Winter flathead fight hard
  |  First Published: August 2005

We are smack bang in the middle of my favourite flathead period of the year. Sure, flathead are more active and prolific during the summer months, but winter brings out some real crocs that seem to fight more aggressively than those caught during warmer weather.

When hooked, a shake of the head from these winter giants puts tackle to the test, so I always take my leader up a size to 15kg or more. I have no hesitation about upgrading to a fine grade steel leader. Many a lizard has cut the leader with those razor-sharp gill plates and disappointingly fluttered back to the depths.

Flathead can be caught at any time of the day but tides appear to be significant, particularly in shallow water. The most productive time is from one hour after low tide, through to high tide. Flathead can go right off the bite when the water becomes too warm.

Don’t limit your catch by keeping to the shallows – flathead can be pulled from depths not normally fished during the summer months.

Flathead haunts

Most estuaries around Gladstone are good lizard haunts but don’t overlook the areas that are not known for flathead. Some of the closer Gladstone wrecks hold decent lizards and on a recent trip to Moreton Star, my mate Al Whitfield hooked onto an impressive bar-tailed flattie that put up a vicious fight all the way to the boat.

My mates, Adam and Karen Jinnette, had a very productive trip to the estuaries of Rodd Harbour and bagged some huge lizards. This whole area is a flathead magnet for most of the year and is particularly impressive during the colder months. The mouths of the estuaries that feed into Rodd Harbour likely targets; Middle Head, Boyne Creek, Norton Point are all good flathead locations but my favourite is the area around Mundoolin Rocks.

The rocks here attract all sorts of angling delights and once you are able to work your baits past the inevitable pickers, some good grunter, bream and flathead can be pulled to the boat. I also throw a pillie floater into the channel because mackerel have been known to scoot past here as well.

In the Gladstone Harbour I have had recent success along the rock spurs of Turtle Island. There is some good depth on the western side, which slopes with increasing gradient to the rocks. I prefer to cast towards these rocks and bump my bait back to the boat, creating noise and motion along the way. My last catch here was a flathead that just touched the kilo mark and while it didn’t put me in the running for the Boyne/Tannum Hook-Up, it was a respectable lizard all the same. Bream are also common on the catch list here.

Around Facing Island the better flathead tend to move from the sand bars and hang around the rock ledges. Try targeting Castle Rocks, The Caves and Farmer’s Reef. Trees Inlet is always worthy of a trip and the rock walls around the bridge separating the Inlet from the Lillies always gives a good return.

Moreton Star

Al Whitfield accompanied me on a recent trip to the wreck of the Moreton Star. We were on a wreck crawl, starting at the Bindaree and working our way round to the Moreton Star.

The Moreton Star is a 16m Timber Trawler which sank on its way back from the local reefs in October 2000. It lies just 6 nautical miles east of Facing Island in around 24m of water. The wreck now sits upright and is in pretty good condition.

It can be located on a decent sounder but you will usually see a few boats hanging around the location so it is easy to find. The immediate area is productive and it is a good location to drift or anchor up in. There have been reports of Qld groper, greasy cod, coral trout, cobia, a variety of rays and sharks, wobbegong and red jew being caught here.

We had trouble getting our bait past the local schools of stripies and grinners – they were nibbling and stripping our baits faster than we could hook it up. Al hooked up to a 50cm flathead, which is a perfect eating size as bigger lizards tend to be drier and less tasty.

I managed to pull up a starry triggerfish that put up a good struggle and had me hoping for something more respectable. Although they apparently have nice, soft, white flesh, I’ve heard that the skin of the starry triggerfish is like leather and requires an angle grinder and axe to fillet. I chose to return this one to the water.

Boyne/Tannum Hook-up

What a fabulous weekend of fishing we had over the June long weekend. The organisers of the Hook-Up should be congratulated for the friendly and professional manner in which they conducted the weekend’s competition. It was truly a triumph for all and showed fishers of all ages and persuasions just what is on offer around Gladstone.

Some huge fish were brought in for the live catch-and-release sections as well as the weigh-in categories. The release of the live tank at the boat ramp was a spectacle for kids and adults alike.

Tagging of the catch provided fascinating data, as many of last year’s tagged fish were caught, tagged and released yet again, proving the success of this venture.

The bigger fish came from those who ventured out wide. Douglas Shoals, Lamont and Fitzroy reefs were hotspots during the competition and resulted in some huge weigh-ins.

The Awoonga Dam father and son team, John and Ben Platten, was a crowd favourite as they brought in one huge barra after another for the whole three days of the competition. John brought home the winning barra, weighing in at 19.2kg. For the fourth successive year, the Platten boys won the barra crown.

Some huge Spanish mackerel were also weighed in. Some of these were caught close by in the waters around Rundle Island, especially the northeastern side of the island. Jeff Harris pulled in a 20kg monster on the first day of the competition and was in the lead right up until the Sunday when Jason Mitchell brought a 32kg horse to the weigh-in station.

The Hook-Up is the premier fishing competition of the Gladstone area. This year entries were limited to 3000 and that filled up some 4 weeks before the closing date. My guess is that next year will be just as furious, so mark the Queen’s birthday on your 2006 calendar, keep your eye on the Hook-Up opening date and register early to avoid disappointment.

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