northwest
Leeah with a quality tailor caught in the shallows of Rooney Point.

Exploring Fraser Island’s northwest coast

northwest
A great pinky snapper Leeah Bahr hooked using live bait on sunset.
northwest
A beautiful migrating humpback whale – a very common sight when visiting Fraser Island during the cooler months.

COMING into the cooler months always excites me, knowing it is usually the period of calm oceans and clear skies for the most part with the occasional windy change pushing through.

After a fairly blowy start to the cooler months leaving me little chance to head offshore, I knew the only way to get out there was to plan a week-long adventure so our odds of good weather stretched past just the two days of the weekend. Hopefully by sharing our adventure, you will pick up some handy tips before embarking on a similar journey yourself.

We were set to head off on a journey to Wathumba Creek on the northwest side of the famous Fraser Island. Being based in Bundaberg, we would be crazy to go any longer before exploring the beautiful Great Sandy Strait. In no time my girlfriend Leeah and I were pushing our shopping trolley through the supermarket and stocking up with tinned food and supplies because we would be completely self-sufficient as we were travelling by boat to a campground with no facilities.

Wathumba Creek is a fairly well-known destination and for good reason, being one of the most picturesque locations in the area, but it is still remote, being about 50km by sea from Hervey Bay township. What drew me to plan this trip during August was not only the nice cool temperatures, but the better chance of having southerly wind that the western side of the island is mostly protected from.

During the week prior to leaving, the forecast was reading favourable for getting over there, but any time after that it could take a turn for the worse. The most important part of our trip preparation involved water and fuel. We had to plan for the extremes and some more to ensure our trip was full of enjoyment and not danger.

We planned for above and beyond our required drinking water, knowing we could always use the extra for washing up and showers. Fuel was at the top of my priority list. I had to ensure we had enough fuel on board to get us to our destination and back in any conditions, including plenty of fishing trips in between.

It’s vital you plan trips like this carefully because it can end up seriously bad if the wrong things happen at the wrong time. I was confident my calculations were correct and all that was beyond our control was the weather. The day had come and we were on our way to Urangan boat harbour where we didn’t waste time getting the boat in the water and making tracks for the giant sand island in view.

Having only explored a small part of Fraser by land in the past, we were both extremely excited to get over there, and the weather gods surely did produce the goods, with glass-out conditions and crystal-clear water. We made it through the channel markers and across to the creek entrance in good time, stopping along the way to wave hello to the pods of whales migrating through the Straits.

When we arrived in the creek, we almost had to pinch ourselves to make sure it all wasn’t one amazing dream, with glassy clear water and white sand leading to fantastic camping grounds on Teebing Spit. It truly couldn’t get much better. Thankfully we had planned the trip to perfection in relation to the tides because this creek really drains out on low tide and without any knowledge of the channel and hidden dangers, high tide was a big help.

Not to mention how it makes carrying iceboxes and camping gear up the beach a much shorter walk. The following morning, after waking early in the hope of heading out in the boat on a fishing mission, we set out and made it a whole 15m from camp before bottoming out on the sandbank.
Low tide was torture!

Watching the dead flat ocean lap the beach only 100m from us with no way to get out there was painful. Oh well, plenty more kept us busy until the tide pushed in, but definitely expect to be land locked at low tide. We finally made it through with the incoming tide and headed northeast towards Rooney Point, where we found a hive of activity.

It’s amazing what life a strong current mixed with 30m-deep water only a stone’s throw from land can bring. Big schools of bait, birds, whales… it was all happening! After a couple of hours of trolling and sounding for reef, we headed into the shallows off the point to anchor up and have lunch, but as we approached the sand flat I noticed what looked to be a bait ball hugging the shoreline in less than a metre of water.

Thinking there might be predators surrounding it, I flung a small metal lure among them and hooked up instantly. As it turned out, the ball was not bait, it was a tightly bunched school of tailor. It was an awesome sight to see these fish in such shallow water and certainly great fun on light tackle. Unfortunately, our Rooney Point fishing tales didn’t improve from this point on.

Having little to no waypoints made it very difficult to find good structure, but in terms of a scenic place to visit, it was definitely one of the trip highlights.
Our journey back to camp brought us past a gravel patch that had snapper written all over it. Right on sunset, Leeah and I landed nice pinky snapper but nothing monstrous like we’d hoped.

From this point on we were battered with a northerly wind change that only gave us an hour here and there to poke our nose out the creek mouth. Thankfully the wind swung in our favour for the trip home and we made it back with no troubles whatsoever. Some key pieces of information to take out of this, not only for a trip to Wathumba but to any place of a similar description: plan for maximum fuel consumption (rough conditions) plus extra to be well on the safe side; take plenty of water and basic first aid; and plan your trip in relation to the weather and tides and don’t be afraid to pull the pin if it’s too dangerous.

If heading to Fraser, ensure you buy a camping permit through National Parks and Wildlife, and while you’re on the website, it pays to read up about dingo safety and other precautions if you’re unfamiliar. If you do plan on travelling to Wathumba Creek or anywhere on the western side of Fraser Island, I warn you, it is one incredibly beautiful part of the world and you will not want to leave in a hurry.

These stunning destinations are right on our doorstep, so get out there and make the most of them!

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About Joel Johnson

Joel Johnson
Joel is blessed with the fish-rich coastline and waterways surrounding the Bundaberg region. With an array of options and possibilities around, he favours the shallow flats and small creeks and specialises mostly in lure fishing. Joel loves to broaden his abilities with new concepts and techniques, so feel free to email him at jmj-31898@hotmail.com

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