On the Instep of Yorke Peninsula you can fish your heart out for salmon, snapper, nannygai, blue morwong and huge whiting. STEVE HUNT reports on this little known SA hotspot.
South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula boasts nearly 700km of diverse coastline made up of a myriad of marine habitats from energy-charged surf beaches to quiet mangrove forests. It’s a large land mass situated to the west of Adelaide and separates St Vincent’s Gulf and the much larger Spencer Gulf. The peninsula is basically shaped like a human leg.
This is a great location for the trailerboat fisherman because if it is too windy on one side of the peninsula, a short road trip of around 50 kilometres will soon have you fishing a lee shore. And some of the best fishing can be found here on the sparsely populated south western corner of the coastline, which is basically the top of the foot of the Yorke Peninsula, or Instep.
There are just three small towns along this 60km section of the coastline along with a few very small coastal settlements. Corny Point lies at the most westerly point of the ‘Instep’ and it provides access to some absolutely spectacular coastal scenery. You enjoy stunning surf beaches and cliff views.
This is the domain of the surf and rock fisherman with good catches of mullet and salmon being available from the beaches along with the odd mulloway and shark. But the offshore waters are teeming with snapper, nannygai, blue morwong, harlequin fish, huge whiting and southern rock lobster. And the awesome waters of Wedge Island are just over 40km offshore.
The only problem here is getting the boat into the water as the coastline east of Corny Point is very shallow with no concrete ramps. Most of the locals at Corny Point have big, seaworthy boats but they can’t be launched with a traditional four-wheel drive vehicle. The only way to launch safely here is with a tractor from the caravan park, that’s unless you are friends with one of the locals who owns a tractor.
Forty kilometres to the east is Point Turton, which does have an excellent two-lane boat ramp with floating pontoons and plenty of parking. With the modern four-stroke motors of today it doesn’t take much fuel or time to cruise back to Corny Point through the usually calm waters that are protected from any swell. And once you pass the Corny Point lighthouse, the world is your oyster.
Good snapper fishing can be found in the deep water grounds to the northwest and west of the Corny Point lighthouse. You’ll find them in water depths up to 42 metres. The further you go, the better the fishing becomes on the deep water reef system on the way to Wedge Island. This is big boat country and you should only venture into these offshore waters with a decent offshore boat of at least six metres in length.
BIG BOAT TERRITORY
I am at the moment in the process of purchasing a new boat and if everything goes to plan I will be exploring these waters thoroughly in the near future. I have chosen a Surtees 6.1m Gamefisher Hardtop matched with a Suzuki 140hp four-stroke. These boats are tough as nails plate alloy, built in New Zealand for rough, unpredictable offshore waters, not unlike what we have in South Aussie.
My new boat will open up a whole new world out here as the bottom bashing can be absolutely awesome as I have witnessed myself on numerous charters. And we’re talking an absolute plethora of fish.
Snapper, nannygai, blue morwong, groper, huge whiting, kingfish and Samson fish populate these waters in very good numbers. And getting out there in a decent offshore boat will be absolute fisherman’s heaven. I simply can’t wait!
Corny Point is also legendary for its King George whiting fishing and these succulent eating species can be found here year round. But it is during the winter months that the big adult fish congregate closer to the shore to breed. Squid are usually prolific on the calm seagrass beds when the water is clear. Summer brings big schools of garfish and chasing them are the snook.
These four species are the dominant ones in the shallower waters all the way back to Point Turton along with salmon trout and tommies. Point Souttar is a very popular spot for whiting during the warmer months and to the northwest of the town is an area known as The Banks. This is an excellent area for snapper, again during the summer months.
And hot on the heels of the snapper schools are a host of small bronze whaler and hammerhead sharks. They will often turn up in your berley trail meant for snapper. Fish bait on a wire trace supported by two balloons on the surface is your quickest way to get connected. These smaller sharks put up a great fight and at around one to two metres are excellent to eat also.
POINT TURTON CALLING
Point Turton is an excellent little town that is 260km by road from Adelaide and is becoming increasingly popular. Small housing estates are swelling the population of this idyllic little seaside resort. There is a general store with fuel, a caravan park right next to the jetty and boat ramp and a brand new tavern. The small town of Warooka is not far away for other supplies.
Point Turton is a small, boat-friendly place with the instep of the foot providing very sheltered waters for those with a small trailerboat. These waters are protected from the prevailing south easterlies during summer and strong north-westerly winds are the only threat to a small boat. The fishing is very good in the bay for some of South Australia’s best eating species.
King George whiting are consistent performers all year round but again the bigger fish are to be found in the cooler months. It is best to target the broken ground (sand patches interspersed with weed) and use a good berley of crushed cockles, squid and crab shells. At certain times it is very easy to reach the South Australian boat limit of 36 whiting in no time at all.
The inshore weed beds are crawling with squid at times and some of the best areas are only in two to three metres of water. With a light wind you can drift for miles across these vast seagrass beds towing three or four squid jigs out the back. Daiwa Esmereldas and Yamashita Natural jigs are pure dynamite around here and it pays to have a few different colours out the back. This way you get to see, which ones are working.
The calm waters at Point Turton are also ideal for ‘dabbing’ for garfish at night time, especially in the warmer summer months. This very enjoyable activity involves cruising around slowly at night in your boat with a couple of strong spot lights. The garfish school right on the surface on a dark night and once a fish is spotlit, it will freeze just like a rabbit in the headlights.
It is a simple matter then of ‘dabbing’ or scooping the fish up head first with a fine meshed landing net and squid, blue crabs and small prawns can also be taken in the same way. Dabbing for gar calls for a calm night around the new moon as the fish will swim deeper as the light increases. Dabbing is great fun and can also be very productive.
With all these garfish around you can be sure the predators will not be far behind and nothing likes to eat garfish more than the snook. They too will appear in a fish-based berley trail and will soon switch into feeding mode. Halco Twisty’s and smaller baitfish profile lures will get nailed pretty quickly once cast into the berley trail as well as a whole unweighted pilchard.
Snook are a schooling fish so when you get one you are bound to get more with like-sized fish being common in each school. So when you get your first hit while trolling, mark the spot on the sounder and slowly troll around your waypoint. Deep diving lures like the Hawkins Fighting Whiting, Rapala X Rap 10 Deep and Daiwa Double Clutch lures all work very well.
Salmon trout, and sometimes their larger brethren, the Australian salmon, are picked up by the lures when you’re trolling for snook. I can assure you they put up a spectacular fight.
Meanwhile, small rat kingfish often turn up near the jetty and larger tommy rough (Australian herring) will also smack your lures. So don't discount trolling some lures out the back as it can be very productive here.
Between Point Turton and Hardwicke Bay is a long, shallow, pure white sandy beach that will hosts good numbers of silver whiting, flounder and a few flathead. It is beach launching only at Hardwicke Bay but the sand is hard and launching a smaller boat is quite easy with a 4WD vehicle. Again, King George whiting are the main targets but some lovely snapper can be picked up on the inshore reefs.
At Port Minlacowie just to the north of Hardwicke Bay there is a good ramp in the middle of nowhere, which can handle larger boats. Built on a natural rocky breakwater this boat ramp allows access to the wider grounds offshore where big whiting abound. There is little else around the ramp but the council does allow bush camping on grounds 500 metres to the south.
Port Rickaby is the last of the towns on the Instep and it is a gorgeous little town with a quiet sandy swimming beach and small jetty. The jetty itself boasts some really good fishing especially in the early morning before the swimmers scare the fish away. Big bags of mullet are common in the early autumn months and tommies, gar and squid are pretty thick during summer.
Port Rickaby is still only a small town but there is an excellent caravan park right on the water’s edge. Again, boat launching is carried out on the beach but the sand is firm and the access is good so there are generally no major problems. On a good day the beach is filled to the brim with all makes and models of tractors both old and new as well as four-wheel drive vehicles.
Port Rickaby receives very little exposure through angling magazines and local fishing reports but in truth it is a very fishy location. Big King George whiting thrive on the deeper offshore grounds and some of these thumpers can go up to 50 centimetres long. Because you will be fishing in the deeper water it pays to use squid pieces that have been tenderised with a mallet for bait.
Big whiting simply can’t resist this bait and the squid will hold on a lot better when there are other pickers around like wrasse and toadfish. Pan-sized snapper also love the squid bait and they can be quite plentiful offshore from Port Rickaby, especially in the deeper areas. Once the depth drops to over 30m there is a fair chance you will pick up some gummy sharks as well.
Smaller snapper are also plentiful to the north on the reefs and drop offs closer inshore as well as the odd silver trevally and blue morwong. The inshore weed beds are usually excellent for trolling for snook with big numbers laying in ambush during the summer months. And of course, these same weed beds are also thick with southern calamari.
So, that’s what it’s like fishing on the Instep of the beautiful Yorke Peninsula. It’s an area that is not often written about in fishing magazines so you don’t get the fishing pressure you get in most hotspots of South Australia. I guess the secret is out of the bag with this article, however, hopefully we’ll keep the secret amongst the TBF family. Readers from interstate could certainly do a lot worse than towing their boat over to this wonderful area for a holiday. Once I get my new boat on the water I’ll be back next summer. Just try and stop me!
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