End of Year Highlights
  |  First Published: December 2010

Can you believe it? Another year of fishing is almost gone, but hopefully it has been full of highlights and the good times that fishing surely brings.

Non anglers sometimes find it strange that catching fish can be supplementary to the whole “going fishing” thing we do. To just concentrate solely on the fishing is to miss much of the experience of the trip. This has always been my way of looking at angling, and was reinforced recently with a trip to Eungella Dam.

A lifelong mate, Henry Kostowski, and his son Raymond met up at our place in Mackay to put in some fishing time and explore some new country. Henry is an experienced angler and Raymond is one of those young guys that just loves fishing, but having grown up mostly in Hervey Bay he has the salty stuff running through his veins and had little freshwater experience.

I have always had a real soft spot for sooties and Eungella Dam, so it didn’t take too much persuasion on their part for me to agree to camping trip at the dam. Henry and Raymond had never been to Eungella before and had never caught, or even seen a sooty, so it was to be a new experience for them.

As usual it was blowing a gale and the Saturday was a wipeout with winds so strong the electric was flat making headway. I expected an early trip back home on the Sunday but just after daylight the wind dropped right off, and we did not need any second invitation to jump in the tinnie and head up into the timber.

The first time anglers were overwhelmed with the timber, but after a short explanation of the sooties favourite haunts – horizontal branches, multiple trunks and shade bars – they soon started to recognise a good snag.

Accurate lure casting to heavy timber is a prerequisite for success at Eungella and after an hour or so the visitors’ lures were getting to that sweet spot, within 300mm of their target.

This was when the results started to look up. Raymond dropped a couple of fish and was bricked quickly before I scored the first solid sooty that measured around 38cm. It was no monster but a good fish all the same and a very rewarding catch, as I had called that there would be a fish in that snag (probably a bit arsy on my part too).

We kept on for a few hours, dropping a couple and scoring a few and Raymond caught his first ever sooty while I managed four fish. Unfortunately Henry dipped out this time, but both he and Raymond were impressed with the fish and the dam. Five landed fish for a day and a half may not seem too good but I didn’t hear too many complaints.

We were all stoked and Raymond now has a much higher opinion of freshwater fishing and really rates sooties and Eungella.

To see the newcomers enjoy one of my favourite styles of fishing was just great and I know there will be more of the same with them down the track a bit. It just goes to show you don’t have to catch heaps to have a good trip.

Apart from the obvious sooty options, in December barra are a great option in Kinchant, Teenburra and Eungella dams. Best of all this is the time of year to catch the really big fish.

The best bet is to get out on the dams in the early morning or late afternoon on our hot, still, humid days, and work shallow divers, plastics or surface lures. At the beginning of November water temps were around 26ºC and now will be even higher, so that should stir even more activity from the barra.

For beginners, Kinchant is probably the easiest of our three dams to fish, as it really is as easy as trundling up to a weedy point or channel a couple of metres deep and casting – just keep casting until you stir up a barra.

Trolling is also pretty easy but stay clear of the weed or you will spend a lot of time reeling in clumps of weed. The best times to fish during December are whenever you get the opportunity as it will be hut and muggy all month.

The saltwater creek and estuary scene is firing well with the usual bread and butter types of bream whiting and flathead featuring in catches. Best baits to use are fresh yabbies or prawns and fish the flats as the tide comes over the beds and get right up near the mangroves for the bream.

Because of the closed season, barra are off the list, but for the lure angler, there are plenty of other targets like cod, trevally, small queenfish, jacks and fingermark. That’s not a bad little list of opportunities for the summer and they can all be found right through the creek systems.

Down towards the mouth, the trevally and queenies increase in size and in some of the bigger systems the legendary permit (oyster crackers/snub nosed dart) can be found mooching around; that is until they are hooked and then they get the afterburners going.

For lure fishing the creeks use a selection of well known minnows like Reidy’s, Tropic Angler, Rapala, Halco and C Lures in a range of sizes, but the best seem to be between 7-10cm. Don’t ignore the plastics and lures like the Prawnstars as they will score plenty of fish too, and can work in the hardest of tide runs.

Small poppers including the banana shape lures all imitate small mullet and are great over rock bars at high tide where minnows or plastics would snag up. For variety, keep a couple of shinies handy, as they are a much underrated all-rounder lure.

Christmas time is also a great time of the year to enjoy a muddie or two, so don’t forget to drop in a couple of pots while you are up the creek. Make sure you mark your floats/pots properly and I suggest you don’t wander out of sight of your pots as the thieves are out and about.

Any type of fish bait can be used, but a couple of pillies in each pot will certainly attract the crabs and if you nick the tail off one or two in the pots, they will set up their own little berley trail.

I know I keep saying we are waiting on those northerly winds, but as of early November only the odd day or two has seen a change from the southeast winds.

When the winds swing around, the whole inshore scene comes alive as huge schools of small bait move inshore and can be found right along the beach or rock walls, well within casting distance. Of course with bait like that the predators soon follow and some marvellous catches happen off the beach – there’s no need for a boat when the macks are smashing bait only metres from the shore!

Another benefit of the calm northerlies is the chance it gives tinnie anglers to get out around the islands and pick up some reefies like trout, blueys, parrot and sweetlip. Don’t expect to catch huge numbers or really big fish but you can get enough for a few feeds. Remember to watch your legal sizes though and remember to only take a few fish for a feed or two.

So as you can see there is still plenty happening here for December so get out there among them.

I hope all our readers have a safe and happy Christmas break and take time out to reflect on how lucky we are to be able to have the fishing ‘experience’ that is available to us. Don’t let the pollies or greenies take that away from us, as they sure have us in their sights. Have a great Christmas, get out and enjoy the outdoors; it’s a great life!

See you at the ramp.

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