Fishing Eastern Yorke Peninsula
Shane Mensforth shares his tips for fishing around one of the South Australia's most popular fishing holiday locations - just a short drive from Adelaide.
While the fishing may not be quite as good today as it was in the 'good old days, I still consider Yorke Peninsula (YP) to be among SA's very best out-of-town angling locations. It continues to offer some first class jetty fishing, the yellowfin whiting are among the biggest you'll find, seasonal blue crab numbers are at an all time high, and there are plenty of King George whiting accessible from several areas. As a bonus, YP now offers some of the best boating facilities in the State.
A few years ago we bought a small holiday house over that way, which we share regularly with the extended family. There are few things I enjoy more than taking my young grandchildren squidding on the local jetty, hooking gar from the rocks or maybe raking crabs on the flats. Hopefully, such experiences will lead them into life-long love affairs with Yorke Peninsula, as they did for me.
One of the most attractive things about visiting YP's east coast is its relative proximity to Adelaide. Nowhere is further away than a three-hour drive, making it a comfortable distance for a weekend - something that is quite significant when you have young kids on board.
Tackling up for Eastern Yorke Peninsula
One of the best parts about fishing the area is the fact you don't require a vast array of fishing rods, reels and terminal tackle, as bread and butter species can be caught on relatively inexpensive gear.
If fishing land based, you can get away with one or two spinning combos (2500-4000) loaded with 6-10lb main line and 10-15lb leader. Arm yourself with a range of hooks, sinkers, soft plastics, jig heads and squid jigs, and you've pretty much got all of your bases covered.
Let's take a closer look at the major locations along this stretch of coast, outlining the available facilities and what you can expect to catch throughout the year.
Named after a small town in south-west Scotland, Ardrossan is essentially the gateway to Eastern Yorke Peninsula.
It's about 150km from Adelaide, which equates to a comfortable hour and a half on the highway. Ardrossan has two jetties, one of which is open to the public, and another longer one to the south that is closed to foot traffic. Boaties are permitted to fish around the big jetty at a minimum distance of 30m but are prohibited from access when there's a ship tied up.
The town jetty, which features a giant blue swimmer crab at its entrance, is among the most popular and productive piers on the Peninsula. A casual walk along most of its length will reveal hundreds of squid ink patches, indicating that calamari are among the most popular angling targets. Indeed, it's not unusual for competent squidders, armed with a range of jigs, to catch their daily quota of 15 without trying too hard.
That rather daunting blue crab archway at the foot of the jetty is an accurate indicator of just how productive it can be for drop netters. The crabs generally start to show up in October, then improve all the way through summer and into early autumn. Most of the bigger males show up in February and March. It's nearly always worth setting a net or two during the 'r' months while fishing for other things at Ardrossan.
Yellowfin whiting specialists will often find schools of nice fish in the jetty shallows, as well as on the tidal flats to the north and south. Some of these are way bigger than average, with 35-40cm specimens relatively common between October and March. Mullet, tommies and snook also can be expected from the jetty in season, but the major prize is mulloway. Most of those hooked are 'schoolies' of between 3-5kg, but every now and then a lucky angler will land a bigger jewie of 8kg or more. Live baits like trumpeters, mullet and salmon trout seem to attract the better specimens.
Ardrossan's offshore snapper fishery is legendary, often rivalling the sort of action found in Spencer Gulf off Whyalla and Arno Bay. However, things haven't been quite so rosy on the Ardrossan grounds for the past two years, and we can only hope that the glory days return after the current snapper closure is lifted in 2023.
There are many short-stay accommodation options in Ardrossan, ranging from two first class caravan parks through to upmarket holiday villas. The town also boasts a terrific shopping precinct, including, arguably, the best supermarket on the Peninsula.
Those towing boats are well catered for with a protected launching ramp situated near the Viterra jetty complex.
Although it doesn't have a fishing jetty, Black Point offers a recently upgraded boat ramp and one of the most beautiful stretches of beach on eastern YP. It's also a pretty good spot to go crabbing and wading for yellowfin whiting.
There's a small caravan park immediately adjacent to the boat ramp entrance, as well as countless short and long stay rental properties, but be prepared to pay premium rates, particularly during the high season.
This quaint little seaside village with just 42 permanent residents is largely unvisited, as it lacks any real facilities other than a short jetty that is often high and dry at low tide. When the tide is in, however, the jetty produces a few squid and tommies at night time. The flats to both north and south offer yellowfin whiting on occasion, and there are plenty of crabs during summer and autumn.
The Julia boat ramp is basic and very tidal, providing only short launch/retrieve windows early and late in the day. There is a caravan park of sorts that is equipped with toilets, but no power.
Located around 190km from Adelaide, Port Vincent is a thriving little coastal community with a population of just over 500. It boasts one of the best marinas anywhere on Yorke Peninsula, with multi-lane boat ramp, expansive trailer park and great fishing just outside. There is no jetty to fish from, but the old Port Vincent wharf does produce crabs, tommies and the occasional bream and yellowfin whiting.
The beach immediately south of the town is very reliable for yellowfin in the warmer months, as are some of the flats to the north. You'll need a substantial tide variation to catch these great inshore fish, and there's no doubt that pumping live clickers will put you in with the best chance.
Small boat operators can find garfish, King George whiting, snook, squid and blue crabs in good numbers and not far from the marina - all according to season, of course.
Vincent offers plenty of facilities for short-stay visitors, including a top class country pub, supermarket and a very well stocked tackle/outdoors store. It also boasts a lovely foreshore caravan park and terrific rental properties, so there's plenty to suit all tastes and budgets.
About 20km further south you'll find Stansbury, which is roughly the same size as Port Vincent and is equipped with facilities of comparable quality. This town has a nice friendly atmosphere and some of the very best fishing available on Yorke Peninsula. It's a squidder's paradise, with vast ribbon weed flats in shallow water that attract thousands of big calamari during the winter spawning season.
The jetty is quite a long one at just over 300m, and fishes consistently throughout the year. Squid and tommies make up the bulk of the jetty catch, but there are mullet, gar, snook and salmon trout available at different times. School-sized yellowtail kings turn up occasionally, creating havoc when they grab baits on light tackle, and blue crabs can be prolific between Christmas and March.
Stansbury's protected boat harbor is first class, with dual lane ramp, boarding pontoons and spacious car park. It's an all-tide facility, too, which is important along this coastline.
A substantial sand spit extends eastward from just outside the boat harbor, flanked by quite shallow water when the tide is down. It's along the edges of the spit that drop netting for blueys can be very productive in season, with most crabs being large, meaty males. There are also plenty of gar, snook and tommies near the spit in the warmer months, which provide a great opportunity for small boat anglers when conditions are favourable.
Like most of the popular seaside resorts on eastern Yorke Peninsula, Stansbury is well equipped for visiting anglers and their families. The caravan park is large and spacious with spotless amenities, and there is the usual plethora of private rental accommodation.
Just a short drive south along the unsealed coast road is Klein Point, the site of limestone loading by the Adelaide Brighton Cement Company. The jetty here is visited daily by the trans-gulf transport ship MV Accolade II, and fronts relatively deep water. I've caught all sorts of goodies from Klein Point over the years, including heaps of school mulloway, big snapper, silver drummer, sharks, King George whiting, bream and salmon, but I haven't wet a line there in quite a while, so I'm by no means up to speed on what's biting and when.
The public is allowed to fish on the jetty with certain restrictions. First up, visiting anglers have to vacate at least half an hour before the MV Accolade II comes in to berth and are not allowed back on until well after the ship departs. Arrivals and departures may vary daily, so it's hard to pinpoint exact times. Cars may be parked in the dedicated space immediately north of the jetty, but must be taken back outside the main gates before workers leave for the day. This means a substantial walk for those wishing to fish overnight.
Rather than drive directly down the main highway toward Edithburgh, it's quite a pleasant alternative to turn off and follow the coast down through Wool Bay and Coobowie. Wool Bay is one of the most productive calamari areas on YP, offering consistent action from both jetty and boat. This is where I spent many weekends in teenage years, racking up impressive squid catches, both in terms of size and numbers. I can recall one Easter Sunday many years ago when the jetty squid were so consistently large, we had to use crab nets to lift some of them from the water!
Wool Bay also has a boat ramp (tide dependent), a general store and some high-end holiday units that are in constant demand.
Just a short drive south of Wool Bay is Port Giles, which boasts the longest accessible jetty on YP's eastern shore. As mentioned earlier, Giles was once a jetty fishing Mecca, attracting hordes of hopeful anglers keen to do battle with fish of many varieties and sizes. Access was unrestricted in the 'good old days', but things have now changed. The jetty is open during the day on weekends, but not at all when there's a ship tied up or other work is in progress.
Once it was possible to drive in and park at the base of the jetty, but these days you have to park right up near the main entrance, enter via a small metal gate and walk down the hill with your gear. If the gate is locked, it's a matter of finding somewhere else to fish. And, of course, you can only access half of the jetty now, whereas it used to be a case of fish where you like.
This delightful and historical township has long been one of my favourite YP destinations. From the jetty I caught big tommies, gar and squid as a kid, then upped the ante to sharks and snapper during teenage years. We managed to land some quite hefty whaler sharks during the spring and summer months, a couple of which would have nudged 20kg, and the odd nice snapper to 12kg or so. I'm not sure about the snapper, but I'm pretty sure the sharks would still be there for those with the right gear and a sense of adventure.
Edithburgh's boat harbor is yet another excellent facility, with all-tide ramp and easy car parking. This is the gateway to some excellent offshore fishing grounds, prominent among which is Tapley Shoal and a host of renowned whiting areas closer to shore. It takes a little while to find your way around off Edithburgh, but once you have a few reliable spots in the GPS, the fishing can be pretty good.
As you'd expect, the town is very well equipped for visiting anglers. The caravan park is first rate and holiday rentals abound. Google is definitely your friend when searching for short-stay accommodation anywhere on YP, and I would advise picking up a copy of the Yorke Peninsula Fishing Guide to fill in any information gaps.