With yet another month of some of the most awful fishing conditions on record, I was getting desperate.
I was starting to hold my coffee cup like it was a Shimano TLD25 just waiting for a strike. I was stirring my coffee like I was twitching a soft plastic over a snag – something had to be done!
Watching the tarp flap on my boat while parked in the back yard brought a tear to my eye. I had enough so I gave Macca a call and suggested we head up the Narrows for an overnighter somewhere…anywhere!
But then reality clicked in. The wind was 40-knots from the southeast, which would chop up the harbour. At this time of the year, even if we got out of the winds we would be eaten by sandflies or mossies. What we needed was to be prepared…
I have a Cruisecraft 500 and it is a fabulous boat and I love it, but it is not really set up for stay-aboard over-night. Even with the centre insert, the cuddy cabin is too small for an adult to sleep stretched out and the only deck space available for sleeping is between the two seats. However, we were up for the challenge.
We set up the boat with the essentials for our overnight expedition. The front cabin was set up as a bed for Macca (he is shorter and while his toes might hang over the end, the bedding is comfortable). I grabbed a self-inflating mattress for my bed in the cabin. I know I am going to toss and turn because these mattresses are never thick enough for my bulk. Still the fish may be biting all night and we may get no sleep anyway.
We packed a folding table for meal preparation. The new breed of folding aluminium camping tables is brilliant. They are light, sturdy, fold down to nothing and you can pick them up for under $30. The table sits just below the height of the gunwale, which will offer some protection for the camp stove.
I have used the bait board as a table before but getting squid guts mixed up in your steak burger … well there are better things to eat!
The butane gas stoves available for under $20 are just the shot for boating – compact and efficient.
We also packed lots of insect repellent, which included Mortein, Raid candles, and every spray and lotion we could get our hands on. No insect was going to penetrate our protective barriers. No Siree!
Bracing ourselves for the strong winds and big seas, we put on the all-clears, secured the front hatch and tied down all lose items.
Gladstone Harbour can spew up very quickly in strong southeasterlies. We were only travelling through for a short time before we reached the protection of the Narrows so we were prepared to take it slowly and carefully. You have to give this area respect.
Going through the Narrows means traversing Ramsay Crossing. This is a notoriously shallow spot and has claimed more propeller blades than any single location in Gladstone. I take Ramsay’s only on high tide, and only very slowly. Leads and navigation markers identify the safe passage through, but you still need tidal assistance.
Normally this whole area is a big fishing and crabbing Mecca of Gladstone. It has rocky gravel beds, protected eddies, large mangrove drains, and snags that all hold fish. However, on this trip, it was just a thoroughfare.
The harbour was better than we expected and after getting through the crossing, with all propeller blades intact, we headed for Pacific Creek. In the strong wind, this trip was fairly bumpy but thankfully we were travelling with the wind and tide that made it considerably more comfortable.
Pacific Creek was a haven from the weather. The mouth to the creek is best traversed about half tide as the sandbars at the entrance are quite shallow. To enter, keep slightly north of mid channel until you pick up the lead beacons.
Once inside the creek, the fishing world is at our disposal. We travelled up and down the creek and fished as many drains as we could and flicked into holes found on the sounder. It wasn’t long before we caught silver and black bream, grunter, salmon and the ever-present river perch.
Most of the fish we caught came from the mouth of the tributaries throughout the creek. And some of the large drains can also be productive locations and are worth a flick or two.
As the sun was starting to wane, we chose an anchor site for the night in the main reach of the river. We set the anchor and checked the scope was sufficient for safe and secure anchorage for the night. The scope should be at least eight times the depth for night anchoring.
We left our rods baited, hooked up and dangling in the water while we set about the meal preparation. We tossed a coin to determine the designated driver just in case we were visited by the officials and breath-tested while sitting at anchor. Luckily the coin fell overboard.
During the night, because of the width of the creek, we were able to fish the middle, both edges and under some of the barges anchored nearby. Unfortunately, we were bitten off by some of the big boys and the only species of size we brought to the boat was a shovelnose shark.
As the shadows began to get long and the breeze dropped, the mossies came out in force. We sparked up the Raid and the Mortein candles, both of which claim a 5m dome of protection, and it didn’t take long for every mossie on the boat to leave. We kept both candles going all night and were pretty much mossie free – I was very impressed!
There is something special about sunrise on the water in your own boat. And if it wasn’t an ugly old coot like Macca in the boat, it would have been downright romantic.
The trip home was bumpy but uneventful – thank goodness. We threw some baits in Barker and Maria creeks on the way home without much success.
With careful planning, and the correct equipment, living and fishing on a small 5m boat for a couple of nights can be totally enjoyable.
Pacific CreekReads: 1923