In this week’s edition of Scott’s Spots, Western Anglers’ Scott Coghlan reminisces on his days as a young boy fishing in Carnarvon. The trip down memory lane will flood your mind with images of mackerel, mulloway, big tailor, cobia and more!
Carnarvon is more than just the gateway to WA’s North West.
It is a fine fishing destination in its own right, offering some exciting action at the top end of Shark Bay and beyond.
My first Carnarvon experience was an unforgettable one. When I was a young kid, I was taken for a fish out on the famous One Mile Jetty – long before its future became a topic of discussion. Armed with a cheap supermarket rod and reel combo, I watched in absolute amazement as a string of big mulloway hit the planks around us out at the end of the jetty. Heavy handlines were the main method, as an increasing number of these big silver beasts flapped on the jetty next to me. I’d never seen such big fish and was desperate to catch one, despite being severely undergunned.
As well as mulloway, some nice tailor were caught, too. I dreamed of getting back there to fish again one day.
Since that day, I’ve only ever fished the Carnarvon Jetty once more and I had a good hookup as soon as I got there. However, it was only a dreaded nor-west blowie! These days access to the jetty is unfortunately severely limited, but we can only hope it can one day be restored to its former glory and provide that great fishing platform once again. That’s not to say the fish aren’t still there though and those using small boats still do well in the waters around the structure, catching mulloway, queenfish, tailor and school mackerel. Other common catches in inshore waters around town include blue swimmer crabs, squid, whiting and bream.
Thanks to Recfishwest, there will soon be a new artificial reef not far from town and this should provide some exciting new fishing options for locals and visitors alike. Species like cobia, pink snapper and various types of trevally are sure to enjoy the new structure and be caught around the artificial reef, which small boats will be able to easily access.
The Fascine can also offer flathead, whiting, bream and the odd mangrove jack, as can the marina and the local creeks, where mud crabs are another regular capture.
Local beaches, including Miaboolya, are worth a try for the same inshore species. Good tailor, and the iconic bonefish, are also caught quite regularly around Carnarvon. Bush Bay and New Beach are other nearby spots offering some light tackle inshore action on similar species.
Up the coast at Quobba Station anglers can enjoy some of the world’s best shore-based gamefishing. Species like Spanish mackerel, longtail tuna and cobia are regular captures for ballooners, baitcasters and lure chuckers. Accommodation is available at the station.
In summer, there is normally a good run of shark mackerel at Quobba and these can be great fun, although the sharks like them too!
The odd sailfish is caught at Quobba, while bottom fishers can target pinkies and spangled emperor and with the reefy shallows around Quobba offering some big spangos and jumbo tailor!
Spots like Garths, Caves, High Rock, Two Mile and Camp Rock are famed for the fishing they provide, but always remember that the ocean there can be very dangerous. Keeping that in-mind, make sure you put safety first and wear a PFD and rockhopper boots, as well as always keeping an eye on the water. As the sign on the drive into Quobba warns – King Waves Kill.
Further north of Quobba, is the renowned Gnaraloo Station. Gnaraloo, which also offers accommodation, has terrific shallow water fishing for spangled emperor and trevally. Many boat fishers use the station as a base for chasing all of the usual local offshore demersal and pelagic species.
Famous surfing destination Red Bluff can also offer good shore-based fishing at times for similar species to Quobba, especially when bait is holding up in the area. These days Carnarvon is well known for its bluewater fishing and this is celebrated with the annual Carnarfin tournament. The islands off Carnarvon – Bernier, Dorre and Dirk Hartog – are surrounded by some superb fishing.
There is an annual closure for pink snapper fishing to protect stocks around Koks Island, but fishing for other species is still allowed during that ban. Pinkies are a common catch around all three islands in a range of sizes, while Rankin cod, spangled emperor and coral trout are also expected when bottom fishing.
Pushing out beyond the islands brings other demersal species into play, including the much-desired red emperor.
There is no shortage of pelagic action and billfish do show up out there, also. Spanish and shark mackerel are common, along with yellowfin tuna and longtail tuna. Wahoo can turn up in good numbers in sizes to 30kg and cobia are never far away. There are several species of trevally that can be found around the islands, including some big GTs in against the rocks on the west side. Baldchin groper also lurk along the rock ledges, along with some monster tailor.
You can anchor up overnight on the east side of Bernier and Dorre for extended trips, or in the beautiful Turtle Bay at the north end of Dirk Hartog.
There always seems to be shark mackerel busting up in Turtle Bay to provide some light tackle fun while at anchor.
The hardest part about fishing around the islands can be choosing a spot because it all looks so damn fishy! There are also charters offering live-aboard trips to the islands and up the coast towards Cape Cuvier, including Top Gun Charters.
Carnarvon also offers plenty of accommodation to suit all budgets. The town has a couple of boat ramps, although boat access to and from the Fascine continues to be a contentious issue that needs to be resolved. The only issue with Carnarvon can be the wind. However, if you get the conditions right, Carnarvon has much better fishing spots than many people realise.