Gear up in Gladstone
  |  First Published: September 2008

Things start to come alive during September particularly on the inner reefs and shoals. Smooth seas and light winds are more common this month, so if you get the chance, make the most of it.

The estuaries are worth inspecting. If you are planning to fish overnight in an estuary somewhere, then you will want to get in soon before the sandies and mossies start taking up residence for the summer.

In the Estuaries

There have been some nice catches of grunter in South Trees Inlet particularly in the deeper holes along the rock walls. Moses perch have been captured along the mangrove edges near QAL with a couple of smaller estuary cod being found at the pylons of the conveyor belt bridge.

The occasional threadfin is hitting gar in the Calliope River near the main road bridge. Salmon are typically bottom feeders, but they will also rise to take small fish including mullet and gar. They are mostly active on dusk especially at the top of the tide.

Threadfin can also be found around the mouth of Middle Creek and around Black Swan Island in the Narrows. Threadfin like moving bait so get right into the mangroves and try some slow retrieves.

On the Reef

Legal red emperor are getting harder to find of late so when you get one to the boat that measures close to the magic 55cm, it can certainly attract some attention. They are well respected fish so local fishers treat them with care and return them to the water without being harmed. Reds seem to have cleared the inner reefs for the time being and boaters have to travel some distance if chasing reds for the plate.

Coral trout are still worthy catches around good reef. They are hitting baits around Masthead and have been on the catch list of many boats that venture out this way. Coral trout like their bait fresh so don’t skimp if you want a trophy fish.

Fresh fish flesh like iodine bream make worthy bait, especially if it has just been caught and put back on the other side of the hook. Sharp 6/0 singles or ganged hooks are the best tackle for coral trout. On a paternoster rig I prefer double dropper loops, as double hook ups are common for coral trout.

The Shoals

For working fishers, it seems a rare occasion when fabulous fishing weather occurs on weekends or non-working days. This year you can count these special occasions on one hand but this was just the case on a recent weekend – variable winds to 2-knots and seas no more than centimetres. I couldn’t get the boat into the water fast enough.

As expected, every boat in Gladstone was also on the water so after launching the boat I was forced to park in a different postcode with my mate freezing his toes off while holding the boat. Nevertheless, when we got underway it was just over a 30 minute run to Rock Cod Shoals, my favourite reef fishing location.

It was a glorious day and I had worked this area often, knowing that it never failed to produce the goods. The advantage of working one area regularly is that you get to know the intricacies that make this area tick. For some reason, and I don’t know why, during the colder months the deeper areas of Rock Cod Shoals are more productive.

The shallow areas around 10m in depth are certainly my first target during summer, but during winter I just can’t pull a trick at these locations. I am sure there is some scientific explanation of which I am not aware.

I don’t drift on all Gladstone shoals, but I do like to drift on Rock Cod. Most of the boaters who also fish here seem to drift as well. If all the boats are drifting, there are no problems. But do keep alert if a boat is sitting on anchor when drifting.

During winter, I start my drift about 23S42.744 151E40.73. This initially puts in excess of 25m of water under the boat. I start subsequent drifts east of this mark and progressively move further eastward, staying in the deeper water. There are a few gullies around this section of the shoals so the bottom contours offer interesting and varied profiles.

On this weekend we had whole squid, squid strips and whole pilchards on our hooks. The attraction of these depths at this time of the year is that the small pickers, like iodine bream and strippies, seem to disappear. We could sit and work our baits without the constant tug of mouths too small to get hooked up.

Within a few minutes of getting the baits into the water we were hooking up small parrot and tuskers. They were small enough to be measured twice but unfortunately were returned to the water. However it wasn’t long before we hooked up to some good plate size blue parrot and hefty tuskers.

I am sure I have mentioned this before, but parrot is without a doubt my favourite table fare as the white flesh is juicy and succulent. Parrot requires little else than dusting with flour and a moment on a really hot barbecue plate –delicious.

I was really pleased to be hooking up to parrot – one after another. After half a dozen or so drifts, I had my bag limit of parrot ranging from some real thumpers to a couple of smaller ones that just nudged just over 33cm. Parrot seldom survive after being pulled from depth so it is lucky that even the barely legal species produce a solid fillet.

By this time it was midday and we were on still water just before the tide was about to come in. It seemed that every fish on the shoals refused to bite. We moved the boat to the shallower sections of the shoals, just to test out my depth-in-winter theory.

Sure enough, we didn’t get a decent bite for the rest of the afternoon. If the conditions weren’t so glorious we would have been rightly cheesed off. However on a magnificent crystal clear Central Queensland winter’s day you can’t help but be very satisfied to be in a boat on the waters above Gladstone’s premier shoals.

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