Polluted Waterways Force Closures
  |  First Published: November 2011

Gladstone harbour has been in the news lately for all the wrong reasons with a temporary closure to the waterways making some blood boil.

The reasons for the ban are academic at the moment, but everyone in Gladstone is ducking and weaving in the hope that no one points a finger at them.

There is no doubt that Gladstone exists only to service the massive industrial presence of the town and the Australian economy also does very nicely out of the area. However, the industry only requires the waterways as a floating mechanism. Environmental and fishing issues are the poor cousins to making money.

The boundaries for the temporary closure are between Deception Creek at the top end of The Narrows and a line drawn from Rodds Peninsula to the Northern Point of Facing Island, an area of 500km² [The area re-oopened to fishing on Friday October 7 at 9am – Ed].

The Gladstone fishing closure applies to all tidal waters including rivers, creeks and other waterways. The Department advises that fish caught outside of the closure area showing signs of illness should be disposed of on land, not returned to the water or consumed.

While the temporary closure is in place, commercial, charter and recreational fishing, including catch and release, are not permitted.

Fisheries Queensland General Manager of Habitat and Assessment Dr John Robertson said initial test results identified two conditions, red-spot disease and a parasite. What caused these conditions is still open to conjecture.

The Queensland Government said it will continue to monitor the situation closely and is consulting with the Queensland Seafood Industry Association and Sunfish Queensland. Fisheries Queensland will advise when the closure is lifted.

Gladstone fishers have always worked around coal floating on the water, mangrove degradation and all the other impacts of industry on the fishing environment. I have written previously about the LNG plant on Curtis Island and the likelihood of the negative impact of the fishing environment of Graham Creek and the Narrows.

I can feel the tide starting to turn. There is a growing scepticism in the Gladstone fishing community against the speed of industrial development and the calling for greater controls of development that comes at the expense of our standard of living.

No one in authority has pointed the finger of blame yet. I certainly hope there is considered and informed discussion about all these issues without the obligatory cover ups or ranting and raving of the misinformed.

Quite frankly the communication of this event is deplorable and even finding information is difficult.

You can check www.dpi.qld.gov.au for the latest details although you have to do a bit of searching to find any up to date information.

The Reef

Onto the fishing, we still have some excellent reef areas open at the moment.

There have been a couple of days where boating conditions have been simply glorious. Variable winds to 5 knots, light swell and water like glass. For boating fishers it is like manna from heaven. It was one of these days where Al and I headed for the shoals.

We launched at the new Gladstone boat ramp on Alf O’Rourke drive. While the car and boat parking area is yet to be completed, launching on to a pontoon is a civilised way to start the day. For those like me with crook knees where jumping from the bow is fraught with peril, stepping from the boat onto a pontoon is a nice way to return to shore.

We started fishing on the shallower sections of the shoals and were being hammered by the omnipresent pickers. We were picking up smaller reef fish but mostly tuskfish. I rate tuskers as my favourite fresh reef fish. Tuskers have thick white flesh and when cooked lightly they are succulent on the plate. However, they don’t freeze particularly well.

Although it was good fun catching these beautiful fish, we wanted the bigger specimens. It wasn’t until we moved to the deeper channels of the shoals that we were able to hook up to the XXL models. Just like the smaller models, they make a terrible mess on the boat when caught as they spit out sand and bits of coral as they struggle.

Curtis Island

Prior to the fishing ban, a few mates and I went over the Curtis Island for a week of fishing and male bonding. We managed to hook onto hundreds of whiting over the week and some sizeable bream. These were mostly caught on the harbour side. We looked for sandy ledges hedged in by rocky spurs.

Accommodation at Curtis is available at the council-run camping grounds. This is an excellent well maintained and managed facility with large shady and grassed sites including barbecues, toilets, potable water and camp tables.

As we are all getting older and comfort is more inviting than adventure, we booked one of the many holiday houses rented through the shop on the island. There are several such houses and all have different features. We were on the harbour side where we could wile away the hours on the verandah and then walk over to the ocean side for our happy hour in the beer gardens overlooking the ocean on North Passage.

During the week we were there all the township roads where sealed. This will reduce the dust caused by infrequent traffic but may make it inviting for those without a 4WD. Of course the best fishing spots are reachable only by a 4WD but there are plenty of spots within walking distance of the town.

While the fishing ban gets itself all sorted out, there are worse places to be than sitting on the veranda overlooking the water – and sneaking in a few poppy naps.

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