Given the current spate of unseasonable poor weather, it is very difficult to predict what will happen in May. Generally the weather flattens out this time of the year and conditions are much more stable.
On fine days, the reef is my spot to be. There is something special about a crisp early autumn morning trip to the reef. It is often the best time to travel as the wind and chop usually don’t pick up until later in the day – if at all.
The shoals are always hard to beat but when the water is glass smooth a trip to Masthead can usually put a coral trout, redthroat emperor or grassy sweetlip in the ice box.
If you have the boat and the facilities, spending the night on the reef this time of the year can ensure you bag some quality reefies.
Seal Rocks is worth a visit in May. The fishing here, like many other places, can be hot or cold so if you fail to get any bites it’s an easy trip to Colosseum Inlet where you can fish the small clump of coral at the mouth. The mangrove edges here will give up grunter, bream and trevally.
The mangrove lined islands of Quoin and Picnic are also worth a visit. On calm days you can take your boat right up to the edges to flick into the holes and gutters.
When the winds come from the southeast, the top end creeks of Curtis Island are well protected. Pacific Creek is a fabulous creek to explore with lots of deep holes at its mouth and gravel beds on the far reaches. You may even be able to coax a queenfish or salmon to the boat.
It has been a sorry state in our household recently with my boat sitting under the tarp for last six weeks. Work commitments and terrible weather have made fishing in the boat impossible.
So when a free weekend came up and the prediction was 40 knots with 2m+ seas I packed the camping gear and fishing rods into the ute and headed across to Curtis Island with some mates.
Al, Macca and myself have all visited and fished around the island by boat many times but none of us had fished or camped on the island before.
Curtis Island is the dominant island of Gladstone Harbour and the small township of Southend is its principle settlement area. A vehicle is all that is needed to drive around Southend but a 4WD opens up beach access and other parts of the island.
The comfortable return barge trip over for the three of us and the ute cost around $150 and takes about 30 minutes each way. The barge drops off and collects from the jetty at Southend – a short five minutes drive from the campgrounds. The road from the barge leads directly through the township and ends at the campgrounds. If you are really keen, you could walk but you would have to be travelling light – and on this trip, we weren’t.
Camping is free so we were pleasantly surprised to find well maintained and free gas barbeques, composting toilets, shaded picnic tables, tank water and acres of flat shady camp sites. Recent rains maintained a soft carpet of couch grass for our tents.
We had the campgrounds to ourselves this weekend, which was not surprising given the forecast of lousy weather. We set camp as quickly as we could without rushing too much. This is definitely not the place to rush so we set about developing a strategic plan for fishing here. After all, planning is vital to success.
The beach is only one minute away and all you have to do is follow the marked walkway through the dunes. The beach was not immediately visible from the campsite but the sound of the waves indicated that it is very close.
The small shop on the island at Capricorn Lodge stocks all the supplies you may need including fishing gear, tackle, bait and local knowledge. Armed with all we needed, including some local prawns, we tackled the beach just in front of the campground at low tide.
This also gave us a picture of the environment we would be fishing later in the trip as the tide came in. The beach was white gritty sand with tackle grabbing rocky outcrops creating little sandy bays.
We were using our whiting gear as we were sure they would be on a catch list and on our plates for dinner. We had to balance our tackle selection between having the weight to cast out against the strong prevailing southeasterlies and keeping gear out of the rocky crevices.
Once we got it right we caught everything but whiting. We picked up bream, swallowtail dart, snubnose dart, Moses perch and tarwhine but nothing substantial. A few vehicles headed up the beach to rocky headlands with heavier gear and if we hadn’t have been so lazy we might have joined them. But this was easy relaxing fishing and while the fish weren’t big it was as much fun as we needed.
Word from the shop was that these guys cleaned up. We had steak burgers for tea.
The next morning we headed to the harbour side of Southend. At low tide this area is one huge sand bank aptly named Pelican Banks. While we waited for the tide to come in we headed to the jetty. On the ocean side were rock walls with the occasional deep hole in which to cast. This called for accuracy as wayward casts usually ended in snagged tackle and bust-offs. The wind didn’t help much either.
On the steps of the jetty we cast downward, targeting the small baitfish hovering around the pylons. On the harbour side, the public boat ramp, also used by the barge, was pretty much protected from the strong winds. We caught some good-sized bream, stripies and some more Moses perch. Because we were heading home in the afternoon, all were returned.
We headed over to Pelican Banks to fish the incoming tides for whiting. Again, the beach was shell grit with little sand. We pulled in small bream and a couple of small Moses perch but once again no whiting.
So, the fish win again. But it was one top camping/fishing weekend with mates and that’s what it’s all about.Reads: 1975