“Fitzroy to Broomfield” – Peter Ford 2017

The Bunker Group is the beginning of The Great Barrier Reef and also happens to be the closest major coral reef system to the mainland in Qld making it a popular destination for the offshore fisherman from as far south as Brisbane, some six hours drive away.

When the weather Gods shine on this area, people travel from far and wide to get a piece of the tropical species on offer like red emperor, coral trout, red throat and an array of other tasty reef species.

The weather throughout the winter months is usually the best with June through to about October being the premium time to go, with light winds and slightly cooler weather and a lesser chance of storms as large high pressure systems dominate the weather maps.

Because of the distances you need to travel, most people opt for the overnight options to get the most out of their visit to the area. There are two main lagoons within the Bunker Group ,Lady Musgrave Island and Fitzroy Reef. Fitzroy is the most central being around 35 nautical miles from 1770.

The Bunker Group offers plenty of options and the further you go beyond the average day-tripper, the better the quality of your catch and the chance of real trophy fish.

With over 70 nautical miles of islands and exposed reefs from Lady Elliot Island in the south to North Reef Island at the top end, it’s no wonder it keeps people coming back.

I have a yearly ritual in late July into early August with a couple of mates where we get a house at 1770 for 8 days and fish for as many of those days as we can, weather dependant of course. This year we fished all but two of those days, which is not uncommon at this time of year due to great fishing conditions and light winds.

Our first trip out was an overnighter where we had planned to stay in Fitzroy Lagoon and work our way north towards Broomfield Reef.Well as much as we had a plan, we pulled up on a spot east of One Tree Island and didn’t move far from our first mark all day.

Our first fish up off a small patch of reef in 65m was a 4kg coral trout, quickly followed by a 14kg red emperor, the boat was buzzing and big baits and livies were being deployed at a great rate of knots.

This little patch went quiet after something big was dropped, likely another red.

We moved no more than about 100m north along the 65m line and hit another great little show on a rock about 3m high. With bait spiked up for several metres, it looked real promising so the big baits went down with whole hussar sides on 3 ganged Tru Turn hooks.

Within seconds of the first bait hitting the bottom, Darren had hooked up big time again, he had called it another red and after a solid battle, the glow of a big red started to appear, not as big as his first one but still a solid fish around 10kg.

It was now mid-afternoon and we had only travelled about 5 miles north from our first drop which put us east of Sykes Reef where we decided to head in a bit to some shallower ground in around 40 to 45m of water.

We were only a mile or so off the outer reef edge where we found some small isolated bombies so dropped the anchor for the first time and settled back letting just enough rope out to get right on top of the rock.

I was told once if you want to catch trout, anchor up and send a few pillies down on a hook and dislodge them under your boat, this creates a feeding frenzy that will get the trout to come out and have a look at what’s going on.

From there send your flesh or live bait down and lock your drag up a little as the first response is to take you back under the ledge they were hiding under. If you win that battle, you will find that once they are well up off the bottom the fight goes right out of them.

Three or four nice trout were taken off a couple of different rocks and we decided to head back to Fitzroy Lagoon for some sleep as we had been fishing for over 12 hours straight.

The next day we were hoping to get further north again so we put the hammer down and travelled up the inside of the reef system past Sykes Reef with a very light SW wind on our tail making in for a quick trip in smooth conditions.

Our plan was to work from Sykes to Broomfield but after a morning of fishing just to the north east of Sykes our two eskies were full so we returned to 1770 for a good rest and to clean the fish and boat ready for the next trip.

The southeast blow predicted never really eventuated and it looked like we were having to back up again the next day for a two night stint as the weather man said SW on the way up and a light NE to bring us home, doesn’t get any better than that so we fuelled up, restocked and hit it again.

The second trip saw us searching for new ground and visiting the marks that got us reds a couple of days earlier, but not one was caught this time out.

Nor did we get to Broomfield Reef as we believe in the old saying, you don’t leave fish to find fish.

There is some video posted up on www.fishandboattube.com.au check it out.

Till next time, go get some!!

Peter Ford