Can’t put my finger on it
  |  First Published: April 2004

THIS MONTH I have a funny one for you. Well… maybe it isn’t that funny depending on which side of the story you’re on! This bloke I know (Sandsy) had been trying for some time to get out to North West, an island situated out from Gladstone and Yeppoon. The island is famous for its diving and proximity to brilliant fishing grounds. For most of us this is a big mission due to the isolation and the fact you have to take everything with you. The best way to get there is by barge from Gladstone, that way all the gear can go along with the tinny and plenty of water.

One afternoon Sandsy got a phone call from the barge operator saying he was booked by a study group to go out to North West, and would he like to go as a fair splitting passenger? Sandsy jumped at the chance, and had all his gear packed and loaded on the barge for the long ride.

After they all arrived and his gear was all unloaded he decided to help the others get their gear off the barge. All went well until the last water drum, one of those big blue plastic chlorine drums with the sharp rim around the top. You guessed it – as he was rolling it out he pinched his finger between the drum and the side of the barge. Looking down in disbelief he saw the end of his finger was gone. Bugger. They loaded all his stuff including his boat back on to the barge for a long trip home to the hospital.

Warren never got to do the complete North West thing but at least he has a story for his mates (and now most of Queensland). Special thanks to Robby and Anita from Robb Benn Cruises for looking after Warren. Now when Sandsy holds his hand up and orders two beers, he only gets a pot and a seven.


April for Central Queenslanders is when the hot months are on the way out and the very few cool days we get are on the way in. It’s also the start of the winter species run, and the leaving and slowing down of the summer fish. Mangrove jacks, fingermark and barramundi nearly shut shop until the water temps rise again. That’s not to say you can’t get any of these fish now, it just becomes harder to get them to bite. On some of the warm, clear, windless days there’s still a possibility of a barra but the window is partly closed.

Now is the last call for muddies – numbers drop over the next month and finally none at the end of May until September. The size and fullness of the mud crabs in April is up there, and though the numbers are declining a feed is not uncommon.

Now for the good stuff. Many of the mackerel species are chewing at the moment and this will continue right through the cooler months. We get a small run of spotties spaced through April and then they go and come back about August. Spanish mackerel are about to go into cruise mode – they are everywhere at the moment. They usually taper off at the end of the month and remain in small schools until Christmas time. As the water gets cooler the size of the average Spaniard goes up, then most of them move on. We do have a resident population that keeps the locals in fish while we wait for the bigger schools to return.

Doggie mackerel are coming into their own, and will come in very close over the next month or so. The dogs are within easy reach of nearly any boat that goes, and you’ll often see the tinny brigade having a field day on these fish. Spots like Farnborough, Bangalee, Iron Pot, Rita Mada, Forty Acre, Mother Macgregor, Split Rock, Divided, Pelican, Wedge and Cave can turn on and off depending on tides and water clarity. Schools of doggies hang in the bay for five or six months, moving from one spot to another. Quite often in autumn they chase the bait schools right in along the beaches and plenty of them are taken at Stevenson’s Rocks and the Harbour wall at Rosslyn Bay. When the wind has stopped and the water clears the land-based doggie chasing is as productive as boat fishing. This is also one of the odd times that Clayton’s Reef works (called Claytons because it isn’t a reef, it’s a build-up of scallop shells dumped just north of the harbour). It’s very shallow and you can see the fish hit your pillies floating down from the back of the boat.

Doggies will take baits such as W.A pillies, greenbacks, yorkies and squid. The go is to find the depth the macks are working at and present the baits to them. Floating out pilchards near the surface in the early light is as good as anything, and as the sun comes over try a small pea sinker at the top of the gang hooks. Flasha Lures are the best chromies to use in our area and can out-fish bait by massive proportions on some days. The trick is to cast out as far as you can, let it sink and then retrieve at a fast rate. Occasionally you may have to vary the retrieve to make them strike. Surface strikes are spectacular and when they hit a lure beside the boat it takes your breath away. Doggies are particularly attracted by berley and will come up to the back of the boat if the berley stream is constant enough. Once they are there it doesn’t matter what you do – they’ll take nearly anything.

One time at Bangalee, Leggy and I lost about a dozen rigs in half an hour to we didn’t know what – that is, until a guy on a charter boat out from us caught a big eagle ray with a swag of gangs in his gob. It seems even rays are attracted to fresh berley. We use 6-8kg line and a mono leader up to 20kg as a rule. Sometimes light wire is needed and when the dolphins move in we bring out the heavy artillery just to bring them to the boat quicker. Dolphins play havoc with doggies and they appear to pull the doggies from the hooks and rarely get hooked. Dolphins won’t take lures or rigged pillies very often. If they do, bust them off as soon as possible and they’ll rid themselves of the hooks.

Big black jew must breed at around this time of year because they come into Keppel Bay in huge numbers and congregate at several locations very close to town. Next month I’ll discuss how and where to catch them with the least impact on their breeding. These fellas are exceptional fighters in the shallow waters of Keppel Bay and they don’t taste to bad on the barbie using a local trick.

1) The author with a black jew caught at Corio Bay.

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