Unlike its namesake Corio Bay at Geelong in Victoria, best known for its snapper and King George whiting, Corio Bay in north Queensland produces trevally, barramundi, threadfin salmon and a host of other tropical species. Corio Bay is the delta area of Waterpark Creek, 30 mins out of Rockhampton, yet it’s one of those places that feels very remote.
I visited there with local guide, Neville Brooks. It was a day of setting pots for mud crabs, working lures around mangrove runoffs and casting poppers to rocky headlands in search of roving predators like mackerel.
We launched Nev’s 5 m long punt, powered by a tiller-steer, 60-horsepower four-stroke engine, a few kilometres upstream. It was low tide when we put in and the trip downriver was slowed by the need to navigate shallow sandbars, and to make occasional stops while Nev ran into the mangroves to lay his pots for mud crabs.
Nev showed no fear of crocodiles as he walked along the exposed mud banks to place his pots in gullies that would fill as the tide rose. The pots, which have a piece of fish wired inside, have a long rope with a polystyrene float attached. The rope and float are tossed over the branches of a mangrove. Crocodiles love these floats and I have seen many in the NT with tooth marks. But Nev was more concerned with hornet nests in the mangroves than crocodiles.
As we reached Corio Bay, Nev positioned the boat so we could cast bibbed minnows and soft plastic lures into snags and alongside rock bars, likely areas for barramundi to be waiting in ambush along the sheltered, mangrove-lined shore.
The water was rich with baitfish, the edges glittering with a shimmering mass of herring. There were turtles in one of the small coves, and squid were easy to catch on jigs. Several of the barramundi we lured refused to stay on the hooks, but we landed a few fish including estuary cod. Anglers who fish here regularly also seek out bread-and-butter species like sand whiting, bream and grunter, or the superfast threadfin salmon.
A change of tactics was called for and we began casting metal lures over a partly submerged reef. The fishing was consistent for giant trevally or GTs as they are called, but these were juveniles, not the big ones we wanted.
Nev beached the boat near the entrance so we could look over Byfield National Park. It was, he said, the long way to our next destination. Back in the boat, we headed out the mouth of the bay, turned north around a rocky headland and then steamed north for a few kilometres before arriving at an expanse of reef and rock called Corio Heads. This area produces sportfishing delights including black mulloway, big GTs, queenfish, cobia and mackerel.
We rigged up heavy threadline tackle with large surface poppers, and starting casting and retrieving. Popper fishing is great fun. It involves casting the lure and then winding fast to bring the popper to the surface, creating a splash across the water during the retrieve. Nev held the boat out from the wash of the rocks and we cast poppers into the gutters. Fish more than a metre long were here, judging by the dark shadows that followed the lures below the surface, but they weren’t hungry enough to strike.
On our return to Corio Bay, Nev collected the crab pots. This time he didn’t have to wander over muddy banks as the tide was up and the gullies had filled. The pots held a few mud crabs with nippers big enough to snip a man’s thumb.