Paint the Ocean Red
  |  First Published: September 2011

The weather has been fabulous of late. There were several days this month where conditions were perfect for getting out to the reef and exploring wider. As a result we were eager to get onto our booked charter trip aboard Lady N leaving from Gladstone.

And then came Thursday’s weather report…

Reef Bound

The weather report was ordinary to say the least and the prediction for our weekend didn’t show any sign of improving. So we set sail on Friday afternoon for our three day charter aboard Lady N, knowing that sloppy conditions were on the cards. Nothing new – the eight of us had all been in sloppy conditions before.

The Lady N is a great charter boat and caters for eight anglers in relative comfort. It has a large rear deck fishing area as well as comfortable port and starboard seating with enough bait tables for all. There are even fishing stations on the bow, but these are some way from the water so you would have to trust your gear to bring big fish aboard.

Pete, our skipper and Lady N owner, set sail for North West Island where we were going to anchor for the night, in preparation for a piscatorial assault on Douglas Shoals the following day.

The trip out to North West was a horror stretch of unpredictable swell, freezing westerly winds, and heavy bow hits on the waves. We hit these conditions as soon as we rounded Gatcombe heads so it was a long trip to North West a little over 40 miles from Gladstone. We could do little but wait it out and chew on Kwells.

North West is a well-protected anchorage, so you are seldom alone.

After breakfast, we left the protected waters of North West Island for the fishing grounds of Douglas shoals. These shoals are renowned for big catches of red, lippers and trout. We started our first drift in conditions that made standing difficult and moving around the boat risky. Fishing was terrible with nothing but pickers hitting our baits.

This weekend was also when the lowest low tide and the largest high tides hit Gladstone waters so plenty of water was moving and we needed six house bricks just to get our bait to the bottom.

Conditions couldn’t get much worse.

And then it rained.

So Pete moved us out of the rain and the washing machine wave action of Douglas Shoals and back to some of his marks around North West Island, Tryon Island and the protective reef which connects the two. The conditions were much better and although fishing wasn’t brilliant, it was very satisfying. We were connecting with tuskers, red throat emperors and large red emperors.

We weren’t filling the big eskies but during the weekend we did put enough fish on ice to provide us all with enough meals to feed our families for a while anyway.

In the Estuaries

Calliope River is giving some good bream at the moment. Even land-based anglers are picking up catches from Calliope and its tributaries. The anabranches that run under the highway are hot spots during the higher tides and have seen many anglers pulling in bream of all sizes.

Grunter are being caught around the Devils Elbow areas. It is best to work the small drains alone the edges. I prefer to work these drains on a tide change figuring what goes out, must come in or what comes out must go back in.

Flathead have been caught also by land-based anglers from the mangrove edges near the hot water outlet of the power station.

Wild Cattle Creek, particularly further from the mouth, is giving up plenty of whiting and while some will have to thrown back, the occasional 30cm specimen is getting into the icebox.

The Lillies Beach will also provide plenty of action. The best spots are those where structure is within casting distance. Small grunter, bream and flathead are the best catches.

South Trees Inlet is starting to fire up. The mangrove edges are prime spots for jack attacks. It is quite a versatile waterway with quality mangrove edges, deep drains, sand banks and rock walls for your fishing pleasure.

The rock wall near the bridge separates South Trees from the Lillies and opens into the harbour. Big bream work this rock area and if you find the holes you could pick up a couple of cod.

Of course, the bridge pylons are good fish attractors. I like to cast directly to the pylons and let the bait drift downward as close to the pylons as possible. There is usually a fair bit of water flowing under this bridge as it exits to or flows from the harbour.

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