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Marvellous Mackay May
  |  First Published: May 2014



May, you beauty! Most of the humidity is behind us for a few months and we can get down to some serious season change fishing. I reckon May is one of the top times for Mackay fishing as it is still hot enough to have the summer species on the go but without the intense humidity, and the nights are starting to cool off a bit, and the winter dominant species are starting to move.

Cooler nights and days get locals thinking of taking a ‘sickie’ when the weather is calm, to go try for an early in season snapper or two. Many think that the bumpies don’t show up until June but they have been known to be on the go as early as April, so if the weather is good, give them a bash. We are really lucky around here as the snapper grounds can be easily reached in a 4m tinnie on a good day, which is the type of weather to chase them.

Calm seas with little wind and smaller tides are the conditions to look for and the tinnie brigade will be out in force. It’s not hard to find snapper country on a good day as the simple formula is to ‘look for the boats’ as they will be a great guide. Check out areas around Flat and Round Top islands and down around Hay Point and offshore from Sarina, especially where there is a bit of rubble bottom, and the chances are good of picking up a snapper or three.

Flesh baits, squid, pillies and big prawns are all good snapper baits. Soft plastics like large curly tails and grubs are also worth tossing as well as some of the new generation vibes, but if there are any small mackerel around they won’t last too long particularly with mono leaders. Still that’s the price that has to be paid when jigging snapper on plastics.

So far this year the pelagic scene has shown great promise, with an early season run of small macks and tuna. There have been some serious northern blues or longtails out between Round Top and Hay Point so keep your eyes pealed in this area for any sign of surface activity and birds working bait. The macks and tuna will also be found lower in the water column and the usual story with small macks is to feel a slight tug on the line, wind up and find your soft plastic neatly snipped off! This early in the season watch for the legal size of small macks and be careful as there always seems to be a juvenile Spaniard mixed in with the others.

Queenies are the big news on the go at the moment and big is the operative word with fish well over 1m being caught in the river, and around the close islands. Damn impressive fish those 1m+ queenies and boy are they fun to catch. There has been a good run of quality queenies in the river near the road bridges and the rocks just up from the Ron Camm Bridge up to the hospital reaches. Poppers are the most exciting way to chase queenies but plenty have been falling for vibes like Transams and Threadybusters. But throwing a $30 vibe around the rocks is a good way to make you poor and the tackle shop man rich, as they have a habit of hanging up on the rocks fitted as they are with two sets of trebles.

Plenty of goldens are also starting to show up close inshore with the larger ones coming from the deeper water on heavy jigs fitted with plastics or the old traditional metal jigs that can be worked fairly slowly and kept in the right depth zone. A quality sounder is invaluable for this type of fishing and if you get a split screen with a GPS then you can easily back track over feeding fish. Magic!

Smaller size goldens will work right in along the beaches and around sand spits on the islands where they hunt small crabs, yabbies etc. I have caught them around the islands off Seaforth by casting small lures right up into small rock and sandy beach areas at the top of the tide; I think the new wave of plastic prawns will be really useful here as they are so realistic. Plenty of snodger size bream, flathead, cod, giant herring and the odd barra will also be encountered in these spots. A bit of a smorgasbord but great fun.

In the creeks the barra are there for the taking, but as the weather cools off they become a bit more lethargic and harder to catch. But plan well, persist with recommended quality lures, and persevere in known spots and you will succeed. Try the V near the mouth of the river and around the rocks nearby for a close handy barra spot that is only minutes from the River Street boat ramp and the City heart.

With the cooler weather and water temps, keep an eye out for barra right up on top of sand banks at high tide and often they will be in less than 200mm of water. Sometimes with keen eyes and quality sunnies the barra can be seen almost lying on their sides in the shallows. Mind you in this situation they are very spooky and a super quiet approach is needed. Light gear, fine leaders and small lures are the go and these conditions are tailor-made for fly fishers with reasonably good casting skills (better than mine that’s for sure) using a floating line, long leader and small deceivers and clousers.

The usual estuary/creek species are still plentiful during May, with jacks, cod, flatties, grunter and bream all expected to star in angler’s catches. The run of great grunter has continued with fish well over 60cm regularly being caught and fish of this size can certainly put on a scorching run or two, often busting off light gear with their power runs. Best of all there are few fish better on the plate than a fresh grunter cooked either just in butter or with some fresh ginger and garlic. Food fit for a king!

Salmon both blues and king threadies are still about in good numbers and can be caught in almost all our estuary and creek systems. For the land-based angler, a long trudge from Shoal Point along the beach to the mouth of Reliance Creek puts you in some great salmon country and tinnie anglers will pick them up all over the district.

Mackay is often thought of as a boat angler’s spot, but there are plenty of places for the non-boater to catch fish. For example the rock walls in the river are all accessible as is the channel and big sand spit at the mouth of the river. Beaches like McEwans, Far Beach, Blacks Beach, Eimeo and Bucasia all hold good fish with often small macks coming almost into the small shore break chasing small bait. Goldens and oyster crackers are also caught on these beaches.

If you are visiting and don’t have a small boat, then talk to the staff at the local tackle shops and they will point you in the right direction. Remember there is no good drum like good local drum, but as a caution there are also some very substantial crocs that call our waters home.

As the weather cools, the hot barra bite in our dams will also start to slow down. Because it is relatively shallow, Kinchant is probably the best bet for a dam barra in the cooler times, with Teemburra a close second. Eungella during the cooler months is way colder than the other 2 and much harder to find and catch barra in.

Where Eungella does shine is the quality of the sooty fishery that MAFSA has developed there. Best of all the mega sooties will keep on hammering lures and baits all winter long and if they grew to a metre long they would be almost unstoppable. What a great under rated sportfish they are.

So there you have it, Mackay coming into the cooler weather is a great place to live or visit. The fish are there and ready to tussle with anglers, so come and join us in paradise. See you at the ramp.

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