Ningaloo Station - Point Billie - June/July 2022

A week and a half out - wife tested positive to covid. SHIT SHIT SHIT. Not ideal timing. That was after having to take the boat to the mechanic another two times after service because I couldnt get it running properly (full credit to Seasport marine for their troubleshooting and solution, and only charging me for the initial service). Cant remember what the 3rd thing was but there were three in the month before we left...

This trip started December 31st at midnight with 6 of us on the DPAW website trying to book Winderbandi Point for the July school holidays which was a dismal failure. And again the next night, which was also a dismal failure. Point Billie was the consolation prize which turned out to be a real winner.

Anyhoo, with departure day postponed by two days due to me testing positive mid week, we headed off on a Monday, with intention of isolating on the road on the way north with my wife heading into pay for fuel and pick up food while we sat in the car. None of us were showing symptoms so figured we were ok. 

First stop was Nerrin Nerrin rest stop where we found a spot away from everyone else, and a fairly good looking firewood log and set up for the night. Next morning, up before the sun and back across the road to find that good log again because it was bloody freezing. All packed up and on the phone to Shark Bay Visitor centre to book Whalebone Beach for the night which we rocked up to at the campsite just after 11 and got a prime spot, again, to ourselves and well away from anyone else. It looked fishable at times but due to being an expert at tetrus, could only reach a small popper which kept Blake occupied into the darkness. We strolled the shallows right at sunset because I always found it to be the most interesting time. Tide was going out so not the best time on this day but still saw a small flathead and a shovel nose.

Next morning, up before the sun again and packing up for the drive to Carnarvon. It was freedom day for me and happened to also be shower day. Carnarvon was typical Carnarvon. Nothing was stolen which was great and the pub meal, with all of the mozzies in the mid west, was delicious. What wasnt delicious was throwing away three large cartons of eggs which we put under the tonneau on the ute three days ago and promptly forgot about.....

Back on the road around lunchtime after drawing a white line on my black side step due to a stupidly placed concrete block at Bumbacks, we were at Minilya for lunch before getting to the turnoff to Ningaloo Station at around 1330. Google maps told us 1.5 hours to camp and it wasnt wrong. The first part of the track was really good with most of us sitting on around 70 and having to slow down over a few lumpy bits. Once at the homestead and turning north to the campsites, the track got agricultural and progress slowed down to around 50. Not so bad. We got to camp around 3 which allowed us time to unpack, set up and get a fire cranking.

We got the boat out the next day and took a zoom up towards Winderbandi with the family and a try for squid before heading back to camp planning to head beyond the reef with three of the other dads. So far so good, the motor started and ran on command!

After lunch and with the north easterly moderating, we headed out at 8 knots (boat didnt like 4 fatties onboard) and looked for anything interesting. Trolling some lures about, we came across some birds working a school of stripey (Skipjack) tuna. We threw everything at these damned fish only getting hits (but not managing to get them to the boat) on a 180mm halco diver. Time to head in and as we wound in lures, one of the guys rods went off and we finally got a fish on the boat. then another, then another. Three fish were cut into steaks and thrown on the fire. It was awesome that most of the fish went to the kids (11 of them). They loved it with a bit of salt, lemon and special sauce. 

Next day out, Swanno's whalewatching tours took over and I headed out with the fam bam to chase these tuna or better yet a Spaniard, and see some whales. Just out of the northern channel, there was a Manta just under the surface. Awesome. Then a Barracuta took one of the lures. Cool but not the target and then out to the Tuna fields where each of the kids got into one....and the daughter got to have a fight with a shark. Then the whales turned up while I was hooked up to a fish...then a shark.

First one was spotted in the distance so we started putting over to it then holey moley, one surfaced 20m ahead of the boat!! I looked down saying 'i hope it dosnt have a mate' to have the second one appear under the boat and surface 3m ahead of us! I threw the boat into reverse as its tale broke the surface where the boat was.. Ok - there were plenty of whales. 

We must have seen 20 whales a day over the next days and over 100 whales during our time at camp with the highlight being some calf's which cant have been much longer than the boat having an absoloute ball just living life.

I have lost track of days but one day we headed out the southern channel antacipating the breeze to moderate (but it didnt) and headed south to Norwegan Bay, which I had first been into 20 years (nearly to the week) earlier. Heading south with whales heading north was kinda like walking down the middle of a one way street. We had to zig and zag the whole 4 miles down, trolling a variety of lures the whole way along the 20m line, with 'only' one hook up being a ~10 kg Yellowfin tuna. I didnt really want it so didnt net it and it spat the hooks as i lifted it up. Beautiful looking fish and I wish i threw the net in to get a photo. 

With the breeze now from the north and a 4m chug back to Lefroy bay, we sat inside the reef spotting a coule of Dugongs (thought they were a rumour up to that point) and heaps of turtles. We jumped in for a swim at South Lefroy after Blake woke up (he fell asleep half way down to Norwegan Bay). Cool to see a small black tipped shark swim past ~5m away followed by a dolphin swimming at us even closer. Dont know where these rumoured crays are but i looked under plenty of boondies between South Lefroy and our camp but didnt see even a sign.

A few more trips were taken over the next few days with a few more lost fish with at least two being big Spaniards which were quickly accounted for by sharks. Devo but so be it. 

The only day we properly fished the bottom was after two hours of trolling for nothing, we stopped in what should have been 5-10m according to Navionics and it immediately resulted in taps then a hit even before I had a line in. Spango straight up. Then another, Then another. It went quiet with two fish in the esky so we putted back to where i thought we were (phone battery is dodgy so no tracking) and bang, on again. Now it was time for me to finally get a line in and tap tap bang - a decent ~500mm spotted cod. 

My mate sucks at setting up rigs so i handed him my rod after he lost his second effort on the bottom and while setting his up, he was on again with another spotted cod around the same length! I finished his rig and he dropped it down and got a 500mm long Spango which was arguably the fish of the day!

We ran out of squid (only took three Cockburn Sound squid up) and resorted to a chunk of Tuna which fell apart as it hit the water. 

We moved out to the 20m line and were surrounded by 4 x ~3m sharks and suprisingly managed to get the worlds biggest wrasse up between them which was cut up for bait but resulted in nothing coming to the boat.

The whales were again going off all over the place so we headed in at lunchtime and i left the three other guys to clean the fish (handball - play on!) and took another group out to see whales and they put on a show with 6 whales swimming alongside the boat. I was able to turn the boat off and they swam close enough so we could see rainbows in the mist they blew out. Ended up seeing 11 whales in around 30 minutes with a bit of fin slapping. Sharks also turned up for a show too.

Highlight of the fishing day was cooking the catch on a cast iron hot plate ontop of a hollowed log which turned into a chimney. The fish gave all 20 people a fair chunk of entree once beer battered. 

That was pretty much the fishing experience. There were billions of Tuna around and if that interested you, you could eat them every day. The Macks were around but got smashed by sharks...then I ran out of the lures they were targeting (120-150mm). The only time we tried bottom fishing, we caught quality fish and squid was the best bait!. Unfortunately no squid to be seen in Lefroy bay.

Last day out, we had one last crack at Macks and lost two more lures (after trying the 'tighten the drag to maximum' option) and then headed over to Winderbandi point for a swim, with the spear gun in tow. Saw a decent bluebone which i took a shot at but only managed to knock a few scales from. With the kids climbing on the wife, the current pushing hard, and me with two leg crams, it was time to get back to the boat.

The last night at Billie, we drove up to the lookout up the sketchy track behind Winderbandi. When we got back, we got asked to help out someone who had a tinny whos trailer had shat the bed on the way in. After tea, we pushed our boat off the trailer (Which was half packed) into the grass and headed 2km down the track to help the guys out. Lucky it was slightly smaller and light so we loaded it up and dropped it off their camp. Their spring had disintergrated causing the axel to push back destroying the mud guard and wheel....on the 58th km of the 60km track. Poor buggers. The camp host got the jeevies up them saying someone would steal the boat if they left it out beside the track so they were very thankful when we agreed to go and get it for them. Poor buggers.

After Ningaloo Station, we managed to get a bit of space in a backyard which happened to be beside where YBS is setting up a bit of a warehouse so had a chat with the kids idol. Nice bloke actually and more than happy to have a chat with the kids, perticularly Blake who has been studying his youtube videos for over a year and thankfully young enough to be interested in the fish more than than the ample arses.

We took the boat out off Learmonth jetty for an hour the first evening and all we got was a small bird which we pulled out of the water much to the relief of our bird loving daughter. Unfortunately for old mate birdo, it was his last 30 minutes of life so we had a small memorial on the beach near the jetty...

Next day, after lunch, we headed off Tantas for one last hurrah. We spent about two hours going up and down and in and out but didnt get a hit. With sketchy large swell, I couldnt miss the oppertunity to try to set a new speed record...so out we raced looking for the right one and in we charged....the the wife started shouting something about a whale...which appeared just behind the boat...about 3 seconds after we went over where it was at full noise + gravity. Hopefully it got out of my way as I had no idea it was there. 

For anyone headed up to Point Billie, some of the camps are shit and in shin high grass. One site (site 30) is simply a driveway to site 31 with a tree stump you need to go around (In the picture you can see our site 31, and someone on site 29...Where is 30?). We had 4 sites booked and managed to cram all (20 people) onto one and still get a view of the water out of our swag with the other three sites returned to the pool.

Missing Winderbandi turned out to be a blessing as we nickenamed it Windybandi as with the north easterly and northerly most of the first week combined with 2+m swell for a few days, the beachfront camps had to dig sand barriers to keep the water away from the caravans. Later on in the week I could see the appeal but certianly not at the start, when it blew 30 + knots straight onto their beach one day. 

Overall, 17 days away living out of the car. Boat was out for 12 out of a possible 13 days (windy day + longer travel days = dry boat) with over 100 nm under the hull and 120l of fuel consumed.

Lithium battery in the car is a game changer. $2.5k setup including installation and ran a fridge and freezer without effort for the whole time. Lowest it got was 72% so 50% to go before it got slightly nervous. That was after all night and no solar in a black car under a black Tonneau on a 28 degree day becuase the boat was parked at the ramp all day...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Adam Gallash's picture

Posts: 15492

Date Joined: 29/11/05

Great photos

Mon, 2022-07-18 08:42

 Point Billie is under rated in my opinion, I quite liked staying there during my exmouth days. Thanks for the write up, good read.

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Swompa's picture

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Date Joined: 14/10/12

 For our group, with 11 kids

Mon, 2022-07-18 10:31

 For our group, with 11 kids between 18 months and 13 it was good because the kids had ample room to play around without being at the water. 

 

I certainly see the appeal of Windibandi and North / South Lefroy and I dare say we will go back to with a smaller group but our position slightly up on the hill was pretty damn good. 

 

Wasnt a fan of the drive nearly to Giralia for fire wood though but we loaded up the ranger tub, roof rack and a Prado's rack to get us through the week....

Deano.9's picture

Posts: 37

Date Joined: 20/10/14

fires permitted?

Tue, 2022-07-19 04:15

Good write up, isn't helping my lack of patience for our trip though! 

 

Sounds like fires were permitted during your stay? currently the site is saying "No Campfires"???

We are heading to North lefroy in a few weeks so trying to work out if we take firewood or not.

 

Did you swing past the North lefroy camp area? we will be at site 3, but have never been there before.

 

Cheers

Swompa's picture

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Date Joined: 14/10/12

Yeah mate we had a fire every

Tue, 2022-07-19 12:58

Yeah mate we had a fire every night much like everyone around.

Cannot get firewood on the station so we had to drive back out to the highway and go past Bullara on Burkett road before we found some wood suitable. 3 hour round trip for wood so weigh that up. 

North Lefroy is a nice spot Lots of sand and a few weed patches out the front. brilliant with a northerly / easterly bias wind. I am trying to find a map of the campsites as there are some right on the track to the water and some back under trees. 

We drove down there for an evening wash (swim) becuase the beach at Billy isnt really swimmable. 

 

Are you taking a boat? 

Deano.9's picture

Posts: 37

Date Joined: 20/10/14

weight is an issue

Tue, 2022-07-19 18:33

 I figured we would just take wood as i reckon they aren't the best at updating the website. No doubt the default is No Campfires too.

Only issue is do we drag good wood/jarrah all the way from Perth or try find some on the side of the road. Both wieght & space is at a premium with our setup.

 

North Lefroy seems to have the northern camp sites in around a patch of trees but looks like you'll be camping pretty close to other crews. There looks to be a second patch of trees to the south which is about site 10/11 from what i could see, and we'll be out in the open at site 3 i reckon.

 

Yep tinny will be on top of the camper so no issues getting in (fingers crossed) as the camper is much more solid than a tinny trailer. 375 seajay with a 25hp Yammy, shes a very capable tub and if the weather permits I'm aiming to get out and try anything from 30-70m. hHopefully can get a couple past the sharks!

 

Cheers

Swompa's picture

Posts: 3426

Date Joined: 14/10/12

There was quite a good beach

Wed, 2022-07-20 12:50

There was quite a good beach ramp at North Lefroy and there were some bigger boats being launched there so you shouldnt have any dramas. 

Our boat is 4.1 with a 25 and we had no dramas at all getting out into 100m of water. Assuming you have had a look through Navionics, it drops off pretty quick.

We found the north easterly strong most mornings and headed out around 2-3 ish most days where it really moderated. We only had one glassy day and every other day had between 5 and 15 knots with one day getting to the 30's in the morning. Still, in the evening, it nearly glassed out. 

Going out the northern enterance to Lefroy Bay, there were constantly lots of boats sitting just inside the reef either side whereas we went out every time. You can see a rounded relatively flat spot on Navionics and we fished pretty much the middle of that out to the ledge and got fish. Too far to the edge then you got sharks and too close in you just constantly lost rigs. Happy to draw you a bit of a sketch to where we had luck if you flick me your email address via PM?

Fire wood wise, i had 4 bags ready to go but could only fit three in. That lasted us three nights. There is heaps of wood around Nerrin Nerrin if you are inclined to gather mid transit. The flat out firewood collection ban is fairly good because there are trees and shrubbery around rather than stripped grasslands. 

 

Deano.9's picture

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Date Joined: 20/10/14

PM sent

Thu, 2022-07-21 22:13

Legend! sending you a meesage mate, cheers

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Date Joined: 18/01/12

 Great write up mate, good

Tue, 2022-07-19 09:46

 Great write up mate, good effort

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kirky79's picture

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Date Joined: 13/01/12

Great trip

Tue, 2022-07-19 12:21

Thanks for the write up Swompa. Yeah Winderabandi is horrible with a northerly but awesome when it's from the south.  

davewillo's picture

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Date Joined: 08/09/16

 Great write-up Paul! Some

Tue, 2022-07-19 14:44

 Great write-up Paul! Some awesome photos in that lot and soem great memories for sure! Cool that the kids got to meet Brodie!

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Rick's picture

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Date Joined: 22/12/06

Great trip

Tue, 2022-07-19 17:44

Looks like a great trip mate. cheers for taking the time to write the report. good read  

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Swompa's picture

Posts: 3426

Date Joined: 14/10/12

 Thanks for the responses.

Wed, 2022-07-20 12:51

 Thanks for the responses. Certainly a memorable trip and good one to tick off the bucket. Next up is Steep Point. 

avatinni's picture

Posts: 141

Date Joined: 06/06/10

 Great report mate , I passed

Thu, 2022-07-21 23:13

 Great report mate , I passed the tinny with a 25 Yamaha sitting on the side of the track on our way into Winderabandi point.I have to say I was a bit disappointed in winderabandi with all the weed & only sand with no reef.

Swompa's picture

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 Did you have weed on the

Fri, 2022-07-22 10:16

 Did you have weed on the beach? It was pretty bare when we went so that must have been a new thing...or all of the the weed on the 'beach' from Point Billie washed up that way.

The people we helped only had a small tinny with an old 8hp Evinrude on it so i dare say someone else had a bad time. I would have clamed salvage rights on a 25hp Yammy to replace the black anchor on mine 

 

Did the weather play ball for you? I recall you arrived after us.

avatinni's picture

Posts: 141

Date Joined: 06/06/10

 Mate seen the tinny on the

Sat, 2022-07-23 02:07

 Mate seen the tinny on the way in & on the way out a couple with a little pop up van had snapped a spring on the track & they said rac from Exmouth would not come in to pick them up . I recon the stay at bullara & grialia station that we had 8 days before winderabandi was heaps better.