The Rocks off Bustard Head
  |  First Published: November 2004

With the weather warming up considerably, the fish will become more active and more aggressive. Estuary fishers will already know that the mossies and those bludger sandflies have moved in. I’m sure sandflies have been put on this earth to remind us that there is a fine line between the hunter and the hunted.

As the daylight hours increase there is more opportunity to fish both for land and boating fishers.

Gladstone on the rocks

Restrictions have made access to Gladstone wharfs increasingly difficult for jetty fishing. However, there are lots of rock retaining and bund walls that can be used by the land bound fisher.

Many rocks walls can be accessed by vehicle and are easy walks from the parked car. The Marina rockwall at Spinnaker Park gives great access to the harbour waterways. Jew, bream, tarwhine, cod and the occasional threadfin can be coaxed from these waters. It’s a common sight to see Gladstone boaties fish these walls from their craft.

Auckland Creek rocks can be accessed using marina walkways. The common sight of dolphins playing at the entrance to the harbour will keep the little tackers happy if they get bored dangling lines.

Rocky spurs at Canoe Point provide access to ocean fishing where the targets include dart, trevally, bream and whiting. The rock groins at Barney Point are also popular. This location has the advantage of a nearby beach. Good whiting have been pulled out here. The rocks walls of the causeway across Trees Inlet can be accessed by boat from the Toolooa Bends or via Auckland Creek. Be prepared to hook onto a mangrove jack.

In the estuaries

Big grunter will start moving into Graham Creek. I like to tackle the old jetty at the first tributary, Rawbelle Creek, as it seems to house nice size grunter. Anchor the boat just up stream and cast directly into the pylons. It can be blowing 50 knots down the harbour but only a wispy breeze reaches Rawbelle.

If you move further down stream you will find quite a few holes from which to pull out silver and black bream. Rawbelle Creek depth ranges from 3-4 m for most of its length but there are several 7m holes on the inside curves.

Further down Graham Creek is Hobble Gully. Right at the mouth of this little tributary is a large sand bank that holds some nice whiting. I find the top of the high tide, almost at dead water, the best time to pepper this small bank with peeled prawns and yabbies. The mangrove banks are worthy of closer inspection. The odd cod can be pulled up with moses perch also a frequent catch.

On the reef

Rod Cod Shoals is always a reliable fishing location in Gladstone. It is my most favourite and has a wide range of fishing options. My mate Graham and I spent a fabulous day on the shoals recently and bagged out on some quality parrot. Surprisingly, we did not pick up one red-throat. We found that very unusual, as red throat are the staple fish at this location. We tried all the old faithful GPS spots where red throat emperors have always been caught; but to no avail.


We took two boats to the waters off Bustard Head, via Turkey Beach and Rodd Harbour. Paul and I travelled in my boat while Gordon and Macca travelled in Gordon’s boat. After camping overnight at Pancake Creek (QFM October 2004) we set our sights on Inner Rocks and Middle Rocks for our morning fishing expedition.

Inner Rocks sits directly under the Bustard Head lighthouse. This unmanned lighthouse is now an icon on this Curtis coastline and features holiday accommodation.

Inner Rocks is a relatively small group of rocks, but fish-holding structures fan out north and south for quite some distance. While we started our focus close to the rock, we drifted slowly away from the main rocks with the incoming tide. We drifted over very interesting structure and bounced squid on the bottom. Disappointedly, we only managed to pull up a few undersized stripies.

We decided to set out for Middle Rocks, a few kilometres north. These rocks set up a spectacular sight with waves washing over the structure – not an area to traverse in the dark. We joined four boats stationed around Middle Rock.

These rocks are best fished by trolling or casting lures. We tried drifting and bouncing squid along the bottom, but to no avail. Unlike Inner Rocks, the structure zone of Middle Rocks is fairly small and the sounder didn’t show anything of great significance further than 50m from the rocks. This meant there was quite a bit of weaving and dodging as trolling boats worked their bait and lures around structure.

There is much discussion about trolling speeds, especially when chasing targets like mackerel. We were trolling between 4 and 6 knots with skirted squid, pilchards, diving lures and poppers. This speed kept the poppers zipping and gurgling along the surface without too much surface bounce. Any faster and the poppers shot skyward out of the water; any slower and we lost sight of the popper under the water.

It was Gordon who first snapped up a nice spotted mackerel, which he brought to the boat, posed for a photograph and released. A trolled pilchard did the trick. There’s nothing like a good catch to get the motivation meter soaring.

Another set of rocks, called (oddly enough) Outer Rocks make up the three main fishing structures off Bustard Head. However, fishing was slow so we decided to head back to Rodd Harbour and the township of Turkey Beach before the bottom of the low. That way we could travel with the water and the wind. It made a different scenario from our trip out, as we were able to travel a comfortable 20 knots homeward.

Before entering the harbour we stopped to drift around on the southern edge of Tongue Spit, the large sandbar at the mouth of Rodd Harbour (QFM August 2004). It was a glorious day and we floated idly around the harbour, not trying too hard to fish – just enjoying the last few moments of the weekend before heading to the ramp.

The boat ramps at Turkey Beach are tremendous. One of them is a sand ramp that’s solid and firm and a great ramp for multiple collections. It is also much softer on a fibreglass hull. A dual concrete ramp for those without 4WD vehicles is located immediately beside the sand. A 4WD is not always needed but it’s still not a good idea to attempt the sand ramp without one.

When I started up and headed to the ramp, my 20-year-old Merc 80 rattled, shuddered and abruptly died with a bang. It sounded distinctly like a credit card maxing out to me. I maintain a strict service regime on my old motor but this was not good.

Thank goodness we travelled in pairs because Gordon was able to tow me the 3km from the mouth of Rodd Bay to the boat ramp. There is nothing flash about being towed to the ramp, especially with an audience.

Boat towing is pretty straightforward. Gordon tied a rope across both of the strong cleats on his stern to share the load of towing my boat. I attached the rope to my anchor bollard. We motored home at a slow 6 knots.

However, when we were within 100m from the ramp, Gordon set up a new towing manoeuvre I hadn’t seen before. He set a painter line from his front bollard to my stern cleat. We then secured our boats tightly together, using fenders to avoid contact damage. We attached lines between our cleats, keeping us together. Gordon set his bow slightly behind mine and motored me safely forward. He was able to set my boat easily on the ramp, untie all lines and move his boat in without missing a trick.

The King is dead – long live the King

The word on my motor was not good. It was time to replace it and a good time to get the wood rot cut out of the floor. That proved to be mistake number 2. The news on the wood rot was worse than the motor. Retiring the old girl seemed to be the correct decision.

It was time to look for a new rig. I found the information right at my fingertips with the boating links on the Fishing Monthly website (www.fishingmonthly.com.au). I was able to access comprehensive reports on hundreds of boats and motors from testers the calibre of Gary Howard, Col Buckley and David Seaman. I could read water reports from these experts and access unbiased critiques of each boat and motor. Using this comparative data I was able to make an informed decision on the boat that best suited my needs.

This website is a wonderful service to the boating and fishing public. When it’s time to consider purchasing a new boat and you want expert advice – and don’t we all? – I recommend you check out this website first.

So now, sitting in my driveway, is my brand spanker Cruisecraft Explorer 500 with a Mercury 90 donk. It makes it that much harder to drive to work each day with that image beckoning in the rear view mirror.


1) Middle Rocks is a fairly small location and suits trolling.

2) Gordon and a small spotty from Middle Rocks just prior to release.

3) The old jetty in Rawbelle Creek is a good location to target grunter.

4) Hobble Gully in Graham Creek doesn’t look like a whiting location, but the proof is on the hook.

5) Graham and two of his quality parrots pulled from our last Rod Cod Shoals trip.

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