Offshore 1770 Fitzroy, Sykes & Broomfield reef May 2011

After six and a half hours drive north of Brisbane we arrived at 1770 and slipped the boat in to the water ready for a couple days fishing. We headed in the direction of Fitzroy reef with fantastic conditions and the weather forecast for the next two days was for it to get even better.

I have always been one for thinking outside the square and by this I mean looking in areas that aren’t highly fished or spoken about in hope of locating trophy fish. This doesn’t always work 100% of the time but for me 9 times out of 10 the hard work is rewarded with some memorable fishing.

People often ask what makes me choose an area to start searching in and to be honest there isn’t a great deal of thinking behind it other then a few simple concepts. This will certainly depend on the species you’re chasing and in this instance I will use the well sort after red emperor for my example. Firstly my main goal is to stay away from the main well-known reef areas and an example of this would be not to fish close to Fitzroy, Musgrave, Boult reefs that are the easiest of the reefs to access. These reefs have and always will cop a lot of fishing pressure and this lessons your chance of catching trophy fish and in particular red emperor. Ideally you want water depths of at least 45mtrs or more for the ideal red emperor grounds and I can’t stress enough that you need to stay as far away from the main reefs and this includes shoals and any areas highlighted on your gps maps. I select areas to search in where it shows nothing of interest at all but be prepared to put many hours of sounding in for very little in return at times. It’s the small isolated reefs that produce quality fish and this is exactly what you looking for.

With this in mind I decided to have a quick fish near fitzroy for trout before we headed well north of Fitzroy and sound in a water depth around 60-70 mtrs making my way up past One tree Island, Sykes Reef and Wreck Island. I had been sounding since late afternoon and about 4 hours later came across a small show in 68mtrs of water. There was very little structure on the sounder but there was certainly some fish life worth dropping bait on. We all got bites straight away and it was evident that the Hussar down there were in large proportions and soon had a few pulled to the surface where we cut big fillets off them and lowered them back down. Hussar love eating hussar but the skin and flesh holds on well and the key is to let the hussar chew on the bait and give time for the other fish to barge in and have a go as well.

We started seeing a few red throat hit the deck and wasn’t long before the first red emperor went into the esky but there was some big critters down there we couldn’t stop and my guess would be massive cod or grouper.

We moved on and I continued sounding north and ended up wide of Broomfield reef, which was an area, I intended on spending some time looking around. After hours and hours of searching I had found nothing in my desired water depth and decided to head in slightly from the area I was looking in to try find some reef to anchor on for the night. I found a nice show in 48mtrs of water and after a few drifts found the hussar thick but we persisted and caught a mixture of red throat, red emperor and a red bass, which was returned to the water. By now it was 1am and I was buggered after close to 8 hours sounding so we anchored up for some shuteye.

By 5am I continued on searching ground east of Broomfield reef and Wreck Island but once again I found very little so decided to change my depth I was searching in to 70-80mtrs of water. It didn’t take long till I found a nice piece of reef structure in 79mtrs of water and some very large shows of fish on it. There was a lot of bait holding on this spot also so I had high hopes that it would produce some nice fish. Hussars once again were thick but among them were some nice red throat, maori cod, tomato cod, parrot, coral trout, and the odd nice red emperor.


The conditions were magic and it was a complete glass out with no current either. I hunted around staying between 70-80mtrs of water and found small rises with fish on them through out the area. We patiently drifted over these areas pulling the odd red emperor, hussar, parrot, spangled emperor, coronation trout, coral trout and a few big pearlies.


The fishing was slow but consistent and I had now marked about 8 spots in which we would come back to just on dark. I was mindful that when night falls I will more then likely see the small fish/bait that inhabits these small reefs become invisible on the sounder as they huddle the reef and rest for the night. This can make what you thought was a fantastic spot look baron and this can be frustrating when your not fishing large structures. This is exactly what happened to us and all but one spot still had shows of fish on it as the sun disappeared. Soon as our baits hit the bottom on this spot we hooked solid fish and had reds hitting the surface during a beautiful time of the day. We pulled 6 reds a nice trout followed by loads of hussar before I decided to move on and work my way south down towards Sykes reef.

 After a few hours sounding I came across a nice little rock in 63mtrs of water covered in life. There was a lot of bait surrounding this rock and I could also see predatory fish close by feeding on the bait as well. We started pulling some hussar, a nice red, spangled emperor before foxy hooked a steam train that had him working hard. It turned out to be a big high fin amberjack and I soon followed with another one of a smaller size. It was getting late so I anchored up for some sleep and woke up to a glassed out sea and a beautiful sunrise.

The hussar were still chewing but it didn’t take long till the old man pulled a cracking trout just over 8kg followed by foxy with one of a similar size. A mixed bag of fish were pulled from this spot before things went quiet so we decided to head back to 1770.


The fishing certainly wasn’t brilliant but with plenty of searching and lots of patience we caught some great fish in an area I had never been to before. With 17 reds, 8 Trout and a huge assortment of other fish in the box I’d say it was mission complete and I hope this gives readers some encouragement to think a little different to successfully catch quality fish.

Greg Lamprecht