The spectacle of the Colosseum
  |  First Published: December 2004

Another year bites the dust, and if you haven’t started dropping hints for Santa by now, you’d better get your act together. I leave a few catalogues on the coffee table, just in case anyone in my family needs help.

Gladstone In December.

Brief storms late in October have put some much-needed water into the estuary systems, but the current dry conditions are starting to take their toll on both estuary and reef catches. A drought on the land often creates a drought in the ocean.

As soon as good rains flush out the rivers, which will occur with the first Central Queensland summer storm, target the spots at the mouth of every estuary where the freshwater flow combines with the saltwater. I also find fish tend to be more aggressive with high humidity.

On the reef

Spawning closures for coral reef finfish – including cods, gropers, coral trout, emperors, fusiliers, parrotfish, sweetlip, tropical snappers, perch and wrasse – are in effect from December 6-14. You can find the details in DPI&F guides or contact them 13 25 23.

Reef fishing has not been marvellous of late, and some of the bigger boats are heading out wider than normal for their catches. Those who travel to Northwest and Wreck Island are reporting good catches, but reports from inner reefs and shoals have not been great. Night fishing seems to be more productive than day fishing. Once good rains flush out the estuaries, I expect the inner reefs to come alive again.

Cape Capricorn is a good location to give boat fishers plenty of options. This is an easy location from which to access Yellow Patch, Rundle Island and Bass Shoals (QFM April 2004), all with their own special merits. I’m planning to head to Yellow Patch over Christmas for a camping trip.

In the estuaries

The Boyne River follows the Bruce Highway and a small tributary runs under the highway at Benaraby, all the way to Pikes Crossing. The river at this point has a gravel bed and dries out at low tide. When the waters run over the gravel you can grab hold of some good grunter and some solid black bream. Further upstream, where the gravel beds give way to sand bars, you can also pull in whiting and silver bream. It’s a comfortable location to fish because both banks of the creek can be easily accessed. It’s a good spot to venture out for night fishing, too.

The carpark area and boat ramp at the Toolooa Bends is also a good spot to fish from the bank. The nearby rocks and mangrove edges make this an ideal location for mangrove jack. This is the time of the year when jacks are formidable targets.

The Calliope River will provide you with a good feed of bream in December. I like the Anabranch, which is a good bream haunt. I have had success along the mangrove bank opposite Wiggins Island. I look for any location where small bays protect the fish from the flow of the tide, and there are lots of these locations in the Anabranch. My fishing mate Paul and I spent one weekend pulling a dozen just legal bream from the Anabranch. All were returned to the water; a 23cm bream is just too small.

Bream don’t always like the hard work of swimming against the tide, preferring to stay out of the flow and attack food as it flows past. The best scenario is when the food is attached to a hook on your fishing line! Hang the boat in the creek and flick into the still water. Sometimes it’s worthwhile putting out a second anchor to keep the stern to the location you’re casting to. There’s nothing worse that a boat spinning on the anchor.

In the harbour

Some isolated catches have been reported from anglers fishing around the harbour islands. Most islands offer good features that attract fish. Tide Island has a deep hole on the northwestern side and I have pulled some decent cod here. However, the tide can whistle around the island so anchoring can be tricky for the unwary.

Mangrove jack will start moving in Trees Inlet this month. Lay up along the mangrove edges and flick lures into structure. Jacks are ferocious fighters so expect to a battle. Your gear has to be in good condition or it won’t stand up to the task of fighting jacks.

Colosseum Inlet

Any strong wind is a pain in the transom but I especially hate northerlies. They are the most despised of all winds in Gladstone. As I write, the northerlies have been blowing consistently at 15-20 knots. On the central coast there is little escaping these winds.

My fishing companion Al Whitfield and I decided to head to Colosseum Inlet on one of our free weekends. A few days after the full moon, early morning high tides had our hopes up but the dreaded northerlies were blowing, with predictions of 25 knots in the afternoon.

Colosseum Inlet is only a short 25km run from Auckland Creek. We headed towards Seal Rocks (QFM Sept 2004) following the main shipping channel. We are a little spoilt in Gladstone because there are very few bars of any consequence that need to be crossed to access fishing locations.

The entrance bar to this inlet dries out at low water and runs quite shallow (1-1.5m) for some distance. With a depth of 18-20m at the creek mouth and with significant depth in the main channel, water movement across this bar needs to be watched carefully before crossing. As with all bars, when wind and tide oppose each other the bar can turn nasty.

On this trip, the tide was rising in the morning and the wind was at our backs so Al and I were able to comfortably bring the boat over the sand bar entrance to the Inlet without any drama. 1.5m is the minimum tide to enable a safe passage across the bar, and a rising tide enabled us to follow the water in.

Colosseum opens up to a deep and wide expanse with several large tributaries branching off the main creek. Several houses flank the edge of the water and long sandy beaches set this area up as yet another scenic Central Queensland locale.

There are several likely beach camping sites right along this inlet, with many trees offering plenty of shade for the tent. Prickly Pear cactus predominates further into the bush, so consider footwear if camping is your flavour.

Of course, the beach areas in this inlet also open up fishing options including targeting whiting, flathead and bream. The beach areas are steep, so anchoring the boat needs to be planned carefully so that it stays afloat and doesn’t go vertical.

Depth at the mouth of the inlet ranges from 15 to 20m. Tannum Creek branches off at the entrance with small coral bommies, mud and sand bars that attract the fish. The coral reaches into the main inlet and, along with sand and mud, pretty much blocks the entrance to Tannum Creek without tidal assistance.

It is Tannum Creek that splits Wild Cattle Island from the mainland. It is possible to follow Tannum Creek all the way to the Tannum Sands but it could only be accomplished with care on a big tide.

We decided to anchor at the coral in the main creek and at the entrance to Tannum Creek. Fishing was slow until my reel went into overdrive. Whatever it was, the fish headed straight to the bottom and gripped on. I recognised the feel of a shark at the sharp end but I couldn’t budge the weight on the end of my line.

It took a while but the second run stripped line from my reel. It was a good battle, and a few head shakes had me thinking large jew instead of shark. This encouraged me to bring the fish to the boat rather than cutting the line too early.

After an extended battle a dorsal fin broke the surface to confirm that I was battling a large shark. With a final act of supremacy it snapped through the line and took its freedom.

There was no further action around the coral bommie but there have been reports of sweetlip and trout around this area. We moved into Boyne River around Pig Island where extensive systems of mangroves line the creeks. This has to be the home of some good jack. Al and I flicked towards and along the mangroves all morning here but no one was home.

Al hooked onto another shark. He wasn’t in the chase with his light gear so he tightened up his drag and waited for the inevitable bust-up. His next catch was a small sole.

These fish always amaze me. Their eyes are different sides of the head when they are born and they also swim upright. Once they start their life on the bottom, one of their eyes moves to the upper body so they are both on the same side. Sole (or flounder) spend most of their life buried in sand or mud with both eyes uncovered. They ambush prey with ferocity greater than their size. They are supposedly good table fare, but I have always returned them to the water.

This expedition to Colosseum was not going to set any records. It is a fabulous location to which I will return another day – possibly for an overnight camp when the northerlies aren’t blowing.

The journey home was a little more eventful as the winds had picked up to 25 knots. The combination of strong winds and a large volume of exiting water made the bar uncomfortable but not treacherous. Water and wind working against each other made the task more interesting. Still, careful handling, keeping the bow trimmed high and managing boat speed was all that was needed to get safely through.

Colosseum Inlet is certainly a great location, and the comfort of fishing in a fairly protected inlet is its own reward.


1) Colosseum Inlet is one of many picturesque locations within easy reach of Gladstone.

2) The sole is one of the more unusual fish pulled in around mangroves. They are great fighters for their size.

3) The area of coral bommies at the entrance of the inlet is a popular location to anchor the boat.

4) Brownie pulled this large grunter on one of the night trips to 12-Mile Reef.

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