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Spinnaker – Something to Suit Everyone
  |  First Published: December 2002



THE GLADSTONE Port Authority has been working away steadily at the Marina area for many years. The last stage, the outer wall development area of Spinnaker Park, is the jewel in the crown of the whole development. It follows the theme of the rest of the area by providing free and open access to the public. It is, however, closed off at night to deter vandals.

This park is well known for its stinger-netted beach, walking tracks, picnic shelters, grassed areas, and developing ‘wilderness’ pocket. But what many folks don’t know is that it’s also a safe place for land-based fishing close to the city. This kind of access is limited in Gladstone thanks to port development and closures due to liability issues.

The park gives you access to several types of fishing environments, all from the one foreshore. You can usually park close to your selected spot, which makes it a great spot for older fisher folk. There are also plenty of sealed walking paths and top amenities, all within a short drive of the city.

Spinnaker Park is located on top of the breakwater bund that protects the calm waters of the Gladstone Marina. This bund creates the calm water fishing option, along with another more open fishing environment exposed to the sometimes rough waters of the harbour on its outside.

But wait – there’s more! Plenty of folks overlook the access the park provides to the tidal flows of Auckland Creek and the Marina entrance itself. This moving water sweeps all sorts of fish past you all the time.

Bream and salmon frequent the outer wall in the cooler months, and the bream are sometimes of the stud quality you’d expect of an open sea environment. I like to continually cast unweighted (or very lightly weighted) baits just out from the rocks on the rising tide and wait for these bream to pull the line tight. It’s very exciting fishing because you can’t tell what you’ll get – the line goes from slack to taunt in an instant! Cod are common here, jack are not unknown and, with the live trout trade these days, a coral trout is not out of the question either (just make sure it’s legal!).

The only downside here is that the water can get dirty and weedy if it’s a bit rough or toward the bottom of the tide. If this is the case, work your way up around the corner and into the Auckland Creek area. Use the same technique of casting the lightly weighted baits and working them near the wall with the rising tide. The only difference here is that you should keep on walking with the tide so as to keep that bait moving and looking as natural as possible. The creek has great possibilities, being a natural waterway and draining the Marina area and the creek itself, as well as all the O’Connell wharf complex. Keep a lookout for the pod of dolphins that frequent the creek mouth here. They often come over near the walls as they herd the fish up for a feed. (They’re not so good for the fishing though!)

For the more sedate among us, around the corner further you’ll find the calm waters of the Marina itself. Here you can set up a chair and a couple of sleeper rods if this is your style, and hunt for the species I’ve mentioned above. Just inside the Marina proper from the entrance, a couple of mangroves are establishing themselves. An early morning foray here before the sun clears the wall itself should produce bream.

Further along the walkway I’ve seen people set up with a couple of rods, chairs, esky and radio, and it all looks very pleasant. To make things even better, they had a couple of good bream in the bag. I haven’t touched on other techniques and their suitability around this area, but I certainly have seen trevally, queenfish and steelback salmon working. All of these fish are suckers for flies and lures.

The beauty of this area is that it is so accessible and user-friendly. If you select you times and techniques correctly you’ll bring home a fish or two.

GORDON’S LEAP

We’ve all done some things that, in hindsight, we wish we hadn’t done. You know that if you’d only thought it through at the time, you would have acted differently. But everyone has to be famous for something, and my fishing mate Gordon certainly keeps the day interesting if the fishing is quiet!

Gordon is a retired chap of mature years. He’s a good fisherman and knows how to collar the salmon, whiting and grunter of Toolooa Bends. The hefty whiting I’ve seen him land take me back to the good old days.

Anyway, Gordon recently went out with his fishing mate Bill at Toolooa in his favourite spot. He anchored in his preferred fashion – sideways across the current close to the mangroves with the tide running up nicely in the mangroves around him. It all started when Gordon’s retirement present of a heavy-duty, quality boat rod and gold spinning reel (called the ‘Artillery’), lay at the back of the boat near the motor, cast out into the middle of the creek with a heavy-duty rig on the end, awaiting a big salmon or grunter. While waiting for this outfit to go off, Gordon fished with his light outfit for a bream right in the current in front of him. Bill fished likewise, only at the pointy end of the boat.

Gordon had just hooked onto a bream when he saw, out of the corner of his eye, the gold glint and splash of the ‘Artillery’ disappearing over the side at a rate of knots! What could he do but leap straight over the side after it? He reckons he got within centimetres of grabbing it, but alas – he was too late and it slipped into the murky depths. Fully clothed, it’s fortunate that Gordon is a fit chap and he managed to swim back to the boat against the tide and somehow get himself back on board. Bill was still in a state of shock, but was relieved that he didn’t have to explain to Gordon’s loved ones the details behind the ‘Leap’.

But Gordon’s problems weren’t over yet. He asked Bill the whereabouts of his other rod (and the fish that was on it) which was placed quickly in the crew’s safe hands prior to the Leap. A short search revealed that Gordon’s second rod had also disappeared overboard, towed by a never-to-be-seen-again quality fish!

All this was a bit much for Gordon, and the pair decided enough was enough – particularly Gordon, who had little fishing gear left by this stage. So they decided to head for home. Gordon, wanting to start the outboard, searched his pockets for his glasses. Then it struck home – his prescription glasses also lay on the bottom of the briny with his two rods, for they had been tucked ‘safely’ into his pocket prior to the Leap!

Postscript. A true fisherman can’t be held down for long! After replenishing depleted fishing equipment a week later, Gordon ventured back to the scene of his financial and piscatorial loss (no, he didn’t get any of the gear back despite trying), and bagged himself a 10lb salmon.

Thanks for being a sport Gordon and letting me share this story. I’m sure nearly all of us have dived overboard to chase a prized rig at least once!

1) On the left, a small creek from the lake empties into the first corner just inside the Marina proper. You can even put your chair on the lawn!

2) The stinger-meshed beach on the seaward side of the park is popular with swimmers, and it creates two headlands that hold fish. You can't fish inside or around the net though.

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