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Cape York Peninsula fishing

Thursday, November 12, 2009
Cape York Peninsula at the tip of Australia is just 130km from Papua New Guinea. It has the Coral Sea to its east, the Arafura Sea and Gulf of Carpentaria to the west and the Torres Strait to the north. The land is traditionally owned by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities of the area.

The remote peninsula has some of the last remaining wilderness areas on earth, though half of it is used for grazing cattle and feral pigs and other introduced species, and weeds have caused damage. There are undisturbed tropical rainforests, heathlands, wetlands, wild rivers, mangrove swamps and savannahs. World Heritage nomination is currently under consideration.

It's a paradise for fishermen, bird watchers and lovers of flora and fauna. Four-wheel driving enthusiasts are ensured of the experience of a lifetime and the area's history is fascinating.

Jason Dundas was keen to explore the region and joined one of John Charlton's fishing adventures. They set out from Seisia Wharf, 8km from Bamaga, the main town. The village of Seisia overlooks Torres Strait and is a hub of activity, with ferries travelling to and from Thursday Island and boats of all description coming and going.

You don't even need to leave the wharf to be rewarded with queenfish, trevally, tuna and mackerel, but it is good to head for the vast estuaries. These are hundreds of kilometres of well-protected waterways with barramundi, mangrove jacks, fingermark and salmon.

On the day charter, tour operator John Charlton took Jason past the very spot where Captain James Cook landed in 1770. Possession Island is in the centre of the National Park of the same name. Native title rights were given to the Kaurareg people in 2001.

With no ocean swells, excellent fishing and fantastic camping, Jason was satisfied, but there was more to come — the very special Crab Island.

Crab Island is 30km south-west of Bamaga and is the largest flatback turtle hatchery in the world. The pretty, crescent-shaped shifting-sand island is 6km long and surrounded by 250 hectares of seagrass beds. All perfect for the turtles to breed in safety.

Flatbacks breed and nest only in Australia and lay about 50 eggs in each nest, the fewest of any marine turtle. They can be observed mating in the shallow waters adjacent to the island. Then, between September and November, Crab Island comes alive with the turtles arriving to lay their eggs.

They can be seen en masse at dusk, slowly making their way up the beach and busily digging nests. The largest group rangers have seen numbered more than 700.

Crab Island, unlike other hatchery sites, has no feral predators to feed on eggs and hatchlings. Some marine birds and saltwater crocodiles do create a threat, but on the whole, they are safe on Crab Island.

Traditional owners, the Injinoo, are permitted to collect eggs on a regular basis during nesting season and are also permitted to harvest some adult turtles.

Jason loved watching roughly 50 eggs hatch and the little turtles instinctively dashing to the water for safety. They are slow-growing and flatbacks don't reach sexual maturity for 20 to 25 years. They don't breed every year and have non-breeding periods of between five and eight years.

It's nature at her best and truly worth the long journey.


Cape York Peninsula at the northernmost tip of Australia.


Cape York Adventures start at $125 for adults and $62.50 for children. Fishing gear and lunch are included. Prices correct at 12 November 2009.

For further information

John Charlton's Cape York Adventures
PO Box 81
Bamaga 4876
Ph/Fax: (07) 4069 3302

User comments
Good onya mate, I wish I could travel fish and get paid for it, better than the day to day drudge. Fishing is a healthy past time Life be in it and as long as you enjoy and dont destroy it." Fantastic" give me some, BRING IT ON
Ok you say it's the best fishing spot in Australia but i think it would be a waste of time and money not to mention wear and tear on my car and boat to travel up there over such poor quality roads and harsh conditions i'll stick to my home grounds there are great fishing spots right here in moreton bay and believe me i have great days when i get out there i admit that was a good queenie but i would rather do battle with kings and tuna anyday right here in my own backyard
There is no one best spot,"fishing is a sport". Depends on the species of fishyou fish for as to what you would class as the best spot. It's not about dragging a fish up as hard and fast as you can. Like Jenni stated there is a correct way to do things.
Nice piece mate. I feel like i have been there in some small way now.Cheers!
Fished it, got bored with it. Want real fishing, then head west young man, we use fish like that for bait. Bored with presenters on the east coast bigging up a sport and a charter hire company then treating the catch like a piece of trash, then vote with your TV remote control and channel hop to something a little less like a sales pitch for a arm chair fisho. You could always complain to the TV ombudsman, but whats the point. Tight lines, dry powder and the wind at your back, get out and catch some.
I think a little respect for the fish would be a good idea. Not sure throwing the fish back is the right way to treat it.
I was really disappointed to see your reporter throwing his prized Queenfish into the water with a big splash. While his act of throwing back the fish may have been for sustainability considerations, what he did not consider is that this animal needs the water to pass gently back through its gills to ensure it can survive. The act of fishing, may have already caused the animals's swim bladder to be overexpanded when it was hauled up to the surface at speed. Please release the fish gently back into the water cradling them and allowing water to reenter their bodies and never ever by happy about landing a shark - as your reporter thought he had. We kill 100 million sharks a year world wide and their demise will see the demise of the oceans - you can't deny the position of an apex predator.

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