Gladstone starts to warm up in November, which brings the prime impoundment dam of Queensland, Awoonga, alive. Last month the barra were just starting to wake up after quite a cool winter so this month I expect all hands on deck!
Macca and I threw the camping gear and the fishing rods into the ute to explore Awoonga Dam from the Boynedale, the ‘other side’; everyone knows the Gladstone side, which has all the tourist facilities, a great boat ramp and caravan park.
Boynedale is only 50km from Gladstone City. If you head through Calliope and up the Boyne Valley Road you will find the Boynedale Bush Camp. This area has recently undergone an upgrade by the Gladstone Water Board and is now one fine bush camping location. It has two toilet blocks, the sites are well grassed and if you get there early enough you can score a nicely shaded location. Be aware that there is no potable water available within the grounds.
Awoonga Dam is currently sitting just below 90% full; the water comes right up to the camp grounds on this side. A roughly cut boat ramp is available for smaller tinnies. It is not suitable for larger boats, so I left mine at home and made do with flicking soft plastics from the edges. Not ideal for barra fishing, but suitable for this trip.
Weed was prolific during our visit, so we tried the best we could but suffered from continual weed tangles and no fish. We followed the rail line to the bridge and flicked to the dozen or trees within casting distance but to no avail.
We returned to the camp grounds and met up with Mike Hardiker who had spent the night drifting and flicking soft plastics from his well set up kayak. He hooked up to a dozen of so big (100cm+) barra and had the photographic proof. His photo album contained literally hundreds of photos of his Awoonga Dam catches over the years. All were huge brutes and he has a comprehensive diary detailing each of his catches.
Mike is without a doubt the ‘Kayak King’ of Awoonga and has an unsurpassed record of hits. He reckons the stealth-like nature of the kayak puts him over the barra before they even know it. He is only too happy to share his local expertise so if you would like to kayak around the dam with Mike, you can contact him on 0407 604 905. He is offering this service free to QFM readers. You need to have your own kayak, provide all your own gear and work in with his arrangements.
Continuing on from last month our charter trip aboard the Capricorn Star.
The wind was starting to chop up a little but it didn’t seem to have any impact on the fish. We were pulling in great numbers of red throat emperor all through the day. Paul hooked up to several mackerel while trolling between fishing spots. Most were brought aboard and chucked into the ice box.
The day started well with a light breeze and excellent conditions. Skipper Scottie took the dories from the top, so those who wanted to explore closer to the coral could venture away to their hearts content. I decided to remain on the mother ship for the same reason most people don’t jump out of planes. Plus the pattern of fishing (relaxing, fishing, munching) was getting habit forming.
Paul and Tony took their trolling gear onboard their dory and set out to catch yet more mackerel using a zigzag troll pattern.
Others anglers, including Burra, headed out to the coral shelf in search of everything. They did quite well and returned to the boat a couple of times to unload fish and restock their esky. They were returning with sizeable red throat, some serious coral trout, a couple of quality tuskers and were obviously enjoying themselves.
They looked like they were returning to repeat the process when one of the fishers (I have been sworn to secrecy) returned with a towel wrapped around his hand. His mates dumped him aboard the mother ship and took off to fish the last of the sunlight. The towel was removed to show a hook, about a 6/0, buried deep in the soft tissue of the left hand. The story goes something like this: a massive hook-up, fight of the century, big fish coming to boat, turned out to be a 4m shark, grabbed the line to release the shark when the shark flicked and ran burying the second hook into the hand.
We made preparations to cut short the charter to return to Gladstone for medical attention. No one was complaining as we all know well that these things can get nasty. But with the luck of the Irish, a nearby charter boat, also fishing the Swains just happened to have a doctor on board. Our Skipper, Scottie made arrangements to meet up with the charter boat, transfer the patient and after a short period, the recalcitrant hook was removed. The patient returned, none the worse for wear, and everyone returned to their fishing after all taking a vow of secrecy.
We worked our way back slowly and dug in behind some reef to get out of the weather, which was starting to chop up quite badly. It is amazing how much protection is offered while sitting on the lee-side of these large reefs. Towards the afternoon it was ‘lines-up’ as we set off for our 12 hour trip home.
Scottie and the crew of Capricorn Star were fabulous. Meals were 5 star, air-conditioned cabins were comfortable and spacious, the support of the deckies was on hand all day and we brought home hundreds of fish. All fish were filleted, neatly bagged and snap frozen.
Check out the Capricorn Star details in the charter boat section.Reads: 4254