December is my love-hate time of the year, certainly when it comes to fishing around Gladstone.
I love the extra sunlight that increases the available fishing hours. You can leave much earlier in the morning and arrive home much later. Extra time with a rod in your hand has to be a good thing.
I hate the intense heat of the Central Queensland summer sun. This calls for zinc on the lips and nose, long-sleeved shirts, sunscreen by the ton and broad-brimmed hats.
I love the action of the estuaries as the fish become more aggressive and respond to light berleying, lures, soft plastics and just about any fresh bait you can throw at them.
I hate the blasted flies, mossies, sandies and March flies the size of Harrier jets. And I hate insect repellents.
I love the reef this time of the year because the mornings are usually calm and peaceful with 5-10 knot days the norm. Fishing on the reef is exciting during December as the pelagics attack lures with gusto, and bottom bashing produces all sorts of fishing wonders.
I hate the afternoon sea breezes that can turn to 15-20 knot breezes at the drop of a hat and the turn millpond oceans into a washing machine lather.
During December, I prefer to head out as early as practical with the aim of getting home before the midday heat and the afternoon sea breezes.
Of course, December is best the time for packing the tent into the boat and heading to favourite spots for a weekend of camping and fishing. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Pancake Creek is my favourite camping-fishing location. The entry to the creek is indicated by navigational leads and markers, and once through the mouth you can choose any number of sandy beaches upon which to park your boat. The beaches here are slope gently so the boat can sit safely on the sand.
I park the boat on high tide and prefer to let the boat dry out during the night. I also run a stern line up the beach and tie off to a tree as extra security.
Camping here is nothing short of fabulous, with fishing to match. Whiting and flathead are within easy reach of the beach, and bream, grunter and trevally feature along the oyster-encrusted rocky spurs.
If you want to get out wide, Inner, Middle and Outer rocks are great places to troll for Spanish mackerel or for hitting the bottom for cod, trout and sweetlip. These locations are only a few miles from the mouth of the creek.
Sea Hill is dependent on the tide but comes in as another of my favourite camping-fishing sites. The beach here is only narrow so the biggest tides will flood the camp site, but this beach area is whiting heaven. Yabbies and worms will coax some huge whiting to the sharp end of your whippy rod.
A small inlet floods into the base of the Sea Hill lighthouse and here the target is bream. If you get sick of catching whiting and bream, Pacific Creek is just around the corner. River perch (sometimes called ‘little jewfish’) are tasty catches here and during December you will pull them in by the dozen.
The Oaks on Facing Island is one of the most popular camping-fishing locations in Gladstone so you won’t be alone. During December you will have to be quick for the prime locations but there are acres from which to select a suitable camping spot. Water and toilet facilities make this a favoured spot for families, and it can be accessed easily by boat or 4WD.
Beach fishing will pull in a great supply of whiting, trevally, flathead and bream. If you take the barge with your 4WD you open up a wide range of possibilities here (see QFM July 2004, Jan 2005, May 2005).
You can park your boat right at the camping ground, which is a great advantage if you have to lug gear across the beach. You are also within five minutes of Rat Island where you can target cod, sweetlip and parrot. When you have caught your fill you can use the wood fired barbecues to cook your catch.
Yellow Patch is truly a jewel for a camping-fishing venture. The sand bar entrance needs to crossed with care but it shouldn’t be difficult for experienced bar crossers. Follow the water in and out is my practice. This is also a great location to set a few crab pots along the mangrove banks while fishing the gutters and sand banks.
Cape Capricorn and Rundle Island are both within easy reach from Yellow Patch but you need to take care when you head out. Allow sufficient water across the bar for the return trip.
This location is sandy, shady and spectacular but if the wind isn’t blowing you will be feeding your own personal claret to the sandflies. There is one huge yellow sand hill to climb and slide down when the fishing slows.
Graham Creek is a popular stopover for yachts and the beach area is also a popular camping-fishing location for small craft. The beach is an easy sloping location so you can bring the boat right onto the sand. There is not a lot of shade for camping but fishing in Graham Creek is worth the inconvenience.
The two main tributaries of Graham Creek, Rawbelle and Hobble, are both active fishing locations for a multitude of fish species. On a recent trip with my mate Greenie we caught steelback and threadfin salmon, grunter, bream, Moses perch, whiting and two stingrays in the first few hours. Great fun on light gear.
There is no better time that December to explore new camping-fishing grounds around Gladstone. However, there are a couple of things to bear in mind to make these trips more enjoyable and safe:
• Always park the boat on gentle sloping, rock free sand or keep it afloat. Park the boat stern in to the beach. Wave action is safer over the bow.
• Drop the bow anchor and motor astern to dig it in thoroughly. Run a stern line and tie off to the nearest tree if possible. If not, run a sand anchor as far up the beach as the rope will allow.
• Pack gear in watertight containers that can be carried easily by one person over soft sand. Keep it simple – only carry what is needed for the weekend.
• Make certain you pack matches, water, a waterproof torch and extra rope. UHT products minimise the need for refrigeration. Bait and selected perishable foods should be frozen before the trip and kept in a good quality esky. Avoid using loose ice. Instead, use frozen water bottles as dual purpose ice blocks and drinking containers.
• Consider your toilet options. Chemical toilets are cheap, efficient and take up minimal space but require proper disposal.
• Check local regulations before building fires. Extinguish all fires with water, never with sand. Small stoves are excellent for cooking.
• Keep all gear well above the high water mark. Fishing gear should be kept off the sand.
So there you have it – an overview of some of my favourite camping locations around Gladstone. Take it from me, there is nothing more satisfying than camping and fishing on a tranquil beach, where you become part of the local environment. Just remember to care for these parts of the world as if you owned them.
1) Pancake Creek has perfect beaches for camping and fishing. Park stern in and run a stern line up the beach.
2) A Pancake Creek bream caught and released from the rock spurs.
3) Boats can be parked right at the beach at The Oaks.
4) Sea Hill is a narrow beach camp site but safe if you read the tide.Reads: 700