Dean Miller: Hello, and welcome to the Port of Gladstone, some say the engine room of Queensland,
an industrial and economic powerhouse, but it's also a haven for boaties and fisherman. This place is so close to
Queensland's Great Barrier Reef, and it has some amazing spots to flick a lure for a Barra or a Jack, some magnificent
estuarine waterways. Let's take a look around.
We're on a trailer boat road trip for Club Marine with the magazine's editor, Chris Beattie,
Greg Haines of yes, you guessed it, that famous boating family, and Simon Bonchenski and Peter Pembroke from SeaKeeper.
Everything about Gladstone is big, including our rigs. We're travelling in the latest American muscle trucks from Ram.
As any boatie worth his salt knows, you can't beat local knowledge, so my first port of call on arrival is to catch up with my old mate,
Darryl Branthwaite, to get the skinny on what's going on in Gladstone.
I guess that in every second back yard, you'd be looking at a fairly nice boat.
Daryl B.: Well, it used to be that it was the highest boats per capita registration in the whole Queensland, 4680
in the Gladstone region, yeah and it probably still is, but the boats are not just small and swing more, they are six and seven
metre jobbie's, big tinnies, big fibreglass things and some guys have brought these in from America, but at the end of the day,
it's a boating paradise and the outboard motors, the economy of scale now, allows them to stretch their legs and to go a bit further.
We're actually in the epicenter of the Southern Great Barrier Reef which is otherwise known as the Capricorn
Bunker Group and that stretches basically from Lady Elliot Island right through our North West Island, and on that we've got the
likes of Lady Elliot which you can fly to, Lady Musgrave it's the envy of the Great Barrier Reef, cause it's got a lagoon you can get
in to, it's got an island that it's like jumping into an aquarium, and then you've got Heron Island which is being shown on the
BBC Blue Planet, it's been shown all over the world. This is, people come here from all over the world to this spot. It's an amazing
place and the ballups and the bait schools are around so, pelagic fishing and sports fishing and you don't have to go too far here,
you can go to the other side of the harbour and get into GTeaser, your 20 or 30 kilos.
Dean Miller: It's true this town is fish mad, they love their fishing, there are boat ramps everywhere you look, and just about
every backyard has a boat in it. The local water board even hosts a hatchling facility right in the middle of town to undertake research
and develop hatchling's of a number of ester-run species. Tom Hayes runs the facility and he's very kindly invited us in for squiz at
feeding time for the big Barra girls.
Now, that looks like fun, but there are some very big jacks in this tank and I reckon they might take more than just a pillie.
So, Tom, the Gladstone area water board do more than just keep the water nice for the people of Gladstone, you do all this great work here.
Tom H.: Very much so. What we do here is obviously breed the barramundi, mangrove jack, and sea mullet that are stocked
into Lake Awoonga. A lot of people wonder why we do that and there's a very good reason.
Before Lake Awoonga the Boyne river used to flow up into that area, there's now a big wall there, so we're reestablishing that connection.
Barramundi, Mullet, Mangrove Jack only breed in saltwater, so we breed them here, grow them to 50 mil and then we put them into the lake.
Dean Miller: So you're giving mother nature a bit of a hand but you're giving a pretty ordinary recreational anglers like myself a bit of a hand as well.
Tom H.: For sure, Lake Awoonga is the most heavily stocked Barramundi empowerment, we're seeing fantastic catch rates now,
it's definitely going to be the Barra mecca of the country for sure. The great thing about Lake Awoonga is, because it's such a healthy
pristine dam, the fish are just growing like you wouldn't believe.
Dean Miller: Your breeders here are amazing I mean, they are massive, they are trophy fish, big Jacks, big Barra, it's incredible.
Tom H.: Yeah, for sure. One of the best part about what we do is those fish we actually select from the wild. The reason we
use wild caught fish from this area is, if there is anymore overflow events, whatever goes over that wall will contribute to the wild populations.
Dean Miller: As part of the management of Lake Awoonga, the production of fingerlings and the reef stocking of the dam had been
going on for years, resulting in one of the best sports fishing empowerment's in the world. With big barra being landed regularly well
over the metre mark, but with a weather forecast looking this good, and the Great Barrier Reef right on our door step, opportunity is
knocking for a magic day on our magic boats.
We've come to Gladstone to head wide to some marks near North West Island about 50 nautical miles off the coast. At our first mark,
the boys are off to a good start, bagging a few your typical reef species from around these parts, red throat and tuskies.
There's a bit of surface action out here as well, and the centre console 788 is the perfect platform for throwing some chromies.
The SeaKeeper stabilizing gyro was a fabulous addition to the bells and whistles on the 788 and keeps the vessel really stable.
Well, we're now close to North West, the lunch stop on it's fringing reef seems like a good idea. The colour of the water here,
is like the rest of this bunker group of islands, absolutely amazing.
We're sitting in about nine meters of water and the boats hulls are casting shadows on the bottom. It's days like this, when we
realise why we love this boating lifestyle so much. After lunch, we hit another mark in about 40 metres of water known for its big animals and we hit the jackpot. It's a Cobia.
Cobia or black king fish, have a habit of rising to the surface away from the boat once hooked, this bloke is a monster, and he's
about to put on a bit of a turn. Got him, and once in the boat, his sheer size is at last noted. A 30 kilo Cobia, to Mr Greg Haines, what a fish.
Very nice fish. Big Black King fish, and I'll take some credit because I put the bait on your hook, that's about all I did.
Mate you must be thrilled, that is a beautiful animal.
We definitely have a feed for when we get back to camp tonight. What a day on the water it's been, plenty of fish, flat as a tack
with nought to five knots and no swell to speak of. Dinner tonight will be at our place at Tannum Sands, we're staying right on the beach at Discovery Parks,
a fabulous place to base yourself if you're planning a road trip like this one, with caravan sites and really nice cabin accommodation. There's plenty of room
to park the boats, there are pools for the kids, great walking tracks along the foreshore, and it's also close to town if you need to pick up supplies like,
breadcrumbs and some lemons to go with your freshly caught fish.
Greg H: So, we've got our fresh Cobia, we've taken the skin off, the fillets off, got the nice white flesh. Now we're gonna do cornflour, egg,
and then breadcrumbs and then we're gonna stick it in the deep fryer and we'll probably do some chips then as well, a bit of salad.
Dean Miller: Greg Haines has been cooking fish, for as long as I've known him, and is putting on a master class in the camp kitchen tonight.
Hainesy's a big fan of keeping it simple and letting the fish be the star here. There's nothing better than freshly caught lightly crumbed fish especially,
when you've caught it yourself. The food matches the company, it's been a magic few days and we've loved every minute of it. Who would've expected Gladstone
would be so welcoming, they've really turned it on.
If you'd like to know more about this trailer trip, head for the latest edition of Club Marine Magazine, you'll find all the details on
the Ram 2500 and SeaKeeper's range of life changing products, plus where you can catch a fish or two along the Curtis coast.