It’s whiting time in Gladstone! The bigger whiting, which are full of roe, have moved into the estuaries and there is no finer fish to target. However, pigging out on whiting at this time of the year puts future stock in jeopardy, so only take what you can eat in one meal.
Sand gutters are the prime locations, with the bigger morning tides either side of the full moon the top times. Whiting are ferocious eaters at this time of year and although they will attack almost anything, the most successful baits are live yabbies, worms and fresh peeled prawns.
These fish seem to bite their heads off in the last half of the run-in and the first couple of hours of the run-out in the early hours just after sunrise.
Yellow Patch has been fishing well with reports of elbow-slappers coming from the sand banks both inside and at the mouth of the creek. The trip around Cape Capricorn is quite easy but the bar can be tricky and deceptive so watch the waves before entering. Yellow Patch is best entered just before the high and best left just after. The area is an extensive sand bank and pretty much dries out on the low.
The sand bars are constantly changing but generally I attempt to enter in a southwest direction, following the line of the cape heading towards the inner beach.
Keppel Creek is another area of extensive sand that dries on the low, so you’ll need to use the tide to get in and fish here. There are pockets of depth once inside the creek if you like to keep the boat afloat. With careful planning this is an excellent day trip but I much prefer to make this an overnighter.
Getting through the Narrows has its own dilemmas so I work my Keppel Creek trips with an overnight stop inside Pacific Creek (QFM June 2004). This leaves plenty of time for caution when travelling through the Ramsay’s Crossing section of the Narrows, which is notorious for putting dents in props.
There are some reports of big bream coming out of the Boyne River, particularly in the upper reaches. Soft plastics are outfishing bait on the river at the moment and I have an unconfirmed report of bream being caught on a piece of muesli bar after the offered prawns remained untouched. I am inclined to believe it – why not?
There is not a great deal to this creek and I don’t risk travelling much past the mouth. A large sand bar at the entrance also makes it less inviting to fish here. However, the small horseshoe-shaped mangrove islet at the mouth of Middle Creek sets up a range of fishing opportunities.
I only enter the creek when the tide in Gladstone is 2m or more and head out as soon as possible after the high. From the third red marker I head to the eastern bank until I reach the mouth, where the depth stays around 2m. From here I usually motor towards the islet; I haven’t been game enough to explore any further into the creek.
On a making tide, you should target the outer edges of the islet for salmon entering the creek, while on an ebbing tide, you should target the small horseshoe bay. There are innumerable snags to keep lure casters happy and bream sit in this area, protected from the fast moving waters and ready to pounce.
Bait fishers should berley lightly enough to coax grunter, bream or Moses perch out of their hiding places. I mix my own berley from bread, tuna oil, chook pellets, a small quantity of sand and a handful of Ultrabite. This mixture can be easily moulded into cricket ball size and lobbed into the target area.
Light tackle is best and I prefer to rely on good quality braid to hold onto anything that hammers the bait. I use 6-8kg braid with a 12-15kg mono leader.
As the weather warms, fish are becoming more active in the usual harbour haunts and the old meatworks jetty will be a worthwhile target. If possible, drift around and target each of the old wooden pylons. There is plenty of structure on the bottom so be prepared to fight to dislodge any fish that gets the chance to run for cover. Grunter, flathead, bream and smaller sweetlip are all likely catches at this location.
The mangrove banks around Quoin Island are home to some respectable cod and flathead, both of which can be coaxed out with pilchard tails on single hooks and light tackle. Drifting the bait into the mangrove seems to do the trick.
Just across from Quoin Island on the southern tip of Curtis is The Gut. The tide fairly whistles around this spot but if you can focus on the calm locations behind rapidly moving water or eddies you can hook up to estuary cod or good quality bream.
Some good quality threadfin salmon have been hammering mullet, both flesh and livebaits, drifting around the bars at Fisherman’s Landing. It has been quite a while since I have targeted anything around the Clinker Wharf but I will revisit this location in the near future. Of course with the anti-terrorism laws, there is a no-go zone some 30m around most of the Gladstone jetties and wharves.
Following my success with Brian Green at the Rock Cod Shoals last month, Al Whitfield and I headed there and gave the southern edges a peppering. We set out floaters and were hammered, spooled and bitten off each time.
Our bottom bashing was producing the goods this time with some very solid parrots coming to the boat. These seemed to hit the squid but stayed clear from our pilchards, which was in stark contrast to last month.
Collared sea bream is one of the most under-rated coral species in Gladstone. I know of many who will return these fish to the water or throw them in the bait bucket but I have found them to be good fighters and excellent on the table. In fact, Grant’s Guide rates this fish up there with sweetlip, although I’m not sure I would go that far.
They are invariable pickers so enticing this species to take the bait is a talent in itself. I reduce the tension on the first few picks and lift slowly. On the lift the bream will generally run with the bait and that’s when I set the hook with pressure rather than a strong jerk. Striking too early is of little value and seldom catches the fish.
Along with bream, Al and I brought home some quality parrot, most of which were caught while bottom bouncing squid on the drift. Al uses a running sinker on a steel trace with a single 6/0 hook, while my preferred rig is a snapper lead on a paternoster loop with two or three ganged 6/0 hooks. I use a twisted dropper loop, which stops the bait from tangling with the main line and although it is a bit trickier to tie, it pays off in the long run.
12 Mile Reef is fishing well at night, with some big jew and emperor caught here in recent trips. This area is exactly 12 miles from the mouth of the Boyne River. I have found it hot and cold, so if I don’t hook up in the first hour I generally move on.
Our recent quarterly Facing Island weekend trip had us searching for a location out of the wind. Seven other like-minded mates and I headed over on the Friday barge and fished all over the place on Saturday. We started at Castle Rock but the wind picked up so we moved to the Lighthouse. The wind continued to follow us wherever we went: from the Lighthouse to The Oaks, then to Farmers Beach and finally the ocean side of the island!
We limped back home with enough whiting for a brief social session at the filleting table and then had to find something else to amuse ourselves with for the rest of the weekend! It seems whiting and strong windy days don’t mix.
Head into Middle Creek from the third red markerReads: 950