Bananas in paradise
  |  First Published: November 2012

Barra, jacks, mackerel and trevally have been going bananas around Mackay over the past few weeks, and the freshwater scene has also hotted up more than a little! All’s well in paradise with November a great month for anglers.

With the closed season, the saltwater barra will be off the catch list for the next couple of months, but there are as always plenty of other summer options for the estuary/creek angler. Jacks are a notable choice as the weather continues to heat up and they are more common around Mackay than many believe. The trick with jack chasing is to find the right type of habitat.

Most of our creeks have suitable areas, despite many at low tide having water a fair way from the mangrove roots. Deeper holes, particularly with some rocks, are always a great starting point.

Being at the mangroves as the tide just starts to flood into the roots is also a prime time to be targeting them. However, once they move up into the roots, you will not get a lure or bait to them and even if you could, it would be impossible to extract them.

Similarly as the tide starts to drop out of the mangroves, work your lures or baits right in close to target the jacks as they move out. Any barra lure/fly will do the trick on jacks, but horsing them out under heavy drag is the only way to go.

As well as jacks, you will likely hit some reasonable size cod, archerfish and big pikey bream. This is top angling and great fun to boot.

If mangrove bashing is not your thing, then stick to the more open waters and you will find flathead aplenty right through summer. Working the sand flats, drop-offs and small drains will see top action on flatties, and some beautiful fillets for the table as well. Flatties take all sorts of lures and baits, and again will snaffle any barra type lure, even poppers up in the shallows.

There are also plenty of flathead around the beaches and the mouths of all the creek systems. Sandy bottoms are best, but they will also get up into the shallows of muddy drains.

Whiting are on the chew all over the district, with the best of them, genuine elbow-slappers, coming from the Pioneer River at night in the heart of the city. Best baits are yabbies, worms and slivers of fresh squid.

Some of the young guns are spending lots of time chasing big whiting on very small lures and poppers in and around Bassett Basin on the north side of the river with good results. Clear poppers and ultra small minnows appear to be the best bets for chasing whiting on lures. They should also be a good fly rod target, with light gear and very long fine leaders.

For the small boat angler, November should see the great weather and mackerel fishing continue, as schools of small bait are well inshore. Doggies and spotties can be caught in the mouth of the harbour and the Pioneer River, where they chase small herring and other baitfish.

There have also been plenty of smaller mackerel at the close in islands off Seaforth, the harbour and out from the river. Pick your days of light ENE winds and all these spots can be safely fished in a 3.6m tinnie. Pilchards on gang rigs are a favourite, as is trolling minnows or shinies around these islands and drop-offs.

A recent short, before-work trip out to Slade Island saw macks and tuna scattering bait near the run through. Brian Anderson scored a lovely 90cm to the fork spotted mackerel, which is one of the best I have seen for a long while. Top fun on light gear and top tucker too. And also a great way to start the working day. Not a bad first ever mackerel for my new tinnie either!

Reef trips are on the agenda at the moment with plenty of reasonably calm weather, and the bigger boats have been having a bonanza on reds, lippers and trout. Some monster reds have been caught in the shipping channel in very deep water, and there have also been quite a few small marlin and sails out around the channel.

Now that the barra closed season is here, all efforts to score a barra will concentrate on the dams. Kinchant is keeping its reputation going as a spot to catch huge barra with regular catches around the 120cm mark. These are serious fish, and many are caught on surface lures in the dark, which is a heart stopping experience, especially when it happens almost beside the boat!

Try Kinchant on those calm evenings when the ENE winds die off just on sundown. Work lures in and around the weed beds and up into any little inlets in the weeds. Big soft plastics, big minnows or surface lures are all likely to score a barra or three. Most anglers use the times around the full moon, but any calm evening will see them on the chew.

Teemburra Dam is still hit and miss, with my most recent foray yielding only one barra around 50cm for a couple of hours fishing late in the afternoon. That fish sat behind a Tango Dancer all the way to the boat and then hammered the lure – great stuff! Unfortunately I had to leave just as it was starting to get a bit of activity going. Plenty of large fish are showing on the sounder, so they are there, it seems that they are now pretty wary of boat traffic.

The horse sooties abound in both these and Eungella dams are always a fun option if the barra aren’t co-operating.

Big sooties on lures close to cover is adrenalin producing fishing by any measure. The old sooty is a top sportfish!

So for November, the fishing and weather will continue to hot up and, as always, the area offers plenty of options from skinny freshwater streams to the reef and everything in between, so why not come and join us in paradise.

See you at the ramp.

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