Rolling on the Rocks
  |  First Published: February 2009

The things that impact on fishing this time of the year are the warm waters and warm breezes, especially from the north. It is not unusual to get water temps over 29ºC, which affects both the fish and the fisher with similar results – both tend to slow down.

Fishing unprotected at this time of the year is exhausting and dehydrating. I don’t want to be your mother, but take all the necessary precautions for lengthy boat sessions on the reef.

On the Reef

I fish shoals extensively during the year, particularly Rock Cod shoals, but the hot and humid summer months tend to bring out the Noahs (the big ones). On a recent trip, some big sharks frequently circled my mate Al and me, including one huge tiger that came so close it was possible to count his stripes.

These sharks often steal your fish but circling the boat is much more threatening. Many that were giving us the once over matched the length of my 5m CruiseCraft. Not surprisingly, fishing seems to slow down when sharks are around.

On a calm, smooth, hot and humid day (a typical Central Queensland summer day between storms) we were joined on Rock Cod shoals with what seemed like half the Gladstone boating fishers. Luckily the shoals are large enough to handle the boating traffic without causing any crowding.

The fishing wasn’t brilliant but we did get hold of a few reefies, mostly Venus tusk fish and red throat sweetlip. They weren’t huge by any means but the fillets did fill a plate. Squid and pilchard strips were doing the trick as we fished in 20m depths.

Schools of Spanish mackerel are still feeding around the reef areas, particularly around Masthead and North West. Trolling live baits is proving to be hard to beat.

Snapper have been pulled from the area around Rundle Island. Ray and Tracey Noe caught plenty of snapper recently while fishing this area in their 4.2 Stacer that was a Hookup prize boat they won in 2005.

Rundle Island is an area that has several large gutters and quite a variety of structure on which to fish. Trolling is a successful method to use for quality fish. I have also caught some mackerel, tuna and red throat by keeping an unweighted floating pilchard out the back of the boat while anchored over structure.

Bring on the Tuna

Mac tuna are very active around the shoals at the moment. They school up anywhere but mostly in the harbour around Gatcombe Heads, along the coast of Curtis Island and en route to Rock Cod shoals.

Obviously, diving birds, splashes on the surface and tuna leaping from the water attacking the baitfish are the sure signs that something is going on. However, these schools are easily spooked. If you motor up too soon, you will send the school deep only to have the school reappear a few minutes later, just out of casting distance.

At this time of year, the trick is to have a good casting rod pre-rigged with a metal spoon lure (or similar). When you spot a school on the surface, circle wide enough so as not to spook the fish. Try to determine the direction of the school. Loud noise, including the sound of an engine will spook the fish. I usually idle up or kill the motor completely. I then flick wildly into the fray and wind the lure back like crazy. Sometimes you hook up but sometimes you don’t.

You will certainly increase your odds if can get your metal into the feeding zone because it looks like an escaping baitfish when you wind it back – an irresistible target for tuna.

In the Estuaries

History shows that threadfin and blue salmon will start appearing shortly – although this has not been as regular as it has been in past years. The Narrows is a favoured location especially the area around Ramsay’s Crossing. There are any number of estuaries within the Narrows area that are all possible salmon haunts. Salmon often congregate around the gravel bars but they can also be found along the mangrove edges of most creeks like Middle Creek, Targinie or Graham Creek.

Trees Inlet is fishing well for bream, flathead and grunter particularly around the rock walls near Lillies inlet. If you can put up with tackle loss, dig in close to the rocks for the bigger species. I like to target the drains along this estuary and cast deep into the mangroves. Jacks have been known to hit live baits and lures along this system.

Some cod are getting pulled into boats from Devil’s Elbow in the Calliope River. It is a picturesque reach of the river and well protected from strong winds. Fish are often found in the deeper holes and these are located just near the rock at Devil’s. Large sand bars of the other side of the river hold whiting and flathead.

This reach of the river is also a good location to throw a crab pot or four for some Calliope muddies.

Whiting are also being found on the sand at the Beecher reaches of Calliope River particularly on a rising tide. Silver bream are hitting prawns flicked either from or towards the rocks near the double rail bridges. I am sure these will continue to feed actively from these locations.

You can reach these locations by boat from the Power Station ramp or by foot travelling by 4WD.

Recreational Fishing changes 1 March 2009

Just a reminder that new sizes and bag limits on a range of fish come into effect 1 March 2009 so it would be worthwhile jumping on the policy and legislation section of the fisheries pages of the DPI website (www.dpi.qld.gov.au) to see if these changes impact on your fishing.

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