1770 is fast becoming known as the home of one of the best land-based game fishing locations on the Central Queensland Coast. The spot known locally as the ‘Catwalk’ is aptly named due to the narrow access trail that snakes its way around and over the cliffs of Round Hill Headland to the rock ledges below.
The Catwalk offers anglers a high vantage point from which shoals of bait and feeding birdlife can be spotted approaching the stones, often shadowed by all manner of pelagic species taking advantage of an easy feed. As with many pelagic situations, peak feeding times generally coincide with sunrise and sunset. Combine this with the high tide, plenty of baitfish and an influx of clean ocean water you have a recipe for a feeding frenzy of epic proportions! Although the early morning and late evening periods of lower light are usually the best, there’s plenty of bait and clean water conditions to encourage fish to feed throughout the day.
I have had the privilege of living here and fishing these waters for the last 16 years, and the list of species I have seen caught from the stones continues to grow annually. You just never know what that next big strike and screaming run will produce; Spanish mackerel, northern longtail tuna, yellowfin tuna, mac tuna, bonito, giant trevally, golden trevally, bludger trevally, tea leaf trevally, diamond trevally, queenfish, school and spotted mackerel, barracuda, cobia, yellowtail kingfish, sailfish, and even black marlin have all been caught from the stones.
These species can be targeted in a variety of ways; one of the most popular methods is sight casting. Anglers perch themselves high on the ledge to gain a clear view of the surrounding conditions. High quality spin outfits with large line capacity and 8-10ft rods are the regular weapon of choice. With the aid of some high quality polarised sunglasses and a keen eye, schools of longtail tuna and Spanish mackerel can be spotted approaching the ledge. A well-placed cast and fast retrieve usually results in a solid hook-up.
Lure choice varies widely but the ever-faithful metal slugs from 40-85g are a good place to start. Flasha Spoons in the 50g size are my favourite with a slower flutter action while sinking, 65-85g Spanyid Raiders being the pick for longer casts and speedy retrieves when you really need to get ahead of the fastest schools of tuna and mackerel.
Often the most vital part of lure selection is simply matching the size and profile of the baitfish that your target species is feeding on. This is most evident when chasing tuna, fussy fish will pass up lure after lure until you get the profile size just right. Other equally popular lure choices include heavy shallow running minnows and bibless varieties such as the Rapala X-Rap long cast and Storm So-Run minnows.
When the trevally schools are thick, big soft plastics, such as ZMan 6” Grubz or 7” jerkbaits, worked across the bottom on medium to heavy jigheads will produce the most hook ups. Surface popping is one of the most visual and exciting methods of fishing from the stones. Large poppers and stickbaits worked vigorously across the top water can produce all manner of different species from XL GT, tuna, and, if you’re lucky, a big Spanish mackerel that will launch itself clear of the water.
When conditions allow, live baiting can also be a very productive method. A variety of baitfish species can be caught here. Working Sabiki bait jigs in front of the ledge can at times produce yakka, garfish and large herring. A light spin outfit and small 5-10g slugs can be used for spinning up Watson’s bonito and pike, perfect baits for big mackerel, kingfish and tuna. When the wind direction is favourable these live baits can be drifted out into the current lines using balloons or foam floats. I highly recommend using a small weight above the bait to keep it low enough beneath the surface to avoid sea birds stealing or damaging hard earned baits.
Peak times of year to fish vary, as no two seasons are the same, pelagic fish migration is based largely upon appropriate water temperatures that influence the influx of baitfish moving in towards the coast. Other major factors include moon cycles and tides, as well as water clarity, which can be affected by local rainfall and run-off.
Even in the best of conditions land-based game fishing is a dangerous sport. Due care must always be taken to ensure safe and successful adventures on the stones.
One of the most important rules is to never turn your back on the sea. As calm as things may seem there is always a possibility of a rogue wave or unpredictably large swell, any situation can turn bad fast if an angler is swept from the ledge. Just a little mental preparation and safety equipment can eliminate much of the risk.
Avoid fishing alone. Taking a mate not only gives you somebody to watch your back when conditions are rough, but also ensures there is somebody on hand to help, or get help, if things take a turn for the worse. Landing big fish safely from the stones is at times a hard task; this is where an experienced fishing partner proves invaluable. The bottom end of the ledge has a handy wash zone that allows you to get down close to the water’s edge to land fish, just don’t forget the gaff! Longer is better for the rougher days, I like to use a two-piece 14ft model. You don’t always have to use its full length, but it’s good to have on hand if you need it.
Quality footwear is a must. Not only is the track leading to the stones slippery and potentially dangerous, as you get close to the water’s edge in the tidal zone much of the rocks are covered in algae and barnacles. Wearing sturdy boots will help you maintain footing and protect your feet from cuts and abrasions. I highly recommend a pair of neoprene rock boots, they are designed for use in the water and the best models have small steel pins in the sole providing excellent grip in this harsh marine environment.
For those who like to be as safe as possible or perhaps just not the strongest swimmers there are an excellent range of compact, easy-to-wear personal floatation devices available on the market today. These vests and jackets have been purpose built with rock fishers in mind, so are comfortable and allow freedom of movement.
The harsh Australian sun should also be a big consideration before any LBG adventure. While it’s easy to forget in the early morning light, as the day wears on and the fish keep coming, so do the UV rays. Luckily there are a variety of tools at your disposal to minimise sun damage and make your adventure as comfortable as possible. There’s nothing worse than sitting out day two of an epic fishing session due to sunburn or sunstroke.
Sunscreen, zinc, a long sleeve shirt and a quality hat are a good start, I recommend the Frillneck sun hats as they are easily adjustable and provide excellent sun protection. They’re wrap around style also helps to block light penetration around your glasses, improving vision. Another good option is the wide range of Head buffs on the market. These tubular scarfs can be pulled up over the nose and ears providing good coverage and come in a range of stylish patterns and colours.
Another area often overlooked by anglers, is your hands. Quality casting gloves serve several purposes. They can save the back of your hands from nasty sun burn, and also help protect you from the occasional whiplash caused by casting thin braids and heavy lures long distance. There are a range of styles available, I favour a pair without fingertips so you don’t lose any sensitivity or contact with lines.
Above all, have fun and look after your mates and fellow anglers. We are all brought together here to enjoy an amazing natural resource and ensure its sustainability for generations to come. The little things count the most, minimise rubbish, don’t leave smelly bait scraps or fish frames behind and ensure anything you bring to the ledge leaves with you. If you can make the effort to carry it in, you most certainly have the ability to carry it out.Reads: 975