The 24th Toyota Fraser Island fishing expo was huge success with the 1500 entries filled and well over 300 boats making the journey. The weather gods put on some fantastic weather before and during the comp, which saw many burn up loads of fuel and bait while the opportunity was available. This year we stayed in house which was shared between 15 great blokes comprising of 3 boats and also a Jet Ski that was used for beach fishing. Myself, Dad and mate Rob teamed up for this trip, which saw us leave for Fraser Island the Wednesday prior to the comp with some great looking weather forecasted.
With the comp starting Sunday for the offshore brigade many head up only a day or so before while others head up a week or so earlier to make their Fraser Island trip that little bit longer and more of a holiday. There are many reasons why people head to Fraser well before the comp starts and for me personally if your going to spend the money getting to Fraser Island and go through the huge effort and logistical nightmare that is part of the Fraser Island experience then why not make the experience a little longer and take advantage of what this great island has to offer. Heading up earlier can also give you an advantage in towing your boat through the tracks before it gets to chewed up by the large surge of 4WD’s and boats which can make for some serious congestion especially when a few get bogged in the tracks where no one can pass. Heading up early also means that the lengthened stay gives a better chance of getting some good weather and could be the difference of getting out fishing for a couple of days or missing out all together. Luckily this year the weather was unreal and we managed 8 days straight with the last half day of the comp a blow out which I think was a blessing and gave most a chance to rest for a day before heading home.
This year the gutters were not ideal for launching and retrieving but with the calm seas and no swell it never became a big issue or danger. The main large gutter was sanded up at the entrance and was a good gutter to use on a mid to high tide while the second gutter which was only very small was good on the lower tides. Most days we used the main gutter and came in onto the sand bank and waited for the small waves to push us into the gutter while others opted to head across the sand bank flat out which made for some great viewing with big roosta tails of sand being thrown into the sky and the boats coming to a very sudden stop.
Onto the fishing front and our first day out a couple of days before the comp started was our best days fishing and we found our way south of the southern Gardner Banks looking for new ground close to areas that produced Reds last year. What we found was lots of great looking country and we started to pull the odd reefie here and there with one spot producing a quick double hook up on big Red Throat Emperor with the best going 4.8kg, which was a PB for me. We didn’t have another drop on that spot but thought to leave it for the comp just incase it was holding more fish that size so I moved another 100mtrs or so to found another rock which was only about 4mtrs high and a better looking Red Emperor rock compared the other rocks which were about 8-12m high and large in diameter.
First drop I hooked a fish which was Sharked pretty quick and after a hard fight on the rod and reel for very little gain I put the gloves on and started hand lining the beast in which I can tell you is 10 times easier and more effective then busting your guts with a rod/reel. I was using 80lb mono and had the shark coming to the surface with ease at a great rate of knots and I was telling the boys it must be a small fella when all of a sudden I see this big Tiger Shark head break the surface right beside the boat and then instantly turning and taking off making the biggest splash I had ever seen which completely drenched us and wet almost every part inside the boat. It was a bit of an eye opener and a little unexpected that a tiger of that size came to the surface so easy.
We went back for another drop and this time Rob hooks a nice fish on the paternoster rig baited with a whole mullet fillet. Rob quickly pulled a few metres on the fish when all of a sudden it gained some mumbo and starting peeling some line off his Stella at a great rate of knots. He gave the fish heaps thinking it may have been a smaller fish that was sharked but soon realized that it indeed was a good fish. Looking over the side I caught view of a red coloured fish coming to the surface and what popped the surface was a brute of a Red Emperor that went 16.4kg on the digital scales. The smile on Rob’s face was priceless and I congratulated him on his trophy fish but at the same time jokingly cursing him for catching it before the comp started. As it turned out the Red that won the comp end up weighing 17.1kg so it made us feel a lot better knowing that Rob’s Red would not have won anyway.
I sounded out the area and found lots of new ground which we could come back to during the comp but unfortunately the current picked up the next day and made those wider areas basically unfishable for almost the entire comp but this gave us a good chance to sound for new country in many different locations. The next 5-6 days were spent in many different areas and locations but generally we stuck SE of Waddy Point fishing both wide and in close depending on what species we were after. On the odd day we ended up East of Waddy and Indian head and found plenty of good ground and even had a quick troll on a rough day, which produced a Wahoo for our efforts.
One particular day was really calm so ourselves and the boys on “Flamin Riptide” did an exploratory run a fair way south and wide where we found some great looking country with fantastic shows. The fishing was slow and frustrating but we managed a good mixed bag including a 6kg Coronation Trout, which was the biggest I had caught.
Other days we headed south staying in closer to Fraser to avoid the strong current and targeted some spots for snapper. It was tough going and the best snapper we caught was 6.5kg although Rob pulled up a nice Snapper head, which had been sharked and could have been a bigger fish. I also caught a nice sized Small Mouth Nannygai that added variety to the catch, which Fraser is so well known for.
We headed wide to battle the current and this made fishing really tough but we still managed some nice fish including a 10kg Blue Maori Cod, which made for some great photos before moving on. Most days were spent looking for new ground in different locations and although the fishing was slow a good mixed bag was caught everyday with some nice quality fish caught to keep us amused.
We also spent a day in close between the Gardner’s and the Gravel Patch areas fishing little ledges and pieces of reef which caught us a lot of big Parrot, Coronation Trout, Hussar and Red throat which made for some fun and pleasant fishing as the area was out of the strong current and there are good chances of some big reds to be caught in those areas.
The last day’s fishing was spent NE of Waddy Point and I headed up along the shelf where there is loads of large high reefs which can make for hard fishing as you loose a lot of tackle to fish and also getting caught up on the reef while drifting in the strong currents. These areas do get fish reasonably hard so I headed in closer away from the abundance of reefs and started searching in an area which seem to rather flat and not a lot of reef around. I was looking for little rises and ledges which would better suit the reds and have less chances of people finding and after about 4 hours of sounding around we found some nice little spots that produced some good fish including a lot of nice Maori Cod and it wasn’t long before Dad pulled a 10kg Red and Rob wasn’t far behind when he also hooked another brute of a fish. The fish was in sight not far from the boat when all of sudden the hooks pulled and I watched a big Red turn and head back into the wide blue yonder. It was hard to say how big but it sure was another corker like he caught before the comp but that’s fishing and all you can do is have a dig and a bit of laugh.
This year the general consensus was that the fishing was a lot slower then previous years and we found ourselves covering lots of ground to get the results and quality. Some were lucky to find new ground which held great fish and this was the case for the boys on “Fisha Bit’n” who we were staying in the house with and these boys caught some great fish including lots of good reds to 12kg and also managed third in Red Throat Emperor which was a great effort and well deserved.
We end up covering just under 1100km for the 8 days fishing and used 800 litres of fuel in the boat alone. We also ended up using 150 slimies, 30kg of mullet fillets, 15kg of pilchards, 20-30 yakkas, 6 bonito and numerous types of other fish that we caught up there.