Changeover Time at Gladstone
  |  First Published: February 2007

February in Gladstone is one of the changeover times for the region’s anglers. The chance of summer storms starts to abate but the weather is still hot and steamy. Heading out to the reef still requires careful monitoring of the weather conditions especially unpredicted but developing changes. Winds can blow up and storms can move in very quickly during Central Queensland summers.

However, if you keep your eyes on the horizon and baits on your hooks, you will be able to catch yourself a decent feed of reef fish this month.

In the Harbour

Bream have shown up in good numbers in the immediate harbour with some fish to 1.5kg. These fish have been taken at night in and around the Gladstone bund walls.

Around the main bridge in the Calliope River (see QFM Jan 07) and the Calliope River causeway, smaller bream are being caught during the day. It’s possible to get a feed here but you might have to work harder. Best baits during the day seem to be prawns but when the bigger fish come out to play at night, half a pilchard or a whole herring on a 3/0 or 4/0 long shank hook should produce.

In the Estuaries

The odd salmon is being taken from the Calliope River anabranch, Beecher Bar and the Gladstone Harbour. Most of the fish are threadfin, which are great on the plate. The favoured locations for salmon hunting are the gravel bars in creeks and rivers.

Gladstone’s creeks are giving up bream, grunter, whiting and small Moses perch in half decent numbers. The mangrove edges of Graham Creek have been productive and as have the deeper reaches of Targinie Creek.

The gutters and drains of Black Swan Creek are also champion spots for silver bream but you have to get your bait right into the middle of the small drains along the northern sides. The southern side is far too shallow. Bream always seem to be a little skittish here and don’t seem to venture far from the mangrove edges. I prefer to fish on the still water on the outgoing tide as most drains empty.

The edges around Ramsays Crossing in The Narrows are always worth a hit. The water whistles along here both on the ebb and the flood tides. This is where anglers target eddies, which are small pockets of calm water that lie outside of the direct flow of the tide. Fish are usually lazy and will do as little work as possible to get a feed. So they will stay out of strong water flow if they can get a feed more easily.

These little pockets formed by the protective edges of the bank are ideal locations to target fish. Throw into the eddy and slowly bring baits into the water flow. More often than not, I get the best strikes just at the edge of the water flow.

Decent sized grunter are being caught in the South Trees near the Toolooa Bends so try the rock walls here. This is a great night fishing location as the harbour winds keep most of the mossies and sand flies away. The lights from the roadways make the dappled light against the mangrove edges very inviting. Mullet or gar fillets and whole pilchards are the best baits here.

On the Reef

Good catches of coral trout, red emperor, redthroat sweetlip and mackerel are being taken from the close in reefs around Southend and Gatcombe. The reef around Rat Island is giving up half decent sweetlip.

Those travelling further a field to Masthead, Cabbage Patch, Wistari and Sykes are all coming home with good catches.

Rock Cod Shoals (RCS) is one of my favourite locations, as regular readers might know. It always provides me with consistent catches and produces a wide variety of table fish.

However, I always make a point of exploring new locations. Just a few miles southeast of RCS is a little patch of coral, which appears on the Capricornia Sun Map, named as Two & Sixpenny Bit (or 7 & 9 Fathom Patch). It is about 25nm from Gladstone’s north entrance. It’s about the same distance from Gladstone as Masthead, which is far more popular. I hadn’t fished this location before and headed out with my son Adam to see what it was all about. I had taken a GPS bearing from the map (151E44.100 and 23S42.540) that, by my calculation, would put me on the western patch of the reef in 18m of water. The map showed this patch running eastwest, almost parallel to RCS.

We had a window of opportunity in the early morning but wind and storms were predicted for the afternoon. The build up on the horizon had us watching for the change to move in.

If there is one thing you learn about Gladstone in summer, it’s to watch for afternoon changes. They can whip up the sea in no time flat and while these shoals might only be 30-40 minutes from Gladstone harbour on a good day, from experience, they can be several hours away when the seas turn nasty.

Adam and I headed out in the wee small hours before sunrise and planned to return to Gladstone just after midday.

We fished with whole squid and garfish caught from Facing Island’s beaches on a recent fishing trip. We rigged the gar on a 3x5/0 gang hook on a steel trace and left this drifting behind us just below the surface. Within minutes, the line was being stripped off by our first mackerel. The fish wasn’t huge by any means but was quite a nice first catch.

We continued with the floating gar and pulled in some very respectable redthroat. We have been on trips to other Gladstone shoals where we have hauled in redthroat on floaters all day and it looked promising here.

I rigged a small garfish on a ganged rig and attached it to the dropper loop of my paternoster rig. It seems these garfish were doing the trick for us today because it wasn’t long before we hooked up some rather nice table-bound parrotfish. Parrotfish are a great table fish. They have the juiciest fillets, and when lightly crumbed and cooked on a hot barbecue plate, they’re hard to beat.

We did have some pilchards to set up an oily berley trail. I know people much cleverer than I rave about berley trails. I have used berley trails with success at times but more, often than not, I find they encourage scavengers.

When the fishing started to slow we dropped a few pilchard pieces overboard and a large tiger shark sidled up to the boat. Within seconds every bait we had in the water was bitten off, leaving us with lines in the water but no tackle.

After this incident, the fish went off the bite completely. We headed over to a few of my RCS marks, which were only a few minutes away. Here we pulled in a nice haul of parrot and redthroat to top up the icebox.

Just after midday, as we expected, the afternoon sea breezes started to roll in. What started off as small white capped waves blew up by the time we reached the safety of the harbour.

As I said before, timing is of the essence this time of year.

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