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Winter westerlies aren’t all bad news
  |  First Published: July 2013



Winter westerlies don’t necessarily put the brakes on all fishing trips but they do however make you rethink your options.

Lots of times we just forget the ocean and hit the estuaries targeting the big bream and salmon that are in good form of late. Other times you want to do something out of the ordinary. We have had a run of 15-20 knot southwesters that would usually shut down many of the locally favoured species from Spanish to reefies.

There are a number of spots including various headlands along the coast and the eastern side of Keppel where you can get under the curtain in relative comfort and still catch fish.

At times the runs of doggies and greys can be at those little spots like Double Heads and Farnborough that are almost glassy and the view another hundred or so metres offshore can be white water everywhere! In the past we have cruised out to the islands and scoped every possible sheltered spot looking for trout, sweeties and parrot or hit the eastern beaches of South Keppel chasing queenies and trevally. The only trouble with this option is the flogging you cop coming home that often sours the day.

We decided to give Stanage Bay a shot after looking at the weather map while sitting at the back table with a chart, a compass and a cold jimmy. They lay of the land at Stanage is way more user-friendly with the bonus of being able to drop in the crab pots or chase estuary species if the offshore plan didn’t work out. We got ourselves together and did the run up to Stanage Bay approximately two and a half hours from Rocky to scope out the area for the future days that are just too hard work out of Yeppoon. The day we got there, a few boats had just arrived back from an offshore run. They had all faired pretty well and despite the westerly, they all scored some quality fish including red emperor and coral trout. They said they fished around the closer islands and rarely ever had to go any further because their local grounds didn’t suffer the same pressures from the numbers of fishers that our grounds do. We only took the little boat (4.6m) so we could work every shallow onshore reef and headland we could find and also check the creeks.

We found some great country that produced results almost immediately. Parrot, sweetlip and average size trout made up the majority of our catch. We also saw some trophy sized crabs and flathead caught not very far from the boat ramp.

The abundance of creeks makes this a crabbers paradise with big muddies a regular show. My advice is to head up the sound a bit further and look for creeks that may be out of the way because all visitors to Stanage go for the crabs.

The Stanage jew hole is less than a kilometre from the boat ramp and as the name suggests, it is a deep hole where currents meet and can be a little hairy at times for those short on experience. The best time to fish it is around the top and bottom of the tides while there is a bit of run but not enough to make it too difficult to fish.

Stanage has plenty of accommodation from units and cabins to campsites. It also has a pub, a local shop, takeaways and a bait and tackle shop that has everything from crab pots to quality bait, trailer parts, boat parts and a stack of fishing gear that comes with good advice or help if you need it.

We had heard that the road was really bad, usually it is quite okay if you cruise in and don’t play boy racers. There were a few guys complaining about the road and it was no surprise that the biggest whinger passed us doing over 80km with a twenty foot boat on the back (he wondered why he did it tough, even breaking parts off his trailer).

Stanage is quite impressive with the amount of options open to any keen fisher available on any given day. The first thing is to contact Vonnie at Stanage Bay Marine to get the gaff on everything needed to plan that next trip, she can help with accommodation and just about everything else to make your fishing trip a memorable one. Now I can’t wait for a bit more time to do some more exploring up there. Thanks very much to Vonnie and Tony for great hospitality and great tips. It wasn’t a long trip, but it showed that Stanage could be fished from the average tinny even in mediocre weather.

So far this month, we are still getting numbers of quality Spaniards right around the area. As I have said before they usually slow down to just the home fish by now with the odd run as a few follow the bigger bait schools. The better numbers have been on the rubble pinnacle country past the closer islands or at spots like Liza Jane and Manifold. Flat, Perforated, Barren, Hummocky and Outer are always worth a crack. Admittedly the bigger fish have come from the wider grounds at Douglas Shoals, Johnson Patch and Innamincka.

The continued dredging of the Rosslyn Bay Harbour added to the continued fresh coming from the Fitzroy has again pushed the lesser mackerels out of the bay and along the shoals and outer islands. Some huge spotties and doggies have turned up among the catches of Spanish. It is amazing to see lesser mackerel swimming alongside the big fellas without any fear.

In the past few years, the grunter runs we used to get seem to have blurred into one, at least for the offshore fishers. It seems that every time the weather is good enough to target grunter, they are there. There are a few spots that produce regularly including Findlay’s and The Pinnacles at the north end of the bay while Quartz and Cape Capricorn are the pick of the southern spots. Grunter, black jew and fingermark all like the same territory and it isn’t uncommon to get one of the others as a by catch. Black jew are on the chew at present particularly three to four days either side of the full and new moons in the coastal spots. The weather is the decider as is the case with pretty well all the fish we chase and if it plays the game then the catches will follow.

Muddies haven’t slowed despite the drop in temperatures. Many of the local crabbers are getting the best catches of the year both in size and numbers. Bream, salmon, flathead and muddies definitely make the estuary boys happy and should continue for a while yet.

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