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Magic Monte
  |  First Published: September 2003




MONTE’S Resort is in a superb position, just south of Bowen. The resort’s 10 units are only 15 steps from a beautiful beach, with casuarinas and coconut trees, shelter from the southeasterly winds, clean clear water, plenty of fishing, oysters and a large island national park just offshore.

The resort is on the mainland just south of Bowen and is directly opposite the southeastern corner of Gloucester Island. It was established in 1972 when Monte Overend Gorton decided to share his little piece of paradise with the public. He also sold off a few house blocks to a few of his mates but that’s the limit of the development. No vehicles drive anywhere near the units, there’s safe anchorage just out from the units and if you’re feeling lazy you can wander down to the bar, order a meal and a drink and just relax.

You can get to Monte’s via barge from Bowen or by car (the dirt road was upgraded about two years ago). The turn-off is 13km north of Proserpine and is signposted. Turn at the Dingo Beach sign and follow through to Hideaway Bay where you collect the gate key from the caravan park. There is only one way in, via the locked gate, and you hand in the key at the office when you reach the resort. You must give plenty of notice if you want to secure your booking, and the resort can be contacted on phone (07) 4945 7177 or fax (07) 4945 7272. There is no camping available at the resort.

FISHING OPTIONS

The fishing here ranges from just good to terrific! There’s a range of fishing available to suit all tastes, with mangrove creek fishing the only thing that’s missing. Beach, pelagic, rock, and offshore reef fishing… it’s all here at various times of the year, with spring and summer probably the pick of the seasons. Creek fishing can be had in the Gregory River but it’s about a 30-minute run in a fast tinnie from the resort. There’s no shelter and the water can cut up fairly rough, so in a tinnie you’ll get wet in any southeasterly wind.

Beach fishing

The most obvious place to start fishing is the beach directly in front of the units, and you can pump yabbies here if you’re after a feed of tasty whiting. The yabbies aren’t huge and are not there in big numbers, but you can easily pump enough for a session. Please take only a sensible amount so there will be plenty for future anglers.

As well as whiting the beach yields good flathead, bream, small trevally and long-toms.

My son Lachlan often catches nice lizards from around a small set of rocks just to the west of the last unit and these are always a welcome catch for a fresh fish meal. The beach is sheltered enough to allow fly fishing as well as baits and lures, and the flatties here have a liking for small Clousers and Crazy Charlies, both with some flash in the fly.

While most of the flathead are fairly small, monsters occasionally turn up. A few years ago Lachlan was fighting a small trevally of just under a kilo when a huge flathead at least 30cm across the head followed the hooked fish right into the beach. I was trying to get Lacho to leave the trevally in the water while I shot out a cast but there was no way he was going to let that lizard get his trevally. He hauled his fish onto the beach and the old flattie disappeared.

The best time for the beach seems to be on a rising tide and near to full tide. Walking along flicking lures or flies out is very relaxing and it’s easy to lose concentration until a strike jolts you back to reality. Long tom can be a pain as they patrol the beach hammering small herring, and unhooking them can be a painful experience for the unwary. Garfish can be caught along the beach on small pieces of prawn or dough baits, and at night small parrot and other reef species venture right up to the beach – although unfortunately the reefies are usually undersize. We have also seen squid, cuttlefish and other exotics all along the beach at different times.

Here we use small light spin sticks with tiny eggbeater reels and 6kg braid. There’s no great current so the rigs can be kept very light and simple. If you’re using braid try a leader of about 2m of light nylon with a very small sinker either right on the hook or 30cm or so above the hook. Use the traditional long shank hook for whiting, bream and flathead.

For lures off the beach I like a small ‘shiny’ such as a Pegron spoon or any shallow diving small minnow. Many of my sooty grunter lures such as Fat Raps, Little Lucifers, Stumpjumpers, and small Rattlin’ Spots are successful here in the salt as well. Soft plastics such as single- and double-tails, as well as paddle-tails, all work well here too. Bring a couple of each type and you won’t miss out along Monte’s Beach.

Reefies and pelagics

If you have a small tinnie all sorts of possibilities will open up to you if the weather permits. A 4m tinnie and a 25hp motor is the ideal rig at Monte’s as it is easy to tow and launch and is big and safe enough for most of the fishing. If you don’t have a rig like this you can hire a tinny from the resort for a reasonable fee. While small tinnies are not designed for far offshore work, they are quite comfortable and safe for sheltered waters like those around Gloucester Island.

The inside of the island is only a short boat ride across the passage, and even in a 15knot southeasterly it’s safe (if a little wet). There is a National Parks day shelter in the first large bay up the inside and this is a good spot to start fishing. Live baits such as herring or gar produce the best results. In this bay there are excellent whiting along the beach and further out there are some quality golden trevally. Trawlers often anchor up here and if they are discharging their by-catch the resulting berley trail is the place to deploy your livies. Don’t be surprised if you hook a 5kg-plus queenfish, large barracuda, doggie mackerel or other species of trevally. These pelagics all seem to know where to come for a free feed! Put a good live bait on the bottom here in the berley trail and you also have the chance of landing a quality cod or fingermark.

Venturing further up the inside of the island you’ll come across many small shallow reef areas and rocky headlands. These are all good spots to chase blue tuskfish, which are one of the best eating fish in the ocean. For ‘blueys’ you need the quiet approach, and a berley of chopped-up soldier crabs, yabbies or prawns will get them on the job. It’s necessary to get hard in on the rocks and use heavy gear because a bluey pulls like a train and will reef you in a flash. Standard gear for them around Mackay is a 25kg handline. The best baits are large prawns, soldier crabs or a large bunch of yabbies.

Just a little offshore from these headlands there are small shallow reef complexes. Although they get a fair hammering they still produce sweetlip, cod, and the occasional coral trout. Over these reefs is also a good place to troll lures like Scorpions, Reidy’s Big Boss and Goulburn Jacks, and the Rapala CD 18. Expect to catch mackerel, queenfish, tuna and trevally on these reef patches. I am told that these shallow reefs fish quite well at night, delivering better quality fish, but I have yet to try it. For baits, use live or fresh herring and gar, fish strips or squid. Large prawns are always accepted but tend to attract the ‘pickers’ as well.

Moving on up the island you get to deeper water and a lot of very interesting country. Here there are large boulders dropping straight into 6-10m of water with bommies only metres offshore. This area is very sheltered from the southeasterlies but keep an eye out towards the mainland; if you start to see white water head for the resort quick-time. In this location I’ve had some monumental wipe-outs from very large ‘somethings’, all on large lures of CD18 size or better. I’ve had no success when trolling here yet almost every time I drift and cast into the rocks and bommies there is a knockdown drag around fight before a bust off on the rocks. One of these days I’m going to land one and see just what they are. My guess is that they are large cod, fingermark or trout.

Just around from these rocks there is a large bay full of coral that’s covered by 3-4m of water at high tide. Here on a calm day it’s like looking into a giant aquarium. There are beautiful, delicate fern corals and huge brain corals all clearly visible. Cod are the main catch here although I have spooked some blueys that would have gone 4-5kg easily. Small colourful reef fish and squid are also common here, although most of them are less than 30cm. Nevertheless, it’s a beautiful and interesting place to have a drift through while having a coffee or sandwich.

Coming around the top of the island just offshore there are numerous reef areas, but you’ll need a good quality sounder to cruise around and find fish. All across the top of the island and down the seaward side there are large reef complexes that would take many trips to properly explore. The best bet is to stooge around looking for fish on the sounder and then anchor up or drift-fish with live or cut baits.

You don’t need to go far from the island as there are many good spots within a couple of hundred metres out. These reefs yield good quality sweetlip, emperor, fingermark, cod and trout. All you need is the typical reef rig of a sinker on the bottom and a hook about 30cm up from that. If you get a small stripie or parrot set it out as a live bait near the bottom and any large cod in the area won’t be able to resist it. Most of the regulars use handlines on these deeper reefs, but you can just use whatever you’re comfortable with. The only proviso is to not fish light gear. You’ll just get bust-off after bust-off.

When fishing these deeper areas it’s also a good idea to have a floating bait set. I suggest either a pilchard on a gang hook rig or a small live bait. Mackerel are very much on the cards so use a wire trace, but don’t be surprised to have a bottom fish like a cod or fingermark come up and hit the floater. There are good numbers of black kings around too and they are always a welcome  addition to the esky.

There are many rocky/reef areas hard up against the eastern side of the island and these are the spots to try for a bluey. Again, it’s necessary to fish hard up to the rocks and often your bait will be only be a metre or so off the visible rocks. Blueys like to come right into shallow water, particularly on the high tide. Use as little weight as possible and the freshest of baits (e.g. prawns or crabs) and hang on! If you have some berley it’s possible to coax the fish out a bit further from their favourite rock, which gives you a better chance of landing the fish. I know of blueys to 7kg that have been caught in only a couple of metres of water along the seaward side of Gloucester.

Another good activity on this side of the island is to drift along and cast poppers or large shallow divers in towards the island. Trevallies are the usual result although I have seen some XOS queenies along here too. This type of fishing is not for light gear fanatics, nor is it for the faint hearted. It is a case of hook up and try to bulldog the fish away from the rocks and into open water. When ‘poppering’ here, you often just have to hang on and hope!

Coming back down to the southern end of the island brings you back into the passage, which has a clearly defined channel and lots of shallow reef. This area doesn’t seem to fish particularly well due to its shallow water, but it’s a nice spot to drift along and a look at the corals. Dolphins are often seen frolicking around here and small mackerel and tuna are occasionally caught in the channel.

If circumnavigating Gloucester Island is not on your agenda, I suggest you try your luck out around Shag Rock. There are many small reefies here and the odd good-sized cod and trout. During spring and summer on the northerly winds there are usually good numbers of doggie and spotty mackerel in this area. Run out in a west/north  direction from Shag Rock and follow the small ledge that runs out here. Don’t just work the surface for the pelagics and I suggest trolling a shallow diver and a deep diver until fish are located. Another good lure to troll is any of the Toby-style lures that work quite well at relatively slow speeds.

One last fishing spot that is worth checking out is around the western corner from the resort and down towards Sunset Bay. All along here there are shallow rocky headlands and reef complexes which hold big queenies. Your best bet along here is to slow troll while looking for signs of schools of herring. If you find the herring the queenies and trevally won’t be far away.

GET OUT THERE!

That’s a short run down of the great fishing available. And if you get sick of fish just take a short walk westwards from the resort to the rocks near the corner and you’ll be in ‘heaven’ – milky oysters cover the rocks and are delicious. Take a few but be considerate and leave plenty for the next hungry one. Oysters are also found on Gloucester along the inshore side. You can find both black-lips and milkies here, and both are food fit for the gods.

So if you want a piece of peace away from the crowds, where the sunsets and the fishing are great, Monte’s Reef Resort is for you.

1) Lachlan Day with a fly-caught flathead. These fish have a liking for small Clousers and Crazy Charlies.

2) Brooke Scott with a tasty coral trout.

3) There are activities here for the whole family to enjoy.

4) Kids always love feeding the lorikeets.

5) The local reefs yield good quality sweetlip, emperor, fingermark, cod and trout like this one.

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