Can you believe we are already halfway through the year? In June the trade winds can blow for days, sometimes weeks on end. Then, without warning the wind can drop away to nothing. For those of us who have a day job it seems weekends and winds hardly ever coincide with fishing plans.
The beauty about living in Gladstone is that there is always a Plan B. Here is a list of my Top 5 Plan Bs for those who had planned to go reef fishing but were prevented by wind that would blow the stripes off a tiger.
This estuary hangs off Calliope River. It is mangrove lined with some big holes along the mud banks. My favourite hole lies directly opposite dumped machinery sitting on the northern bank. Large mangrove trees hang over the water and set up shade and light variations, which make it a perfect small fish hangout. A large drain fills at high tide and provides a great hiding place for all sorts of fish. When water exits, whatever is inside the drain must come out.
This is the second major estuary to branch from Graham Creek. It is quite a wide waterway with a mangrove and sand bar at the mouth. This bar is the home of some good-sized grunter and surprisingly, some elbow-slapping whiting. I have found light tackle and peeled prawns excellent bait here. The deep holes along the eastern banks are the home of some good cod.
This is the first estuary after Black Swan Island and right at the mouth of the creek is a small mangrove islet. On a flooding tide, water races around both sides of this islet but on the lee side, the mangroves wrap around and protect a small bay. There are plenty of snags to target with lures and I have brought home some quality threadfin from this location. The biggest challenge in this spot seems to be turning the fish away from the snags.
If you can handle a short trip across the harbour, the rock spur reaching out from Picnic Island sets up protection from the weather and provides a nice little bay to target bream and grunter. I have even brought sweetlip, fingermark and moses perch to the boat at this location. On an ebb tide you can anchor up with the stern facing into the rock wall and floating towards the rocks keeps the bait in the strike zone and just off the rocky bottom.
At the mouth of Calliope River sits Wiggins Island. While the sandy patches are productive yabby banks, the soft mud around the sand banks discourages most pumpers; I have sunk down to my knees in this mud before. Doing the army crawl with a pump in your mouth and a bucket hooked onto your toes makes pumping yabbies less desirable. Even so, the yabby banks make this area a whiting and bream haven.
We had our hearts set on an overnight camp and a reef trip but the 25-30 knot southeasterlies and 2.5m seas put that plan to rest. Our Plan B was a trip down to the Gladstone end of The Narrows.
Gladstone harbour chops up significantly with strong southeasterlies but by working with the waves and the wind rather than against them, my fishing mate Al and I headed for Targinie Creek, our primary location.
On the way to Targinie, we passed Graham Creek. This waterway has so many features it is worthy of a trip in itself but on this journey we only had time for a quick flick around the old jetty at Rawbelle Creek. Rawbelle is a small estuary that is a mere 25m at the widest point. A small sandbar protects the mouth of the creek so it is not accessible on the lowest tides. Today the low was 1.35m so we had enough water to sneak in, even at the bottom of the tide.
Once inside, the depth ranges from 2-3m for quite some distance with the occasional deeper hole of 7-9m near some of the drains. The eastern edge of the creek is the deepest. It really is a versatile creek for one so small.
The remains of the old jetty sit just at the mouth of the creek on the western bank. We were only going to stay for about an hour, so we quickly threw out small prawns on a typical bream rig – running sinker above a 40cm trace on light gear. Before my hook had even hit the water, Al was fighting a steelback salmon. These fish are good fighters and quite under-rated as a table fish, provided they are eaten fresh. Males have a black tip on the dorsal fin while females are clear. These are only a small breed of fish but what they lack in size they make up for in tenacity.
We brought eight different species to the boat including silver and black bream by the truckload, moses perch, fingermark, stripies, grunter and greasy cod. Our prawns and light tackle proved to be a winner at this location and we were pretty much on the boil for the whole hour.
As far as creeks go, Targinie Creek is typical of most Gladstone estuaries, being lined with quality mangroves right to the edge. Good depth makes it easy for most boats to explore. This creek is like a supermarket of fishing opportunities with the mangroves, sand banks, gravel beds, snags and rocky spurs all providing variety.
Worthington Island marks the entrance to the creek from The Narrows and pretty much protects this area from all but the toughest of conditions. Worthington Island has a fishable rocky spur on the southern tip. The area between Worthington and the creeks reaches depths of 12m and is frequented by small sharks including reef and ray sharks. I’m not much of a shark fan but I do know some fishers who come here just to target them.
Give the sand bars at the entrance the Targinie a wide berth when entering the creek. The port side sand bar hides some hull piercing timber, which is clearly visible at low tide but can be just below the surface at high tide.
Right at the mouth of the creek on the starboard side is a small sand bar (refer to 1 on the map) but a deep hole inside the creek makes this a fabulous area to park the boat on the ebb tide and hammer the sloping face of the bar for flathead and salmon. I have caught some good threadfin here.
Mangroves line both sides of the creek but the southern edges are a little deeper. There are innumerable drains to throw into, some quite expansive. Some of the tributaries are large enough to motor into for further exploration. Commercial crabbers also frequent this creek.
One of the small tributaries (2) is deep at the entrance and a popular location for crab pots. The volume of pots usually makes fishing inside the creek a little tricky.
The largest tributary (3) is not as heavily mangroved as the rest of the creek. Large mud banks are evident, even on high tide. There are a few deeper holes on the northern bank that are worth dropping into. Al and I brought several river jew to the boat here. Even throwing into the centre of the creek at this location can be productive.
Fingers of water reach to the depths of Targinie at the last major junction (4). We actually motored to this location as soon as we got into the creek and fished here first. The tide had just turned and we were about 90 minutes past the low when we anchored here. The juncture of three tributaries of a major creek is a great spot to target most estuary species.
Al’s side of the boat must have been smack bang on a huge yabby bank because he pulled whiting consistently and often. We had more than 14 quality whiting in the icebox within the first hour. We were hoping for a jack but couldn’t keep the whiting from the hooks.
While Targinie was our Plan B for this particular day, I would happily trip back here anytime as my Plan A.
The premier fishing event on the Gladstone calendar takes place over the Queen’s Birthday long weekend this month. This is a great event and an opportunity to see all that Gladstone has to offer the intrepid fisher. Every estuary, reef, rock wall and coral bommie will host a hopeful angler. What a great chance to share hundreds of stories.
3000 entrants will compete for more than $150,000 in prizes including a Cruisecraft 575 Outsider. This is just one of the ten boat prizes. Visit www.boynetannumhookup.com.au or contact 1800 897 781 for details.Reads: 2317