How toTips & Techniques

Coffin Bay Fishing

THE Coffin Bay National Park, on the southwestern tip of the Eyre Peninsula, is a wonderland of sand and surf for the adventurous traveller. The park has contrasting sheltered bays with clear and calm water, along with high energy surf beaches and rocky headlands on the exposed south and western coastlines. The park is largely 4WD accessible only, so if you enjoy combining camping, four-wheel driving and fishing, then this park will be right up your alley.

The Coffin Bay Peninsula was relinquished to the South Australian Government back in 1972 by local farmer Geoff Morgan and was declared a National Park thereafter. With difficulties in accessing the peninsula, along with the marginal soil made it a challenging plot for agriculture. Covering an area of 309sq kilometres, the park isn’t large in comparison to other state reserves, but it offers striking coastal landscapes which are unique to this part of Australia. And aside from the stunning landscapes, the fishing is fantastic with succulent King George, flathead and garfish on offer, with bigger targets available from the surf and from the rocks.

The National Park is located on the western side of the township of Coffin Bay proper, with one entrance into the park. The first 17km of the national park are accessible by conventional car, with a further 45km of 4WD tracks cutting through the sand scape of the peninsula.

There is a daily entry fee of $12.50 per vehicle (at the time of writing), with camp sites from $13.50 per night. There are seven designated camp grounds within the park, and campers are encouraged to stay within the nominated areas. Online bookings can be made through the website which offers security in acquiring a camp ground.

The first notable beach to visit within the park is Gunyah, which is one of SA’s famed salmon beaches. To access Gunyah take the left-hand turnoff 9km into the park. This track turns into a 4WD trail after a couple of kilometers, and eventually meanders through the coastal dunes and onto the beach itself. Gunyah can get very soft, so it pays to deflate your tyres down to around 18psi and stay above the high tide mark.

Driving to the right hand side isn’t recommended, as the beach gets super-soft. But you can drive along the beach to the east for around four kilometres before you enter a marine park. There are generally some nice gutters within the first kilometre of accessing the beach, and on the afternoon high tides the salmon fishing can be red hot.

Salmon are available from Gunyah year-round, but May to September are the most reliable months as visible schools push along the beach. The salmon at Gunyah can vary anywhere from small fish of under a kilo, up to big black-backed brutes of 5kg and sometimes better. It’s a really enjoyable beach to visit and spend an afternoon and typifies the image of an untamed surf beach.

Back out and following the main access road through the park, you’ll come to a T-junction. Around to the left will take you to Golden Island and Almonta Beach. This beach is the western continuation of Gunyah, and is only accessible by foot from the carpark. With Golden Island buffering the Southern Ocean energy, the beach collects less swell and is shallower than nearby Gunyah. But with the lower energy you can visually spot schools of salmon in the surf-line easier, and this lends itself better for lure fishing. Some big salmon can turn up at Almonta Beach, along with bronze whalers shadowing the schools.

Not far from Golden Island is Avoid Bay, which offers a steep concrete ramp onto the short beach below. Local commercial abalone divers use this beach for launching and retrieving, and so too a few recreational boats when the conditions allow. This short beach at Avoid is only shallow and quite protected by the nearby point, but it does offer a few salmon trout, mullet, flathead, the odd King George plus the occasional gummy shark after dark.

Taking the right-hand turn at the previously mentioned T-junction will bring you to the campground of Yangi Bay. This is were the conventional car access stops and the four wheel driving adventure begins. If you haven’t already deflated your tyres, now is the time to do so.

This track is a mixture of sand and rock driving, with quite a few easy to moderate sand dunes to negotiate. These dunes aren’t too arduous, but can become rutted after heavy traffic. Most of the main track is fairly straight forward – with the softest sand driving located along the second half of 7-Mile beach. If you keep to the designated track though, it’s unlikely you will run into trouble, and it’s generally when drivers stray away from the allocated path that they come to grief.

There are a couple sections of the 4WD track which become impassable during the larger tides with saltwater flooding over the trail. If you prefer to keep your vehicle out of the salt, then it’s a good idea to avoid these sections during the high tide.

The first destination along the Coffin Bay Peninsula is Black Springs, which is around 40 minutes travelling time from Yangi Bay. Black Springs is located within the sheltered water of the bay system and offers a beautiful campground with several sites set amongst the Acacia and Sheoak woodland.

There is some good fishing on offer around Black Springs, with bluespot flathead disbursed over the shallower flats, with salmon trout and herring along these beaches as well. There are a few rocky headlands within easy walking distance from the campground, which offer safe rock fishing options fronting protected water. There are some nice King George available from these rocks – especially from April to June as schools of whiting push into the bay system – along with garfish during the warmer months. A few gummy sharks can be caught in the deeper pockets of water along this stretch of coast at night.

Moving further along the peninsula from Black Springs will take you to 7-Mile beach, where the track exits the coastal woodland and leads along the shoreline. Part way along the beach you will pass some big sand dunes aptly named the “White Sand Hills”, and this is a great spot to spend an hour or two with good swimming, sand boarding and fishing on offer.

Any wind in the southerly quarter is ideal along here, making it a good destination during the summer south easterlies. Using feeder floats packed with berley and casting over the weed line usually brings a good feed of garfish and herring, with King George from the sand holes on the bottom. This is a very family friendly location.

Leaving the sand dunes behind us, the track re-enters the coastal scrub and gives the option to cut across the peninsula to Sensation Beach. This stunning surf beach was originally called Misery Cove but was renamed to Sensation Beach after a commercial vessel named the Sensation ran aground in 1969. The vessel sat on the beach for four years before being refloated and towed back out to sea in 1973.

Sensation Beach is around 4km in length, with the energy of the beach increasing the further east you progress from the access point. This can be a tricky beach to negotiate, with a relatively steep inclined sand dune to traverse to access the beach.

The fishing can be great at times, with schools of salmon often patrolling the surf line, along with a few nice mullet and flathead from the deeper holes. The beach starts quite flat and featureless, but eventually gains depth the further along the beach you progress. A few nice gummy sharks can be caught at night, along with bronze whaler sharks.

The coastline to the west of Sensation beach and extending out to Point Whidbey is part of the Whidbey Wilderness Area, and vehicles are prohibited to enter but if your fitness levels are good, it’s a great hike along this rugged and windswept coast. The rock fishing within the Wilderness area is amazing, but only in low seas and calm conditions.

On the northwestern boundary of the Wilderness Area is Reef Point, which can be accessed via the main 4WD track. This section of the coast collects a lot of swell from the west, but there is a nice lagoon which offers safe fishing for bread and butter species such as silver trevally, sweep and salmon, with a few King George underneath. The reef fish such as wrasse can be a nuisance, but a little bit of berley can help to bring in some of the target species.

Taking the main track from Reef Point to the north for around 13km will bring you to Point Sir Isaacs, which is the northernmost tip of the Peninsula. The track along here is largely rock base, with the sand driving behind you for the time being. Sir Isaacs is marked by a light beacon to aid navigation around the point at night and is a milestone destination within the park. Reaching Point Sir Isaacs involves 45km of four-wheel driving (one way) on the direct route, but significantly longer if you detour to visit the other beaches and destinations along the way. Allow two hours of four wheel driving from Yangi Bay (without stopping) to reach Point Sir Isaacs.

The rock fishing around Sir Isaacs can be really good when the seas are down and the wind is from the south to south-east quarter. These rocks are a popular platform for sending out shark baits under a balloon if that’s your thing. Bronze whalers frequent these rocks from October to around May each year and offer plenty of action for southern sport fishers. Similarly school sharks can be caught on ground baits during the cooler months of the year, especially at night.

This past summer we had schools of 6-10kg bluefin tuna in close proximity to the point, and they are now a real land based prospect. We did a day on the rocks in January, but the bluefin stayed outside of casting range. Casting baits onto the bottom along this stretch of coast offers a few nice trevally, herring and salmon, along with some nice King George and the occasional pink snapper and red snapper. The pink snapper are still protected by the SA snapper ban in this region and must be returned to the water asap. My personal best land based snapper of 11kg was taken from the rocks in this national park – quite a few years ago now. Some big blue groper also call this area home.

On the lee side of Point Sir Isaacs is Seasick Bay, which offers a nice stretch of sand of almost a kilometre in length. Fishing from the beach here offers a few King George and school whiting along with a few flathead, especially around the rocks where patches of tape weed are located. Schools of salmon visit this bay from time to time, and they can be solid fish at times of 3kg or better. It’s quite common to see large dusky morwong cruising along the shallows in this area too, but trying to tempt them with a lure or bait is a challenge.

Our last destination within the national park tour is a location called ‘The Pool’, which is situated around one kilometre to the south of Point Sir Isaacs. There is a beautiful campground at The Pool, with seven individual camp sites situated right next to the beach. There is a headland to the north which offers some King George out on the point by casting small baits around the patches of weed, and the beach itself offers a few flathead and again salmon trout on both soft plastics and hard body lures. The southern bluespot flathead are at their best during the winter months along this stretch of coast and are great fun to target from the beach.

Well that’s a whirlwind tour of Coffin Bay National Park. There are still plenty of secluded beaches and rock locations which haven’t been mentioned above but are there waiting for you to explore and discover them. The Coffin Bay peninsula is a very unique part of South Australia and is definitely worth adding to the bucket list for the keen adventurer. 

What's your reaction?

Related Posts

Load More Posts Loading...No More Posts.