More than 100km of corrugated dirt road, 25km winds, and an over-packed boat ramp failed to deter several hundred keen anglers from making their way to Central Queensland’s Stanage Bay for the annual Easter fishing competition.
Stanage Bay is a 70km drive north from Rockhampton on the Bruce Highway followed by a further 102km of stone-filled road interspersed with seemingly out-of-place strips of bitumen. The drive also takes you past historic homesteads and the pristine Shoalwater Bay: a massive area now used as an Army training ground.
Approaching our destination we were greeted with a store-cum-hotel, tackle shop and a boat storage business. Manicured parkland beckons as the perfect camping site and yes, this park has a plentiful supply of drinking water along with toilets. To cap it off, the camping ground stands on the water’s edge of beautiful Thirsty Sound.
After selecting your FREE camping spot, it’s imperative to seek out local knowledge on the best fishing locations as well as any hazards that might be encountered. For instance, the tides only allow vessels to be put to sea from the concrete ramp at least two hours on the rising tide and two hours before the full out.
As far back as the 1770s, Captain James Cook sensed there was something different about the tidal conditions at Stanage Bay. Cook anchored his vessel 11 nautical miles off the coast and sent a crew of sailors in a rowboat to the sound to report on conditions and return with fresh water. The crew returned with the unfavourable report that the place was barren; hence the area was called Thirsty Sound. They did, however, report on large tides and a fast run, confirming Cook’s suspicions.
Thirsty Sound boasts its own Coastguard crew with state-of-the-art boat and equipment. Their presence during the Easter weekend provided comforting support for up to 50 boats that left the boat ramp daily in the Shirley Gimm Fishing competition.
Unfortunately, the 25-30 knot winds restricted much of the fishing to Thirsty Sound and the leeward sections on Quailand Long Islands, although a few of the larger vessels did make it across the 20km of fairly heavy chop to nearby islands such as Hexham, Marble and Collins. Thirsty Sound is a large section of water complete with hundreds of sheltered fishing spots and myriad estuaries crawling with the State’s favourite crustacea, the muddie.
The daily competition weigh-in provided an array of fish species with the sound producing blue and threadfin salmon, grunter, cod, steelback salmon, flathead, tusk fish, bream, jew and so on while larger vessels returned with large and small mouth nannygai, redthroat, grass sweetlip and cod.
Catches were smaller than usual because of the strong winds, but it was obvious from listening to the tales told around the nightly campfires that some were luckier than others.
Overall, the competition was a great success with more than $8000 in prizes and all proceeds going to a variety of national and local charities and rescue organizations.Reads: 5150