In the warmer months the mangrove-lined estuary systems are the places to go. Gladstone is one of the easiest locations to launch a boat and, regardless of the weather, there’s always somewhere to head in safety. The winds can pick up quickly at this time of year so you need to carefully plan any trip to the reef.
It was a little surprising to find some recent action in Police Creek. This is a tiny watercourse but it’s exhibiting extraordinary angling action. Late in the afternoon, just on dusk, it’s possible to snag onto small barramundi. I have heard only one report of a keeper fish, but I am sure it’s possible to grab a plate size barra here. There will be a few catfish in between each catch but they are also a bit of fun on the line.
Try the banks behind Lions Park and the area directly behind K-mart this month. Gold Bombers have been doing the trick but you have to combat the inevitable weed to ensure the lure runs true.
Deception Creek on the northern end of the Narrows has been known to produce quality salmon at this time of year. The upper reaches have gravel bottoms so kings and salmon should be on the catch list. Summer rains will fire the kings up, especially if storm water runs off into the creek.
It really is smorgasbord time on the Gladstone reefs. All species should be active targets during February. I like to bottom bash this time of year, although surface poppers will pull in the pelagic species. Target any of the shoals and Cape Capricorn for coral trout. A school of bludger trevally scooted past us on one of our recent trips to Rock Cod Shoals. They are better baitfish than tablefish because of their dark and oily flesh, but they fight like queenfish on the line.
If the conditions are right, it’s worth a trip to Hummocky Island. The northern bay and the northeastern headland locations are where I usually go. I generally steer clear of the northwestern and the southern sides because of the rocks and shallows. Hummocky is easy to reach from the Narrows, but if you’re worried about boat fuel it can be accessed after only a short run from Port Alma.
Reports are that 12-mile reef is fishing well, with some of my mates bringing some real horses to the boat.
There are several wrecks around Gladstone and some are only a short boat trip away. These wrecks are also visited by many of Gladstone dive clubs and form an integral part of our tourism industry.
When fishing around the wrecks, you have a legal responsibility to come no closer than 30m from any vessel flying a blue and white ‘Diver Below’ flag. As a SCUBA diver myself, I understand the importance of keeping to this safety rule.
One of the popular diving and fishing wrecks in Gladstone waters is the Cape Capricorn barge. This steel-hulled barge lies upside down in about 30m of water. Fish tend to hide under the wreck but can be enticed out with livebait.
This wreck is north of Gladstone and northeast of Cape Capricorn. You can target red jew, grunter, snapper and cod here. Don’t be surprised if you pull up a green sea snake, as they are very common around this wreck. Like all wrecks, the Cape Capricorn is best fished on slack water or neap tides.
Anchoring on or near wrecks is tricky business at the best of times. I like to drop a marker buoy as soon as I locate the wreck on the sounder. Then the tough decision: should I drift over or anchor up? When the current is strong it makes sense to anchor up, or at the very least to employ a sea anchor. I much prefer to drift slowly over a wreck so I work the tides and in particular use the slack water to advantage.
It’s hard to go past Trees Inlet. It’s a consistent fishing location and a popular mangrove jack haunt.
This system runs all the way to Boyne Island. Boaties can put in at the Toolooa Bends ramp but I much prefer to launch at the main ramp in Auckland Creek and head out through the main channel.
This location is one of my wild weather options. It’s only a short trip down the harbour, and once you duck in behind the lee of the QAL shipping wharf it’s a fairly protected run down the creek. The Gladstone harbour has been known to chop up fairly quickly at times so, while it’s generally safer than venturing out to the reef, the waters of harbour deserve respect in rough conditions.
I generally head for the rock wall of the bridge that separates the inlet from the harbour and the Lilys area [see map]. On a flooding tide the waters from the harbour whistle under the bridge and establish pockets of small whirlpools. Snodger bream have been known to sit just on the lee corner of the rock wall, out of the current, and they will snatch at properly presented bait as it wafts past.
It is best to anchor the boat in the main creek side of the conveyor belt and use two anchors to keep the stern facing toward the bridge pylons or into the rock retaining walls. There is nothing worse than spinning on the anchor and letting the current and winds dictate which way the boat should lay. Putting out a stern anchor means both fishers have equal access to the strike zone without needing to cast over heads.
There are several deep holes along these rock walls so it’s best to anchor slightly out and cast into the holes. The holes range from 10-12m. The occasional sandy patch makes it possible to pull in whiting as well, although this is not a renowned whiting location.
Paul and I went to Trees Inlet recently, heading off mid-morning on a rising tide. We set two anchors to keep the stern of the boat in the strike zone and used small whole prawns and worms. We failed to hook up for a while, but when we changed to peeled prawns we hooked up straight away and more frequently.
We had the lightest of gear but managed to pull in only a few small silver and black bream, a small flathead, one large butter bream and a whiting – only a few keepers which we kept in the livewell only to release before heading home. There’s not much point bringing fish home if there’s not enough for a feed, I reckon.
I chased a blasted stingray which was pretending to be a mangrove jack as it circumnavigated the boat and ran like blazes. Lifting the line and swapping hands as I was pulled over the canopy, rod holders, aerials, under and around two anchors and around the donk was great fun… not!
Paul managed to pick up a small Moses perch while trolling lures along the mangrove edges of this inlet on our homeward journey.
However, just seven days later, with the strong winds still blustering away, my son Adam and I headed to the same location. We left a few hours earlier in the morning and positioned the boat stern-in and sitting on two anchors.
I reckon we pulled in every 22cm bream on the eastern seaboard! That’s not to say that we keep legal 23cm bream anyway – the fillets are too small to bother with – but a legal catch ‘counts’ whereas an undersize catch doesn’t score anywhere.
We were on the boil pretty much until midday when the bites eased off. Needless to say, we didn’t put any pressure on the hinges of the icebox. We managed a half decent grunter, a couple of solid black bream, a nice silver bream, a dusky flathead and an average estuary cod.
Just under the bridge you can move into the area known as the Lilys and then out into the harbour. This is a popular camping spot with white sandy beaches. Tinnies are recommended transport here as the creeks often bottom out. However, fishing under the bridge and hitting the pylons will usually results in a few cod.
Any type of bait will do the trick here. I prefer small peeled prawns but have had success with pilchard tails. I like to start with a full prawn in the hope of hitting onto the more aggressive species, but I revert to peeled prawns if the biters seem fussier. Anything will strike at soft plastics if worked around the rocks or pylons. For some reason I have never been too successful with squid.
The wooden pile remnants of the old Barney Point Meatworks jetty at the mouth of the inlet are good attractors and fish holders. Fish here tend to hit and bolt so it’s not unusual to find yourself wrapped around structure. Keep your rod high and turn the fish so you have a chance to steer it away from the pylons.
Sweetlip, trout, jacks and grunter are all caught here. It’s a good idea to throw past the pylons and drag the bait or lure back into structure. The depth varies from around 8 to 14m with the bottom containing good snags.
I like to set up a rear anchor here so the stern faces the pylons, but on our latest trip the anchor snagged fiercely and wouldn’t free itself. While I’m happy to motor free from a snagged bow anchor, motoring free from a tight stern anchor is fraught with peril. Water over the stern doesn’t hold the same attraction as water over the bow, and I had no choice but to cut the anchor loose. I hate leaving hardware behind but sometimes it is a necessary call.
Good luck on the water and keep your lines tight.
1) The remains of the old Meatworks jetty at the mouth of Trees Inlet are great fish attracting structure.
2) Bludger trevally is the bycatch when chasing other pelagics, but they make excellent bait or tasty fish cakes.Reads: 1978