Wet Provides Big Promises
  |  First Published: December 2010

Happy New Year to all our readers and I hope you have all had a safe and happy Christmas break and received lots of great new fishing gear to use in 2011.

With magazine lead times, it can be a bit dicey making too many predictions at this time of year, but considering the massive build up to the wet season Mackay and district experienced during November and December, hopefully January will give us a bit of an opportunity to dry out.

The wet season for Mackay usually starts in late January/early February and continues in to April so with a bit of luck January will be hot and humid with not too much rain.

One thing I can confidently predict though is that towards the end of 2011, Mackay should have a bumper season for barra in the saltwater. The rains we had in the lead up to Christmas provided the ideal opportunity for the big female barra to spawn heaps of juveniles.

That spawning can only enhance the quality of our saltwater fishing later in the year. The advent of the closed season has, in my opinion, been the smartest piece of Fisheries decision-making in the last 30 years in Queensland.

Coming off the big tides at the end of the year, the saltwater creeks and estuaries will be plenty stirred up and there is likely to be a fair bit of dirty water about. There will also be plenty of baitfish and prawns to feed the angling species and anglers. Prawns will be in all the creeks and gullies and a session with the cast net will soon give the angler plenty for bait or a feed.

Look for the prawns on mudflats, and in the little gullies that run through them, around the side creek mouths and any gully running into the main creek. Believe me there is nothing that swims in a creek that will not snaffle a well presented fresh live prawn, and they are one of the best baits. They also work very well around the small inshore islands for trout and sweetlip.

Remember where the prawns are schooling, there will be predators not far away. At this time of the year, expect to find grunter, flathead, salmon, queenies and trevally hassling the prawns.

There will also be barra and if you happen to hook one, release it straight away. If the hook is down its throat, cut the line rather than try to retrieve the hook, as poking around down in the fish’s gills will likely kill the fish, even if it swims away.

Trevally don’t seem to mind a bit of dirty water around, while the queenies prefer the nice clear water. Both are partial to prawns or fish baits and although the sizes in the creeks usually aren’t that big, some absolute horses do work into the mouths and a short way up the creeks, at times.

Around the more open creek mouths and estuaries, golden trevally are likely to feature among the catches. Like all trevally, goldens go hard and as a bonus are really nice on a barbeque.

They tend to wander around, but if you know of yabbie beds or estuary spots that hold stocks of pipis, they are the places to start looking for the goldens. A bonus can often turn up in the form of an oyster cracker, also known as snub nosed dart or permit.

The creeks and estuaries will have all the usual bread and butter species, such as whiting bream and flathead on tap. But the amount of dirty water around will definitely influence catch rates on these fish, as they all prefer the cleaner, clearer water. Yabbies are the top baits for them and can be pumped all around the Mackay district. Some of our young local anglers are targeting whiting in particular on very small lures and are having considerable success, so I might have to tie up some very small yabby flies and have a go with the long rod.

Offshore fishing will be really weather dependant and dirty water will always have a negative influence. During January we can have beautiful calm days with great clear water or miserable weather with lots of rain, run off and a very dirty ocean. If that’s the case give up on the offshore stuff and stay home, and play with all your new gear that you got for Christmas! Alternatively get all your barra gear ready for the 1st Feb opening.

In the freshwater, the rains in November and December ensured all our dams and weirs are full, so the fish are pretty well spread out. Teemburra Dam has had a small top up with 5000 barra being released by MAFSA in November, and further releases are planned for all 3 dams during the remainder of the 2011 summer, subject of course to availability of fingerlings.

The SIP money is a great way for the dams to get topped up and does relieve local stocking groups from having to spend heaps of time raising funds. Now that Captain Bligh has abolished the SIP advisory committee it will be interesting to watch how funds are distributed in future. Anyway, the purchase of a Stocked Impoundment Permit is one way anglers can contribute to the restocking of our dams, yet it is apparent that not all anglers are complying. Many are obviously sponging off the rest of us who do the right thing and buy a permit. More power to the B & F Patrol officers when they sting someone for not having a permit.

Barra in the dams will be the obvious target during January and all 3 should fire up big time as the water temps should be back up and the general atmospheric conditions will heat up along with the fishing. This is the time of the year to chase a barra in Eungella dam, and as it was the first dam stocked in our area with barra, there are now some absolute horses swimming around in there. Fish over a metre have been in Eungella now for around a decade so the mind boggles at just what size they may have achieved. Bloody big at least!

Teemburra and Kinchant are always pretty reliable barra producers although the former has been in patchy form over the last couple of months. There does not seem to be any reason for this but catch rates are down a little. No doubt the injection of more fingerlings during the early part of 2011 will enhance what is already a great fishery.

Anyway that is a bit of a run down on some of the opportunities around Mackay in January, and I haven’t even mentioned the muddies, big squid in the harbour, jacks and fingermark etc. But don’t take my word for it get yourself up here to paradise and join us! See you at the ramp.

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