In recent QFM articles I covered many of the well known reef fishing spots around Cape Moreton, including a four part series on Hutchison Shoal (Hutchies Reef) and a three part soft plastics lure fishing series on Smiths Reef. In between the two locations of Smiths and Hutchies also exists some awesome territory that I’ll focus on in this article.
Most of the fishing spots between Hutchies Reef and the rocky outcrop of Flinders Reef don’t actually have any ‘proper’ names. Therefore, they don’t get as much attention from the fishing crowds, which in turn makes them great locations for those days when you can expect to see large numbers of boats at the more popular spots.
For instance, I recall a blue sky, windless day during the school holidays, when I ran out of fingers and toes to count the boats at Hutchies. Yet four sets of my family’s favourite snapper/sweetlip/spangly GPS marks were nearby but were totally void of anyone fishing them.
I’m not talking secret spots either, many of these spots are on the charts, it’s just that they aren’t big enough to get a name of their own. To test the ease of finding these spots, I’ve fished with friends in their boats on some of their first offshore reef fishing outings and I can report that they found more than enough spots in this region to keep them busy and catching on successive trips.
I reiterate that these spots are between Hutchies and Flinders. But before I explain about how to find them, I want to say an important message about navigation and GPS units.
Please remember that the charts on some GPS chart plotters are not very accurate. It seems the GPS coordinates can be spot on but that the GPS to chart relationship is not. Some units will offer a GPS/Chart Offset through which you can enter a re-alignment, thus enabling you to fine-tune the relationship, but other units seem right one day, wrong the next. I’ve seen boats driven 250m away from Flinders Reef yet the track on the plotter showed the boat high and dry on the reef…just imagine if it was night and you were driving 250m on the other side of the reef. A slightly funnier example has been when I’ve been boating up the Brissy River and the plotter showed that my friend’s craft was fanging along Coronation Drive.
Ask amongst other users and ensure you get a reliable model that doesn’t regularly lose its GPS ability (a southern hemisphere problem where certain GPS models constantly lose your fix). It is very important to be aware of these idiosyncrasies, because units with such problems are not accurate enough for consistency with the type of offshore work described in this article. It wouldn’t be fair to mention brand names as I haven’t tested all types, and some now have software fixes and/or updated models, but suffice to say that it is a case of buyer beware should you be buying second-hand or from sources that aren’t locally supported.
Back to finding the spots. There are a number of ways to go about it, try them all and combine the information.
Look at the contour lines on a paper chart of the area and particularly identify those localities where the contour lines are closest, including circles. Then, when you hit the water and get to the area, slowly drive around these spots with your sonar on. Each time you notice good bottom structure and/or baitfish schools, hit the waypoint/mark button on your GPS.
Also, mooch around the area just blindly looking for structure on the bottom. You can do this while slow trolling and it is likely you will find caves, ledges, humps or pinnacles; mark all of these.
Study the surface water behaviour. In some places there’ll be swirls or up-swellings so have a sound around these occurrences and mark the good bottom structure and mid water fish schools on your GPS.
There’s also a beacon in the region that is worth a bit of bottom study. I’ve caught pelagic fish from right beside the beacon, but don’t expect such easy gifts to occur every time.
Additionally, your GPS chart should have the Cementco/Crusader wreck on it just north of Flinders Reef. You can get the coordinates for this wreck from the Queensland Government’s Notice To Mariners website. The marks are pretty accurate and, suffice to say, that the smallest amount of sounding around should find you the wreck. However, don’t stop sounding around after you’ve located the first bit of structure as I’ve located two great bits of bottom structure that are a short distance apart, and they both regularly hold bait and fish. Furthermore, there is quite a good bit of structure in this region just south of the beacon.
The area to the west and southwest of the beacon regularly holds good predictable schools of baitfish with bigger fish feeding on them. All of these marks in the Cementco region line up roughly east to west giving good troll runs when prevailing conditions generate drifts.
The idea is to get heaps of marks and then plan drifts that have the prevailing drift angles intersecting the vicinity of the maximum number of fishing spot waypoints. Remember to minimize your engine noise and find your own patch to fish – being a ‘seagull’ and swooping in when someone else is already there often ruins it for everyone, yourself included.
Often we’ll gather these fishing spot waypoints during the middle of the day and then target the drifts in the late afternoon as the sun nears the western horizon. The techniques we use are to cast ahead of the boat and drag soft plastics behind the boat for snapper, grassy sweetlip and spangled emperor.
We also jig the bottom using metals, bucktail jigs and soft plastics for yellowtail kings and amberjacks. Big soft plastics that have good actions when worked are definitely the most popular these days. Particular styles include 7” Assassins (straight-tail) and 9” Exude (swim-tail) Shads.
The area between Flinders and Hutchies is one of the best and most accessible spots that I know where you can use the approach described. Thus it makes a great location to test out your sounder and GPS drills, especially if you’ve never tried it before. Once confident, you can use the combination of these structure-finding techniques and fishing methods anywhere you may desire in order to find your own secret spots.Reads: 17774