

4WD HIRE AT HERVEY BAY: 

Aussie Trax (07) 4124 4433; Safari 4x4 Hire (07) 4124 4244; Bay 4X4 Hire (07) 4128 2981.

PRIVATE CAMPING AREAS: 

Cathedral Beach (07) 4127 9177; Dilli Village (07) 4127 9130.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: 

Hervey Bay/Fraser Island Tourist Information Centre (07) 4124 8741. Also talk to the Fraser Coast South Burnett Regional Tourism Board (07) 4122 3444.