While many parts of Queensland were hit hard by the 2013 floods, it’s doubtful too many places copped it quite as bad as Bundaberg. That’s not to downplay the havoc wreaked on other areas, as we are all too aware the damage was massive and very wide spread.
Large sections of Bundy were almost washed off the map when the Burnett River broke its banks and sent torrents of swirling flood waters gushing through the north side of town at near 70km/h. Many houses were washed away or smashed to pieces by the current, while others had their foundations undermined and literally sank under their own weight, so that only the rooftops were left protruding above ground level. Others were simply picked up and repositioned huge distances from where they originally stood.
What was probably most scary of all though, was the speed with which the water came up. The river rose so quickly that it caught many off guard. Some who had lived through the big floods of the past thought they could stick it out but it turned out they were horribly wrong. This flood was like no other before it and was so large, fast and powerful that helicopters became the only way out for many residents. Sadly, some of those who couldn’t make it onto their roof to be plucked to safety eventually lost their lives to the floodwaters. It was a very sad situation for everyone involved.
Thankfully however, time moves on and while nobody who was there will easily forget what happened, things are finally getting back on track. While the floodwaters left their mark (which you can still be seen high up on some of the local buildings), they have long since disappeared. Many of the damaged houses have been repaired or replaced and even the town’s main shopping centre has been renovated and is full of happy customers again. You could say the town is finally back in business.
But what about the fishing I hear you ask? Surely such a devastating flood must have had a very negative effect on the marine environment? Well yes, there’s no denying that fishing was the last thing on many people’s minds for quite a while after the floods. That’s probably lucky as the river was high and muddy for a long time afterwards but again, that’s all in the past and now as life gets back to normal, more and more anglers are hitting the water in search of a fish.
Of course, there have been some big changes to the marine real estate thanks to the floods. Some of which have clearly been for the good of the river and some we will have to wait and see how they pan out in the long term.
The most obvious change is the amount of sand that has been left behind. The floodwaters dropped tonnes and tonnes of sand along the town reach and the muddy mangrove-lined foreshores have largely been replaced by clean sandy banks. With so much of the vegetation washed away, getting access to the river is certainly a lot easier for land-based anglers and there are now more locations than ever to sit and enjoy the sun while soaking a bait.
One of the other big changes to the river is the amount of structure that has found its way into the river. Thanks to the floods, large chunks of concrete, brick, steel and who knows what else have ended up on the bottom of the river. Some of these artificial reefs will no doubt attract baitfish and small creatures and in time become fishing hotspots, particularly for the local jack population.
One thing’s for certain, even if you thought you knew the river like the back of your hand, forget it as things have changed dramatically. The main navigation channel has shifted and there are some new obstacles to avoid. Until everyone gets to know their way around again, it’s probably best just to take it slow and watch carefully when boating anywhere on the Burnett.
So what can visiting anglers expect if they make a trip to Bundy over the coming months? Well depending on your angling tastes and when you get here, there’s quite a bit to get excited about. For a start, there are already good numbers of bream in the river and they will most likely increase as the weather gets cooler. With lots more deep water to choose from, the bream schools will have plenty of spots to hold up in, which might encourage a few more fish to move in or at least hang around for a bit longer than they have in past years.
Bream in the Burnett are typically a baitfishing target with night the time for big hauls and large fish. That said, there are a growing number of sportfishing anglers who are targeting these fish with lures and doing remarkably well. Soft plastics seem to be the preferred local staple and the fish respond to the same techniques that they do elsewhere, so there is no need for me to tell you how to reinvent the wheel.
One thing to look out for once the water warms up come spring and summer will be barramundi. Right now there are dramatically increased numbers of these fish in all our local waterways. The Kolan for instance, has been a real hotspot since the floods with kayak anglers getting lots of fish in both the fresh and saltwater sections. Most of these fish have come out of Monduran when it overflowed and they are providing great sport.
It took a while, but after the last big flood in 2011, good numbers of king threadfin salmon moved up into the Burnett River. These salmon were in good sizes and numbers and proved really popular with local anglers. Some nights, you almost had to reserve a mooring spot under the town bridges so you could send down a live bait for one of these big silver speedsters. Let’s hope we see a similar pattern again.
One of the other big changes since the floods is the large number of prawns around the local river mouths. I’m not sure if these have been washed out of the rivers, or simply attracted to all the food that got washed out but they have been around in huge numbers of late. Plenty of boats have been making the short journey down to Woodgate Beach and cashing in on the action with plenty of succulent crustaceans to be had for the effort of tossing a cast net for a couple of hours.
Speaking of the coastal waters, when summer arrives things should really get cracking on the offshore scene around Bundy. At the moment, the water is a bit murky around bottom end, due to the dredging of the shipping channel (for the sugar ships), but once that settles I’m predicting a big inshore tuna and mackerel season.
Normally, the waters off our coast team with Spanish and school mackerel. They are easy enough to find and seem to almost always be hanging around the local wrecks and reefs, where high speed spinning with metal lures is an almost surefire way of fooling them. Our local Spanish don’t generally get as big as they do in some other spots, but the best eating sized fish from 6-12kg are readily available.
If bottom fishing is more your bag, then there should be plenty of snapper and other reef fish out there cashing in on all those prawns. The Cocherane Artificial Reef is a local snapper hotspot and being only a few kilometres off the Elliott River mouth is well within the reach of small boats.
If you put a big bait out on the bottom, our local cobia population should also come out to play in good numbers this coming summer, so it should be well worth the trip offshore to try and track them down.
The other upside to the floods is that it has given the freshwater fishing around town a real boost.
I’ve already mentioned the barra in the Kolan and Burnett and these guys will be well worth chasing in a couple of months time. The fish are not huge, but there are plenty of feisty barra between 50-80cm (as well as a sprinkling of much larger fish) to be had.
Kayak anglers are well placed to tap into this bounty so if you are keen on landing a barra from your yak, then the freshwater between Bundy and Gin Gin is as good a place as any to start your search. I’ve had most of my success by tossing smaller suspending hardbodied divers, but soft plastic swim baits are also doing the damage.
There is even plenty of potential for keen fly rodders to get their first long wand barra from these waterways, so why not come and give it a try?
Even though Bundy did get hit particuarly hard by the floodwaters, it only knocked us down, not out! Even though there was lots of damage, the town is getting back on its feet and the best thing you could do to support us is to come and stay for a few days and do a bit of fishing.
Spending a bit of time (and a bit of cash of course) will help to keep our local economy going from strength to strength while we fully recover. And I’m sure you’ll have plenty of fun while you do your bit to support your fellow Queenslanders.
There are a couple of outlets in Bundy where you can pick up bait or any other fishing bits and pieces you need.
There is the local BCF branch (Takalvan St, Bundaberg) that is opposite Sugarland Shopping Centre and Rehbeins Fishing in Targo St (adjacent to the CBD).
For the most up-to-date info on what’s biting, I recommend you call into Salty’s Tackle World on Quay Street (overlooking the river). The guys there usually have their finger on the pulse and publish a weekly fishing update, which is a good guide to what’s being caught in the local area.