Like everywhere else above Maryborough, February in Mackay means barra, barra, and more barra, with anglers having rested their gear over the closed season or, like me, confined their barra activities to the stocked impoundments.
There have been plenty of barra around during the closed season with reports of good fish accidentally pinned in all our creek and estuary systems. Most of these fish have been hooked while anglers have been chasing other species like jacks, golden snapper and flathead, and most of them have been lure caught and relatively easily released.
Mackay is blessed with many river and creek systems north and south of the city, all of which hold barra in good numbers. The Pioneer River which runs through the centre of the city is also a very reliable spot to chase barra.
Starting with the Pioneer, from the mouth up the first and most obvious spot is the V on the upstream end of the first northern trainer wall. Here the outflow of Barnes/Vines creek and the surrounding areas joins the river proper, and there are bait, reasonable depth of water and some rock structure present; all of which is ideally suited to barra. The tidal flow here though is pretty fierce, and generally this spot is more regarded as a live bait hotspot, with prawns, mullet and whiting all being usual live baits.
Further upstream, the road bridges, in the city heart and the main highway bridge are all good places to chase old pink eyes. The rocky areas around the highway bridge are also very popular obvious spots and plenty of barra are caught there. These rocky areas and the bridges are good spots for lure and live bait fishing, with some absolute horses of barra regularly, hooked and sometimes landed. This area is a good spot for the shore-based angler to tangle with a barra, jack or trevally.
Quite a few barra are caught around the old hospital bridge rubble. While some success can be had from the bank, a boat opens up more possibilities. The trainer walls, which run up to the old hospital bridge, are also worth a cast or two. Again jacks, trevally and queenfish are here in reasonable numbers along with the odd king salmon.
Another spot that is accessible for land-based anglers is further upstream running up to Dumbleton weir, but remember the restriction on fishing above and below the weir. Access to fishable water, including rocks can be had along the northern side of the river from Balnagowan Road, and there are a number of walking tracks down to the water. The banks here are very steep, so slip slidin’ down is the way to go.
There are also plenty of snakes including eastern browns and taipans in the area so keep a good eye out and make plenty of noise when going down the bank. Most of the barra here are caught on lures and there are many under legal size so have a tape measure handy.
Going further upstream you get into the freshwater reaches and there are barra in these areas thanks to the efforts of MAFSA whose members regularly stock small numbers of fingerlings above the weirs. Most captures of these barra happen while anglers are luring for sooties and they are a pleasant surprise. Typically for freshwater river barra, they are usually picked up around cover of some sort, either logs, rocks or weed beds/lilies.
The local creeks and estuaries have a number of hot spots that regularly produce barra, but these can get pretty crowded at times, especially on the smaller neap tides. But remember barra are cruisers and can be found right through the tidal areas of the creeks and will go into water that barely covers them at times.
Popular spots include the barra hole near the mouth of Constant Creek, twin gullies in Murray Creek and these spots give good clues for chasing barra elsewhere, as they have structure, bait and water movement.
The structure can vary from rock bars to isolated rocks, fallen mangroves, a single mangrove out from the bank, a drop-off, or among the mangrove roots. The latter is the hardest spot to fish, as it is necessary to get your bait or lure right in among the roots, which on hook up means the obvious problem of getting the fish out. Nevertheless, it’s good fun and not for the faint-hearted.
Rock bars and isolated rocks can be fished at all stages of the tide, but my preference is on the run-out. If there is a small feeder creek or gully nearby then the barra will be there at some stage of the tide.
Fallen mangroves can also be fished both on run up and run out, as can the isolated mangrove. Some of these spots though may be metres from the water at low tide, so spend a bit of time doing a ‘reccy’ on such spots.
The recent rains have given us the first flush of prawns and of course the barra are into them. It follows then that live prawns will be the number one bait for the barra and that is really true at anytime of the year. The problem with live prawns is that everything eats them from picker bream, to jacks, golden snapper, big pikies, cod, flathead, grunter, salmon, queenies and trevally! Man what a problem to have!
For the lure fisho, make sure you have plenty of Bombers, B52s, Koolabungs, Tropic Anglers, RMGs etc and for advise shoot in to one of the local tackle outlets for more info on lure selection. The Rapala X-Raps are rapidly getting a bit of a cult following here, and I have used the pearl and gold/black ones with plenty of success.
Vibe lures like Threadybusters, Transams and oldies like the Rattlin’ Spots still catch plenty of barra and should be in any serious angler’s tackle box. Colours are a matter of choice, but with the Threadybusters, I like to stick with colours that resemble small mullet or herring.
Lastly but certainly not least, any angler chasing barra, whether in the salt or fresh, should have a good supply of soft plastics. The range is bewildering, but the main success seems to be with large paddle-tails, some curly tails and some of the new startling prawn imitations. Look for mainstream brands and again check with the local tackle shops for the good oil.
Brands like Reidy’s, Tsunami, Berkley, Squidgies and Z-Mans are all proven fish catchers and you should have a variety of colours/weights etc. White plastics I find are particularly attractive for barra, both in the salt and freshwater, as well as those that imitate bait colours or are almost clear.
I expect that most of the fishing pressure during February will be on the saltwater barra scene, but with the hot humid weather the dams are also really firing up. And if you want to tangle with a real horse of a barra there is probably no better place than Kinchant dam. Eungella and Teemburra are also fishing well at the moment, and I expect this will continue on through February and March.
Of course it’s not all about barra this month as there will still be plenty of jacks and golden snapper in the creeks. Bream, flatties and whiting are also highly regarded and chased by plenty of anglers and February should not disappoint.
The close offshore scene will likely see the end of the mackerel and tuna run, but this will depend on wind, rain and water clarity. One aspect of chasing these small pelagic that I have noted is that many anglers keep using the same old ‘shiny’ which after a while tends to lose a fair bit of the shine. I regularly spark mine up using Autosol, which is an automotive metal polish. It really gets the lures shining super bright and flashy, which is what you want your lure to be, as these fish rely on their very keen eyesight to feed. Thus more shine, equals more strikes.
Anyway, as I said at the start, February is mainly about barra, and I will be doing my share of chasing old pink eyes. But all bets may be off as February is very definitely in our cyclone season and usually herald the start of heavy rain.
See you at the ramp.Reads: 1124