Winter in paradise
  |  First Published: June 2012

Last month may have been a transition period, but June is very definitely into winter and we can look forward to some cold weather like overnight temps down to the low teens, but our daytime maximums will still be around 20ºC; it’s sure tough living in Paradise.

With the cold winter months ahead of us, we can look forward to a number of changes in our fishing experiences, and although it’s not quite the red hot action of summer, winter time still gives us plenty of opportunities.

Winter is a bit of an enigma, some years we have constant strong SE winds, yet other years we get beautiful, calm wind free days where the water glasses out and it is just an absolute pleasure to be on the water. Let’s hope this year is one of the later and we can get out on the water more often.

With calm, cooler weather one species that turns up regularly is the Spanish mackerel and already there have been some spectacular specimens landed. A lot of the inshore fish are under 15kg but at that size they are exciting fish to catch, particularly on fairly light gear, and are very welcome on the BBQ plate. Of course there are plenty of big horses among the smaller fish too and every year Spaniards of 25kg+ are landed from small tinnies around Mackay.

The big Spanish can be found almost anywhere offshore but for the small boat angler like me, the best spots likely to produce good fish include Flat Top and Round Top islands off the river mouth and Slade Island and Slade Rock off the harbour.

Most of these fish are taken using trolled baits like garfish or ribbons but plenty fall for the humble pilchard too. Large trolled lures like the old CD18 Rapalas and similar also take plenty of fish as do old style spoons trolled on heavy cord lines. It’s not very sporting, but effective nonetheless.

Around Slade Island look for Spaniards working the run through on the eastern side of the island while the SE corners of Flat and Round Top regularly produce good Spanish. Here anchoring up and using berley with large ribbonfish under a float is the way to go and many a 30kg+ fish has been taken from the SE corner of Round Top.

There are still plenty of XOS queenfish around too and they have even been taken well inside the mouth of the Pioneer River by anglers live baiting. A few have snaffled poppers or minnows as well. Further upstream reasonable size queenies and smaller trevally have shown up around the Ron Camm bridge and near the hospital. These areas are best around the high tide or the first part of the run-out.

Already we have seen a smattering of small mackerel poking around on those really calm days, but the main run south will not be for a couple of months yet. Still any days with north to NE winds are worth a bit of small mack prospecting.

June in Mackay is showtime and the annual Show is generally seen as the start of the annual snapper migration into our close inshore waters. At times they are on every gravel or rock patch in the area, but other times they can be very exasperating when they do not show up as expected. The snapper are here to breed and I urge anglers to restrict their catches of these important fish species while they are breeding.

For years I have been suggesting this annual migration would be a great tagging programme to see just where these snapper return to after their breeding time in our local waters. I think this is an important spawning ground for south Queensland snapper but without tagging data this is a theory only. Really, we don’t have much knowledge about our fish species, which is a blot on our fisheries management regime.

Let’s just hope with the landslide election wipeout of the Labor government we see a decided change for the better in fisheries policies and dollars allocated to research. For years Fisheries dollars have been cut back to the bone yet it is one of our most important industries and provides recreational activities for millions of Queenslanders.

Fishing in our creeks and estuaries will provide plenty of variety for anglers from the ever so sweet whiting, right up to barra and salmon. While the barra are a bit quieter during the winter months, rewards will come from effort both in the creeks and dams. Barra will be looking for warmer water and sunshine, so again those calm days are the go and with a bit of forethought the fish can be located. Once they are found check other similar locations/tides and a pattern will start to emerge.

But the creek fishing isn’t just about whiting and barra. Pikey bream are around in good numbers, flathead are plentiful on the flats, and grunter, cod and trevally can liven up a creek session.

Jacks are still about but the cooler weather does see them become harder, but to compensate, fingermark should be around the creeks in numbers. Look for them around rocks, snags and in the deeper holes in the creeks, but watch the legal length as many are undersize.

Of course fingermark can also be found offshore around the Newry Island group as well as being a regular catch in the harbour at night. Fingermark are a great fish that will respond to live and dead baits as well as hard and soft body lures. They hit hard and pull like trains and are absolutely top tucker on the plate.

Winter in the harbour is also jewie time with plenty of anglers putting in the hours around the full moon, both from the breakwall and from small boats. Big squid baits are the best bet and the pick of the spots are around the ends of both breakwalls. Just look for the other boats but don’t crowd anybody and make sure you show your required navigation lights. It is easy to tell when the jewies start to run as the yahoos and a few swear words come thick and fast. Great fun on a cold, moonlit winters night.

In the fresh stuff the fish definitely do go quieter, but the dams still give up plenty of barra. Again look for that warmer water and sunshine in the shallows for the barra and be prepared to put in plenty of effort to get the rewards. Remember our dams now all have barra well in excess of 1.2m long and they are massive fish and the catch of a lifetime.

Sooties and sleepy cod round off the desirable freshwater species although there will always be fork tail catties around. All our dams hold good stocks of sooties and sleepy cod are plentiful in Kinchant and Eungella dams and they will provide plenty of winter action. The sleepies are also number one tucker on the plate.

So there is a bit of a round up on what to expect during our ‘freezing’ winter weather. Let’s hope for calm clear days so we can get out and enjoy our piece of Paradise. Why not head north and join us?

See you at the ramp.

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