It’s big flathead time
  |  First Published: August 2006

August is the month to target the bigger flathead around Gladstone.

During winter, I find the bigger flathead in the deeper holes usually at the mouth of estuaries. They tend to strike at slow moving baits with short twitching action. A slowly dragged bait on a long 40-60cm leader below a ball sinker may entice a strike. While the fish may be slower, the strikes can be fierce. This may be because of the water temperature, which is still fairly cold.

In the Estuaries

Top flathead haunts include the deeper holes around creeks with mangrove edges as found around Black Swan and Graham Creek. Winter flatties seem to stay deeper and while they are a little less active and you have to work harder, the wait is usually worth it. They are also bigger and fight like crazy when hooked.

The recent showers and heavy rains of June/July are still having some effect on the fishing action in the estuaries. The rain flushed some of the smaller creeks so a lot of action is occurring at the mouth of these creeks. Calliope Creek has been running hot and cold of late but the mouth of the river, around Wiggins Island, has been hot-to-trot. Quality bream, flathead and grunter have been pulled from the southern edges.

There are several smaller drop-offs along this edge, which are easily located on a sounder. Fishing at this location seems to be more productive during winter than summer. It is fairly protected so it’s suitable for smaller craft. It can also be accessed by foot along the small service road near the dog pound. Getting through the mangroves can be quite tricky but if you can put up with the scratches and the mud, it can be worth it.

I have had heard mixed reports of the salmon run along the Narrows. Some fishers have brought back great specimens while some have come back with only water in the icebox. We are almost at the end of the salmon season, but I would expect every Narrows angler and their rod to get onto a decent feed of threadfin.

While you can pretty much catch salmon all year, April-August is the primetime around Gladstone. Best times seem to be on the run-in tide with the larger tides producing the best action. Darker nights also bring on better bites. I think this is because bait schools are easy targets in the dark. Salmon can hunt these schools using their sensory tendrils which work just as well without any light.

Choosing tackle for salmon leaves an angler between a rock and a hard place. You will need a heavy trace to land the fish but lighter gear will catch more. I use a single hook below 10kg line with a 12-15kg trace. The Mustad wide mouth hooks seem to suit the salmon’s mouth structure quite nicely and increase the hook-up rate. I try to keep the sinker as small as possible, but as it is better to hunt salmon on a run-in tide, you have to be prepared to make a few sinker changes.

Salmon prefer to make a good run first, so keep the rod tip down and turn the drag a little lighter than normal. Let the salmon move away with the bait before striking. Wide mouth hooks just need a little tension to set but the suicide style needs a firmer application.

My favourite salmon location is Middle Creek. I have written about it before (see QFM, Oct 2005). A small islet at the mouth of the creek sets up all sorts fishing action. It really is just a horseshoe-shaped clump of mangrove but you can target the inside and the outside as you see fit. The changing tidal condition varies the fishing environment considerably. I have caught more threadfin here than any other single location.

Turkey Beach has several spots such as Bird Island, the mouth of Morris Creek, and Long Tom Beach. In Seven Mile Creek I like Norton Point and Innes Head if the weather is good.

Colosseum Inlet (see QFM, Dec 2004) is also a good haunt for both salmon and flathead. The beaches at the mouth and the mouth of all the small tributaries are favourite spots.

Salmon is a superb tablefish when eaten fresh, but it does not freeze well. If frozen and thawed it is often mushy and tasteless, so only keep enough for a feed.

Wild Cattle Creek is fishing well with good whiting being caught in the upper reaches. Yabbies are a little harder to find at the moment but the local prawns seem to be doing the trick. There is nothing better than juicy fillets of winter whiting. Another great spot for whiting is the expansive beaches at Sea Hill (see QFM, Dec 2005). This is one of the prettiest beach camping locations in Gladstone but you need to be good at reading the tide if you want to avoid being flooded out.

On the Reef

The weather has not been so kind latelly with strong winds stopping all but the super keen from heading out to the reef. Even the closer shoals have been hard to stay on for any time. The areas that seem to be doing well are the more protected locations like Seal Rocks and Bass Shoals.

Mackerel are active at both locations and are still hitting trolled baits. Rodd Harbour (see QFM, Aug 2004) is a protected location and on a good day can outfish many of the more open reef locations. There is more rock than reef around the harbour but trolled bait can bring good spotted and Spanish mackerel to the boat. Try trolling the mouth of the harbour following the gutter running beside Tongue Spit this month.

It can be a sloppy run from Gladstone to Seal Rocks in southeasterlies over 15 knots but this location can be very productive. The main rock is above water on high water, but all the others are exposed only at low water. The bulk of the rock and reef system is submerged all the time.

The eastern side of Seal Rocks features deeper drop-offs. This is a prime location to anchor and berley up. Sweetlip, cod, salmon and wobbegong shark can be caught there.

The western side is a little shallower with bream and cod the more frequent catches. Plenty of isolated rocky outcrops create fish attracting devices and while these are only small, they hold a good array of fish including parrot and the occasional trout.

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