February in Mackay means 2 great things: the barra season opens and the wet season proper starts up. The rivers and creeks get a good flushing, renewing stocks of prawns and other bait.
Barra are on everyone’s ‘hit list’ this month – not only in the salt but also in the dams and weirs on the Pioneer River system. In the dams, Kinchant has been fishing reliably over the closed season (which ended on 1 February) and I reckon this summer might just see a barra over the 50kg mark landed in Kinchant Dam. Kinchant’s reputation for big fish just keeps growing along with the size of the fish, and is an outstanding tribute to the efforts of MAFSA members in creating one of the best barra dams in the country.
Kinchant Dam is often pretty crowded of a weekend as it is a popular water ski/jet ski area, but anglers can still duck away from the crowds up towards the top end of the dam. Here there are several small inlets and points that are well worth an hour or 2. Most of the crowds are in the main dam basin and avoid areas near the weeds or the wall, and that is the best spot to try your luck.
At night there are no problems as the whole dam is available to anglers, and around the full moon there will be plenty of boats on the dam chasing the ‘biggie’.
Trolling and casting lures from the Reidy’s, RMG, Halco, Lively Lures, Koolabung, Rapala and Tropic Angler ranges will get you in the action. Look for lures that get down at least 2m and troll in waters up to about 5m deep. That scene gives plenty of areas to fish right around the dam.
For surface work, use standard blooping type poppers or better yet get hold of some C’ultiva Tango Dancers and use them up near the weed beds. Surface luring at night is dynamite when a big barra slams the lure near the boat, without any warning. Great stuff!
Plastics also work well; the Z-Man, Squidgies, Tsunami, Tropic Angler, Storm and Berkley ranges all catch their share of fish. When choosing a plastic, go for one with a really supple tail wrist to give the lure plenty of movement to attract the barra’s attention. Both paddle tails and curly tails work well, although the paddle tails are the most popular. Your hooks need to be at least 5/0 and strongly made (I use Gamakatsu). Your jighead should be just heavy enough for casting and to get the tail working as it should.
The other dams and weirs can all be fished with the same types of lures. Teemburra has had a fair amount of fresh run in and the water up the top ends of the 3 creeks has been pretty dirty and cold. The barra are down in the main dam basin and the bigger catches have been coming from the eastern side of the dam, which is a little unusual. Perhaps the unseasonal northerly winds during January have pushed the bait towards that (ramp) side of the dam. Teemburra is down about 1.5m below full supply level, although this may change by the time you read this.
Eungella is fishing well for big sooties, with plenty of people taking great delight in telling me all about their 50cm+ sooties caught in the dam. One of these days I will crack that magic 50cm sooty mark! There will be sooties in Eungella dam now that are over 60cm, but these big old fish don’t grow to that size by being dumb. They are hard to get to bite and harder still to land among the heavy timber that they favour.
If you’re visiting our area and want info on the dams, I suggest calling in to the local tackle shops and have a talk to the staff. They will have the best up-to-the-minute info on what’s going on, lures that are in favour with the fish and so on.
For the estuary/creek angler, barra will be the number one target and the usual spots will cop a hammering. Places like the Pioneer River in the town reaches are close, handy and good for a ‘quickie’ trip. The rocks around the Ron Camm highway bridge are always popular, and plenty of big barra come from here and nearer the bridge pylons. The main town bridge also has barra in residence, but it is hard to fish with the tide ripping through there.
Down towards the mouth of the river, the V is a renowned hot spot and the breaks in the trainer walls along the south side are also worth investing a little time.
Smaller barra are often caught in and around Bassett Basin, which is a large mangrove/creek complex on the northern side of the river. Watch the tides in here though as it is easy to get caught and it is a long wait until the next tide reaches you. Being stranded in the basin is not my idea of a fun outing!
Every creek and river system around Mackay has barra in residence, and again the local tackle outlets will know where the fish are and what they are taking. Avoid the really big tides as the run can make fishing pretty difficult, although the holes at the bottom of the tides are always worth checking out.
The best spots for February barra (apart from the Pioneer) include creeks like Reliance, Constant, and those in the Seaforth and St Helens areas. To the south check out Bakers, Alligator and Sandy creeks and Sarina inlet. Further south, Rocky Dam is a good spot with a concrete ramp, and the creeks around Cape Palmerston are all worth a go. Some of these spots have ramps which are only functional at half tide up, and others may have just mud banks, so check with the local tackle shops if you’re new to the area.
Offshore fishing, both close in and at the reef, will be weather dependant this month. Recent results have been pretty good, however.
Golden snapper (fingermark) to 75cm have been regularly caught offshore, particularly around isolated rocks/bommies in 10m+ of water. They are top fish, top sport and are absolutely magic on the plate. Best of all they will take a variety of baits (squid being the best) and lures/jigs as long as you can get it down to them. Smaller models are in all the creeks, and again seem to favour rocky areas with a decent depth of water. In the creeks this may be only 2-3m.
Surprisingly, during January there was a limited run of both Spanish and grey mackerel reasonably close inshore, and certainly in reach of the tinnie brigade. Once the wet starts in earnest, however, I expect pelagic catches to drop off quickly – except well offshore where only the very large trailer boats will be able to access them.
Looking ahead, it’s possible that heavy rains may put a dampener on the fishing during February. Still, with the abundant and varied habitats in our area, there is always somewhere to wet a line. See you at the ramp.Reads: 781