Spring species explode
  |  First Published: September 2013

You beauty! Spring is here, the weather has warmed up nicely and the fish are co-operating really well. September is full on for fishing around Mackay, no matter what your preference, from the dams to the reef.

After what was really a fairly mild winter we are now looking for those big bait schools that will keep moving close inshore this month and next, and of course with them will come the pelagic predators. September is a top month with what is usually fairly calm weather and light winds from the north that make it ideal to sneak out early of a morning, get a feed or two and be back all cleaned up by lunchtime.

There are early signs of lots of bait around the harbour after a few days of light variable winds, and there have been some really decent squid being jigged around the lights of a night. Just be careful where you fish, as the Security will move you on quick smart if you are in the wrong place, and it is constantly being monitored by CCTV. Squid are around almost every pool of light, and the mooring pylons in the marina, so there are plenty of places to jig up a squid or three.

Night at the harbour is always interesting and the catch can be varied with 4 or 5 different species being caught in one session. For instance, around the full moon in September, a big mulloway is on the cards, along with jacks and golden snapper along the walls. Cruise around the pools of light and, apart from squid, you are likely to score a tarpon, trevally or a decent barra or bream, so it’s not that difficult to get a few species. Best part is a few small poppers, minnows or soft plastics will suit all but the mulloway, which likes big baits and lures.

Daylight at the harbour this month can be just as interesting with many different pelagics on the go, not just inside the harbour but along the outer walls. A small tinnie opens up all sorts of possibilities and that’s why they are the most popular boats in this neck of the woods.

How does this sound for a line up of fish that can be caught right through September in and around the harbour: Spanish, grey, spotted and doggie mackerel, longtail and mac tuna, snub nose dart, several different trevally, cobia, and queenfish. Not bad, eh?

Then throw in a few bottom dwellers like snapper (there are still a few around), blueys, small lippers, nannygai, cod, mulloway and the odd trout and there is really something for everyone, whether you are a bait, lure or fly angler. Did I mention I love spring fishing?

But it’s not all about the harbour and close inshore areas, as the creeks are warming up and the fishing is really hotting up. Barra are back on the menu and many of the creek anglers will be on their favourite spot or tossing their favourite or newest lure in search of old pink eyes. The barra can be caught all during winter with persistence, particularly when the winter is as mild as we have just had. Time proven spots like, Rocky Dam Creek, Cape Palmerston, Sarina Inlet, Alligator, Sandy and Bakers creeks to the south of Mackay will all produce during September.

The mighty Pioneer River right in Mackay holds some great barra, while to the north the likes of Reliance, Constant, Victor, Murray, and Black Rock creeks (to name just a few) are all barra hangouts. Many of the smaller creeks will also fish quite well for barra during September, but you won’t get them sitting at home thinking about it.

Neap tides are the favourites, but the barra will feed on any tide, if they don’t they starve. The trick is to key into that feeding time regardless of the size of the tide. For instance on really big tides, barra can be found right up on the mudflats and right back in the mangroves. Impossible to get while they are in there, so ambush them on the way out as the tide falls.

There will be small windows of an hour or so just as the water moves out of the mangroves, and that is the time to be there. Check the solunar tables for peak periods, they are not the be all and end all, but sure are a guide to good times.

Barra will probably be the most sought after target in the creeks and estuaries, so a few pointers on likely spots may help some anglers. Barra will cruise with the incoming tide, but will still hold for a short while at ideal ambush points, so look for them at creek junctions, rock bars or fallen mangroves but don’t sit there all tide, as they will move up with the incoming tide. Impossible to say how long they will stay stationed at one point, but if there are nervous baitfish or flicking prawns then give the spot a good hammering. This fishing is more lure or fly orientated, but a good livie under a float is as deadly as ever for barra.

This spring/summer I will give the Z-Man Pop Frogz a run in the salt in and around snags. The barra in the dams just love them, so I don’t see why they won’t work in the salty stuff. In fact they have almost taken over from the Tango Dancer as my favourite barra surface lure.What I really like about them is they can be popped, skipped across the surface fast, or with the rod tip down in the water, they can be cranked down 30cm or so and worked as a shallow diver. They are very versatile and quite durable. Colours can be whatever you prefer, as I have caught barra on the white ones, chartreuse, watermelon and dark green colours.

Recently Mick Stone was visiting from Yeppoon and needed a barra fix so on a fairly hot afternoon, we decided to give Kinchant a go. As the water was about 2-3ºC warmer in the shallows, the barra were in about 1m of water in among the weeds and lilies. Out came the PopFrogz rigged weedless on a 7/0 Gamakatsu worm hook and we had 7 strikes; I was lucky enough to land one 85cm. Beauty! A lovely bronze barra that fought really well and I was a bit lucky as the hook fell out while it was in the landing net!

Anyway, back to the creeks, there will be plenty of other action in form of jacks and golden snapper in and around the snags and deeper holes. While cod will be everywhere, many are just legal. If you are in doubt put it back to grow some more.

Pikey bream will be found around rock bars and under the mangrove canopies, and are prone to hammering a small shallow diver or popper cast in tight. Archerfish are also in all our creeks and will also smack a small lure cast in under the canopy overhang. All are good fun.

Open water areas will yield flathead around the sand banks and gutters while good grunter will be picked up feeding over shale bed areas. Grunter and wattles flowering seem to go well together, so if your wattle tree is blooming the grunter are likely to be around.

Plenty of whiting are also being caught along the beaches and, to a lesser degree, in the creeks. The Pioneer is fishing well for these delicious little battlers.

Anyone looking for a bit of a change, should head to Kinchant, Teemburra or Eungella dam and get ready to tangle with some humungus barra as all three have fish way over 1m in length. Hooking them is one thing, landing them is another entirely. For those with a penchant for really big fish, Kinchant dam is the go-to place, as it has been fishing well all through winter and the warmer weather will have them stirred up and on the chew.

Kinchant is full of weeds and around the edges of those weeds is a good spot to start, and any small weed ‘island’ has to be investigated. Use your sounder to locate these islands and you will often spot fish around them on the sounder and barra do show up well on a quality sounder.

Teemburra is fishing pretty well for barra. Eungella will fire up more as the weather warms up, as it is quite high and on the western side of the range. Don’t wait for warmer weather though as the ever-reliable sooty grunter is more than ready to mix it with any angler. Sooties are just great I reckon, as they hammer a lure really hard, usually right next to cover and fight well. If only they jumped and grew to a metre!!! But to sharpen up your reflexes and casting ability, a few sessions on the sooties are gold.

That’s a bit of a roundup on what’s going on and off around Mackay during September, and as you can see there is plenty of action for everyone, so see you at the ramp.


Sea Fever Sportfishing Charters have been scoring on some really lovely Spanish mack. Just check out these happy clients with quality mackerel caught on a glassed-out day. Photo courtesy Sea Fever Sportfishing Charters.


Spring brings plenty of action with trevally of many types smashing bait schools, but goldens like this ripper are renowned for their fighting ability and make pretty good BBQ fare as well.


Pikey on fly? You bet, Lachlan Day with a decent pikey caught casting a small deceiver style fly up over a small rock bar.


A beautiful golden Kinchant Dam barra, 850mm caught on a dark green Z-Man PopFrogz worked slowly around the weeds in the background.

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