Fishing Fraser Island Offshore
Fraser Island is synonymous with some epic fishing, and if you have some angling skills and a sense of adventure, Andy Boughton believes Fraser Island offshore should be on your bucket list.
South East Queensland is blessed with abundant fishing options a short drive from the Gold Coast. Myriad destinations make for fantastic family weekend getaways or first-class fishing trips with mates - pristine locations with beautiful scenery, encounters with gigantic marine mammals and, most importantly, epic fishing!
Fishing locations like the reefs off the eastern shoreline of Fraser Island and Great Sandy National Park are truly amazing.
Fraser Island is located only a couple of nautical miles off Hervey Bay, just four hours' drive north of the Gold Coast. Renowned for ideal 4WD and camping opportunities, pure breed dingos, beach fishing and migrating humpback whales, Fraser Island's northern extremities offer the keen offshore angler amazing fishing opportunities. Being positioned at the southernmost extremity of the Great Barrier Reef, close to the continental shelf and its endless reefs, this place teems with fish.
When planning a trip to the island, I begin by searching the long-range forecast online, looking for a two- or three-day weather window that promises light sea breezes. With suitable weather conditions and an empty freezer, I'm always eager to lock in a date. If I can combine my trip with the build up to the full moon, even better!
After a quick dash to the supermarket for a few supplies, a standard two-night adventure to Fraser Island starts with a 5am departure from the Gold Coast for the four-hour drive to Urangan boat ramp in Hervey Bay.
From the ramp you can easily navigate a few sandbars for a 30 nautical mile steam to your anchorage at Rooney's Point. On the way, scanning the waters for working birds and bait schools may result in some action on long-tail tuna or mackerel.
The next morning we head across the top of Fraser Island past the Sandy Cape Lighthouse, over the Breaksea Spit, sampling the various reefs east of Fraser. After a big day's fishing, followed by another night at Rooney's Point, we steam back to Urangan for the drive home with a cooler full of reef fish.
Throw in a few cold ones, a swim or two and many encounters with humpback whales and it doesn't get much better than that for me!
Fish to expect at Fraser Island
Fraser Island, along with the Great Sandy National Park, are beautiful locations that boast some of Australia's best fishing. I am convinced the blue water fishing off the eastern side of Fraser is second to none. You can expect endless catches of tusk fish, red throat emperor, snapper, pearl perch, Spanish mackerel and Maori cod. Green jobfish, spangled emperor, kingfish and coronation trout are also on the cards, and a quality red emperor is never far away. If you can beat the sharks, fish in the 14kg range are a real chance.
I'm all about getting the most out of your boat and fishing opportunities, continually developing my boating knowledge and skills. With a little planning and preparation we can all undertake mini adventures you may have never thought possible in a small trailer boat.
Let me show you how!
Boat launching - Urangan
Urangan boat ramp in Hervey Bay is a reasonably secure, all-tide ramp with ample parking and makes for the best option for short, spontaneous expeditions.
Another option is beach launching from Orchid Beach to the north just above Indian Head, Fraser Island. Although beach launching here positions you in close proximity to great fishing grounds, it's not an achievable option for a three-day fishing trip. If you have an extended break for 10 days or more, I'd recommend booking a rental home or campsite at Orchid Beach with a couple of boats.
Anchorage - Rooney's Point (24°49.103S, 153°07.884E)
30 nautical miles north of Urangan on the north-western tip of Fraser Island is Rooney's Point. It's a secluded and pristine part of Fraser Island most campers ignore due to its poor access and isolation.
This beautiful and reasonably protected anchorage is used by boaties of all kinds who desire a calm night at rest. Inside the bay you are protected from any easterly weather. It's a little exposed to the south and west, but picking your weather window accurately will reduce the likelihood of uncomfortable evenings.
Rooney's Point itself has some great fishing opportunities, including golden trevally along the sand flats, long-tail tuna, Spanish and spotted mackerel. There are a few light reef and bait grounds close by that produce a good mix of reef species, including coral trout. What Rooney's is most renowned for is the amazing juvenile black marlin fishing around late October/early November each year. These fish are caught on live bait, lure or fly in waters less than two metres.
If you visit Rooney's for an overnight stay during the winter months, you'll be sharing your anchorage with humpback whales that continually glide past on their migration south, literally only metres from your boat! One of the most amazing experiences I've had while sleeping in my plate aluminium boat is listening to whale's singing, amplified through the hull. Truly unbelievable!
Tip: Make sure you anchor on top of the sand flat (3/4m) above the drop-off to reduce the risk of a whale entanglement with your anchor rope!
Safety for me is the most important consideration. I don't want to put my family, my crew or equipment at risk.
Before undertaking such a remote offshore boat trip, ask yourself:
- What's your boating experience and skill level?
- What is the boat's capability?
- Is the boat and outboard 100% operational?
- How much fuel do I require for a 120 nautical mile round trip?
- Is the anchor/mooring equipment satisfactory for a secure overnight stay?
When contemplating an overnight fishing trip off the northern tip of Fraser Island, my main ambition is to fish waters off the eastern shoreline, which means crossing the Breaksea Spit.
Without good to reasonable conditions, crossing the spit is not a task I'm willing to risk. It's a large sand groin extending 10 nautical miles north off the top of Fraser Island. It's notorious and extremely isolated. If anything is to go wrong here, you're all alone in treacherous, sharky waters.
I've discovered a number of channels providing access across the Breaksea Spit, but the gutter I've used over the past three years is right at the tip of Sandy Cape. It's an S-bend gutter running between the break that's easily recognisable in small to medium sea conditions. If you position your boat at these co-ordinates (24° 41.905S, 153°16.562E), you'll see the channel I'm talking about.
Tackling the Breaksea Spit is like crossing any ocean bar or surf break. Firstly, if you're not comfortable crossing it, don't!
If you're prepared to tackle it, be patient and wait for a lull in the sets. When you decide to proceed, don't hesitate or second guess yourself, crossing the bar as quickly and comfortably as possible. I'd definitely recommend you have some level of experience crossing ocean bars before attempting the Breaksea Spit.
At the end of the day, if the Breaksea Spit conditions aren't favourable, don't risk disaster and concentrate your fishing to the north or west of Fraser, which is still a great option.
Fishing Gear for Fraser Island
I crave the most remote and isolated fishing destinations. In return, that generally delivers the best fishing opportunity, a variety of quality reef fish and the chance of landing that big red. I'm happy to steam the 50 nautical miles from Urangan boat ramp every day of the week for that experience, knowing I'll be returning home each trip with a great catch for the freezer.
There's more concentrated reef off the northern stretch of Fraser Island than you'll find anywhere. If you can obtain a couple of GPS co-ordinates to get you started, that's all well and good, but you really don't need any. From the 40-100m contour it's literally covered in quality reef, rubble and pinnacles.
Fishing methods are basic, and I only require a few rod and reel outfits, including a typical offshore bottom bouncing set up and maybe a jig stick and a soft plastic outfit. For bottom bouncing I use a Shimano T-Curve 200 Spin attached to a Saragosa 10000, loaded with 50lb braid and 80lb leader.
Although the fishing is fantastic, so are the sharks on occasions. You'll always catch plenty of quality fish, but you'll lose plenty - often the big red ones that we love the most. It seems the sharks like anything red too!
For anything more than that I'll use an 80lb twin hook paternoster with an adequate snapper lead. In the deeper water with a bit of tide it's hard to maintain contact with the bite, so I may attach a couple of circle hooks to assist in setting the hooks for me. I love fishing that deeper water. It's a great work out and seems to produce quality fish.
On numerous occasions along the 100m contour I've hauled up cracking snapper, kingfish and pearl perch. I'm talking snapper above the 9kg range.
I'm big on lures, so if the conditions are appropriate, I'd prefer dropping a suitably weighted slow jig, a 7 inch soft plastic or even a large soft vibe over a bait. Lures are often more effective than fresh bait, not to mention maintaining a clean boat, money saved on purchasing bait, and cold storage on-board for a few days.
It is handy having fresh and live bait on-board, caught from around Rooney's Point for that deeper water or if there's too much current.
If you're not quite ready to steam the extra distance east off Fraser, there's no reason to leave the western bay. There are plenty of islands and creeks to explore, acres of sand gutters, shoals and reefs that provide quality fishing most of us would be satisfied with.
I'd personally pack the boat up tomorrow for a few days moored at Rooney's Point, exploring Platypus Bay and Wathumba Creek inside Fraser's western bay. It's truly a stunning pristine part of Australia. Don't forget your swimmers, snorkelling equipment and camera for the ultimate experience.
Where will your next mini adventure be?