Reef trips are featuring more often in reports this month. Boaties are taking the small window of opportunity to duck out when conditions suit and get back before things turn nasty. There were only a couple of windows last month for the smaller boats to get out but the rewards have been worth it.
Red throat, tuskers as well as a few coral trout reports are coming in. Conditions will start to improve this month and, already on the radar, there are a couple of 5-10 knot wind days. So it’s time to keep the boat hooked on and fuelled up in preparation.
The reef areas around Masthead will be prime locations as the weather is still warm enough to keep the fish active both in the shallows and at depth. Shoals, particularly on the slopes, should also start to fire up. Head for the eastern slopes of Rock Cod Shoals as this shelf rises slowly and steadily. The bommies around the Bass Shoals at the tip of Cape Capricorn will also be good spots to target.
As the creeks and rivers start to clear, fish a moving back in. Even the Gladstone Marina is giving up some thumping grunter of late, especially on small hardbodied lures around the pontoons.
This is the time to start preparation for the best boating/fishing/camping months of Central Queensland. While some of the days can be as hot a summer days, the nights are cooler, the days and nights are less filled with biting insects and the water is warm enough to keep fish activity to a high.
Gladstone’s boating/camping/fishing spots are some of the best around. However, like most things preparation is the key to success. Many of the best spots are accessible only by boat, which of course adds to the serenity and the attraction of the location. Yellow Patch, Pancake Creek, The Lillies, Pacific Creek, Sea Hill are all fabulous locations for a family or mates-only camping weekend.
Yellow Patch is behind Cape Capricorn on Curtis Island. It is National Park so a camping permit is required and easily obtained. The focal point of Yellow Patch is the large bright yellow sand hill. This hill is one of those gob-smacking features that make this place simply awesome – fun to climb if you’re a kid; great to look at and admire if you’re not. Of course if you are like me, you can take a running leap onto the sand and then feign hip damage and sit down under one of the many shady trees.
Yellow Patch can only be reached by boat and is some 25 miles from Gladstone. Boating day trippers and picnickers also frequent Yellow Patch because it is quite an easy trip up the scenic coast of Curtis Island. But camping at Yellow Patch is just great.
The beach is sandy and easily accessible. Good shady camping spots are plentiful.
After rounding Cape Capricorn head about 1.5nm due west so you get a complete view of the huge yellow sand hill. This point will put you pretty much in line with the channel between two extensive sand banks. The colour variation identifying depth should be obvious. The entrance to Yellow Patch is safe in most conditions but caution should still be taken. It is best entered with tidal assistance. Check it out before you commit. If in doubt – don’t.
Unofficial red and green drums have been placed to mark the channel entrance and white drums mark the edges of the sand banks. However, you can not always rely on those being there.
Follow the beach line at depth until you find your own spot of paradise. Any further west of the sand hill is accessible only on high tides and generally only by smaller tinnies.
Whiting is the target at Yellow Patch and if you are lucky enough to camp here, you will see them by the thousand. If you have a cast net, you should be able to grab enough for a good feed. If you are into hunting and gathering, your bait will need to be fresh and plentiful. Yabby banks are prolific so getting fresh bait is no trouble. Prawns also run riot, so a prawn net will also keep you in bait.
While Yellow Patch whiting are plentiful and usually school up nicely, they are cunning and experienced pickers. Keep hooks sharp and weights to a minimum. Bream, flathead, Moses perch, grunter are common catches from the beach.
Rock outcrops line the entrance and if you have good fishing boots you can climb out and access some of the deeper holes around Yellow Patch. You can hook onto big cod, parrot, sweetlip at this location but because you can be some height from the water, have good quality line.
‘Keep It Simple’ is the best rule for light camping. Remember, everything to put into the boat has to be carried out. What is simple in the drive way at home can be a back-breaking haul up a sand beach (and back). Here are a couple of camping tips learned the hard way.
1. Camp close to your boat. Enter and depart on a high tide but keep the boat afloat.
2. Ice is dead wait. Frozen pre-prepared meals and drinks act as dual purpose coolers in the esky. Freeze drinking water into small bottles.
3. Smaller eskies are more manageable than light eskies but keep one esky closed as much as possible. Progressively transfer food, drinks into one esky. A full esky stays cooler longer.
4. Chemical toilets are cheap, light and add an extra level of comfort around the camp site.
5. Don’t skimp on bedding or seating. Buy the most comfortable you can afford and carry (check out article in QFM last month on Short Stay camping).
6. Park the boat stern-to-beach and run a line from the transom to the beach. Anchor or tie the boat to a tree using a running-line from the stern bollards, around and free from the motor.Reads: 2350