IF MAY is as good as it promises to be, there’ll be stacks of angling options.
The mackerel family – doggies, grey, Spanish and passing schools of spotties – roam the bay and the shoals within easy range of Yeppoon, while reef fish get bigger as they move out to the deeper waters. Reefies of every shape and size, from cod to parrot and sweetlip, make the difference between feast and famine when it’s too choppy to venture wider than the islands.
Red emperor, red jew (scarlet sea perch, small- and large-mouth nannygai), rosy jobfish and coral trout are the show-stoppers in the area, from the back of the Keppels up to Redfern country. Red-throat emperor cover fair tracts of reef at places like Douglas Shoals, Milner’s and much of the rubble patches behind the main island group. These patches are better at night and they start 2km from Outer and ‘Man and Wife’. Pilchards and squid do the trick and flesh bait is OK, but big prawns outdo everything else two to one. We’ve tried testing all sorts of bait and prawns always perform the best. If you can catch your own prawns it’s cheaper than $21 a kilo from the local fish and chip shop.
Lures and jigs work and often they get nailed before they reach target species down deep. The first problem is that reef fish hardly ever touch wire leader and mackerel eat mono at a rate.
Over the cooler months we get schools of just-under red emperor at Barren, Man and Wife, Outer and Forty Acre. Undersize reds are as pretty as a fish gets, and legal-sized ones taste great. If you catch a reddie that looks to be just over the legal limit, always measure it just to be sure.
If you think you can’t score horse bream in Central Queensland, think again! Almost every headland, beach or creek has a bream hole, from Cape Capricorn right up to Army Country (Shoalwater Bay) and Stanage Bay in the north. Bream are the most common fish caught during winter, the same as down south, but we get quite a considerable amount of fish 1kg-plus. Even in the heyday of Jumpinpin or Caloundra’s Blue Hole it was hard to get fish of this size regularly.
The Fitzroy River is a vast waterway that holds an impressive amount of fish, and bream are up there with salmon as the most caught species. The amount of freshwater in the system determines where the bream will be, and about the start of May they head down to the river mouth to spawn. Port Alma at the mouth is like the Jumpinpin, with an abundance of rocky, mangrove and mud areas favoured by bream. Coorooman Creek, The Causeway Lake, Corio Bay and Ross Creek have healthy populations of yellowfin, silver or pikey bream. The harbour at Rosslyn Bay is a family-friendly place to take the kids in the evening, and prospects of landing a keeper bream are high.
All the islands of the Keppels have resident populations of jumbo bream, and the baits that work best vary according to the area you’re fishing. Livies are an option, especially around the islands where hardiheads reign. Yabbies, beachworms, pipis and oysters go well, and flesh bait and mullet gut can all grab fish at times. Chook gut is one bait that never really took off in this region, although plenty of punters would be surprised at how good it is.
The humble bream, looked down upon by hunters of big barra and reefies, still puts a feed on the table when the loved species run for cover. The best thing about bream is that you don’t need a boat – many fish are taken by land-based anglers. There’s also a welcome bycatch of big flathead, grunter and salmon.
Whiting have already been moving and congregating around the mouths of some local inlets. Stanage Bay down to the bottom end of the bay has a plenty of reasonable choices if you want to catch whiting. There are schools of these fish combing nearly all the beaches, with Five Rocks, Nine Mile Beach and Farnborough leading the way. A number of town beaches can provide interest though the average size of the whiting is smaller. Legal whiting seem to be a bit farther out than the throwbacks at your feet. This means 2-3m. Time and again people put the bait out behind the majority of top fish.
Loads of Rocky and Yeppoon fishers chase whiting because the beaches are easy to get to, and also because the family can enjoy the outdoors without the hassles of boats and travelling for miles to get there. And for those who like to travel, a prime spot is Yellow Patch on the north end of Curtis Island in the southern end of Keppel Bay. It's a fantastic location for whiting, bream, barramundi, mud crabs and salmon. Fishing there is a mission for the average Yeppoonite, and the rewards can be talked about for ages.
The beaches where the whiting are thickest have either beachworms or yabbies, so bait is never a problem – as long as you beat the tide. Low tide coming in is the best time to catch whiting around here, and it’s also the time to catch bait. Teach the kids to throw the cast net, pull worms or pump yabbies. There are a couple of reasons for this: while they’re collecting bait they don’t get bored, and when they’re busy you have a better chance of landing the fish of the day. Actually, it’s usually the wife who does. I must teach her to use the cast net.
1) Rebecca Brown with a Fitzroy snodger bream.
2) During the cooler months there are schools of just-under red emperor at Barren, Man and Wife, Outer and Forty Acre. If you catch a reddie and think it’s just over the legal limit, be sure to measure it just to be on the safe side.
3) Lenore caught this great mud crab at Stanage Bay.Reads: 1997