Blissful weather makes fishing a pleasure
  |  First Published: October 2007

Lately we have had spectacular weather. The water has been so flat this month that I’ve had rougher trips on bitumen highways.

In the harbour

Digging in close to the islands in the harbour seems to be a good strategy this month as the grunter, bream, trevally and even cod are hanging in close to the mangrove edges. Macca and I pulled a couple of cod from their holes on a recent trip close to Curtis Island. Despite pulling in a lot of smaller cod we still managed to get hammered by a few that put a good arc in our rods.

With the calm weather expected, the rocks on the ocean side of Facing Island have been popular with the small boat fishers. Drifting is possible if conditions are calm, but I prefer to play it safe and anchor when fishing near rocks. I am not a fan of big rocks as they are unforgiving on fibreglass hulls.

Seal Rocks is also reportedly fishing well with some sweetlip, cod and trout coming to the boat. I much prefer the northern side of these rocks which is considerably deeper than the southern side.

In the Estuaries

The hot water inlet near the Power Station seems to be the spot, particularly at night. It always seems to fish better on an outgoing tide particularly in colder weather. Perhaps it might have something to do with the ambient temperature difference caused by the release of warm water streaming from the Power Station.

I find it best to anchor slightly off the stream, which is obvious from the flotsam of bubbles on the surface. Then cast in and drift the bait with and out of the stream of warm water.

Some big barramundi have been caught this way even from land-based fishers, working from the edge of the outlet near the picnic tables. It is a great place to bring the kids for a run around. Live bait can be caught with a cast net along the banks near the boat ramp.

On the Reef

The wider reefs have been much more productive than the in-shore reefs and shoals. The wide reefs on North West have been pulling good fish – the quality, if not the quanitity, seems pretty good. Pat Hogan and his mates pulled some good quality red emperor from North West recently with one horse pulling the scales down just over 11kg. He was a bit happy with that one.

There have been a couple of Chinaman-fish being pulled in. Ian Briggs pulled a juvenile with its betraying pigtail from the shoals around Erskine Island.

The closer reefs around Masthead are still pulling some good quality sweetlip, red-throat, trout, emperor and most species of cod.

Paul Kirkman and I spent a day circling the reefs around Masthead on what could only be described as a day just made for boating fishers. The wind maxed out at 2 knots and the seas maxed at out 2cm. Not even the afternoon sea breeze caused a ripple on the waters. It was Central Queensland at its most magic.

However, the only fish that were biting consistently were collared sea bream. Not that there is anything wrong with collared sea bream. Even Grant’s “Fishes of Australia” describes collared sea bream as superior eating and “comparable to sweetlip”. I probably wouldn’t go that far, but collared sea bream of 40cm and up give a decent fillet and provides a succulent feed when lightly barbequed.

Collared sea bream are frequently referred to as iodine bream. Some fish reportedly have an iodine taste. Apparently affected fish are covered with an iodine smelling mucus, the result of eating a weed dwelling shellfish. On my count, I have caught a thousand or more collared sea bream in the past 15 years and I have not yet caught an affected fish.

However, they are champion pickers and for every one you put on the ice at least 10 have stripped your bait. On this trip we were using whole squid which was disappearing quicker than we hoped, so it turned into squid pieces and then into squid strips. The box of squid was almost gone. Luckily collared sea bream also make good bait and we had enough to use a couple of the smaller ones for the afternoon session.

I know I spoke about Masthead only a few months ago, but it really is a fabulous spot. There is so much structure around Masthead that you only have to move 10m to be in a completely different ecosystem.

Paul and I started on the southeastern corner of the island, some three miles from the shores of Masthead itself. We located a big bommie on the sounder and anchored up. There is far too much heavy structure on the bottom at this location so I thought drifting would result in heavy tackle loss. Masthead has a large reef/rock structure running north-south with the obvious tell tale breaking waves. When you fish here you need to keep your eyes peeled for structure just below the surface.

On this day the visibility was 30m or more as we could clearly sea the bottom and target the types of structure we were fishing. Mind you we weren’t catching anything of any size.

We moved to the western edge and drifted with the current northward along this side of the island. Structure here is more sparse but equally as noteworthy with large bommies and a large variety of coral types. Depth here ranged from 10-15m however, we continued to catch sea bream.

We moved to a small reef system called Irving Reef just a few miles north of Masthead. The mark 23S31.467 151E36.432 puts you smack in the middle of this small system. The depth starts about 25m and moves up to about 12m. It is pretty close to the green zone of Polmaisse Reef so you need to your eyes on your chart plotter if fishing this location.

We picked up some small sweetlip and a couple of undersized Venus tusk fish as well as plenty more sea bream, but unfortunately nothing of any consequence.

We headed home with an icebox full of sea bream and a few tusk fish which would have us filleting for hours. But the spectacular day, the magic conditions and the fabulous locations certainly made up for the lack of variety.

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