Fantastic Fishing and Morning Glory

For a fantastic fishing resort experience, head to none other than Queensland, Australia. Be ready for the fishing trip of a lifetime!

Fantastic Fishing and a Morning Glory
By Tony Walsh

“It’s no use whingeing about the service around here,” Ray Atherinos muttered as he gestured towards the glass-fronted fridge filled with frosty beer. “There isn’t any! The bar is open all the time and works on an honour system. Just take what you want and write it in the book.”

What an introduction to Sweers Island, a fishing resort set in the Gulf of Carpentaria off the north-west Queensland coast in northern Australia.

As an after thought, Ray added, “Even if we had the money to pay a full-time barman, I doubt we could keep him here in the shed. He would want to go fishing all the time like the rest of us.”

Fishing is what brought Ray and his mate, Tex Battle, to the island in the first place in the early seventies and continues to keep them there. Guests would not be too far wrong if they get the feeling they are there to help pay the bills so that Ray and Tex can continue their life on the island doing what they like best ….fishing.

The surrounding waters are alive with big
pelagic fish including mackerel, trevally, queen and northern blue tuna as well as reef fish such as coral trout, red emperor and sweetlip. From May to July, anglers are rewarded with superb catches of Australia’s best eating fish, the barramundi.

Ray and Tex used to fly over the island in a plane piloted by Ray’s wife, Salme. They longed to establish a fishing retreat. This only became a reality after 12 long years of bureaucratic frustration. On finally securing a lease over part of the 8 x 2 kilometre island, they had an airstrip operational within 24 hours.

Whereas now Sweers Island appeals with promises of making the most ambitious fishing dreams come true, previous occupants were more intent on simply living.

Sweers Island is one of 23 in the Wellesley group. The traditional owners of these islands, the Kaiadilt people are gradually returning to live on nearby Bentinck Island after being forcibly removed by authorities more than 50 years ago to live at a mission station on Mornington Island 70km further north into the Cape.

The first European to visit the island was Matthew Flinders during his 1801-03 circumnavigation of Australia. He was forced ashore for six weeks while the ship’s carpenter made essential repairs to the HMS investigator.

A full scale town development was attempted on Sweers Island in 1866 when the population of Burketown 75km south on the coast suffered an outbreak of Gulf fever, probably malaria.

Nothing remains of the settlement that once housed more than 200 people except two lonely graves that bear testimony to the fate of two of the residents. Donald McLennan, who was the publican, died of a liver disease in 1876, while James Frost died on New Year’s Eve, 1861 after accidentally shooting himself as he climbed out of bed.

The Morning Glory

Perhaps James Frost had been in a hurry to witness one of nature’s most extraordinary phenomenons; a rolling cloud formation called the Morning Glory. It arrives each spring over the island just after dawn and is at its most awesome best in the months of August and September.

Like an amalgamation of millions of silver wings resting on a dark under-belly, the cloud forms at night, hundred of kilometres to the west of the Gulf waters over the arid landscape of Cape York Peninsula. Then similar to how the allied bomber squadrons in the latter of World War II took off from various airfields in England to become one over the English Channel, the Morning Glory is boxed into a mammoth formation. Sometimes measuring 200 kilometres long by a kilometre wide by another kilometre high, it seemingly appears to roll backwards at it approaches Sewers Island at between 40 and 60 kilometres an hour.

An eerie drop in temperature accompanies the Morning Glory as it passes over Sweers Island and guests shake their heads in amazement as it rolls towards the mainland and its dissipation over the savannah pastures of the Gulf country.

Thrill seekers and adventurers with their motorised gliders now come to Sweers Island to rendezvous with the Morning Glory for the adrenalin rush of their life. By catching the face of the cloud and then turning off their engine, some of the more experienced fliers have exceeded 200kph.

Getting there

International guests travel to Cairns or Mt Isa and then by charter aircraft to the island. Accommodation is restricted to 21 guests in five comfortable cabins with an amenities block nearby. Tariff per day includes all meals and use of well equipped fishing dinghies.

The boats are all tunnel-hull, aluminium craft, purpose built for the area. Each boat is powered by a 40 horse-power outboard engine and is comfortable for four passengers. Fuel, bait and handlines are included in the daily tariff.

For this writer, there is no better thrill than catching the big ones on rod and reel, so bring your own gear including a good supply and variety of lures.

The average daily maximum temperature ranges from 35 degrees C. in December/ January to 24 degrees C. in June/July.

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