Recovery Rescue
  |  First Published: March 2011

It has been an interesting start to the year in Central Queensland in more ways than one. My hope is that all those affected by recent events are gradually pulling things back together.

On the fishing front, the rivers, creeks and estuaries are starting to recover from the recent downpour. Mud is starting to clear from most systems but it is clearing slowly, which is somewhat surprising given the big tides that have been washing through the systems. If you find that you are pulling in an extraordinary amount of catfish to the boat, then it is probably time to move on.

Areas like Devils Elbow at Calliope, the Calliope anabranch, Hobble Creek in Grahams Creek, Black Swan are still influenced by mud and dirty water and are clearing slowly. These areas are more protected from the tidal flows and might come into action this month.

The rock walls of Trees Inlet has been proving popular for big grunter and bream. This area opens directly into the Gladstone harbour so the impact of fresh water has not been so dramatic.

Debris is still washing up, so if you are powering through the waterways keep your eyes focussing on the water ahead. Some large chunks of wood are still floating on surfaces most of our estuaries. Even some of our beach areas like Tannum and Curtis Island are full of debris in the waves. I was fishing with some mates at Curtis last month and was being hammered by rubbish in the waves while fishing for whiting.

I expect that this debris will find its way up higher onto the beach with the king tides of February. It will clean up the waves and free them for some hot whiting action.

The spots to target this month include the Lighthouse beaches of Facing Island. The beach has lost a lot of sand in recent times but the rocks provide different fish attracting structures. Of course it also provides tackle grabbing structures and there is a fine line between fishing on, or being connected to, structure.

The best advice is to fish light. Keep sinkers to a bare minimum and hooks small. You always need your sharp end exposed to get a hook up but try to cover most of the hook with bait. If you can cast out far enough without a sinker, you might be able to get your bait close to the structure without hooking onto to it. Unweighted baits are always enticing.

If you need weight to cast out, then target the sandy shelves that run adjacent to the rock areas. Keep the action of the hook sharp enough they create puffs of sand and wind in. The focus is to draw attention to the action on the sharp end.

Around the corner from the Lighthouse beaches, are the gutters of Facing Island. This area is north of the Oaks camping grounds. The wave action here is broken up by rocks and coral so the gutters lie in the lee, setting up calm water for the most part. Some big whiting have been caught here on a full tide with the large gutters setting up different fishing environs.

Weed is a common problem but it is very sporadic. You often only need to move a few metres north or south from badly affected areas and it can be perfectly clear. Quite an odd phenomenon!

Some of the gutters can be a metre or so deep. While you might be fishing happily on a sand bar, the next step you take could be a doosie! But the gutters have been the location of some big whiting, bream, grunter and flathead strikes.

Because this area is on a point, you can move around to keep of the leeward side making things a little easier to fish. On a low tide, you can walk out to the wave action brought about by the rock groin and the nearby reef areas. This area has been known to give up tuskers and the occasional sweetlip.

There have been several fishers having success in the Gladstone harbour from the bund wall. Conditions in the harbour haven’t been so great of late but with heavier sinkers and oily bait like pilchards, fishers have hooked up to cod, jew and tuskers. The wall offers several vantage points both into the harbour and into the marina. Bream are frequent catches inside the marina but there have also been a few sickle fish caught.

Sickle fish (or butter bream) are supposedly good eating but I have to confess while I have caught a few, I haven’t tried one yet. They don’t grow much bigger than a dinner plate but they use their bodies to advantage. They pull against the drag, offering a more spirited fight that their size would suggest. They frequent estuary mouths so you might get a couple fishing from the rocks into the Gladstone Marina.

Reef fishing has been hit or miss this month. I suspect the impact of the flow of fresh water onto the reef areas is starting to abate. The last month has offered very few windows of opportunity to get out onto the reef, what with rain, wind and generally lousy weather keeping most boat fishers to the harbour and river systems. This time of the year the afternoon sea breezes can sneak up with some ferocity. Most reef trips are usually occurring in the morning with an afternoon trip home before the breeze blow up.

For those who have ventured to the reef there have been some good catches of Venus tusk fish and red throat. These have been caught in the deeper holes and have taken some coaxing before they get onto the bite.

Coral trout have been harder to find especially any specimen equal to or greater than the legal length. Perhaps they are just getting bigger for my next reef expedition.

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