It’s funny how some fishing articles begin. Some are well planned and the results of a lot of effort while others just come out of nowhere and seem to grow from very insignificant beginnings.
Just recently I had a call from a mate I hadn’t heard from for several years. Mick O’Donnell was a professional fisherman many years ago in Greenwell Point and I first met him about 25 years ago. He pro fished with handlines and rod reel for many years on the NSW south coast and ended up doing a bit of long lining back in the 80s and even some drop lining for blue eye and bar cod in the early 90s.
Back in the mid 90s Mick worked out that life would be easier if he got out of pro fishing and started up a seafood outlet and restaurant. He started up Backgate Seafoods at Greenwell Point and ended up with a very successful business that he ran for almost a decade. When it was time to retire, Mick sold the business and set off around Australia with his wife Rona. They spent a lot of time up north in Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland and occasionally called back to Greenwell Point to catch up with everyone.
After several years of travelling I never saw or heard from Mick for a few years. I was told that he and Rona had settled down just north of Mackay at a place called Seaforth and built a house. Apparently after seeing a hell of a lot of Australia and fishing just about everywhere they reckoned Mackay was as close to paradise as they’d find. I thought to myself at the time that if Mick had settled there it had to have a lot going for it. He’d spent the past five years looking around Australia and he’d caught a heap of fish and been to some very well known locations. I had several mates who’d been up to visit Mick and Rona and they’d all come back with glowing reports on the fishing so when an invite came my way I was quick to plan a few days up there.
Mick’s invite was for me and my wife Christine to go up there for a week and visit him and Rona, have a look around and do a bit of fishing. The fishing involved chasing barra in the local dams and some inshore work around the many islands and creeks that surround Seaforth. Mick had even lined up a local guide, Arthur Lovern, to take us fishing for a few days and show us around. We’d never been up that way before so we were both looking forward to a quick break and checking the place out.
Our first glimpse of Mackay as we flew in was a mind blower. The mining industry up that way has completely dominated the local area and economy over the past decade. There were dozens of coal carriers moored around the area and the coal loading jetty looked like it runs 24/7. The local economy is absolutely booming and every business is feeling the effects of the incredible financial influx from workers who are earning big money working in the local coal mines. True to his word, Mick was waiting for us as we gathered our luggage. He hadn’t changed one bit apart from a darker tan. It was obvious that living in Seaforth was doing him the world of good. The 45 minute drive north to Seaforth gave us a chance to catch up and get the quick cooks tour of the area.
In a style that is becoming too common with any trips I do away of late the wind was blowing and as a result the fishing had shut down a bit. Nevertheless Arthur turned up that afternoon and met us to discuss the next days fishing on Kinchant Dam for barra. Mick and Arthur had become good mates not long after Mick moved to Seaforth and we had a few laughs while we retold stories and shared a few jokes. Mick has always been what some would call a colourful character and it was probably inevitable that he’d bump into one of Seaforth’s colourful characters when he moved there.
The next day we headed out the 30km to Kinchant Dam with Arthur’s 4.65m SeaJay in tow. We don’t see a lot of SeaJay boats down on the NSW south coast but I was more than impressed with the design and quality. With a 60HP Yammie 4 stroke on the back it makes for a very versatile dam and inshore boat and it’s just about perfect for the guiding work that Arthur does.
Kinchant Dam is an irrigation dam that was created in 1997 and stocked with barra. It covers about 900 square hectares and has a maximum depth of 18m. There’s a camping area and cabins on site and from our brief exposure it looked like a very nice place to set up for a few days and chase some impoundment barra. The several days before our arrival Kinchant had produced fish to over a metre but the wind that had arrived with the Finney’s had done a good job of shutting things down. Despite that fact we flogged the place to death with hard bodies and plastics for several hours. I got one hit on the threadline outfit on a 100mm Slick rig that just about pulled the Loomis out of my hands and popped the 20lb braid within seconds. I’d purposely backed the drag off a little after Arthur told me how hard impoundment barra hit a lure. Seemed like I should have gone another half a turn on the drag knob. By the size of the boil it was obviously a good fish and the one we were looking for. We fished on into dusk but only saw one other fish that boiled up on top as it was chasing a bony bream. I would liked to have spent more time at Kinchant Dam. It certainly looked like it had potential from our brief visit and it has the runs on the board with some consistent catches of metre plus barra. It’s no Awoonga but it also doesn’t have the crowds which greatly increases your chances.
The next day the wind had backed off a little so Arthur decided to head out from Seaforth and fish around a few of the many islands and bombies within a few kilometres of the coastline. With a window of several hours before the wind was predicted to pick up again we took advantage of a flat sea and made our way out to a small semi submerged patch of reef and tossed some small poppers about on 6kg threadline tackle. My first cast was hammered by half a dozen queenfish that all failed to connect unbelievable as that may seem. The last fish actually wet my legs as it boiled right next to the boat in hot pursuit of the black and grey stickbait. Next cast was quickly nailed by a solid queenie that put on a good show by jumping and peeling some line of the threadline outfit before finally being landed and released. The next half hour went along similar lines with no shortage of solid queenfish attacking the poppers and stickbaits. I got a couple of casts in nice and tight against the submerged reef and they were quickly shouldered by GT that didn’t connect and wouldn’t come out too far away from shelter. That was probably a good thing anyway considering we were only using 14lb braid and 20lb leaders.
After we wore out our welcome at the reef Arthur suggested some barra fishing in around a point on the outside of a creek entrance next to Rabbit Island. A quick ten minute run and the electric was down and we were exploring a creek entrance that also had a nice little hole full of overhanging timber and some snags. We pulled a couple of fish out of there on soft plastic prawns and B52s in an hour or so. We could see and hear barra smashing mullet up in the shallows and in deep amongst the snags and I’m sure there were more fish in there than what we saw or caught.
Our stay in Seaforth only lasted several days but we had a great time up there. We just missed out on the mango season by a month but we had some great meals at Mick and Rona’s and had a great time catching up with them. They have a fantastic lifestyle up there. There’s a very wide range of species on offer from barra in the locals dams to offshore species and some of the best inshore fishing you could think of. The local ramp is a cracker and there’s heaps of accommodation and options in Seaforth. Arthur Lovern can be contacted on (07) 4959 0318 or 0429 347 774.Reads: 5102