Chasing black marlin off the coast of Fraser Island on his trusty Yamaha Waverunner by day and night dodging dingoes and marauding mozzies by night, Ben Bylett discovered the blokes from Fishski Australia were even crazier fishos than him.
When I tell people I fish from my jet ski, the conversation goes something like this:
Them: “Oh yeah? What do you catch, mainly? Flathead, whiting, the odd bream?
Me: “Well, no, I don’t really have much luck on flathead. I prefer heading 20 klicks offshore to chase marlin, mahi mahi and tuna. Then, on the way home, I dodge breaching whales and sharks before catching a few kingfish for dinner.”
Them: Jaw hits ground.
So when I discovered there was a posse of fellow jet ski fishing crazies up north, I told the wife and kids I was going fishing and headed off on a 2800km round-trip journey of Australian awesomeness. It all started with a call from Rob, owner of the latest and greatest custom jet ski fishing ice box company, Fishski Australia.
Rob told me about his new fishing ice box, designed by serious fishermen for serious fishermen. These ice boxes are a like a multi-tool packed with everything a jet ski fisherman needs — all in the one easy-toinstall unit. They come with a lockable esky, sizable tackle compartment, rod holders, knife, gaff, bait board and two spare fuel tanks for those long-haul search-and-destroy missions to the shelf.
Rob also worded me up on a planned trip to Fraser Island in Queensland, timed to coincide with the arrival of juvenile black marlin in Hervey Bay, chasing baitfish in the shallows on the western side of the island. It sounded like a great adventure — and an offer I couldn’t refuse.
ON THE ROAD
Leaving the traffic of Sydney behind, I headed north, the ute stocked to the brim with fishing gear, surfboards and beer. The first night, I set up the swag at one of my favourite places on Earth, the NSW North Coast. Of course I hadn’t planned on drinking much that first night with a long drive ahead, but excitement got the better of me. And I did have to test out how insulated the footwells of my Yamaha WaveRunner were by filling one with ice, beer and Wild Turkey cans. You really should try both if you want to do the experiment properly.
I woke up the next morning feeling like a possum had crawled into my mouth and given birth to a bunch of fur babies. To top it off, it hadn’t rained in months, but that morning was absolutely torrential, with horizontal winds. Throwing my dripping swag in the ute, off I went, thinking that Fraser was really not too far, and that once I was on the island, surely our campsite at Wathumba Creek would just be a five minute drive. Wrong.
I’m sure I had the wipers on hyperspeed for eight hours straight that day, sending me into some kind of trance. By the time I got to Inskip Point to board the ferry to Fraser, my head was pounding like I was getting a root canal with a rusty hammer drill. It was the perfect time to take a break and let the air out of my tyres, ready for the soft sand on the island.
First tyre went something like this: pick up stick… insert into valve… loud banging sound… whole inside of valve shoots out at me at 150km/h… tyre goes flat… instantly. In my dazed, confused, and hungover state, I was prepared to climb under the car and sleep for the next month — or until the tyre fairy came to fix it for me.
Anyway, I climbed out of dream state, emptied the ute to get to the back seat, to get to the jack. After swapping to the spare, I repacked the car, then realised I’d put the wheel on backwards. So I undid it, realised I hadn’t put it on backwards, put it back on and made the ferry with five minutes to spare before the last crossing. What do you do when you find five minutes to spare at times like these? Yep, two beers murdered.
FACE TO FACE WITH FRASER
On the other side of the channel, I finally met up with Team Fishski — Rob, Shane, Steve, Kimmy, Gary and his boy, Sage — and off we all went in convoy up the east side of the island. It was my first visit to Fraser Island, and what struck me was the sheer scale of the place. It seemed we drove at 80km/h for an eternity along that beach, passing the wreck and countless other fishos before reaching Indian Head just as the sun set. With another beer in hand and the beauty of the island at sunset burning its way into my memory bank, it was another hour across the island to our destination at Wathumba Creek. There we met up with the final two members of the team, Jason and Keston, who had driven their skis across from Hervey Bay, and set up camp — always great fun in the dark after a huge day travelling.
WAKING UP IN PARADISE
I woke in the morning to find I’d arrived in paradise. Wathumba Creek is a small inlet halfway up the western side of Fraser, and to see it on a high-rising tide is to see one of Australia’s great natural treasures. The smooth sandflats were surrounded by untouched bush with wildlife galore. There were dingo tracks in the sand, eagles flying overhead and turtles popping their heads up out of the creek wondering why us humans were disturbing the peace.
But we were here first and foremost for the fishing. So skis were launched, lures rigged and out of the creek we rode in search of the great beaked fish of the ocean. Between all of us, on that first day, we managed a couple of tiny tuna. We decided that was because we had not yet made any kind of sacrifice to the fishing gods.
Back at the sandflats, we tied and anchored our skis for the night and started to get to know each other over a few cold beers. Rob had the great idea to crack a bottle of tequila and hand out shots to us dehydrated fishermen. Combined with one of the most amazing sunsets of all time, this was the springboard into a hilarious night of fun that can only happen on a remote camping trip with a group of mad fishos.
There’s always one bloke who makes the big splash during the first drink and I’d like to introduce Jason McColl, aka the Mad Rooter. Within our first 48 hours on Fraser, Jason had slept with dingoes, resuscitated a bream with mouth-to-mouth, climbed head-first into a crab trap, contracted elephantiasis after being mauled by mozzies (while sleeping with dingoes), swum with whales, got attacked by a shark he tried to tackle — and been the first to land a marlin from a jet ski. Not a bad effort.
As always happens after a good craic the night before, the next day was hot — and so was the fishing. We found the marlin congregating just inside Rooney Point at the north-west end of the island. Seriously, this type of fishing has to be experienced to be believed. Imagine hooking marlin, some nearly the size of your jet ski, in water so shallow you can touch the bottom with your rod tip. The water that day was the clearest I have ever seen in my life and the whales too numerous to count. We saw hundreds of huge turtles cruising the flats and followed 3m tiger sharks at arm’s reach. The Remora Lures did the damage on the fish, accounting for numerous hook-ups and several marlin landed — with the Mad Rooter taking the prize of first and most marlin. Of course, the marlin I hooked was the biggest, but my GoPro died earlier in the day. Ahem.
The rest of the week was spent doing pretty much the same thing — along with exploring the natural wonders around Wathumba Creek. However, all that beauty and fishing came at a price. The mozzies and midges here can literally pick you up and fly off with you. So if you’re planning a trip here, make sure you bring buckets of military strength repellent, otherwise, like most people we saw, you’ll only last one night before packing your bags.