Camping at Pancake Creek
  |  First Published: October 2004

WHAT a fabulous time to be in Gladstone! October days are calm and pleasant but it won’t be long before the mossies and sandflies start swarming around as the days warm up. Winter was fairly mild this year and that often leads to an insect-ridden summer – definitely a nuisance when you’re fishing the mangroves.

Awoonga Dam barramundi will start becoming a little more active as the water starts to warm.

On the reef

The 12-mile is fishing well at the moment, with some decent spangled emperor and some huge grunter being pulled in. If the weather is calm and the water is still, it’s worth trying the short run to the Bindaree wreck. The wreck sits in about 30m of water and you need to have good anchoring skills to hold up close to it, but it’s worth a go.

The pelagic species will be hitting their peak this month. Troll over the any of the shoals if you want to get onto some good mackerel. Rundle, Bass and Lady Jane are all great spots. Rundle is more open to the weather, while Bass and Lady Jane are more protected.

In the estuaries

October is the month when the big roed-up whiting enter the Gladstone estuaries. The Calliope River really fires this time of year. The area of sandbars and yabby banks around Wiggins Island is a good place to anchor up. If you are able to get some live yabbies you will take a good feed of whiting home. Don’t get too carried away, however, as these whiting are breeding the future.

The Calliope rail bridges are easily accessible by vehicle via the dirt tracks leading off Red Rover Road. If you have a 4WD you can venture a little further afield. Just downstream of the rail bridges there are several small rocky outcrops worth flicking from. When you are on these ledges, keep an eye out for quickly-forming eddies. With the changing current conditions, eddies form quickly but disappear just as fast.

There are reports of threadfin salmon running at the Narrows but the fish aren’t in big numbers. Overall, it hasn’t been a great season for salmon, but you can pick up a few at Black Swan Island. I have had success flicking around the small mangrove islet at the mouth of Middle Creek. You can enter at rising half tide but keep an eye on the water as it dries quickly. Place your boat in the main creek and flick either side of the islet as the water moves in. I find salmon respond better in moving water.

Whiting from Yellow Patch are featuring in some catch reports and these are being caught in good numbers. Camping here is a fabulous experience, so throw the tent in your boat for this trip. Yellow Patch is also a great place to explore.

In the harbour

The old meat-works jetty just off Barney Point is worth exploring. The old pylons hold a good variety of fish and it’s quite common to pull up sweetlip here. Work the tides to your advantage and drift your bait as close as you can to these pylons. If you move closer to Barney Point Beach you should pick up quality whiting. I have also brought cod to the boat from the pylons of the nearby QAL conveyor belt. Work the current to your advantage and feed bait back towards the concrete pylons.

Some quality cod have been pulled from the mangroves around Quoin Island. Now is a good time to duck in while the sandflies are not so prevalent. You have to watch the tide here or you might find yourself sitting on the mud until the next time. Cod will strike at just about anything and even small ones put up a battle when first hooked. The battle doesn’t usually long but they are good table fare.


If your idea of heaven is camping on your own white beach with palm trees swaying in the breeze and a range of fishing possibilities within easy reach of your shady tent site, Pancake Creek is the location for you. It’s one of the most picturesque spots on the Central Queensland coast.

We recently towed our boats by road to the coastal town of Turkey Beach, some 50km south of Gladstone. My mates Gordon and Macca were aboard Gordon’s boat Eagle Eye, while Paul and I travelled aboard my boat. Turkey Beach has excellent launching facilities and Pancake Creek is just a short 40km boat trip run around Rodd Peninsula.

We left Turkey Beach at 6:30am just before the high tide and headed out of Rodd Harbour. We turned north-northeast at the red entrance marker to clear Spit End, Richards Point and Ethel Rocks on Rodds Peninsula. Once clear of the rocks, we headed south-east following the Rodd Peninsula until we reached Clews Point. This marks the entrance to Pancake Creek.

We encountered a sharp chop during the journey as we worked against the tide and a 15-knot southeasterly breeze. It made the trip interesting but we managed to keep our water speed to 15 knots so the trip passed without any problems. The north coast of Rodds Peninsula has many beach and rocky outcrops to keep a tourist interested.

Pancake Creek is best entered on a high tide to avoid the large sand banks at the entrance. The creek doesn’t have a bar to cross, and it has leads and navigational markers to help you along the way. Several beaches looked like great places to camp but we found the best one right at the entrance. These tropical havens are locations where you could happily imagine being shipwrecked. You still have to navigate around a few large rocks but by taking care you can put your boat right at your campsite.

If there is a more attractive creek in Central Queensland, I have yet to see it. Rocky outcrops set up natural barriers between the beaches, and each beach has just enough space for a couple of boats and campsites. We were the only powerboats at the time but I suspect this could be a popular spot during the holiday periods. The rule of the jungle applies – first in, first served.

We shared the waterway with a dozen or so yachts that came and went at varying intervals during the day. Pancake is a popular stopover spot for yachties en route north or south. The upper reaches are more popular with the yachties.

Pancake Creek is susceptible to winds from the north, and if this happens you may have to move further into the creek for protection. You would have a very interesting trip home if the wind turned northerly. I can only imagine the response from the boss if we had to phone in to say we were stuck at Pancake for a week or two until the weather cleared. Bring on the wind!

We staked squatter’s claim on our beach and grounded our boats by coming in astern, securing the bow anchor before running up to the sand. We ran a stern line up the beach and tied off to one of the trees. It meant our boats would be sitting on the sand during the day and we would be stuck on the beach. Damn pity that!

We set up camp under some huge palm trees that truly made this feel like a tropical oasis. As we pitched tents, laid out our swags and made sure our afternoon refreshments were on ice we made friends with the local scrub turkeys. These little blighters peck at any food left unattended and in the course of the afternoon they scampered away with our burger buns and a packet of savoury scones.

But there was fishing to be done. We headed towards the oyster-encrusted rocks to the southern end of our beach and pulled in some bream and flathead but nothing worthy of a frying pan so they were released. We then headed back to camp for an afternoon siesta, Seeing as it was the middle of day on a rapidly receding tide.

Macca and Gordon decided against a kip and headed through the bush track that led to the Bustard Head lighthouse, which is now a tourist icon and accommodation attraction. They spoke about the spectacular views of the coast and Jenny Lind Creek. The trek was apparently worth forsaking an afternoon nap but we had to take their word on that.

As soon as the tide turned and started to run back in, Paul and I fished the rocks on the northern end of our beach. Here we threw prawns towards the clumps of rocks sitting amongst the sand expanses. We were rewarded with a nice supply of bream, tarwhine and flathead. Surprisingly, no whiting were brought in. This beach had ‘whiting’ written all over it but they weren’t on the chew for us.

Paul’s ingenuity had us storing the catch in a small rock pool the size of a bucket. It supplied enough oxygenated water to keep the fish alive for the afternoon. This left us the option of returning them safely to the water if we didn’t catch enough for a feed. We did; but it was no mean task to scoop the fish out of their temporary home.

Before we cooked up the fish we all had a feed of oysters straight from the rocks just south of the beach. Gordon was an expert with his oyster knife, prying the shells open and shucking the muscle out, while I (less expertly) used the back of my tomahawk. The oysters were plentiful and made a delicious entrée to our fish.

Camping on our beach for the night was magic. We sat around the campfire and watched the sun set over the Eurimbula National Park to the west while we convinced each other of our fishing exploits for the day.

The following morning we headed off early to the waters of Bustard Head to try our luck at the rocks. I’ll fill you in on that part of the journey next month.


1) The oyster-encrusted rocks at Pancake are bream magnets.

2) You appreciate the tranquillity at Pancake Ck when the only footprints on the beach are your own.

3) Parking the boats, stern first, right on the beach at the campsite.

4) The camp sites at Pancake Ck are shaded and protected.

5) Meal preparation time - is this good or what?

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