September’s golden times ahead
  |  First Published: September 2012

After a pretty fantastic winter fishing season, everyone is looking forward to September’s calmer weather, especially as the fishing usually hots up. There will be plenty of the winter angling species around but warm weather will see a couple of new challenges in the creeks and on the briny.

During August there were plenty of calm days and the fish responded in great style with plenty of snapper, nannies, and black jew in close and available to the small tinnie angler. The odd northern blue tuna, Spanish mac and a few greys were also among the catches close inshore.

However, one great species stood out over the last month and they will continue on the chew right through spring and summer, the golden trevally. If everything continues with them going berserk, you could say we are in for a real golden spring and summer.

Goldens are one of my favourite fish, as they can be caught just about anywhere from the creek flats to the deep inshore water, and they respond to all types of angling. They can be caught on pilchards, strip baits, livies, trolled minnows and poppers, and metal jigs; they are a very versatile fish indeed. Recently we found they also respond well to blade type lures, but upgrade the hooks from the supplied ones as goldens are pretty hard on tackle as well as he angler.

Fresh from the water, goldens are one good looking fish, and they don’t thrash around while being held for photos which is a bonus. Best of all if bled well straight away, the flesh is either lovely and clear or slightly tinged with pink, and I can vouch for the eating qualities – top tucker!

In September the snapper catches will gradually drop right off and by the end of the month they will be gone for another year. Jewies will still be around as will the tuna and macks, so things are looking good.

The best part about September is the north-northeast winds, calm water and heaps of bait in close. That’s a recipe for great fishing for the small boat angler and good prospects for the rock walls.

Fishing from the harbour or out from the river will involve sometimes very scientific approaches; like look for the birds and follow them! Yes it can be that simple on the magic days. When things are a bit tougher though, keep a good eye on your sounder and check out any bait shows thoroughly, as there will usually be a predator, or three, not far away.

Remember at this time of the year many of the baitfish are quite small and tuna, in particular, can be really fussy about lure size. There are plenty of small shinies with slim baitfish profiles available and a walk through the local tackle shops will show plenty of options. Ask the staff as our local tackle shops all employ keen anglers who can give you the right drum on lures for this time of the year. Remember the rule, match the hatch!

If all else fails try something completely different; a barra size minnow or a popper can sometimes turn those frustrating trips into great ones. I reckon there is nothing quite as exciting in angling as having any fish smash a popper in full view. If that doesn’t get the old legs wobbly, and the adrenalin pumping then you had better give up fishing and try chinese checkers or something of that excitement level.

So that’s the rundown on what to expect on the briny. However, many anglers including visitors don’t know where to start.

Mackay harbour is an obvious place to fish and it is the launch point for places like Slade Island, Slade Rock and the rocky reefs off Lamberts Beach. Don’t ignore the flat sandy bottom areas either as bait fish will ball up in these spots and have macks, tuna, cobia, trevally and sharks hunting them. Keep your eyes open for birds and watch the sounder.

From the river there is access to Flat and Round Top islands, Danger Reef, Reicklemans Reef and plenty of other unnamed rocky ledges and small peaks. Look for other boats concentrated in any area, but don’t be a nuisance and push in. Get an idea of the type of features being fished and look for similar country. There is plenty of country to explore so remember good manners and don’t crowd anyone else.

Further afield, the reefs off Eimeo and Shoal Point will be worth a go and these areas habitually fish well for smaller macks and sometimes huge greys. Further north, areas around Cape Hillsborough and the islands off Seaforth will be deservedly popular with anglers and can turn on red hot action.

To the south check out around Sarina Inlet, Hay Point and down towards Cape Palmerston. Always the birds will be your first indication of fish, as will groups of small boats. All the macks, tuna and trevally species mentioned can be caught in all these areas.


It’s time to get out the barra gear again and get serious. With the warmer weather they are more active and aggressive and they will be found in all our creek systems. Without giving away any secret spots, look for obvious places like creek corners, junctions and side drains. Fish ‘em all as barra are often in water that will barely cover their backs.

Barra will cruise right up on sand or mud flats and will also hold on snags or rocks for at least part of the tide. Any single mangrove or snag on a flat is worth checking out just as the water gets to it and again as it is starting to run off it. The best advice I can give is to keep looking for them and once found, look for similar places.

Barra aren’t the be all and end all of spring creek fishing. Don’t forget warmer water also means jacks are far more active and will smack a lure if it gets close enough. Cod in the mangrove creeks are always on the cards and there should be some decent fingermark mooching about as well.

Spring, sand flats and flathead are a really well suited combo. Check out the sand flats at low tide for flattie lies and get back there as the tide comes up. Remember to go quietly and fish light as the water will often be only 30cm deep, and the flathead spookie. An electric outboard is the only way to go here and it will help you put way more fish in the boat. As always, don’t keep everything, get enough for a couple of feeds and let the rest go back.

Whiting, bream, grunter and both salmon species make up most of the other species likely in the creeks. Pikey bream can be real fun when they are hard up against the mangroves and will sharpen up your lure casting skills no end. Small minnows and poppers cast right in under the overhangs will see plenty of action.

Spring also gets the dams firing up well and even over what has been a pretty cold winter there have been good numbers and sized barra caught in Kinchant and Teemburra dams. With the warm up, the barra will get on the chew properly and there are plenty of XOS size barra out there waiting to be caught.

Remember a SIP permit is compulsory for all three of our barra dams as well as for Peter Faust up at Proserpine, only 90 minutes or so up the road.

How good do we have it here in Mackay, four dams chock full of mega barra and plenty of hard hitting smash and grab sooties. We truly do live in an angler’s paradise that we are happy to share with visitors; so hitch up your boat and come up to paradise.

See you at the ramp in September.

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