Dreaming of Dunk Island fishing

The Hull River can turn up some surprises, as Scott discovered when he caught this queenie on fly.

by Wayne Kampe •

Like a lot of keen anglers living in the southern part of our state, I’m always keen to have crack at far off waters, especially if they are in north Queensland. With a son living at Tully, it’s natural that I have the opportunity to occasionally see what’s biting around the Mission Beach, Dunk Island area.

A recent expedition saw us launching son Scott’s boat into the Hull River at Hull Heads near Tully just after daylight on a calm – but remarkably cool – morning. It was a full family affair with with Scott, young Amelia, and Denise and I aboard.

The Hull River ramp is well set-up with a solid gradient. You’ll also find an adjoining walkway that ensures folk are not faced with holding a boat in water shared with crocs. There is also a sign nearby depicting the green zones around the many islands in the area. But, the best feature of all is that access to open waters is only five minutes away.

The Hull River mouth is not quite an all tide affair even for small craft, but we snuck gently out with a rising tide to assist us. For a Moreton Bay angler the sight of so much great looking blue water at our beck and call was enough to get the group excited. There were family groups of low lying islands off to the north and south, each featuring plenty of sections of rocks, outlaying reef patches and broken ground that are perfect for targeting. With all this and a wide expanse of blue water the hardest part was knowing just where to make a start. Luckily, on this morning the fish were good enough to show us where.

As we headed out towards Dunk Island I saw a couple of birds diving not far away and working over tuna. The team were not all that convinced, but I’d seen a tail come out of the water as a fish rolled and was pretty confident on the call. So Scott snuck in quietly with the engine on idle and I had a shot with the 10WT TFO Mangrove fly rod right under a tern that was hovering over something we could not actually see. The fly sank; I stripped it three times and was rewarded for my efforts with a longtail tuna stripping line hard off the Galvan reel.

The local green zones on display at the Hull River ramp.
When drifting the river gaps or holes, mangrove banks are the hotspots to fish.
That overhanging branch in the Hull River just begs for a fly or lure to be cast under it.
The author’s trevally, with Scott working on a fish in the background.
Jacks love Zereks. Denise had fun fighting and landing this fish.
A neat barra from the mangroves for the author.
The author with a fly caught jack. In the mangroves some you win, some you lose.
The author’s took this tuna just out from Dunk Island. Looks like it’s sashimi for dinner.
There’s a lot of fishing potential in this young angler. Amelia was stoked with her coral trout.
The handy pontoon is perfect for holding the boat away from curious crocs.

It had been some time since I’d scored a longtail on fly and it was very satisfying feeling those hard runs. The attempts at dogged circling were immediately thwarted by moving straight off to the side with the drag on the Galvan loosened somewhat, and within 10 minutes the fat tuna was in the net. This was a great start to a fishing trip. Sashimi in the icebox already and the day had hardly started.

 Good fish for Amelia

First port of call was a quiet corner of Dunk Island where large GTs were reported to live. We’d fished there previously but had not seen one yet, always being broken off by the beasts. But we decided to try out luck and to my surprise I felt a solid whack on the plastic and shortly landed a croaking trevally. After that, all casts went unrewarded and some sharks around the boat – one bit off Denise’s coveted Spanish mackerel – meant there was no other option but to move.

Scott had the area fairly well wired and snuck us quietly into a shallowish reef section where plastics seemed to attract a fish with virtually every drop. I scored a champion long tom, Denise hooked something that ran straight into the coral but Amelia hooked and landed a gorgeous coral trout that she happily held for the camera. I sure wish I was catching coral trout at her age!

 Sharks anyone?

Luck deserted us on the reef areas as once again sharks moved in, with three fish going their way in rapid succession without even a hint of colour coming towards the surface. It was more than slightly annoying, as the sounder was lit up with bait and some decent looking fish, but it meant it was time to go.

Shark predation is a fairly recent source of annoyance, with the general consensus being that shark numbers have greatly increased over recent years and it would appear they were there to stay, much the same as what has happened in Hervey Bay. Once a couple of fish have been stolen from under the boat it’s certainly time to move and that doesn’t mean just a few hundred metres either, as the rascals will easily follow and locate the craft again.

 Fun around the mangroves

As it was now mid morning and starting to warm up we decided to have a look at some nearby mangrove flats, so the fly rod tackle was tarted up with some 20kg FC100 leader tippet and Denise set up her spin gear with a Zerek shrimp as did Amelia. Locating small inlets or passages along and into mangrove banks is a challenging method of scoring on predators like jacks and barra, so we motored along gently under electric power and cast into likely spots.

As a concession to visiting anglers, I was usually given first shot at a likely spot with the fly rod while the others offered encouragement. In the more gnarly spots my hook ups were sometimes followed by foul ups in the foliage, but there was a small barra for the long rod plus a jack as well. How good was this! Denise also knocked over a small barra on her trusty Zerek, but with the tide starting to head out it was time to return to the river and see what we might find there.

The Hull River is an interesting bit of water in that it is very hard to predict what will be happening around the next bend. Like many far north Queensland river system it can surprise; red hot one day yet dead as the proverbial Dodo the next!

The attractions are the many rock banks, weed beds, sand flats, kilometres of mangroves and plenty of interesting channels funnelling current and fish within casting range. Anything from queenies to tarpon to salmon and of course the usual suspects of jacks and barra are on the cards. During that short session Scott scored a lovely queenie and Denise managed a fat mangrove jack. I drove the electric while the rest of the team fished. In all, a great morning on the water and one to remember for quite a while.

 If you go

The areas around Mission Beach are rich in fish with autumn, winter and early spring as the prime fishing times. Mackerel catches are legendary in late winter with excursions east from Dunk Island into the shipping channel also offering the chance of Spanish macks and maybe, just maybe, a billfish as well. There are some green zones to consider but that aside there is a tremendous amount of fishable water on hand. The Hull River and nearby Tully River at Tully Heads can offer a good day of fishing even if the offshore area is not looking overly friendly due to weather.

Incidentally, there are boat ramps well suited to trailer craft in the Mission Beach area with one at Clump Point plus another at South Mission Beach as well.