Cruisin’ the Caboolture River
  |  First Published: August 2004

THE CABOOLTURE River is a fascinating spot which provides the local community with good angling for bread and butter species.

Fortunately, this waterway isn’t a hard place to work out. Basically, it’s a long, winding river with small feeder creeks. The main river and its tidal influence runs from Deception Bay all the way up to the weir at the town of Caboolture.


Upstream of the estuary, the winding is 6m to 10m deep on the outside of the bends and most commonly about 3m deep on the inside. Nine times out of ten you’ll find action in the deep water, and often the strike zone will be close to the bottom.

Mangrove jack are the prime target in these spots, and methods include trolling ultra-deep divers or anchoring upcurrent and feeding back weighted live herring, mullet or a slab of tarpon flesh. At slack water a lightly-weighted prawn is likely to attract a jack or a bream. In more recent times, anglers who’ve been using a foot-controlled bow-mounted electric motor, keeping one eye on the sounder, and presenting soft plastics in the deep have also been getting into the action.


The 2004 floodwaters left behind quite a few mid-water snags, which hold jacks, bream and occasionally trevally. The ideal mid-water snags are those that are concealed by high tides. If you do some pre-scouting at low-tide you’ll discover them. It’s spots like these that make all the difference in rivers close to higher population areas.

There are a few pontoons behind the scattering of riverside houses. When fishing here you may need to politely explain to the owners what you’re doing, and reassure them that you won’t damage their boat or snag their dog.


All the side creeks hold fish. The best way to approach them is to idle up the creek on the electric motor and to cast well ahead of the boat. Soft plastics on small jigheads give the casting distance and accuracy required in these tight situations. Small hard-bodied lures, while effective fish catchers, can be easily blown off course and into a few tree branches.

The mouths of these creeks are prime locations to anchor up and soak a bait on the turn of the tide.

Out in the estuary, a common approach is to drift over the mud flats in the area known as Bakers Flat. Around 30 years ago the drill was to drag a yabby on a trace behind a small sinker as you drifted along while waiting for your pots to fill with mud crabs. The main catch was whiting, with a flathead or two popping up.

Nowadays the same strategy can be employed for flathead but you’ll often see just two anglers per boat, and they’ll both be standing in order to cast lures ahead of their drifting vessel.

Prospecting for flathead with soft plastics is a popular approach. Anglers use a wide variety of lures for these fish, but the colour choice don’t vary nearly as much. Bright pinks and green/chartreuse have always been favourites, but arguably pearl white is today’s number one colour. Naturals like pumpkinseeds, browns, and darker colours also seem to have their moments. A small selection of brights, whites and naturals will see you through.

Normally I’d look for double-ended gutters and channels rather than blind/dead-end gutters or drains for flatties. There aren’t too many double enders in this river, however, so sussing out a few blind alleys at low tide is the only option. Fish the mouth of these on a falling tide and get into them on a rising tide. Many anglers overlook these productive spots.

Slow trolling small shallow running minnow jellybeans for flathead is as popular as ever. This technique has been used in the river for years and is still fruitful. The slow trolling approach is a wise investment of your time around the flats and also the riverside banks towards the mouth. Most of these areas don’t have a hotspot; the lizards are spread out rather than concentrated in one area. Well known spots include Shell Banks, Mosquito Island and the Burpengary Creek outflow.

The whiting are fairly plentiful across the estuary’s mud and sand flats from Bakers Flat to the Shell Banks.

If baitfishing for bream is your game, there are a few spots here that are worth targeting. Try ‘The Oaks’ (the area in the vicinity of the sheoaks on the south bank across from Bakers Flat), the small inlet to the west of the Ulmann Sreet boat ramp and any of those mid-river snags or large bankside snags upriver.

At the mouth of the Caboolture River you’ll find some of the best fishing in the area, provided the weather allows comfortable boating. Along the northern banks of the mouth and up to Beachmere can be good for baitfishing for yellowfin whiting on the incoming tide, and many anglers wade around this area in August and September. Big flathead don’t mind this location either (remember that the slot limit is 40cm-70cm). And just out from the mouth you can still find some patches of winter (diver) whiting in autumn and winter.

Bait Collecting

Yabbies are present along the river’s exposed mud flats, but they’ve never been there in big numbers. By all means take along your yabby pump and sieve, but don’t expect to do much more than supplement your bait supply – unless you uncover a secret spot.


Around autumn you’d do well to take the cast net and try for a few prawns. The best times are two hours either side of low tide.

Greasy and banana prawns make great live or fresh baits, and they also make a good feed (just remember that one 10-litre bucketful is the limit). The Caboolture River is often overlooked as a prawn fishery, so you don’t have to put up with the sort of congestion and boat traffic you’ll find at the more popular locations.

Live bait

Mullet and herring are easily caught with a cast net. The prime bait catching spots include the areas around the boat ramps and also the leafy mangroves on high tide.


Although some large craft do use the river, the channel is a high tide only deal for newcomers.

At low tide the Bakers Flat area of mud flats is difficult to navigate, but shallow drive on the outboard will minimise the number of times you have to get out and push (hopefully it will happen only three or four times). In places the channel switches back on itself and even small boats choose to travel at just above idle. If you get really stuck on a rising tide, grab the yabby pump and act like you did it on purpose.

There is a great drop-off that runs along the southern bank from the area opposite the St Smith Road boat ramps up to Bakers Flats. Deep divers can be trolled along here and it’s a good spot for large flathead. At high tide you can use the creek through the mangroves to get to the shallow bay adjacent to the west of the southern boat ramp.

One thing you’ll notice about the traffic on this river is the absence of large half-cabins with families onboard. The Caboolture River is perfect for small aluminium boats. About the only time you’ll be severely affected by the wind is from the east or south-east, but even then there’s always an island or bend in the river to hide behind, and a few of the side creeks are always worth exploring.

Side creeks
Burpengary Creek

Although the water from this creek flows across the flats adjacent to the river at high tide, it isn’t really navigable. The best way to access Burpengary Creek is to head out of the mouth of the Caboolture River and travel south to the meandering entrance of Burpengary Creek. A rising tide is best if you’re trying to find your way through for the first time.

You can opt to access Burpengary Creek from the concrete boat ramp at O’Leary Avenue, but don’t try to use the ramp at the bottom of low tide – it drops off to nothing and the ramp doesn’t extend very far out.

Special drains

There are two drains behind Mosquito Island. The bigger of the two is certainly worth fishing on the run-out tide, when flathead lie at the entrance waiting for mullet and other assorted baitfish to wander out. The drain itself is rather featureless, with a basic‚ U-shaped bottom, but the baitfish don’t seem to mind.

The watercourse on the northern side of Mosquito is fairly shallow at low tide and it’s often difficult to get a passage through.

King John’s Creek

You can have quite a lot of fun here. This long, windy creek has many snags, and a few trolling runs, and it’s navigable for open boats up to 4.5m for quite a way past the road bridge.

A creek comes in on the southern side a few bends up, and it’s boatable only for a very short distance. I’ve often thought it looks good for a fish but I haven’t had much luck there, maybe because the deep water is on the other side of the main flow.

In the vicinity of Riversleigh Road and Goong Creek are a number of bankside fishing spots and dirt ramps. You can travel by boat up Goong Creek, under the road bridge (watch for log jams and sunken debris near the bridge).

Farther up there is a fork in the creek and around here the trees start to grow over and make passage difficult. It’s a good spot for mud crabs and the occasional bream. There are a few houses, pontoons and jetties along the banks of this stretch.

Sheep Station Creek

I swear you’ll hear banjos playing as you sneak along here at idle! The banks are steep sided, the vegetation on both sides interlocks to form a roof, and passage is slow. This is what Tom Sawyer was dreaming about.

You can get up past the entrance of Cundoot Creek, but you’ll most likely miss it as the entrance is overgrown. Not much farther up are some soft sandstone rocks submerged just below the surface, which will bring you to an abrupt halt. That’s about as far as you’ll get in a boat.

Mud CrabBING

The Caboolture River is well known for its mud crabbing. Most crabbers still use pots and tend them hourly, with small fishing excursions in between. Oily flesh is the best bait. Mullet is the old standby, and tuna frames are one of the best.

The side creeks and along the mangrove banks are the best places to place your pots for muddies. For sand crabs, try the edges of the banks in the main estuary and around the river mouth.

Bankside Fishing

There are a few spots along the river which provide good bankside fishing. Naturally, the boat ramps are a great place to start (there always seems to be baitfish activity around those spots). In some places there are graded dirt roads right to the spot. The grass in mown, bins are provided, and all you need to do is shake out the camping chairs, prop the rod on a forked stick and take a copy of Fishing Monthly to read while you relax and wait for a bite. The ideal time to fish most of these bank locations is for around an hour or so either side of the high tide. At this time the current flow is slower, so your lines are less likely to get washed into the bank.

One spot worth trying is the artificial lake in Burpengary. You can access this spot via the park off Kunde Street. The place is alive with baitfish, which come in on a flood tide through a narrow drain, and common catches include giant herring, mangrove jack, tarpon and the occasional mud crab. We surmised these fish came in via the drain and couldn’t find their way out – although with the quantity of bait available, they may have been happy to stay.

Great Location

All in all, a day on the Caboolture River shouldn’t be treated as one where you’ll get cricket score catches. Rather, it’s a relaxed, casual day on the water, allowing you to catch a feed only a short drive from Brisbane.


Boat Ramps

Public concrete ramps are available at the end of Moreton Tce/Saint Smith Road (two double ramps, bitumen car park, toilets and a fish cleaning table). There’s also a private ‘pay to use’ ramp at the convenience/tackle store at the end of Whiting Street, which has a floating jetty beside the ramp.

On the southern side of the river is the Uhlmann Street ramp, and there is another concrete ramp farther upriver which looks as though it shouldn’t be used anymore. The Uhlmann Street ramp is suitable for small boats. On very low tides the concrete end of the ramp doesn’t quite make it into the water and the mud is fairly boggy.

In the vicinity of the Uhlmann St ramp (to the east on the right as you drive in) is a flat open area through which you can access Burpengary Creek. This area is 4WD only, especially when it’s rainy. There are some spots along the banks of Burpengary Creek in this location where small boats can be launched, and bankside fishing is feasible in these same locations.

Upstream where the Caboolture River is crossed by the Bruce Highway there is a concrete boat ramp at the caravan park. There is also a sand ramp into Deception Bay at Kunde Street.

Elsewhere there are quite a few small aluminium dingy launching sites. Nearly all of these are dirt and some are suitable only for car-toppers and canoes. You don’t want to launch here if you haven’t got a 4WD, especially on a falling tide. In some places the access is high tide only and it’s a steep dropoff at low tide.

Accommodation and shops

There’s a small, modern shopping complex in the main town and the council caravan park still operates in Beachmere township. For basic tackle needs and fishing information, see the boat hire outlet at the end of Whiting Street.


1) Bankside anglers can enjoy good fishing on the high tide at a number of spots along the northern side of the river.

2) Mud crab, flathead, bream and whiting on ice. The Caboolture River is a great destination for anglers from Brisbane who want to slip out on the water for a few hours in the quest for a feed of fish.

3) Boat ramp and 435 Edge Tracker, this is the St Smith Road ramp at low tide.

4) A bream that ate a mid depth diving "alphabet crankbait" in King John Creek. The ultrasharp hooks on this Japanese lure certainly helped to keep it connected to the fish.

5) The ideal midwater snags are those that are concealed by high tides. If you’ve done some pre-scouting at low tide you’ll know they are there but others will just drive on by. It’s secret spots like these that make all the difference in rivers close to higher population areas. This snag was washed in after recent heavy rains, there’s a lot of fresh around it in the photo but it will be worth remembering its location in about a month when the bream move in.

6) I’ve seen bigger fish come out of the Caboolture River but these days it’s more prudent to target fish within the slot lengths if you’re angling for a feed. This flathead was taken on a pink Sugoi minnow that was cast around the shoals.

7) Casting soft plastics ahead of your dinghy as it drifts across the flats or edges of the channel is a great way to target flathead.

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