Cast a net over Mackay (for prawns)
  |  First Published: February 2015

February sees two important tasks for Mackay anglers and the most important is chasing barra now that the open season has started—the other task is the never ending one of mowing lawns as February and March are traditionally our wettest months.

Last month, we had small storms, much thunder and lightning but not a real lot of rain. There has been just enough rain to get a small prawn run happening, but I expect we will soon have enough fresh flushing of the creek systems to get the prawns running. So for February the trick is to find the prawns and the predators won’t be far away.

I keep banging on about the new prawn like lures that keep hitting the market and they are now so realistic, that the fish almost don’t stand a chance. Some of them look good enough almost to throw in some boiling water. The latest two that I know of are the Fuze line and the new and improved Prawnstar lures, which now are much easier to rig with a solid ring at the head to attach to your leader/main line. Both these lures look the goods but due to a hand injury I have not had the chance to put them through their paces yet, but will do so in the near future.

One of the great benefits of these prawn style lures is that they can be rigged weedless, which means they can be tossed into all sorts of gnarly snags and this is a great advantage when chasing jacks and barra. Hooking them of course is one thing, but actually getting to land them is another altogether!

Barra will be in all the usual haunts and Constant Murray and Reliance creeks will all see plenty of action. There have been plenty of 60-80cm barra around so far this summer so I expect there will be good numbers if there are not huge rains.

The closed season has definitely been of huge benefit to the barra stocks, but I have heard some worrying stories going around about anglers deliberately targeting barra during the closed season and releasing them. Apart from being illegal, this is not good practice as no matter how carefully the fish is released it has still been stressed and when released can be shark or croc fodder as there are plenty of both in our creek systems.

One individual I heard about apparently caught and released 32 barra in 2 days during December. Those figures sure show that these were not “accidental” catches of barra, but a deliberate targeting of them. If I can get a name I will pass it onto the fisheries officers if for nothing else but future reference.

The smaller neap tides will be everyone’s favourite down in the salt while in the dams periods around the full moon continue to attract plenty of attention.

Good barra have been regularly coming from both Kinchant and Teemburra dams with MTA member Phil Lyons striking a great night recently in Teemburra when he landed 26 barra and lost many more through jump offs, snags etc. Phil uses black and gold Squidgies a lot in various sizes and his results speak volumes for the effectiveness of these paddle-tail plastics. They’re a must have in your tackle box for dam barra in this area.

Teemburra has oodles of well-developed weed beds now after a very hot spring and early summer and there are plenty of barra in the main dam basin. The water level is slightly down and the main island right in the middle of the dam is now showing thin spindly sticks above the waterline, and this is a good spot to target barra late in the afternoon and into the early night time.

Most anglers will be champing at the bit to get among a salty or two though and live baits will be the most reliable tactic. Prawns, small mullet, whiting or any other baitfish will be on the barra menu and don’t worry that your live bait might be too big as even a barely legal barra has a gob plenty big enough to swallow a large mullet.

If you have plenty of prawns, rig them several to a wide gape hook and their constant kicking and flicking will sound the dinner bell for any barra nearby. Works a treat for jacks, golden snapper, cod, grunter and most other predators that roam the creeks.

There have been good numbers of jacks around too, as well as plenty of king threadfin on some days. The kings as always are a bit of an enigma; here one day, gone the next. They have been at their best in Constant and Murray creeks while Rocky Dam creek south of Sarina has also been providing plenty of action.

Both jacks and kings will take live baits, but kings in particular are made for plastics and over the last 12 months or so plastic vibes have been accounting for many of the better kings. The small lift off the bottom, work the rod to make the lure vibrate then drop it back to bottom style of fishing has proven to be a reliable way to catch kings. They are great fish to catch, they fight well and despite the filleting problems with the big bony knobs, they are top tucker.

The usual estuary species have been regularly caught so far this summer with plenty of good size flathead (for this area) being reported. We don’t get the 90cm plus ones like further south, but there are plenty here that run between 70-80cm.

Bream have been a little quiet as have the whiting, and if we have big rains these will go even quieter during February.

Muddies have been on the move in all the creek systems, and the water has been running fairly clear, so they can often been seen working quietly along the edges of the creeks. As always, restrict the numbers you keep and check them all against a crab measure as the fisheries have been in and around the creeks during December and January, so if in any doubt about size, put the crab back – it’s not worth the fine.

Traditionally mullet and estuary fish have been used for crab bait, but I reckon small mackerel frames and skin are top baits for pots. The flesh and skin lets out plenty of oil and that acts as a berley for the crabs and fish as well.

In my past life when I used to bait fish a lot, I used to keep all the belly flaps of doggies and spotties and cut them into thin strips for bait. These are excellent for flathead, grunter, jacks and black jewies and they also attract plenty of attention from bream in the creeks. The flash of silver and white skin and the oily flesh are an attraction for not only those species mentioned, but also for many reef fish. Try them for cut or strip baits and you won’t be disappointed.

As always, predicting what the weather and the fishing will be like several weeks ahead is not easy, but in Mackay no matter what the weather gods throw at us, there are always options and opportunities, so come and join us in paradise.

See you at the ramp.

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