Baitfish bonanza along the walls
  |  First Published: October 2015

Spring is here with a vengeance and the northerly winds have seen the baitfish moving in closer to shore and the predators are right behind them, giving local anglers a pelagic fish bonanza right on their doorstep.

As reported in the September issue, the southern breakwall of the harbour has reopened and the wall brigade are making good use of it as the bait and predators move tight in against the wall. Small mackerel, trevally, queenfish and tuna have all featured in catches from the wall over the last couple of weeks. The wall offers land-based fishos the chance to tangle with these speedsters and most anglers seem to prefer the traditional rigs of either live herring or pilchards on a gang rig.

Lure fishers are also getting in on the action with plastics and hardbodies going off. Plastic vibes are every bit as effective here as elsewhere in our region, but the attrition rate is high and with the dearer types costing up around $30 each it gets to be an expensive exercise. Paddle-tails or curl-tails rigged on jigheads are a cheaper plastic alternative and very effective. Try to mimic the type of baitfish at least in colouring with lighter belly colours and darker backs. Working plastics fast gives the mackerel less time to check out the offering and they are more likely to smash a fast moving lure than a slow worked one.

Hardbody lures can be anything from barra minnows, to vibes and shinies. The trick is to be able to work the lure through a variety of depths and speeds to attract attention. Again, look to pilchard type colours, light silvery bellies and darker colours on top. When the fish get fixated on very small bait, the small metal vibes can be a top choice but their light-weight prevents long casts.

The action off the wall will keep going for at least into November and depending on weather conditions is likely to remain a hot spot up to Christmas. Remember though, with lots of anglers on the wall use reasonably heavy gear so as not to tangle other fishos lines, which can cause a bit of frustration and friction.

The harbour walls are not the only spots getting plenty of attention though, with all of the close in islands from the St Helens and Seaforth area south returning good catches of pelagics, mainly small mackerel, northern blue and mac tuna. Fortunately our boat ramps are gradually improving with the multi lane one at Victor Creek at Seaforth capable of handling large trailer boats and the pontoon sure makes life easier. This is a good launch point for the Likes of Newry, Rabbit and the other islands in this group, and it also gives access to Low Rock or Lonely Reef as it is locally referred to out from the mouth of Murray Creek. This can be a real hotspot with the run-out tide bringing nutrients from the creek, which attracts the bait and they hold here as it is the only structure for miles around.

Anglers can expect to find schools of small herring and other baitfish here and all sorts of predators as well up to sharks around the 2m mark. The main species caught though include the small macks, queenies, trevally and the odd barracuda. I have also taken grunter and golden snapper from the spot on occasions. Low rock is shown on charts of the area and is popular with small boat anglers, so it usually has a boat or two around it at this time of year.

In the creeks and dams the good news is the warmer weather has encouraged the barra to get out of winter shut down mode and actively chase a feed. Anglers are reaping the benefit of the warmer weather with plenty of barra being caught. The rocks near the highway bridge in North Mackay are always worth a try for barra with the odd jack and trevally also around. Plastic vibes worked in and around the rocks are very effective, but lure losses can be pretty wallet emptying.

Reliance, Constant and Murray creeks have all been giving up plenty of barra, although some are only around the 50cm mark, and must be returned to the water. This should be done with as little time out of the water as possible.

Live baits of mullet or small whiting work well and plastic vibes are also accounting for plenty of fish. These lures should be in every anglers tackle box as they are almost universally hammered by all species in our waters. They’re very effective when worked on a slow sink and draw type retrieve, their trebles tend to snag up very easily but an extending prod will usually retrieve them.

In the dams, Kinchant has fired up first with good size barra being caught up near the top (western) end of the dam around the prominent weed beds there. Slow rolled plastics like the Squidgie Slick Rigs have been the most successful lure and many anglers swear by the black and gold pattern.

Working right on top of the weed beds can be done with plastic frogs like the Z Man PopfrogZ when they are rigged weedless on a worm hook around the 7/0 size. I like both the white and lime green in the largest size as they cast well and can be worked really slowly or cranked up so they will just duck under the surface. A very versatile lure and a proven fish catcher.

Other lures will work well with the venerable gold bomber and B-52 maintaining their popularity. For the surface fishing nuts, get some Tango Dancers as barra also find them irresistible with their walk the dog action, which is quite easy to achieve with a bit of rod work and practice.

There is plenty more action in and around Mackay during October, but most anglers will be chasing pelagic or barra but other estuary species will include, jacks, flathead, bream, whiting, king and blue salmon.

For those lucky enough to have larger trailer boats the reef species are going well with plenty of big Spanish mackeral thrown in for good measure. Most boats have been coming back with good catches of sweetlip and nannygai but the trout have been a bit quiet.

All in all Mackay has plenty of variety and big fish available throughout October, so why not come and join us in paradise? See you at the ramp.

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