HI all, I hope everyone has been able to get out for a fish since the last edition of Bush ‘n Beach hit the shelves.
Over the school holidays, I was lucky enough to squeeze in a trip to one of my all-time favourite fishing destinations, Turkey Beach. The annual boys’ trip to Turkey Beach is something I look forward to for the best part of every year. The week leading up to our day of departure always has me buzzing with excitement.
I struggle to fall asleep at night as the memories from trips gone by come flooding back to me. For the past two years we have been blessed with glass-out weather, and when we saw a week of five-knot variables forecast, we booked accommodation, picked up supplies including food and bait, packed the boat and hit the highway early on a Tuesday morning.
This year we also had our close friends bringing their own boat up for the first time. They were equally as excited because they had never experienced reef fishing like this before. We had also arranged to meet another one of our mates Graham at the units where we were staying, as he had driven down from his cattle station at Rolleston early that morning.
We arrived just after 11am, unpacked, rigged up and were on the water before midday. The plan for that afternoon was to head around the front and run down to Outer Rock off Bustard Head. The weather was still a touch sloppy from the previous week of howling southeasterly wind, but the big Sea Jay Striker punched through it with ease.
We gathered some live yakkas and continued on our way. The first afternoon is always a bit of a muck around for us, because the reef fishing is what we know best, so we were happy to boat a few solid grass sweetlip and cod. Young Liam in the other boat managed to land a cracker grassy at 60cm, which was a new PB for him, so he was stoked.
The afternoon was getting on and we decided to start heading back but had one last stop at a mark on the way back to the headland.
I sent the first bait down to be cut off in an instant by a large trout. I switched to a heavier setup and deployed another bait, which was nailed on the way down.
Striking hard and setting the hook, I went quite hard on the fish because this spot has been known to hold a shark or two. I was pleasantly surprised when my first central Queensland knobby surfaced – definitely not what I had been expecting! I popped a tag in it and sent it on its way, as the data that will potentially come back on this fish could be very interesting in terms of movement and growth in comparison to the southeast Queensland snapper.
We had to pull the pin soon after because we needed to make it back before the servo closed as we were planning on heading wide the following day and needed a full tank of fuel for the journey. We were off to a decent start to the trip, and now it was starting to get serious.
That night we rigged up all the gear for the next day at Lamont Reef.
I don’t think any of us got much sleep, as we were all super-excited to fish a new area. None of us had been to Lamont before but had heard good reports and stories of the fishing on offer. Our alarms went off at 4am, the boat was loaded and we were in the water within half an hour.
The anticipation you feel while running through Rodds Bay and around Flora Point is like no other. We began the 60km run out to the grounds with some chop left over from the night before and a tad more breeze than we expected. It took about an hour and a half to get to the starting point where we began to sound around looking for bottom to drop on.
It wasn’t long before we were sending baits to the bottom. The conditions were average due to a rain squall passing by. Once it had gone, the weather glassed out and we started to pull really nice fish. Graham got three nice trout, the old man pulled solid tuskies and redthroat and I landed a few cracking redthroat on top of getting blown away by some suspected big trout.
Another rain squall rolled in but instead of moving away, it stayed put. This created extremely uncomfortable conditions to fish in and shut down the bite. We had one final drop and Gray’s bait got slammed. He struck and we knew straight away he was onto a big fish.
We had moved out off the edge of the reef onto deeper country, so my initial thought was ‘red’.
Unfortunately, we never got to find out because it managed to get the better of him and make it back to the bottom. Soon the fish stopped showing on the sounder and the wind was worsening. We were satisfied with the fish in the box but a little disheartened that we couldn’t get out wide of Lamont to chase reds.
However, both boats managed to put together a nice feed of good-quality fish. We spent the afternoon filleting and Cryovaccing our fish. We were all pretty wrecked after the day’s effort, and I think only one of us was able to stay awake until half time of State of Origin. The next day we were planning to fish Dad’s old stomping ground of the Rock Cod Shoals area, as we had done very well there in the past.
The following morning we were all buzzing again because we had more confidence in fishing what we knew best. Once again rain squalls greeted us close to the fishing grounds, stirring up a rather sloppy ocean. I sent an IQF pilchard down on a gang of hooks, which was intercepted on the way to the bottom by a quality trout of 4kg.
A great start to the day! The old man pulled a smaller trout and Gray boated a quality redthroat. We were starting to put a few fish in the box when we noticed the anchor dragging. Close to 2m of swell was being whipped up off the rain squall, and a stiff 15 knots of southwesterly wind was enough to break one of the picks on the anchor.
We toughed it out for a bit longer until the squall passed, revealing beautifully glassed-out weather. The fish really began to chew as well, and more redthroat and tuskies made their way into the box. Unfortunately, our friends couldn’t stay any longer because they had to be home that night for a birthday.
They unluckily missed out on a hot bite later that afternoon where we managed to pull nice fish including a 60cm grass sweetlip taken by Dad. He decided he didn’t want any more fish to fillet that afternoon, so stuck a tag in and threw it back over the side.
The following drop I landed a small trout of 45cm.
Without thinking too much, I unhooked it and placed it in the Esky. After closing the lid I immediately felt bad, as we already had a great feed of fish in there. It wouldn’t have been in the box for five seconds before I pulled it back out, tagged it and plopped it back in the drink.
The fish bolted to the bottom and I don’t blame it one bit!
A very lucky trout indeed. Gray also landed a barramundi cod, which none of us had seen before. We carefully unhooked it and deflated its swim bladder. It needed a bit more persuasion to get down, so it went on the release weight and was sent back to the depths. We were stoked to see such a rare fish.
They really are something special. That night we filleted and Cryovacced the day’s catch. Sadly for Gray, it was time for him to head back to the cattle station. We sent him home with a big feed of fish because a few family members were waiting for him to return with the seafood basket.
The following morning we planned to stay in the same area as the previous day but fish a different patch of reef we hadn’t hit for a long time.
This turned out to be a great decision. Friday morning greeted us with the conditions we had hoped to see all week. Glassy seas made for a fast run out and we had lines in the water just after 6am.
I floated a big IQF pillie down on a set of gangs and felt a solid fish pick it up on the way to the bottom. I clicked the overhead into gear and swung, connecting to a very big fish. I let the PE2-5 Wilson Venom go to work dragging the fish off the bottom, which soon started to come to the surface like a dead weight.
My call was a big trout, and I wasn’t wrong. A beast of a trout landed on the deck of the Striker and it was a new PB for me, nudging 80cm.
I was absolutely rapt. Before we could think about taking photos, Dad’s rod buckled in the holder and the fish looked even bigger. It began hammering back towards the bottom but the old boy did well in keeping it from the reef.
Once he had it off the bottom, we called it for another big trout.
I had the net at the ready and was eagerly peering over the side of the boat. The one thing I didn’t want to see was a shark, and that is exactly what came into view, trying to chomp on what was a very large coral trout. “Farking wind!” I yelled, among some other expletives, but Dad was too slow.
The shark managed to grab hold about halfway up the fish, I used the net to push it away from the remaining half of the trout and then lifted the fish straight over the side. We were shattered, as this trout would’ve been easily 1m long and a PB for dad. The bit we got back was 65cm long and over 4kg, still more than enough for a feed, so none was wasted.
We soon moved away from the sharks, but they were prolific at the next spot too. The first drop saw Dad pull a large chinaman fish, followed by another quality trout. I soon got in on the action with another 70cm specimen, which had a very close encounter with the taxman under the boat.
There was no way I was donating one of my fish to a shark, so after boating a few more cracker tuskies and redthroat we made another move to the area we fished the previous day. We had fun mucking around with a school of hussar on micro jigs. They fight harder than most fish their size and are plenty of fun on light spin gear.
The old boy also pulled a juvenile red from the same school of fish, which was a cool capture on a micro jig. We moved again but the fishing had gone almost totally dead. This can be expected around the tide change because we have found the ‘no run, no fun’ rule definitely applies to this style of fishing.
We tried all the tricks in the book, aside from dynamite, but to no avail. Sometimes fishing can just be slow! We moved around and pulled the odd grassy and tusky from each spot until we decided to run back to where we started that morning. The fishing there didn’t really fire either, so we chose to explore marks we hadn’t been to before.
This paid off in spades. I was fishing with two rods and two different presentations in the hope of enticing a bite, and once I had it figured out I planned to stick with whatever worked. This proved to be slightly difficult, as both baits I sent to the bottom got hammered, one by a solid trout and the other by a cracking tusky.
Dad pulled a nice redthroat before losing another quality fish, which I believe was either a big sweetlip or trout because it disappeared back into the reef at a rate of knots. I pulled another solid trout to round out our possession limit. It was starting to get later in the afternoon, so we decided to have one final stop at a red mark Dad has had for the best part of 30 years.
We sounded over some promising sights and deployed large flesh baits. It took all the patience in me to not strike at any pickers until I felt something much bigger pick the bait up and move off. I swung hard and connected to what felt like a monster of the deep. For a minute I was hoping it was the big red I was after, until it started to do sharky things like big tail beats and spirals.
I pushed the drag all the way to sunset and went to work on getting it up, and was more than impressed with the new RLF19 Live Fibre from the Wilson Fishing stable. A dirty bronze whaler of about 3m surface and was cut off upon arrival. I was disgusted. It wasn’t the way I wanted to end the trip but a box full of coral trout and other tasty reefies was nothing to sneeze at.
I pointed the bow of the Striker for home and threw the hammer down. Writing articles like this allows me to reflect on trips and moments to remember, such as when Gray fell into the Esky because someone had forgotten to shut the lid, or the epic blow-ups we had after being busted off by the unstoppable beasts of the reef.
It only makes me more excited for the next trip, and hopefully it won’t be another 12 months until I get another crack at exploring the wide grounds in search of reds. With winter in full swing, I have been capitalising on any opportunity I can get to head outside the local and chase species such as snapper and spangled emperor.
Stay tuned for next month’s article where I will hopefully have a bit of a write-up on the SEQ offshore fishing scene.
Until then, tight lines and sore arms.