Gladstone is the place to be in January – especially if you scored some nifty fishing gadgets for Christmas that are just crying out to be tested. The reef areas have come alive, and whether you like bottom bashing, trolling for pelagic species or flicking lures in the estuaries, it’s a great time to be a Gladstone fisher.
Masthead is looking promising this month. There’s something special about fishing on a reef within sight of a tropical island, and the area has extensive reef structure so the angling possibilities are endless. Avoid dropping the anchor on the reef as it often creates irreparable damage. Look for sandy spots on which to plonk your pick or, better still, try drifting.
I have heard some mixed reports from Gladstone shoals – an area that always used to be so reliable. Perhaps the new zoning has put pressure on these areas or perhaps it is the consequence of our extended dry season. Time will tell. Still, there is nothing better than bobbing peacefully in your boat over shoals on a calm CQ summer day.
Most estuaries are flowing after the recent rain. The falls to date are not as much as we had hoped but the predicted summer storms will (hopefully) flush out the small creeks. When the days are very humid the fish seem to be more active.
On hot summer days you can’t go past the Narrows for a trip. Large changes in water temperatures and current conditions often form eddies which attract fish. Look for swirling water near structure.
Black Swan is worth inspecting as it has several creeks and tributaries draining from or into Black Swan Creek. Large holes around the Black Swan Island hold decent cod, grunter and the odd shark. I’ve even hooked onto a blasted sea snake here.
A group of my friends and I visit Facing Island (QFM July 2004) at least four times a year. Fishing locations on the island are usually spread far and wide but on this trip, the strong southeast winds kept us to the more protected areas.
We targeted the small area around Farmers Beach. A small residential and holiday settlement at this location overlooks a white sandy beach running a mere 500m. It barely rates a mention on most maps, but the locals proudly protect this pristine location and you can easily see why. There are only a few permanent residents but there is a strong sense of community.
‘Farmers’ has many angling opportunities and the astute fisher learns to read the signs that put him in a more commanding position. The main targets are whiting, flathead and bream, but tarwhine, parrot, sweetlip and even the occasional batfish are recorded on catch list. Longtoms have also been known to create a stir when hooked because they jump and struggle fiercely. Light gear is the go here.
From the southern tip of Farmers Point, an extensive yabby bank reaches to the mangroves, providing enough bait for even the most productive sessions. Yabbying is a fun activity best attacked by two – one pumping and the other collecting – and you swap jobs whenever the muscles start burning.
There is no more enticing bait on the sharp end than an active yabby. To get the best from the yabbies, keep them out of the sun and refresh their water often. Yabbies can also be kept in moist sandy newspaper in the fridge overnight. A fresh yabby stays on the hook more securely than an old one. When armed with a small quantity of fresh, active yabbies, even a bathtub holds angling promise.
Farmers Point juts into the channel of the Northern Entrance, which is the small boat exit to Gladstone reefs. An excellent twice daily barge service visits this island and it loads and unloads at this spot. Some deep holes are formed by the wash of its props. It was here my 4WD dual cab, packed to the roof with provisions for the weekend for 13 fisherfolk, was unloaded.
This point is fairly grainy, with plenty of stone and shell grit. However, a large sand bar reaches out into the channel and sets up a natural barrier around a small high tide bay protecting Farmers Beach.
The moon was full and 3m of water rushed in and out of the channel with some ferocity. This sand bar separates the turbulent tidal waters of the channel and the more tranquil waters of the bay. I strolled along the beach at low tide to check out the bottom formation and the structure. Obviously this changes over time, but I watched the impact of the sand bar at Farmers Point. It had ‘whiting’ written all over it.
Graham, Al and I headed to Farmers Point late in the afternoon while the others were cleaning their catch from the morning. The tide was flooding and washing over the sand bar. The sun was setting, the moon was rising and rushing water set up wicked turbulence in the main channel, but the water on the beach side of the bar was calm and dappled.
I had it all figured – that was where whiting would be. We were fishing no further that 10m apart, with Al fishing in the turbulent waters of channel, Graham fishing on the sand flats in the bay and me casting along the protected bank of the sand bar. Tap! Tap-tap! Soon a quality whiting was in the bag. A few more casts and the same result. This game was easy!
Graham wasn’t having much luck on the flats so I told him my theory. Whiting, being a more timid species, would prefer the calmer, more sedate waters of the bay protected by the sand bar barrier. The more aggressive fish like bream would most likely be in the turbulent channel.
It made sense to Graham so he moved and cast his peeled prawn into the protected waters aside the sand bar. Tap! Tap-tap! Whiting! My theory was standing up to intense scientific scrutiny. A few more whiting on the flooding tide proved beyond doubt, I thought, that I had mastered whiting fishing once and for all.
Where were my golf clubs? I obviously needed a more difficult sport.
Al remained fishing into the waters of the channel without much success and Graham and I continued to pull in whiting less than 10m away. Then my scientific theory started to unravel. Al’s a pretty darn good whiting angler. If there are whiting around, Al will sniff them out and blow me down if he didn’t catch a whiting where my theory said whiting shouldn’t have been – in the flowing turbulent waters of the channel. Oh well, back to the drawing board!
Lines of rock sit about mid-water on the central Farmers Beach area. A few sand gutters set up a great fishing environment on the flooding tide. While I target whiting on the sand I have also pulled in some quality bream closer to the rocks. It’s not unusual to pull up a sweetlip here.
On a full tide it is a great afternoon activity to spend the few hours casting into the sand from a rock ledge north of the central beach area. However, tackle-stealing rows of rock run parallel to the beach. It’s a good idea to check this area at low tide so your casts land just in front of the rocks.
The northern end of Farmers Beach is mostly rocky outcrops with small sand gutters. This is bream country, but the changing tides set up a constantly changing fishing environment. These gutters are within easy casting distance from the beach. As the water floods over the rocks and fill the gutters, the bream come with it. Of course, throwing hooks in this environment means snagging is common. However, the sand is easily visible so accurate casting into the sand puts the bait in the strike zone.
Using a longer than normal trace (say, 60cm) keeps the bait wafting around on the sand. This makes the bait a highly visible target for any fish. If you can retrieve over the sand it reduces those annoying snags.
I vary the speed of my retrieve. On this day, slowly retrieving the yabby didn’t draw much attention. Quite often I brought back an empty hook that made me wonder whether the yabby fell off at the start of the retrieve. Yabbies are a relatively soft bait and a single hook through the tail does little to secure the bait against drag.
I tried a more rapid retrieve that kept the weight on the bottom but the yabby drifting just above the sand. This method seemed to catch more fish, but I’m reluctant to come up with any more scientific theories!
Just around the northern corner of Farmers Point is the rock area known as The Caves. It is generally protected from the flow of the main channel and has some gutters and bars from which to target fish. Some quality flathead have been caught here.
For a relatively small location, Farmers is one little fishing hot spot within easy reach of Gladstone for land-bound and boating fishers.
1) Yabbying is an activity best carried out with a mate.
2) Farmers Beach whiting respond eagerly to fresh yabbies.
3) The sand bar at Farmers Point separates the waters into a protected bay area and a more turbulent channel.
4) Mid Farmers Beach is full of sandy gutters with rock edges. Bream country.
5) A rock ledge midway along Farmers Beach is the ideal spot to while away the hours.
6) A picture of poise and concentration just around the northern tip of Farmers Beach.Reads: 1337