Reef fishing will come alive
  |  First Published: April 2006

You’ve got to love any month that has a holiday in it! Gladstone’s reef fishing comes alive in Easter and anglers will find some excellent red throat, parrot and the occasional trout.

There are still some good spotted and Spanish mackerel around. Troll the nearby shoals for both bass and rock cod; these should provide some good catches. The mouth of Rodd Harbour has been giving up some good mackerel and is worth a visit.

Early salmon should start to appear in the Narrows in April. Most estuaries from Graham Creek onwards will be good locations. Threadfin will start appearing around Middle Creek and Hobble Gully.

Wild Cattle Island

Wild Cattle Island is an easily accessible island on Gladstone’s coastline. It’s separated from the mainland by Tannum Creek, which is locally called Wild Cattle Creek.

The eastern side of Wild Cattle Island opens out to Gladstone Harbour with an untouched beach. The western side of the island opens up to Tannum Creek. In between the two are grassy and shady sand dunes perfect for midday siestas.

Tannum Creek dries on the low tide so it’s easy to walk across to the island but without a boat, your return trip would need to be after the next low tide.

Recently Macca, Al, Graham and myself headed across to the island in Macca’s little 4m tinnie. Luckily the four of us are such delicate little petals that we fitted in with some room to spare. Macca did however suggest that we all hold our breath for the trip as any movement could see us all in the drink.

We left Tannum Creek’s single boat ramp three hours after the low tide in about 1.6m of water. On the way to the island we diverted around many of the exposed sandbars. The water was millimetres from the gunwales due, I assume, to our heavy anchor.

We bottomed out on some of the shallower sections and had to walk the boat across the sandbars where we saw thousands of fresh yabby holes and figured that the whiting must be close and would strike at our peeled prawns. We walked and fished the ever-changing gutters of the island’s ocean side hoping for some quality whiting but ended up with a bag of swallowtail dart.

These dart work the surf gutters in schools and will strike savagely at moving bait. They’re easily hooked and are excellent fighters on light gear. They’re a great species for kids because of their fighting qualities. We were hooking up using a simple running sinker with a small trace. Our bait was peeled prawn.

As the tide topped out, we moved back over to the other side and Macca’s rod was the first to go off. He was pleased with the grunter had hooked when Graham’s rod went ballistic. Much to Macca’s horror, Graham brought his line in and his hook was attached to the grunter as well.

Surprisingly, we didn’t hook one whiting all day. Even still, it was a fabulous day with mates – and that is what fishing is about.

Gladstone’s Day of Shame

It had to happen. Gladstone is one of the busiest ports in the southern hemisphere so it was only a matter of time before a major contamination occurred. On January 24, a tugboat and a tanker collided in the harbour releasing 25,000L of heavy fuel into Gladstone’s waterways.

We can’t be critical of the industrial presence in Gladstone waterways but the lack of resources this multi-billion dollar industry has attached to protecting the environment from substantial damage is shocking. As a result the oil wasn’t contained quickly enough to protect the waters of Gladstone Harbour.

I hope that all of the involved organisations have developed place contingency plans so that if there is a next time it can be managed better.

So what does the oil spill mean for recreational fishing in Gladstone? The commercial fishing industry has access to some, albeit totally inadequate, compensation. The recreational fishing and its infrastructure (tackle shops, boat chandlery) are left to defend themselves.

The reported contamination area goes as far as the mouth of Grahams Creek to the north, Barney Point to the south and westward into the Calliope River as far as the highway bridge. Testing is occurring in all the estuaries as far as Ramsay Crossing, Tannum Sands and North Point of Facing Island. Queensland Health recommends not fishing in these areas until the all clear is given.

I won’t be eating the fish caught in the harbour for sometime yet. My fishing expeditions will be well outside the test area and I will be returning all estuary species to the water. In spite of reports about the clean up, the oil stain is evident in the nearby creeks and mangroves and will take a long time to heal naturally.

The Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries have a call centre (ph 13 25 23) and updates on their web site www.dpi.qld.gov.au if you want more information.

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