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Open season on the dams
  |  First Published: December 2013



The barra season is well and truly closed in the saltwater, but man – haven’t the dams been making up for that! Kinchant and Teemburra have barra on the chew, ranging from little tackers around 30-40cm to absolute horses up to around 140cm, and they have been happy to play ball with anglers.

However, they are not quite as easy as a lot of people think. Sure, some people get lucky getting on the dam and trolling around a lure that gets eaten by a monster at the first attempt. But if you want to catch fish consistently, what should you do?

For most of us, catching dam barra has been a long learning curve. Just when you get a bit cocky and reckon you have them figured out, they up and skunk you good and proper.

I have been chasing barra since we stocked the first fingerlings in Eungella Dam back in the early 1990s, and they still fascinate me with their power, surprise me by showing up in unexpected places, and give me a huge adrenalin rush when they take off.

My favourite way to catch barra is to get on the dam near dawn or dusk with surface lures. Night time is also a great time to have a big barra smash a surface lure, and it’s something I will never tire of.

If you haven’t had a crack at them, I urge you to get your SIP permit and give them a go.

KINCHANT

Kinchant is very angler-friendly in that it has no real snags apart from acres of weed beds, and it’s near North Eton about 30 minutes drive from Mackay. Call into the local tackle shops and they will direct you to what is one of the premier barra impoundments in the country. Kinchant has lots of skiers and jet ski operators, particularly on weekends, but there are still plenty of places to get away from them.

The acres of weeds hold the key to getting good barra in Kinchant. You’ll see them on your sounder way out towards the middle of the dam, but the fish don’t usually feed there. They’re just resting up before another foray into the shallows for a feed of bony bream. Stick with the shallow water (less than 5m) around the weed edges and keep casting, and you will catch barra. Persistence and putting your lure in the right place often enough will see you hooked up.

You can never have enough lures (they make good Chrissy presents too) so make sure you have a variety of hardbodies and soft plastics. Stick to well-known brands and talk to the local tackle shop guys. There are a couple of real standouts though, and they include C’ultiva Tango Dancers and Z-Man Pop Frogz for the surface, and B52s and Bombers for shallow diving.

TEEMBURRA

Teemburra is harder to fish than Kinchant; you have to use your brain to work out where the fish might be. Start with an exposed shore, preferably where there are points at the ends of bays.

You’ll often spot barra on the sounder in deeper water. In this situation, look around and head to the nearest shallows with snags, a prominent point or weeds/lilies. Those barra out in the deep will move into the shallows to feed, and that’s when you want to be there.

Don’t ignore the timber in Teemburra. I have caught plenty of barra in the sticks, and a good place to start is the heavy timber opposite the boat ramp. Work your way down the dam towards the mouth of Teemburra Creek and you’ll find acres and acres of drowned timber to chance your luck in. Lure losses can be high, but it’s great fun. Hooking onto an 80cm-plus barra in this environment will really test your angling skills. It’s not the place for light drags and pussy footing around.

EUNGELLA

Eungella dam is a harder place to chase barra as it is high up over the western side of the range. At this time of year though, the water temp is way up and the big fish are on the move. Eungella probably has the biggest barra of all three dams, but these big fish are hard to find and catch. Still, challenges are just what fishing about, so apply what you know from the other dams and give them a bash.

Without MAFSA those barra would not be there, so please make sure you get your SIP permit and tick the local dams to keep the fingerling supply coming. To date MAFSA has stocked over 1,074,000 barra fingerlings in our 3 dams, but continued SIPs support is needed.

CREEKS AND ESTUARIES

There are fish everywhere at this time of year, and the only limiting factor is the weather. Although it is very hot and humid, most times there are spots sheltered enough for pretty comfortable fishing.

December sees the jacks, cod and fingermark getting a starring role in the creeks and estuaries, especially where there is a bit of cover. All are worthy catches on lures/fly or bait and will give you a hard fight. They also taste great, especially if you bleed them straight away and get them on ice.

The hotter weather has got the flathead moving around in the creeks, estuaries and off the beaches. The larger specimens tend to be in the creeks rather than along the ocean beaches, and they can be caught on hardbody or plastic lures as well as bait. Live or fresh bait is obviously better than old frozen prawns, although one of my old favourite baits for flathead was a fillet from a pilchard rigged on a couple of gang hooks and with a sinker about 500mm up the line. Very effective not only on flatties, but salmon, bream trevally cod and jacks. I think the oil from the flesh is a large part of the attraction.

OFFSHORE

Close offshore in December sees the continuation of the small mackerel run. With plenty of tuna, cobia and trevally mixed in, there is top-notch sport on offer.

LAND-BASED

Unfortunately for land-based anglers, Ports Corp has just announced that the harbour southern break wall is to be closed through to February 2014. During this time they will repair the rock structure, which has been damaged over the last few years by cyclones. It’s a shame they couldn’t have scheduled the repairs for winter instead of summer, but that’s life.

That will still leave the northern break wall and its small beach as good spots, but they involve a fair walk. Still a walk and fish is better than no walk and no fish!

The mouth of the Pioneer River will also keep firing through to the large Christmas tides, and there have been a few nice oyster crackers (snub-nosed dart or permit) caught near the end of the trainer walls at the Vee. The odd golden trevally also livens up proceedings a bit too.

Some hooter pikey bream have been caught along this rock wall, particularly after dark, and it is not unknown for jacks and fingermark to be caught here as well. The biggest problem is the current run. Even on comparatively small high tides (neaps), you need plenty of lead to get the bait near the bottom and keep it there.

Coming up to Christmas, there are always plenty of options around Mackay. See you at the ramp and have a happy and safe Christmas.

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