It is starting to cool down in Gladstone. May is full of classic Central Queensland days – clear skies, crystal waters and beautifully calm seas. It is usually great boating and fishing weather as the estuaries have fewer insects, making them much more comfortable for both boat or land anglers.
May is the chance to fill in the boating, fishing and camping void of the previous month. My target this month is Yellow Patch, which is a great camping location with easy fishing access to the waters and the islands of Cape Capricorn. Mackerel is a good target and trolling over the reef will usually encourage the pre-winter pelagic species to fire up. Fishing around Rundle Island is also a good option as the nearby bass shoals have some great holes and bommies worth sitting over during this month.
Yellow Patch itself is a great small fish location. The sand bars offer good whiting, bream and flathead, with the occasional trevally. Crabbing is also possible along the mangrove edges.
The sand gutters continually change so each trip is different. A quick run up the huge yellow sand hill provides an excellent view of the entire area. Sometimes the sand can be blistering hot but I find reef shoes provide protection. Yellow Patch has a small bar to cross at its entrance and although it is easy to cross with the tide, all bars should be treated with respect.
The upper reaches of most estuaries are worthy of inspection, especially those with gravel bottoms. Salmon will start to appear on the scene and they seem to frequent gravel areas. The gravel banks along Calliope River and around Devil’s Elbow are productive at this time of year. Further along the river past Devil’s Elbow, large gravel banks sit smack bang in the centre. Check this area out on a high tide but don’t hang around for the low.
The top of Graham Creek narrows out to gravel beds and salmon have been regularly caught here. Fishing at night is always a challenging option and Graham Creek is a good safe option for those cold dark times. I like sitting in Rawbelle Creek. It is relatively narrow but has lots of drains worth flicking into. Most of the banks are mud and mangrove but some huge black bream can be targeted here.
I believe that Facing Island is one of the gems in the Gladstone fishing crown. I have written about Facing many times before but each visit brings a new angling adventure. This island never fails to impress me.
Some likeminded mates and I put this trip on our fishing calendar a couple of times every year. Sometimes we explore many fishing options during the weekend but other times we are limited to a particular area of the island by the weather conditions. The beauty of this spot is that apart from category 5 cyclonic conditions, there is always a fishable area somewhere.
The prevailing winds on this particular weekend were from the southeast. On the ocean side of the island, winds were gusting to 25 knots, but on the harbour side, a wispy breeze was keeping us cool and the mossies and sand flies at bay.
The ideal fishing location in these conditions is the area from The Caves to The Oaks. This area is easily accessible by boat. First, follow the northern channel picking up the leads located on Farmers Reef, then pick up the next leads located on Farmers Point.
When you reach the point where the leads intersect, look towards The Oaks Beach to find an unofficial red marker pole. Head towards this pole and follow a channel deep enough for most boats to reach The Oaks. Outside this channel is usually only accessible on high water as this area is shallow and sandy with enough isolated rocks to keep a skipper alert.
On this weekend, four of our group travelled over by boat while the remaining five travelled across with supplies on the barge in 4WDs. We were able to access the beach areas with relative ease. Our camp base was the beautiful Farmers Beach, only a kilometre or so from our target – The Caves.
The Caves is dominated by one prominent rock reaching out into the bay. Some cavities form small caves at water level, hence the name. These cavities swirl the water around in all sorts of changing turbulence and it is this changing environment that brings fishing action to the area.
It is not uncommon to pull in parrot, sweetlip and dart but the main targets here are whiting, flathead, bream. Small rocky clumps dot the sandy bottom. These are often hook-grabbing features but they are also fish-attracting and holding structures. Because of the white sand and the usually clear water, these clumps are easily visible from the beach. Targeting these clumps and dragging the bait past, over or through is usually rewarding.
Yabbies are without a doubt the best bait in this environment but prawns are also effective. In fact, when dragging across a sandy beach, prawns tend to stay on the hook a little better.
The Caves is best fished an hour or so before and after the flood. On big tides, the water around the front of the main rock can be quite fierce so take care if climbing is your adventure. A sandy gutter between the main rock and the secondary rock is a good vantage point from which to cast into the bay and explore areas close to the rock face. The rock can also provide a good location to sit, keep your esky or store your fishing gear out of the sand.
On this trip The Caves gave up a good supply of whiting, including a couple of elbow slappers, several bream, garfish and flathead. Garfish are great on light gear, as they jump and carry on like mini-marlin. These are bread and butter species here, but certainly nothing to be sneezed at.
A little further north is a huge expanse of beach that swings around in a gentle arc to The Oaks. At high tide the beach here is only about 5-8m wide on the southern end – just enough room for a 4WD to park and turn around. Even at high tide, this area is not deep, with average depths only a few metres. However, you don’t have to cast far to get whiting on the chew. In fact, good size whiting can be found swimming around your ankles if you stand still long enough. Damn frustrating that!
About 150m from the rocks of The Caves, a small creek sucks in the water at high tide and dams up on the low. It is a good area to chase bait on low water but on a flood tide, it’s a different game altogether. Water drains into the creek over a sandy bar and this unsettles every morsel of food in the area, so fishing here is a good option.
Dave was fishing around the mouth of this small creek and bagged a very respectable snub-nosed dart. This is an unusual (but much appreciated) catch here as dart tend to gather around the northern tip of Facing Island.
On low tide the creek is crossable by 4WD. However, if water is sitting on the bar, beware! Some have come to grief here, underestimating the firmness of the creek bed. Allow it to dry completely before crossing.
On the low tide, the beach area running south to The Oaks is full of sand bars and gutters of varying depths. Several sand bars reach out here and offer the chance to stand out in the water and cast into depths to the right or left. As the water floods, check out the ripples to identify sand bars. On a flooding tide late afternoon, this place is a whiting magnet.
Further along the beach, rock outcrops add another angling dimension. This is a great area to walk and examine what is happening on a rising tide: as the water laps at the rocks, waves displace food morsels. It is a good spot for bream and roving trevally.
Greater depths and steeper profiles can be fished around The Oaks camping grounds. The boating traffic in this area makes fishing less attractive but in the quiet of night I have bagged some big parrots and mad running trevors.
Whenever you visit Facing, treat the island as if you own it.
An elbow slapper from The Caves.
Dave’s snub nose dart was caught at the mouth of the small creek at The Caves.
The creek is an active fishing location on a flood tide.
Gordon’s whiting caught at low tide on sand bars at the beach.
A few minutes work at The Caves produces whiting, bream and garfish.Reads: 2030