Cyclones, prawns and barra are all pretty much a given but what else can we expect for March around Mackay?
The answer to that question will surely depend on just what the weather is going to do. Traditionally Mackay’s wettest months are February and March, but by the start of February I had already measured almost one third of our annual rainfall – what a year so far!
Since the season opened, I have not had a chance to chase a barra due to work commitments right through Central Queensland. But my contacts tell me that things are going pretty well, both in salt and freshwater whenever the opportunity arises.
Brett Gesch has been chasing sooties in the freshwater reaches of the Pioneer River and was recently pleasantly surprised to score three barra up around 70cm+ plus as well as some typically good sooties. He had the most success with a Rattlin’ Spot style lure, and found the barra and sooties were very aggressive. Best spots were around rocks and snags, and the dirtier than usual water did not put the fish off at all.
Prawns have been around the creeks in fairly abundant numbers and as usual the barra have been there hammering them. Reliable reports are coming in from the usual hot spots like Constant, Reliance, and Murray creeks as well as the Pioneer River down near the V close to the mouth. Prawns and live fish baits have been the best bet as the water is very dirty at present and not really conducive to lure fishing.
Perhaps the dirty water is a signal that those Rattlin’ Spot lures may just be the go down in the salt water too. As the water clears up the more popular barra lures will come into their own. Work Bombers, Reidys, Tropic Angler and Koolabungs all around the small drains out of the mangroves or the mud flats as the tide runs out. The barra will be around looking to knock off a feed as the bait comes back into the main channels.
Another lure that works in this style of fishing is a surface lure such as a frog or a mullet imitation like the Tango Dancer, which I think is one of the classic best barra lures around. I would not chase a barra without a couple in my tackle box.
If this scenario can be combined with some rock formations then you are on a winner. This habitat can be found right through the Mackay area and there are plenty of barra waiting to smash a lure or a live bait.
Remember barra don’t need very deep water and many are caught in water that barely covers their backs, so don’t be afraid to get right up in the shallows when chasing them. The same rules apply in the freshwater too where I have often caught barra in water less than 1 metre deep.
Live baits can be whatever you have available. Prawns, whiting, mullet, herring or any other small fish will do, provided you get it in the right spot. Just watch the legal sizes on the bait and don’t use undersize fish as that is asking for a fine. Many a barra has fallen for a bunch of yabbies too.
Kinchant, Teemburra and Eugnella dams seem to be running hot and cold; one week the fish are on then they inexplicably turn off totally. I think the best bet at the moment would be Kinchant, which is home to our biggest barra that seem the keenest to co-operate at the moment. Plenty of fish over 1m come from this dam regularly and they can be caught trolling, casting soft plastics or surface fishing.
All three dams have been running over their spillways and there has been some barra lost, but the continuing heavy rain has given all our creek and river systems a much needed flush out. This will have long term benefits for the fishery both in salt and freshwater.
Apart from the barra there is one species prevalent in the saltwater at this time of year that does not mind a bit of dirty water and rough weather. The mighty snub nosed dart, oyster cracker or permit is fairly common in Mackay waters and seems unfazed by the cyclonic conditions.
Most are caught on live baits like small whiting, but plenty fall to a bunch of yabbies or a couple of prawns. There are a couple of hot spots and the mouth of the Pioneer River is probably the easiest to access.
By road, the mouth can be reached by turning right at the harbour roundabout and heading along the dirt road parallel to the beach. It is rough but negotiable in a 2WD vehicle and comes out right at the end of the northern trainer wall. Here there is access to the large sand spits that form the river mouth, and the fish feed through this area.
Even in a 4WD don’t be tempted to drive out onto the sand spits, as this spot has claimed many a vehicle over the years. Leave your vehicle on the hard ground and walk to the fishing spots.
Other noted areas for snubbies include McEwans Beach and the Sandy Creek system to the south of Mackay, as well as Eimeo beach and Reliance Creek just north of the city.
The harbour itself is also a good spot to tangle with one and the northern break wall seems to be the favoured spot on the run-in tide. Unfortunately due to damage from Cyclone Ului last year, the southern breakwall is not open to the public as repairs yet to be finished.
For the estuary angler seeking whiting, bream and flathead, times will be tough with so much dirty water around. The key to success in these conditions is to try and locate an area with fairly clean water as all of these species tend to favour clean clear water. Fortunately most of our creek and river systems are relatively short and clear pretty quickly, but of course it has to stop raining first! Judging by the last six months or so this will not happen in a hurry.
In the meantime, all you can do is get out on the water and have a go, see you at the ramp.Reads: 3095