Rundle Island and Bass Shoals
  |  First Published: April 2004

RUNDLE Island is a small rocky outcrop 25km NNW of Gladstone. Rundle is also appropriately named ‘Rocky Island’. As well as being a great fishing spot, the weather station on the 15m peak is an integral part of the monitoring network for conditions on Gladstone waters. No other report gives a better picture of the inshore and offshore waters around the Gladstone area. Updates of conditions every 30 minutes can be found on [url=http://www.bom.gov.au/products/IDQ60602.shtml]. This site reports on wind and gust speed, direction, dew point, relative humidity and barometric pressure. The reports track weather from the previous 72 hours on Rundle Island, making it possible to predict conditions for future trips.

A mate recently shared another website that gives forecast on swell, waves and wind for most regions of the world including Central Queensland. You can follow the links from [url=http://www.buoy.ocens.net/]. The free site gives these predictions for the next seven days but if you subscribe you get even more. It’s good to travel to the reef with all this information at your fingertips.


The trip to Rundle follows the picturesque eastern coast of Curtis Island. Expect to see schools of Spanish and/or school mackerel; a mass of madly diving birds will show where the fish are so you generally don’t have to look hard. Spanish mackerel hang around all year but the school mackerel will start easing off after April. School mackerel are usually a summer catch.

I made a recent trip with my mate Ian and his teenage son Liam. My handheld GPS went on the blink just as we reached the island. Bugger! I wasn’t able to find my favourite hole, shelf or bommie. What else could a hunter to do but explore? I still had my sounder so we were able to check out new spots to fish (I just won’t be able to find them again).

Rundle is encircled by large hull-piercing rocks. Take care when approaching the island, check the sounder often and keep your eyes peeled for telltale breaking waves. The impressive fish-holding structures include deep holes, coral shelves, sandy strips, bommies and lots of rocks, making each trip different.

A sandy shelf on the south-western corner sets up a small bay close to the island. It’s a good anchorage when the south-easterlies are blowing, and is also a good spot for rock cod, trevally and sweetlip.

The water on the western side ranges in depth from 6-12m. A smorgasbord of reef fish can be pulled from this area, including some “oh, my aching back” size jew. Jew are effective predators and are not fussy eaters. During heavy rain they seem to congregate in large schools on these shoals. The waters from Cape Capricorn drain into the gutters around the western side of Rundle. Jew generally come on the bite as the weather starts to cool, but they are such prolific hunters they seem to be around all year.

The north-eastern corner is known for its schools of mackerel but it also gives up sweetlip, trevally, cod and occasionally coral trout. The depth here varies from 17-25m. Trolling lures and spinning pilchards are the preferred options. Squid seems to be the best bait for bottom bashing.

Anyone who believes fishing isn’t a competitive sport hasn’t fished with a teenager. On this trip Liam stuck it to us, and didn’t he let us know it! He pulled in more than his share of rock cod, sweetlip and parrot, and even shouted with glee when he pulled a grinner to the boat. Who but a teenager would cheer at catching a grinner?

Ian and I had just about had enough of Liam’s gloating when my reel went into overdrive, screaming off line. Imagine my disappointment when the grey shadow came to the surface. It was a good fight for the size of the shark but the little blighter came to the boat still very cranky. I’m not keen on bringing anything into the boat that has the fighting urge to bite, especially when it comes over the side at ‘crown jewel’ height. We cut it off in the water and bid it a fond farewell.


The Bass Shoals are SSW of Rundle, and are smaller and sparser than the larger Rock Cod Shoals [see QFM March 2004]. Features are large bommies and plenty of rock. The shoals are close to the coast so they can sometimes be affected by swell.

It’s possible to spot migrating whales frolicking in these waters. My son Adam and I watched in awe as a pod of three whales gave us spectacular shows 15m from our drifting boat during one of our recent fishing excursions to the area.

Like most shoals, early morning or late afternoon on a rising tide seem to fish better. When the tide ebbs the fishing often slows down. Sweetlip, cod, jew and large bream all feature on the catch list. We use the sounder to find the structure, anchor upstream, berley into the structure and drift our baits into the berley trail.


The old QAL jetty off Barney Point is holding plenty of fish at the moment. Big bream and sweetlip are holding up near the old pylons, and even whiting are being caught here. I recommend that you fish the lee of these pylons and use the drift to get your bait into the gobs of waiting fish. It’s a tough place for lures, as the current moves you quickly out of the strike zone. The old jetty is en-route to Trees Inlet, giving you another option on your trip.

Conditions to get out to even the closer reefs are not fabulous at the moment but April looks better. Al, Gordon, Macca and I had a trip to Masthead just recently; Gordon and Macca left from Boyne while Al and I left from Gladstone. We met up on Polmaisse Reef and conditions were ordinary to say the least. While Al managed to grab a few ego-saving sweetlip, we were buffeted by 17-20kt north-westerlies and a bumpy 1.5m swell so we didn’t stick around.

Both Masthead and Polmaisse are definitely on my calendar for April.


It’s worth exploring the small Targinnie Creek on days that make the reef inaccessible. This creek has a small sand bank at its entrance where whiting and silver bream congregate. Small peeled prawns seem to be the preferred bait although I’ve had success on squid tentacles. Watch out for the stingrays – they’ll strip your line faster than you can say “something’s on”.

The creek opens up with a good 3-5m depth for the first two kilometres. Tributaries branch out along the whole length of the creek, so it’s definitely worth exploring. Get there early in the morning and head home before the midday heat, when the fishing usually slows down. Keep the insect repellent close because sand flies have been known to frequent the creek.

I’ve caught some small sharks in the channel between Targinnie and Worthington Island, particularly in the deeper holes. It's worth a drift through this channel as quite a few creeks flow into it. Pick the days when the tide falls late in the afternoon. It should flush out the smaller creeks.

Threadfin salmon should start moving into these creeks. Mullet flesh is a productive bait, and poppers have also been known to entice salmon to the surface. Keep the bait light and work the bait or the poppers close to the mangrove. I’ve had luck at the small islet at the mouth of Middle Creek on an early morning rising tide.


The rock wall on the southern tip of Turtle Island in the harbour is good spot to anchor up. Sit on the western side of the island on an incoming tide, berley up and cast into the rocks. Large bream and flathead have been known to sit near the eddy created as the waters head into or out of the harbour. The rock wall sets up quite a bit of turbulence action on the harbour side, which stirs up food and all sorts of goodies.

Gladstone in April will fire up with thousands of visitors heading to our harbour city for the Easter Harbour Festival. The yacht club will be busy as the Brisbane to Gladstone yacht crews arrive. With Easter holidays, boat ramps will be busy. Take a deep breath and enjoy the Easter break.

1) Liam with one of his spotted cods pulled from Rundle Island. He was game sitting on the edge on the boat since he had been sticking it to us all morning.

2) Anchoring up and laying a trail of berley on these shoals often coaxes a cod from a hole – or a shark.

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