Stirring up the mix
  |  First Published: April 2014

What a mixed up wet season we have had this year? Plenty of rain, strong wind warnings and potential cyclone threats. Still the wet has rejuvenated the creeks and river systems, stirring up activity and while the dirty water has not been easy to fish, the systems have all benefitted and April will see the last of the wet and the weather settle down into autumn proper.

Early April will likely see plenty of wet weather around, and this will get prawns and crabs moving and that is good news for the small boat angler. Crabs have been in good numbers but many have been empty, so check them out well before keeping them. Watch the size limits too as the Patrol boys are out there checking catches, so do the right thing, leave the jennies and undersize or empty crabs for another day.

When there is a fair amount of freshwater around in the creeks, lay your pots out near the mouth or even on the flats in the estuaries proper, but keep an eye on them as they will get stranded at low tide. Crab pot ‘share farmers’ are still rife around Mackay, so I suggest you stay close by your pots while fishing. Many pro crabbers as well as rec anglers are setting up movement activated cameras in mangroves close to their pots and this evidence has been used in court proceedings, so lift only your own pots.

During March there has been heaps of jelly prawns in the creeks and the fish have had plenty to feed on. When the jellies are around, fish can sometimes feed on nothing else and live baits, strip baits and lures can go untouched. These juvenile prawns can be easily seen along the edges of the creeks and under overhanging mangroves and will spray out as a lure lands among them.

For the lure angler this is the time to use those small 50mm plastic prawns or similar small softies to try to match the hatch. Fly anglers are perhaps best equipped to imitate these jellies with small patterns in almost translucent materials weighted with bead chains and fished on a floating line is probably the best bet.

Barra will continue to be a main target for the creek and estuary anglers during April as the weather and water temps are still up there and the barra active. Generally the humidity is dropping off during April and fishing can be very pleasant. As the jelly prawn grow, live prawns will continue to be a reliable bait and a cast net will see enough for a good session. When cast netting, an electric outboard is a real bonus as the boat can be worked quietly right up to the prawns.

Barra will be in the usual haunts and popular spots like Reliance, Constant and Murray creeks will produce plenty of fish. The Pioneer River and to the south Bakers, Sandy, Alligator and Rocky dam creeks will also see plenty of barra action in April. The latest improvement at Constant Creek with the new style ramp means it is much more popular but it still fishes well despite the extra attention it now gets. The ramp is a big improvement over the old one and a far cry from the rock littered mud bank that was the ‘ramp’ when I started to fish it in the mid 70s.

Mullet and whiting would be the other two most reliable barra baits, but watch the legal length. Strip baits of these or gar will also pick up plenty of fish in the creeks, particularly king salmon and grunter. As I write this article there have been some good grunter, 60cm, up coming from Constant and Murray creek systems and they will be on the job through April. Try for grunter on any gravel bed and on big tides they will get right up onto the mudflats and sandbanks if there are yabby beds there. Grunter also relish small crabs so on top of rock bars is also a good spot to pick them up, but you will get plenty of snags between fish.

King salmon remain an enigma, and they can be found anywhere in a creek system from almost freshwater to the flats out the front. They also roam along the beaches, but that is more blue salmon territory. Kings respond to live and cut baits and plenty get picked up on lures, often while anglers are luring for flathead. Bait anglers can also find them to be very frustrating as at times they will mouth a bait, or move slowly off and then drop the bait. Bait-feeder style reels are great for this work, letting the angler release line without tension, but having instant drag when the fish finally takes off.

Getting towards the end of the month will see the weather start to cool off although Easter in Mackay is usually either wonderful with calm seas or it will be wet, wild and windy. If calm, the ramps at the harbour, River Street etc. will be crowded and if wet and wild there will be plenty up the creeks. The changes will see a shift in species, particularly the close offshore spots.

Queenfish will be more prevalent in catches, along with golden trevally and oyster crackers and these all come right into the creek mouths to feed. Close offshore they can be found around Flat and Round Top Islands off the river and Slade Island just off the harbour. The islands around Seaforth will also fish well in April and there is always the chance of some reefies in close. If you happen to see small garfish around, then fish the area as they are one of the queenies favourite prey and can be easily imitated with a long slim minnow or pencil style popper. They are great fun on relatively light gear and queenies have saved the day for me plenty of times.

Late April may also see some Spanish activity inshore although this will depend on how clean the water is and if we have calm weather. The word soon gets out if the Spanos are around and ribbonfish; large gar quickly selling out at the tackle shops is a dead giveaway. The staff at the local tackle outlets will always have their finger on the pulse and know what is around, so make a few purchases and you will get the good oil.

The dams continue to fish well and barra and sooties are stretching gear in all three dams. MAFSA’s sooty breeding has had a number of setbacks with the new gear and systems, but they are gradually getting ironed out, with a couple of small batches being successfully raised through to release. Not the big numbers we had hoped for but enough for the hatchery crew to taste some success and look forward to next summer and better results. Hopefully by then new monitoring equipment will be purchased and installed giving better control and building up the knowledge bank.

Don’t forget that the World Sooty Championship event is on at Eungella Dam Mothers’ Day long weekend and it promises to be a great success in the tradition of past events. Eungella Dam is home to some absolute monster sooties and if I am ever to crack my 50cm barrier I will lay odds it will be at Eungella. It is a great spot and a great two day comp with plenty of camaraderie, great prizes and good times so pack up your camp gear, get the tinnie ready and come join the MAFSA crew for the comp.

It is MAFSA’s main fund raising event for the year and all the profits generated go straight back to keeping the dams well stocked with sooties and barra. So not only will you have a ball tangling with some mega sooties, you will also be assisting to keep the dams happening.

For entry forms, contact the local tackle shops in Mackay and don’t leave it until the last minute as nominations are going fast. For more info contact either Tim Galletly on 0409 272 447 or Jeff Eales on 0409 552 103.

So as usual there will be plenty of action around Mackay during April from the freshwater to the reef, so why not come and join us here in paradise? See you at the ramp.

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