South Stradbroke Island Kayak Trip

SOUTH Stradbroke Island, or South Staddie as it is affectionately known, is 22km long and is the baby brother of North Stradbroke Island. Only a short paddle from the mainland, this wonderful oasis and its surrounding waters boast some of most diverse flora and fauna in southeast Queensland.

Did I mention this area has a solid reputation for producing bruiser-sized bream? Sitting at home one night, I received a text from a mate asking if I wanted to do an overnighter to South Straddie. I reckon I jumped online, bought a hiking tent and replied yes all in the same movement. Keen is an understatement. I was already there!

One of the challenges with organising a kayak camping trip is deciding what is absolutely necessary and what items you can live without. With a limited carrying capacity, my pack consisted of two midsized dry bags, a small Esky, one large food container and of course my fishing gear. Some of the hiking gear now available is amazing and I was able to fit my hiking tent, self-inflating mattress and sleeping bag into a 30-litre dry bag. A small selection of clothes and toiletries were stored in a second bag.

Safety is of paramount importance whenever you’re out in a kayak, and I always make sure I carry a first-aid kit and have a fully charged mobile phone. Fast forward to the first week of August and it was go time. After a quick check of our essential items we set off, making our way across the passage. There is something captivating about the start of a new adventure. The entire world is at your feet and even if it’s only for a few days, you are free from the stresses of everyday life.

South Straddie is home to a very healthy population of wallabies, and as if on cue, they lined up across the bank to welcome us onto their little island.

The author’s sunset view looking back towards the mainland. Photo: Bill Hossack
The author’s sunset view looking back towards the mainland. Photo: Bill Hossack
The Atomic Hardz Crank accounted for yet another victim.
The Atomic Hardz Crank accounted for yet another victim.
A school of bream was ganged up on by the author and his mate.
A school of bream was ganged up on by the author and his mate.
The campgrounds were impeccable, proof that all who visit this place respect its beauty and leave it the way they find it. At this point I should probably point out that you don’t exactly need to rough it over there. I didn’t know this at the time, but the island is well equipped with running water, toilets and a great shower facility. I think this is referred to as ‘glamping’ these days, but I am more than happy to live with this tag if it means I can take a long, hot shower after a day of salt spray.

We were staying at North Currigee Campground, which encompasses a small protected bay and a docking pontoon for slightly larger vessels. It is a surreal feeling to launch from the concrete jungle that is the Gold Coast and within 20 minutes be landing the kayak amongst such spectacular beauty.

South Stradbroke Island is proof that you don’t have to travel far from your own backyard to get a real nature experience. Often people will plan long trips to all corners of the continent, searching for such an experience without even contemplating the little gems right on their doorstep. I recall sitting around our small campfire with wallabies feeding at the water’s edge, and in the background we could see the flickering lights and busy atmosphere of the mainland.

We didn’t waste any time setting up, because with high tide closing in we wanted to hit one of the many flats that make up a part of this waterway. It wasn’t too long before I learnt a very valuable lesson: always stay well clear of the luxurious yachts. The wash from these mammoth money machines can put a kayaker in a world of pain and it is very rare for them to change course, slow down or even acknowledge your existence.

The fishing was solid throughout the day and the technique involved working the flats and slight drop-offs. Most fish were caught on these small drop-offs in about 2m of water. The first day’s fishing saw healthy numbers of bream and flathead boated between both anglers, with all my fish falling victim to the deadly Atomic Hardz Crank in Muddy Prawn and Ghost Gill Brown colours. I am not a big fan of flathead fishing, so I decided to head out to the deeper water around the marker buoys to try my luck before the slack tide.

I had heard that large numbers of schooling fish could be found around these structures, and the intel was spot on. On my first pass the sounder lit up with stacked fish, so I positioned the yak down-current and cast right up close to the markers. The first cast saw a 25cm bream pulled in and my confidence grew immediately. I think I must have boated another four small bream from as many casts before I decided to tie on my Atomic Metalz blade and see what was lurking on the other side of the buoys.

It was at this point that I learnt my second important lesson for the day: never use a tight drag on light line. My 4lb braid was no match for a very flighty trevally thanks to a super-tight drag. The fish gave one turn of its head and easily found freedom. To make matters worse, it happened again a few minutes later before I finally caught on. I guess we live and learn.

I would like to say it won’t happen again but I know I would just be kidding myself. The fishing went fairly quiet in the afternoon, so we made our way back to the camp and enjoyed a well-earned cold drink or two around the campfire.

The next morning was a fairly standard camp morning for me. Berocca and copious amounts of water were closely followed by some Panadol and a quick freshen up. Feeling less than 100 percent, I decided to keep it really simple and fish very close to the island shores to avoid any unnecessary motion. Fairly similar conditions produced similar outcomes until an aggressive run-out tide and big gusts of wind forced us to call it a day.

I had an absolute blast and camping at South Stradbrok Island is something I will definitely do again. This trip gave us the opportunity to test out the carrying capacity of our kayaks, with the intention to plan longer trips in the near future. South Stradbroke Island is the perfect spot for a quick overnight camp and I recommend it to anyone wanting to get into overnight kayak adventures.

Ideally, this trip would be much better suited to a mid-week adventure when there is less boat traffic. It can get really tricky out there, not to mention dangerous, trying to navigate your way around numerous 40’ super yachts.

Keep yakkin’.

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About Jason Harrip

Jason Harrip
Jason absolutely lives and breathes kayak fishing. He now calls Brisbane home, though is originally from Mildura, Victoria. Jason also spent several years in Cairns where he enjoyed chasing jungle perch, barramundi and any other fish silly enough to engulf his presentations. He still remembers the first time he fished from a kayak. He was instantly amazed at the stealth qualities, serenity and areas available to him as an angler. To Jason, the kayak is the ultimate fishing platform and everything else is a compromise. Jason is more at home in fresh water and bass fishing is his number-one addiction.

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