Each year, one remote beach town in South Australia produces some of the biggest mulloway in the country.
If you spend time reading fishing magazines, you will know the photos I'm talking about: fisherman standing by the surf struggling to hold up huge slabs of glistening silver; mulloway almost as big as a man. And most of those photos come from one area in the far-flung west of the great state of South Australia.
The beaches near Yalata and Fowlers Bay are some of the most spectacular and rugged in the world. The swell is up on the Southern Ocean, even on calm days. Access involves driving up and over huge sand dunes. There are no shops or fuel for miles, and there's no one to help you if you get stuck out there on your own.
For about a decade we'd enquired about heading west to do a show, only to be told on countless occasions that it's beyond us.
"You'd need at least a week, if not two, to get a fishable window in the weather," we were told. "And ideally you need to tow trailers with four-wheelers, tents, generators, freezers and a whole convoy of four-wheel drives."
Not to mention you also need to know someone, who knows someone, who can get you a permit to access the beaches—most of which are on Aboriginal land.
With all this advice ringing in our ears, we had a spare three days and a D-MAX, so we thought, let's give it a go!
After flying into Adelaide and picking up the I-Venture Club D-MAX we started to drive. Leaving about midday, we made our way along probably the most boring strip of bitumen in the country: the Port Wakefield Road. Around 300kms later we arrived in Port Augusta, where we hit the supermarket, and then we were rolling west, past Ceduna (where there wasn't much open for dinner) before finally arriving in Fowlers Bay. It was very late. Our drive of 913.9km was over.
Our base in Fowlers Bay was a little self-contained cabin. We thought, instead of setting up camp out on the beaches, we'd do day trips from Fowlers. It would be a bit more relaxed. We'd organised a guide—Michael from Snapper Safaris— to show us around, and the next morning he arrived bright and early. And so our adventure began — along with a persistent wind of 25 knots from the south. It kept its pace the whole time we were there, which made fishing very tough.
Our first day was spent driving on the many sand tracks in and around Fowlers Bay itself. We explored the rocky headlands and the beaches, the D-MAX eating up the deep, soft sand without even a hiccup. Our main goal for day one was to catch some fresh bait for the mulloway fishing the following day. We achieved this, catching some salmon and some snook on lures.
The next two days we made the journey to a beach called Dog Fence. It is so-named because the track in follows the Dog Fence, an incredible structure in itself. Starting on the cliffs above the beach, it runs 2500km, all the way into Queensland. Built in the 1880s, it stands to this day, and still keeps plenty of dingos out. Except the only dingo we saw was actually on the eastern—or dingo-free—side of the fence!
Once on the beach we were greeted with an onshore breeze, but it was warm and sunny. We set our baits in some good looking gutters and waited. And waited and waited. Nothing for the first day. Then on the second day the wind backed off just a bit and the water cleaned up. About lunchtime we started catching some salmon. Turning these into fresh bait resulted in Nick catching our first mulloway. Not the 100-pound monster we were after, but still a mulloway!
The next day we fished one of Michael's secret spots, very close to Fowlers Bay. At low tide and first light we stood on a rock and cast out some fresh squid that we'd caught the night before from the jetty. Within five minutes I'd landed a little mulloway. Then shortly after caught a bigger one. Michael also added to the tally and the action was hot.
We also lost significantly bigger fish in this short session. It was enough to really whet the appetite, but then the tide came in and with it the gutter was out of reach. Such is life.
And that was our trip. As we left that afternoon the wind dropped and no doubt the locals all went fishing and caught some huge mulloway, and although we didn't get the big one we were after, I am desperate to go back.
"There's something very addictive about mulloway fishing from the beach."
We found out firsthand that the trip to the far west of South Australia is achievable. I'm sure you can choose to camp on the beaches and stay for a week and you'll probably catch many more fish, but you can also just jump in a D-MAX, drive for a day and cast a line and you're a chance of catching the mulloway of a lifetime. It's more than tempting.
By the way, if you are going to make the trip, go in November or December for your best chance to catch big mulloways. That's when we're planning on going back. Hopefully we'll see you there.