FISHING the ocean beaches inside the Great Barrier Reef is not as popular as beach fishing is in south-east Queensland and northern New South Wales. One reason for the lack of popularity up here is the absence of genuine surf conditions to create beach fishing features, as well as stirring up food for the fish.
However, we do get a little spoilt up this way with the great estuary fishing close by, and the easy access to the relatively calm waters of the harbour and coral reef areas. This results in people turning a blind eye to what’s available right at our back door – often where we’re swimming – and that’s good quality and easily accessible beach angling.
Access to some of the beaches of Central Queensland is limited by geography, as well as the various authorities. Around the Gladstone region, if you have a boat, one option is the beaches of Curtis and Facing islands, where there are some unspoilt areas just waiting to be tapped. If you don’t have a boat you can catch the barge over to Curtis and Facing Islands, both of which have camping and various types of accommodation. The beaches are just a short walk or drive away from these areas.
A recent trip to the Capricorn Coast from Emu Park to Yeppoon revealed a multitude of assorted headlands and beaches that you can drive right up to! Five Rocks, north of Byfield, is renowned for being a Mecca for beach fishing, as long as you have a four-wheel-drive to get there. In this article, however, I’ll stick to the Gladstone area. I won’t go any further south to the beaches near Turkey Inlet of Point Richards, Elephant and Ethel Rocks, except to mention that they fish great at most times, given a boat, and weather permitting.
To fish the beautiful beaches and headlands of Hummock Hill Island, south of Tannum Sands, you also need a boat. On Hummock Hill Island, after you’ve left the boat safely stranded on the sand at Colosseum Inlet or Norton Point, you can walk for miles and not see another soul.
The beaches of Wild Cattle Island are out of bounds to general four-wheel-drive traffic. However, many anglers make the short walk across to the island from the Tannum Creek boat ramp, and then walk and fish the beach ‘lagoons’ found down the coast a bit.
I recently made a trip to the ocean side of Wild Cattle. The south-easters had been persistent for many weeks, and a reasonable break was to be found just about everywhere. This increased activity seemed to turn the fish on at the beach.
The tide was on the make, which is probably the ideal time to fish any beach, and we’d just had a swim to get relief from the hot conditions. I thought I could see fish in the green water just before the wave break, so the next day we returned with the fishing gear. We helped ourselves to some good-sized dart and gar using the humble yabby for bait. There were no whiting about, but in September/October there would be some beauties along here. Winter should turn up sea bream and salmon in these areas, particularly on dusk.
On this trip, young Fraser Boneham hooked up to a large fish and battled it to a standstill – that is, he was standing still but the fish was still moving about plenty! After the 40-minute battle we saw that it was a sizable shovel-nosed shark, but we only had a glimpse before the light line wore through on the fish’s tough hide.
When fishing any beach, the first thing to do is look for fish-attracting features. If you fish a plain beach with a simple beach dump, without any gutters, creeks or headlands, you probably won’t catch anything. However, if you invest a little time exploring at low tide, all will be revealed. On that plain beach, you may be just 20 or 30 metres away from some fish-holding feature. Check it out first and, as the tide can rise and fall over four metres in these parts, simply place a marker above the high water mark for you to return to later – say, at half tide and upwards.
When beach fishing, worms are better bait than yabbies. Our yabbies still caught fish, but they were a bit soft when the going got rough in the shore dump.
The beach photo shows a low tide shot of a ‘lagoon’ – a hole with a gutter flowing into the top of the ‘funnel’ at one end. We found fish in two places in the photo – in the break on the inside of the sand bar that makes the lagoon a short cast from the beach, and inside the first break on the sand bar that makes the lead-in gutter. Further to the right in this photo, the green water of the gutter itself held fish. These fish would take a bait only right in the break at our feet.
Once you’ve chosen your spot, you just have to ‘fish about’ to find the features that hold fish. Don’t walk straight into the water and cast a mile though. Have a throw from five metres or so up the beach into the beach break. Whiting and dart will often be feeding right close in. Move into the surf for a bigger throw only after you’ve made sure that nothing is hungry close in.
I have written a couple of earlier stories about the region’s bonefish populations (or lack thereof), even to the point of describing where I thought they would be, and what conditions would be required to find them. However, after all the years of fishing with the Wanderers club in the sort of places bonefish should be, I haven’t seen any caught except for a fella who found one at Point Richards near Turkey. You have to be really quiet to catch bonefish. The Wanderers are many things, but quiet isn’t one of them.
Local angler Colin Soars caught and released not one, but two bonefish at Turtle Street, on Curtis Island, a couple of months ago. He was fishing on his own from the shore when he had his luck, and his approach was perfect. The boat was on the beach, well away from the outer beach headland where he found the fish. The fish he landed were 2-3kg – definitely not whiting! And as well as landing these two, he lost others that were just too good.
The bonefish are around – probably more than we realise – but they are very fickle and spook easily. I remember seeing a small school of five fish whilst snorkelling in a coral lagoon at Lizard Island years ago. One moment they there and foraging, and the next instant they had vanished like ghosts!
1) Dart, gar and whiting are currently there for the taking off Central Queensland's beaches.
2) This beach shot toward low tide shows clearly the hole and gutter structure we fished.
3) Big stuff happens along, tying Fraser Boneham up for a while.Reads: 7289