May was filled with glassy fishing days and weekends, so providing a veritable highway to the reef last month.
There have been reports of big parrot coming to the boats visiting Gladstone’s 12 Mile, Rock Cod and Bass shoals. Reports from anglers who visited Masthead, Erskine and One Tree islands weren’t as encouraging. While reports indicated there were some big sweetlip and trout about, the quantity just wasn’t there.
Squid seems to be the most popular bait, and some easy catches have been reported when squid have been hanging around parrot and following them to the boat. Squid don’t fear boats like some fish, so they come right within netting distance if you are fast enough.
For some reason I have found squid more common when we pull in heaps of parrots, so I always keep a squid jig handy. I have even had squid hanging on to the parrot as it comes into the boat. The squid jig has to be the marvel of fishing technology. These are foolproof, irresistible to squid and fresh calamari is a tasty option on the dinner plate.
In the harbour, some quality bream have been caught around the islands with rockwalls and features like Quoin, Turtle and Garden islands. Some large blackall (also known as blubberlip bream) have featured in catch reports from anglers fishing sandy bottoms including Tide Island, Pelican Banks and Gatcombe Heads. These much maligned fish aren’t regarded as great tablefish, but they put up a good fight when hooked.
Some trevally have been pulled from the waters of the ocean side of Rat Island. These have been caught late afternoon on the fading light and into the evening.
Manning Reef has been lousy with sharks of late, which is great if this is your pleasure. They average 1.5-2m so be prepared for a tussle. There is little science in hooking sharks so almost any bait and rig will do.
Nothing much seems to be happening on the salmon front with threadfin only appearing in a few catch reports. These reports are coming from those venturing down the Narrows to Ramsays Crossing. Salmon should be running at this time of the year and featuring in many reports now so salmon are worth chasing this month.
Whiting are hunting along the banks of most creeks. While yabbies are hard to find at the moment, yabby holes indicate that whiting might be near. Wild Cattle Creek is a good spot to try and a great location for a family day out.
Also try the sand gutters of Canoe Point, especially around the rock spurs. You can pull in some good silver bream and dart there.
Bass Shoals is the little brother of Gladstone Shoals. These shoals are located on the northern tip of Curtis and are relatively small with fewer features than the other more expansive and better fished Gladstone versions. However a trip to Bass Shoals does offer the option of fishing the nearby Cape Capricorn, Rundle Island and the Curtis Channel.
The boat trip to Bass Shoals is a pretty journey, following the southern coast of Curtis Island. While the beaches of South End and Turtle Street are all inviting, the biggest attraction en route is the action of birds.
Paul Kirkman and I headed to Bass Shoals on a recent trip. The sea was like glass so we could go just about anywhere we wanted.
We noticed several diving birds signalling some type of action as they plunged head first into the surface skirmish. Trying to read the path of the feeding fish is not easy. Heading too close to the frenzy invariably sends the fish deep and breaks up the bait ball. The direction of the school often deviates without warning so sometimes it’s a matter of getting as close as you can without scaring them, then hurling a lure into the fray and winding like crazy.
We did just that, turning the motor off so we didn’t spook the fish. It isn’t necessary to get the lure into the middle of the fray, as you want it to mimic an escaping baitfish. We hurled, retrieved and waited holding on to the rod in anticipation. The fish seemed to dive deeper and disappeared so we cursed our bad luck and decided to wind the lure in, continuing on our trip to Bass Shoals.
That is when the reel screamed as line was being stripped by a bullet shaped mack tuna. These little beauties go like the clappers and pound for pound are the best fighters of the sea. Apparently tuna are good table fare if the sliced fillets are blanched by brief immersion in hot water, steamed and served with white sauce. However this one was bound for our bait bucket to tempt Spanish mackerel.
On these shoals we floated baits and drifted with the current, no faster than 3 knots. I use a variety of bait but do best on pilchards and squid. I prefer a steel trace when drifting for mackerel, however as the current drops the trace does as well so be careful not to snag the bottom. There is nothing worse than snagging up with a steel trace and a 20kg line. Some boats anchor with less!
On this day, the Spanish mackerel were very hungry striking at our floating pilchards and making several good runs. Luckily our gear was up to the task and we were able to put them all into the icebox.
There are several ways to slice and cook mackerel but I prefer fillets. I leave these overnight in a mixture of plain yoghurt and a tandoori premix marinate. Lightly barbecued, they are hard to beat.
On a recent trip with my son Adam to the same shoals, amongst other catches we pulled in a double hit up of juvenile red emperor. These little fellows hit both our lines within seconds of each other. It was bittersweet to bring a pair of reds to the surface only to find them somewhat short of the required 55cm. So it was a quick photo and they returned unharmed to the water.Reads: 924