When it comes to iconic West Australian fishing spots it is hard to go past Steep Point at the extremities of Shark Bay. In the latest edition of Scott’s Spots, Western Angler’s Scott Coghlan heads to the westernmost part of the WA mainland to talk all things fishing.
Steep Point is about 200km from the Overlander Roadhouse on North West Coastal Highway, mainly on a dirt road that definitely becomes four-wheel-drive only in sections. It can seem even longer on a corrugated track guaranteed to shake any loose bolts on the chassis free, but the end result is well worth it from the moment you drive onto the sand next to the water just east of the point itself.
The scenic shallows at the southern side of the passage between Steep Point and Dirk Hartog Island (DHI), which can themselves offer fun fishing, eventually vanish from sight as you rise up onto higher ground and wend you way to the point itself.
It is an incredible sight when you first see it: the large rock platform that faces north towards DHI and allows immediate access to deep water for shore anglers. Because it faces north, Steep Point has the unique characteristic of enabling anglers to cast and balloon with the prevailing south and south-westerly winds over their shoulder. As land-based fishing platforms go, there are few better in the entire world than Steep, which is why it is a mecca for gamefishers looking to catch trophy fish from the rocks.
Because the towering rock face of Steep gives way to deep blue water right at its base, large pelagics cruise these waters in unprecedented numbers and that’s what fishers come here looking for.
The number one target at Steep is undoubtedly Spanish mackerel, which are taken here in big numbers, especially in the warmer months.
If the water in front of the point is clear and blue the action is usually on, and Spaniards can hit the rocks in great numbers. They will be caught while ballooning or casting lures, each of which are popular. Ballooning is particularly suited to Steep as the wind carries the skipping garfish bait out away from the rocks and into the strike zone hundreds of metres offshore. This is deadly on Spaniards, but also works on tuna and even the odd sailfish or marlin. Spinning is effective and bibbed lures, stickbaits and big metals will work on mackies and tuna at Steep Point.
While ballooning is quite passive and suits many who like to relax at their camp and wait for the strike, spinning requires the angler to cast and work the waters until a fish comes through.
Cobia are also caught at Steep and big yellowtail kingfish haunt the area, but take some hooking and even more stopping.
Bait fishing can produce the same species, but demersal fish – such as spangled emperor, pink snapper and mulloway – also come into play, especially at night.
It is a similar story at a few spots just along the cliffs, where pinkies, spangoes and baldchin are the main catches, along with some big tailor.
The beaches back inside the passage can also be a lot of fun on light tackle, with tailor, whiting, pinkies and small trevally passing through and offering good sport. There’s also flathead and always the chance of something bigger showing up – like a yellowtail kingfish or cobia – to cause havoc.
Steep is also an access point to Dirk Hartog for many.
You can stay on DHI, and enjoy some wild fishing, particularly along the west side for the same species as at Steep.
The east side of Dirk fishes similar to the shallows near Steep.
Nearby False Entrance, which is about 35km south along the Zuytdorp Cliffs, offers similar fishing opportunities from the cliffs for the same species. Spanish mackerel taken there in good numbers when the water is clear, while even the odd billfish is caught from the rocks there.
The beach there can offer some excellent tailor fishing as well. The various points and ledges along this stretch all offer similar action, with pink snapper, mulloway, cobia, tailor, spangled emperor and even bonefish able to be caught.
Thunder Bay is another option that produces good fishing. However, great caution is advised there.
There are a couple of options at Thunder Bay, but both are very exposed to the weather and require a safety-first approach at all times.
Wear rock hopper boots and a PFD and tie yourself off if possible. You should take these precautions anywhere along the cliffs, as falling in the water is almost certainly not going to end well.
Most importantly though, take a long look at the conditions before fishing and always keep an eye on the water.
In case of an emergency, Recfishwest’s has installed angel rings at False Entrance, Oven and Fault Line.
Both Steep and False require anglers to be self-sufficient and so a lot of planning is required to camp there. Bookings are needed, and campers need to bring shelter, food, camping gear, and sufficient fuel and water for their stay.
It takes some effort to get to Steep Point, but it is more than worth it to fish one of the greatest spots on Earth!