Australia’s seemingly endless coastline and waterways provide an unfathomable number of options for travellers who love to fish.
WORDS John Willis
New South Wales has so many great fishing destinations that it is nearly impossible to select just one or two. Mallacoota, Eden, Womboyn, Narooma, South West Rocks, Brunswick Heads – the list just rolls on and on. However, we Mexicans call Bermagui home and it has long been recognised as the Mecca for southern game fishing.
It’s a long 10-hour haul when you’re towing a boat or van from Melbourne, and a good seven hours from Sydney, but it’s certainly worth it when you get there.
The main township has the lovely Bermagui River feeding into a smallish port, and a north-east facing entrance which is generally one of the safest on the whole south coast. From a fishing perspective, it has the closest access to the superb game fishing on the continental shelf and is just a hop, skip and a jump from the magnificent fishing, diving and underwater wonderland that is Montague Island.
The Bermagui township is just the right size, with a couple of service stations, hardware, doctor, cafes and one of the best pub balconies in the business, looking directly over Horseshoe Bay. There’s a tonne of nearby attractions, including the quaint little cottage township of Tilba Tilba in close proximity.
Bermagui is the go-to destination for those wanting to tangle with a gamefish such as a marlin, yellowtail kingfish, shark or tuna, and it has some terrific inshore reef fishing for snapper, flathead and morwong.
If your fishing taste is a little more sedate, there is a selection of rivers, estuaries and lakes, with Lake Wapengo, the Bermagui River, and the beautiful Wallaga Lake all opportunities for bream, flathead, tailor, luderick, and a host of other species. The surf beaches around Bermagui are sure to provide plenty of action for the hard fighting Australian salmon, gummy sharks and even a mulloway if you are really lucky.
I only recently discovered Lake Fyans, and what a treasure it is! I love the western Victorian lakes, particularly those within eyeshot of the Grampians, a timeless and majestic mountain range that rises steeply from its broad acre surrounds. I have long enjoyed the fishing at impoundments on the western side of the mountains such as Lake Toolondo and Rocklands Reservoir and continually drove past the turn-off to Lake Fyans, many miles closer to Melbourne, at Ararat. This is a great weekend destination for Melbournians, or perhaps a longe-term holiday, with much to enjoy.
Lake Fyans is a man-made impoundment situated at the eastern foot of the Grampians. It is a mere 12 minutes’ drive from the regional centre of Stawell and a similar distance to the beautiful township of Halls Gap – a favourite with tourists.
Lake Fyans is primarily a trout and redfin fishery and the trout fingerlings are stocked regularly by Fisheries Victoria, aided by funds from the Recreational Fishing Licence program. The trout will not breed naturally as there is no real feeder stream capable of sustaining a spawning run. It is a relatively small impoundment of around 5.3 sq km and feeds through a small natural creek and local run-off. At a maximum, she reaches just over 6m deep near the dam wall and features a well-defined treed and reedy area in the shallower sections to the south, as well as cleared area for water skiing, jet skiing and sailing to the north. The area is a popular tourist destination, with duck shooting permitted in season, but free camping and dogs are not allowed.
There are many accessible shallow edges for fly flickers and you can access the deeper water quite easily at the dam wall. The area is alive with insects and the dead trees are literally covered with mudeye casings during summer. Hence, birdlife abounds and the cockatoos and parrots can be quite deafening. This is kangaroo country and don’t be surprised to come face-to-face with large grey kangaroos feeding on the green grass.
Halls Gap offers many local attractions such as pub, restaurants, horse riding, the Brambuk National Park and Cultural Centre, a great zoo, local art, some terrific wineries and, of course, the adventures and waterfalls of the Grampians mountain range.
While Cape Jervis will never make it to the list of Australia’s most exquisite caravan destinations, it holds a beautiful, yet raw and rugged appeal to travelling fishos. Cape Jervis is just over an hour’s drive south of Adelaide and is the jumping off point for the Kangaroo Island ferry. It lies at the base of a very long, rolling, almost bald, hill overlooking the Backstairs Passage and on to KI. The large wind farm is an indication that this can be a very exposed destination and the Backstairs Passage has a reputation as a formidable waterway with deep channels rising to shallow reef edges and very strong currents all adding to the wind-swept washing machine.
But Cape Jervis has its gentle sides as well, and the fishing possibilities for both land-based and on-water angling exploits seem almost endless. There are no moorings at the cape, so even the small professional fishing fleet launch and retrieve daily at the enclosed harbour on a very good concrete boat ramp. The trailerable squid fishing fleet are easily identifiable with their hulls turned black from the large quantities of ink squirting at them from their prey. The inshore reefs and beaches are great destinations for squid and the famous King George whiting, and some of the best snapper grounds in the country aren’t far from port.
Offshore are the Pages, a pair of islands standing like monoliths rising from the open Southern Ocean where massive schools of Australian salmon, pike and big nasties form in masses. We have seen a terrific increase in the numbers of southern bluefin tuna to the area and the cape has some terrific charter vessels for nomads who want to taste the offshore action.
Closer to town are rocky groins, sheltered sandy beaches, and rugged oceanic surf spots where you can expect to target a terrific range of species. You can 4WD up some of the beaches close to town and launch your roof topper to increase your opportunities.
Cape Jervis is in the south-west corner of the Fleurieu Peninsula. It is only 3km from Morgans Beach, and has the Sealink Ferry Terminal to Kangaroo Island, the start of the Heysen Trail and Deep Creek Conservation Park.
Nomads travelling north for the winter or escaping Sydney for the weekend need look no further than the beautiful township of Huskisson on New South Wales’ Jervis Bay, between Nowra and Ulladulla. While there are some terrific family holiday parks in town, I much prefer getting back to nature at the Green Patch Camping Ground on the south side of the bay in the Booderee National Park. Jervis Bay is about three hour’s drive from Sydney or Canberra and the area offers so much to campers, fishos and a full range of water sports, surfing and wildlife adventures. It’s also one of the most picturesque parts of our beautiful coastline and there is a well-provisioned township offering all of the luxuries of shops, services and cafés if you want them.
Personally, I prefer the bushland settings and Green Patch is the only campsite in Booderee NP that offers drive-in sites suitable for caravans. It’s a wildlife extravaganza, with kangaroos, wallabies, all manner of birdlife and some very cheeky possums that actually know how to open tents and find unprotected food morsels.
Jervis Bay is renowned for its white sandy beaches and crystal clear waters but it has angling options aplenty. You can walk the white sands with a soft bait or lure chasing bream, flathead and whiting; perhaps launch a small roof topper and explore the sheltered confines of the reefs and ledges or, for the more proficient, climb down to some of the famous game fishing rock ledges that will not only produce salmon and tailor at times, but you stand a good chance of tangling with some real busters like bonito, tuna, yellowtail kingfish, cobia and even marlin and sharks. There’s a multitude of other bread and butter species to be found in the bay and its beaches, including garfish, luderick, squid and prawns. There are beaches to the north, south and east, so with the huge headland, you can find sheltered conditions and offshore winds on most days.
If you are a beachgoer, surfer, diver or just like soaking up the beautiful Jervis Bay climate on some of the cleanest sandy beaches on the east coast then a visit to Jervis Bay is an absolute must. Your whole family will love you for it, but please take care of the area. It is jointly-managed by the traditional owners and bookings are essential at many times of the year. Be warned to familiarise yourself with the marine protected areas and act accordingly.
One million acres of wilderness park. It rolls off the tongue with no effort at all, doesn’t it?
But one million acres is such a large chunk of real estate that not even station owner Rhett Walker has seen all of it, even with the help of a chopper. Lorella sits 15 degrees south of the equator. It’s 175km from Borroloola and about 145km from Cape Crawford in the Northern Territory.
A pamphlet describes it as a ‘coastal outback wilderness’, and it certainly is. But caravanners come here from all over to explore the place, to swim in the beautiful natural pools or launch a tinnie and go fishing in Rosie Creek, which runs all the way to the Gulf of Carpentaria.
Lorella’s a working cattle station and the stock runs wild with a smattering of buffalo mixed in between the so-called domestic herds. Herds of brumbies stand proud in the tundra, brolgas roam the swamps and, of course barra, jacks, queenies and a plethora of sportsfishing species are all nervous of the crocs in the waterways – so were we! This is tinnie territory and a roof topper will do just fine. The pandanas-lined billabongs create a prehistoric feel to the adventure, and you could well imagine a T-Rex rudely interrupting a late afternoon’s barra sojourn.
The Rosie Creek fishing camp is 85km of hard 4WD tracks north from the Lorella Springs homestead and camping grounds. On our arrival, Rhett took one look at the swelling river and realised that we had arrived just in time for the last of the incoming tide and directed, “Bear, grab a rod and lure quickly!” I was worse than a kid in a lolly shop – whooping, yelling and dancing on the riverbank as the first cast resulted with an acrobatic queenfish performing all the way to the red river banks. More action followed, with rampaging queenies dancing high across the shallow rocky beach and sand bars. I was in heaven.
There are two ways to reach the coast from the fishing camp: by boat, or by car and then legging it. We underestimated the long hike to the beach in the equatorial heat, through prize-winning swamps and mudflats occupied by crocodiles, to reach the coast where lived and hunted even more crocodiles, sharks, crabs yet another plethora of crawling, swimming, slithering and biting adversaries. More importantly, the fishing wasn’t bad, though. The mangroves produced Jacks (and more crocs) and wading through the shallow waters, we were constantly surrounded by small sharks with larger specimens crashing bait schools a little further out.
There was life with every step and it only took a few swipes with a landing net to produce the evening’s delicacy of mud and blue swimmer crabs.
We were sitting on a deserted beach, many miles from any other humans, and perhaps hundreds of kilometres from any civilization. Wow!’