Ahhh December!
  |  First Published: December 2006

It’s all systems go in Gladstone in December. The reefs will be alive and the estuaries are set to fire. It’s the perfect time to explore what Gladstone has to offer – just don’t forget about the reef closure from 14-22 December.

On the Reef

Rock Cod Shoals are a still worth a look. Check out the fringe of the Shoals where the perimeter drops away to around 30m. I haven’t heard reports of substantial mackerel of late but they should be there.

I have heard some reports of mackerel still hitting trolled baits from Middle and Outer Rocks just off Bustard Heads.

If you have a suitable boat, Masthead is always worth a trip. The island is now closed to camping for the season to protect the turtles and the bird life but the reef on the northern side will have coral trout, red emperor and cod.

In the Estuaries

The banks of the Calliope River anabranch have been cluttered with land-based anglers chasing bream. Most are taking enough away for a feed.

Even Auckland Creek is hosting its share of hopeful fishers. Grunter and small fingermark are being caught with most anglers collecting fresh bait using cast nets, or breaking oysters and pipis found on rocks along the muddy banks.

Whiting are coming from the beaches off Barney Point. Most are just over the legal limit of 23cm but great fun for the kids. As we move into the stinger season, parents should take great care around our beach areas.

Stonefish are also common around Barney Point and the mouth of Boyne River at this time of the year. Paddling along the water’s edge in reef shoes is a good practice.

Colosseum Inlet is worth a look as the small coral reef at the mouth of Tannum Creek houses small parrot and grassy sweetlip. The mangrove banks of the tributaries are good haunts for bream and grunter.

Trip to Parrot Nirvana

The beauty of fishing in your home area is that you get to have a couple of favourite spots that you get to know very well. Providing you don’t just bolt to the same location and fish in the same way every time, you can learn the intricacies of the area.

This includes the location of bommies, gutters and drop-offs and the impact of the weather and tidal movements on the location. Keeping a log of your fishing activities is a great way to improve your chances of bringing home a decent feed.

I make a habit of doing some exploring in every area I visit even if I think I know it like the back of my hand. Sure, there are a few old faithful spots that I frequent, but I know there might be other locations nearby with a different fishing ecosystem.

Facing is my favourite island location, Rock Cod Shoals is my favourite reef location and Grahams Creek is my favourite estuary location. (I don’t have a favourite camping location – there are just too many.)

Each time, after catching what I need for a feed, I like to potter around watching my sounder with my finger poised over my GPS to mark a location worthy of further inspection.

On a recent weekend trip to the Rock Cod Shoals, Al and I fished our usual location and brought in enough for a feed. We then decided to set out to an area of the shoals that we had not fished before.

Rock Cod Shoals runs east-west. My hot spots are mostly on the western quadrant. Here depths range from 9-15m and most days you can see the bottom. We regularly find a range of table-pleasing reef fish here. This section of the shoals seems to have lots of the structure with enough fish-holding features to keep even the most ardent fisher happy.

So with a map in hand, we set the GPS for the eastern quadrant. This area is a lot deeper with sparser structure. As we were motoring along our sounder picked what seemed to be a small coral shelf falling gently to some type of gutter.

Boat fishers would know that you rarely have the shoals to yourself. Even on an ordinary day you can be joined by 20 or more boats. At this location we were by ourselves and thought we might not be where the fish are.

Nevertheless, we killed the motor, dropped our squid baited rigs and let the boat drift. As luck would have it, on this day the drift followed this gutter. Within seconds of the first drop we were both straining on our rods and fighting struggling fish. We were fishing 20m of water so it was a little while before we pulled two very satisfying parrotfish to the boat.

The boat remained within the gutter so we dropped more squid and were again straining with another quality parrot pair. The afternoon continued as we bagged out on top quality parrotfish. This must be ‘Parrot Nirvana’ so we confirmed the GPS setting to keep the mark. Before heading home, we decided to have one more cast – as you do!

Al’s rod took one more screaming bend and just to top off the day he brought a quality sweetlip to the boat. This place has it all.

My word of advice – keep on exploring.

The Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries (DPIF) are pulling out all stops to enforce the removal of one pectoral fin from reef fish caught by recreational fishers. The pectoral fin is the small fin on the side of the fish. This removal is supposedly to stop the commercial sale of fish caught by recreational fishermen, although it smacks of overkill to me.

After issuing warning for the past three years DPIF now claim they are applying on-the-spot fines of $150 for one fish, $350 for four and court appearances for more than four fish without pectoral fins removed.

In a recent DPIF check, they claimed 95% of fishers failed to remove the fin. That would amount to quite a decent financial windfall for government coffers. So whatever you think of this law, it makes sense to have a good pair of scissors on hand to cut off the fin or face the fine.

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