Take me to the creek
  |  First Published: May 2011

Hopefully by May the weather will settle down a bit and most of the rain will be behind us for a couple of months, to give us a chance to dry out after our soaking start to the year.

May signals cooler weather, less humidity and some dry times. It also means we have clear calm autumn days, which are an absolute delight to be out on the water. The saltwater estuaries and creeks are running much cleaner, and the close offshore areas are filled with blue water rather than the silt laden dirty stuff that seems to have been around for months.

This change of season also heralds a change in the species we start to chase, and while there are still plenty of barra about, the hot bite is starting to fade. But the huge wet season we have had, is an absolute boom for barra breeding and we will see great results next summer as all those baby barra start to grow up and smash lures and baits.

One of the great results from all the rain has been the increase in prawn numbers in the creeks, which is always good news for fish and anglers alike. Bait is not hard to find at the moment in the creeks, and soft plastic prawns like the prawnstar are also a top lure bet at the moment, and will catch a large variety of species. In fact there does not seem to be anything in the saltwater that won’t have a crack at a prawn, either real or artificial.

I recently had an outing down Constant Creek with an old mate Henry Kostowski and although we did not find the barra and jacks I was looking for, we did come across some king salmon and steelbacks in the cleaner water. I had plenty of hits on some prawn flies that I tied up but didn’t manage to land a fish.

Henry tied on a Gladiator 8.5cm gold prawn with a pea sinker on its nose and had a ball as fish after fish hit the lure. He landed a few steelbacks and a salmon and while the fish weren’t huge, the fun factor certainly was! I had these prawns rigged with a super sharp small treble on 25kg mono and they were very lifelike in the water. I can see these getting plenty of use as the salmon season progresses.

They are the right size, shape and have a clear colour with gold fleck so I can’t see them not being a hit. Best of all unlike fresh prawns you don’t need time or a cast net to catch them, just shoot down to the tackle shop and grab a packet.

I expect that the mangrove creeks will really fire up after all the freshwater that has cleaned them out. There will be new channels to find, new snags to locate and old favourite spots to be revisited. All these factors add up to almost starting over again, and it is a challenge to rediscover where the fish are hanging out.

There will still be a few barra and jacks around, and those in the know have been getting really nice fish of both species in all our creeks. Murray and Reliance creeks have been two of the most productive along with Rocky Dam south of Sarina. Most of the better catches have been on live baits or big slabs of mullet drifted down tide to a snag or rock bar.

Lure trolling has also turned up some good barra in the creeks with lures that get down around 2-3m bringing good results. Sticking with the well known brands with quality hardware is the way to go.

With cleaner clearer water in the creeks in May we can expect to find small trevally and queenies moving further up the creeks to spice things up a bit. They are generally found not too far from the estuaries and are good fun on light gear.

The old flathead will also appreciate some clean water for a change and will be found in all the creek and estuary systems. Look for them along the edges of channels, up on sand bars and around the rocks, particularly if there is clean sand nearby.

Salmon as always will be a hit and miss proposition, here one day gone the next! They are certainly an intriguing species and are found right through the Mackay area. I have caught them off the beach, in estuaries and right up the top of tidal creeks, and they are a welcome catch at any time. These fish can really power off and on fairly light gear they are great fun. I’m still hoping to score a decent threadie on fly at some time in the future.

The close offshore areas should also be producing in Autumn and those clear calm days will see plenty of tinnies heading to the close by islands and reefs chasing a delicious feed. Blueys, cod, grassy sweetlip and trout will all be on the to catch list and can be found within range of a 4m tinnie. All these can be caught bait fishing with small livies and live prawns or trolling small lures close to the bottom. When targeting trout the lures that have a predominant red colour seem very effective, possibly because larger trout will cannibalise smaller ones as part of their diet.

Depending on the winds, we may also get to have an early run of small macks, but you can be sure there will be some quality queenfish and trevally lurking around the inshore reefs and island. Poppers, metal jigs or minnows will all get their attention as will live baits like garfish or herring.

In the freshwater, the barra will be starting to get a bit lethargic with the cooling down of the weather and the water, but you will still find action in the shallow warmer areas. As the weather cools, it is a good time to slow everything down when chasing barra in the dams. You will have to stir them up with repeated casting; which can be done with poppers worked really slowly in any likely spot. Don’t just make one or two casts either, be prepared to spend 30 minutes or so really working over a spot.

Of course the cooler weather does not alter the sooties tactics and they will be on the go right through the cooler months. What a great fish they are, and they will always be among my favourite fish. Sure other fish grow bigger and make spectacular jumps, but the old smash and grab sooty is a heart stopper. Plus they live in some absolutely beautiful country, which is a real bonus.

So that’s a wrap up of what to expect around Mackay. As always there’s plenty of action and options, see you at the ramp.

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