Trophy Town – Peter Kaye (Gladstone)

Love reading fishing articles, but left wondering where all these awesome fish are caught?
Well here it is! An in-depth two-part article on fishing the Gladstone area. Tips, spots and techniques all laid out for you. Next month we will focus on the offshore reefs, but for now we will start with the inshore areas.

If you’re like me and love throwing lures from a small boat, then Gladstone is perfect. It has a maze of waterways, loaded with excellent rock bars, mangroves, small islands, flats and plenty of wharves. As with any new area it can take a while to work it out. Having a good sounder with side-scan and an electric motor with GPS spot lock will give you a massive advantage.

All of my fishing here is with lures, and it doesn’t get any easier than around ambush areas. When fish are in ambush mode they will eat just about anything that comes past their nose. So an important part of fishing Gladstone is looking out for ambush spots. Spending time driving around at low tide, and watching the way water flows around structures, will give you a better understanding.

I have noticed a lot of Herring around Gladstone, and soft vibe lures like Threadybusters and Transams are an excellent match. Teamed up with a medium heavy baitcast setup, these soft vibe lures make perfect searching lures and you can fish almost any scenario, from snags to deep to shallows. This combination accounts for the majority of my fishing in Gladstone.

The Boyne river is not a huge waterway and smaller boats will be more at home here. Although small, it can produce some real trophy fish. It holds everything from the humble bream right up to the trophy size Barra. I might warn you that there are some very shallow stretches of the river, which my prop would certainly testify to, so take it easy when navigating this waterway.

Structure is the key to fishing this system. From the mouth of the river and up a couple of kilometres there are awesome rock bars and all of them can hold great fish.

One metre plus Barra are a real possibility in the Boyne. Slow hopping soft vibes around the rock bars is your best chance of hooking one. I would strongly suggest you get there before the first of May as this is when the pro-netters are allowed to work these waters, and boy do they do a fantastic job. I’ve had double figure days on Barra late April, and then you’re lucky to get a bite after the netters have been.

Tarpon are a great fighting sport fish and perfect to introduce the kids to lure fishing. The Boyne is full of them, they just seem to turn up from nowhere late afternoon, and will take a light colour soft vibe on the drop or ripped through the water column. Just look for the telltale surface boils around sunset. Double figures on Tarpon are possible most days and it’s a great fun way to pass an hour or so.

Hopping soft vibes around an upper rock bar one day, I was pleasantly surprised when my lure was smashed. Following an epic battle, a magnificent 93cm Blue Salmon graced my net. Queenfish, Mangrove Jack and Blue Salmon are also quite common catches in the Boyne.

The Calliope is bigger and can be harder to fish, but can produce some insane fishing, none better than the old highway bridge weir where the salt meets the fresh. This was also my first inshore fishing experience in Gladstone.

One afternoon I went up to the bridge which is near the historical village. Being shallow and very rocky I proceeded to flick some surface lures around. Walking the banks I stumbled across a small channel where the wider part of the river funnelled into a narrow section. Now, talk about being in the right spot at the right time. That afternoon I caught Barra, Queenfish, Trevally, Mangrove Jacks and also had a few big bust offs as well. What I didn’t realise was that this place can really fire on the larger tides around summer, which was when I just happened to be there.

On the large tides the salt pushes up and over the weir, effectively reversing the flow of the river and pushing the salt into the fresh. This is the trigger for the fish to really fire up. I have also seen a croc up there early one morning so be careful when walking the banks.

Another hot spot, literally, is the hot water outlet at the power station. Winter is the time to be there and Barra are the main target. Rolling big paddle tail soft plastics or hardbody lures around the outlet is your best chance to nab a Barra, and they can get big, real big!  Queenfish and Blue Salmon can be caught here as well. Now be prepared to do a few trips and punch out a few casts, and your persistence will be rewarded.

Others spots to try would be around the various bridges on the river and some of the shallow flats and rock bars.

This is a massive area, running from Gladstone harbour all the way up to the mouth of the Fitzroy river, and can take some exploring. Structure is the key here, anything from a small pile of rocks to big fallen trees. The variety of fish available is extensive, and includes some great trophy fish.

The narrows can be complicated, and moon phases and tidal flow have a big part to play in being successful. Good fish can be found in every part of this waterway from the tiniest of creeks to the deepest hole in the main channel.

Planning every fishing trip is something I always do. Some days it works and some days it doesn’t. Then there are the days that go above and beyond the plan. Armed with a sound knowledge from a handful of successful trips, a good mate and I set off up the narrows. The tides and moon phase were perfect, and the plan was set.

A couple of casts in, at the first spot, my soft vibe was smashed and my baitcaster was screaming and didn’t look like stopping. My spool was emptying fast. This fish was motoring! The electric motor was deployed straight away in pursuit of this speedster. After a 150m run in a few seconds, I dropped this fish cold. I was devastated.

Back we went, wondering about lost opportunities. A couple more hops of the soft vibe and it was engulfed again. Line started peeling off my spool and the fish was heading in the same direction as before. Unbelievably, I had been given a second chance.

Off in pursuit again, we must have chased this thing 200m before it stopped running. After a few minutes, I see a large Permit or Snubnosed dart rise to the surface. After some tense moments this majestic fish was in the boat. A few quick photos and it was back into the water for release.

This was the making of an exceptional days’ fishing. Every sport fisherman would be rapt to land a Permit, Giant Herring or Bonefish. Landing all three in one day, that was just amazing, and it didn’t stop there. Other species to find the net that day included, Barra, Tarpon, Blue Salmon, Steelback Salmon, Queenfish, Grunter, Cod and some XOS Flathead.

Every spot fired that day and that trip won’t be forgotten any time soon. The area also holds Mangrove Jacks, Fingermark, Jew and some big Bream. I’ve also sat off a tiny clump of rocks and caught Barra after Barra for 45min. I would highly recommend the long drive up the narrows for a fish, and with the new netting bans up the top end it can only get better.

Gladstone Harbour is massive, and being the hub of this industrial town it is very busy. The wharves around the harbour can hold some awesome fish, but  you need to know your rules about fishing around this busy port. Make sure you research where you can fish and keep clear of the working boats. For this reason I steer clear of these areas and seek the less frequented spots.

The harbour is dotted with islands, and the massive tide runs that collide into them can create awesome upwellings of water. Keep your eyes out for birds diving in these spots. There might only be a few birds but there can be thousands of Blue Salmon under the surface, feeding on bait that is being pushed to the surface.

One similar spot is where the mouth of the Calliope river merges with the harbour and narrows. With all that water colliding on the run out tides in the colder months, the salmon can be thick, and can carry on like pelagic fish, launching themselves from the water. It’s a great spot to take the kids and get them flicking lures. When this spectacle is on you can pretty well throw anything in the water and it will be eaten. On several occasions we spot locked on these schools and picked off salmon after salmon for over an hour.

Well I sincerely hope some of this information helps you bag a trophy fish or at least helps improve your fishing. Be sure and look out for Part 2 next month when I take you outside the harbour chasing the reef dwelling species.