Growing up as a kid on the Mary River in Maryborough, floods were cool, it seemed like the whole town would drive down to see the Lamington Bridge go under.
Back then, I had no idea how much a flood would mean to me in the future. The first week after the rains when the river ran filthy and swollen, the fishing was always quiet. Fish have a need to survive, and after the floods would sit in eddies and calm stretches of water out of the main flow; water temperature usually drops a few degrees after a flood event so the fish remain out of action and wait for the improvement of conditions.
From years of experience and observation, a week or so after the main flood, the water temperature rises a few degrees and the water loses its putrid colour, which is when the fish start to get excited! Most anglers think that fish are pushed downriver to the mouth and beyond, which makes sense, but is not always true. As a young angler in the local sportfishing club we had DPI permits to tag fish at the saltwater barrage on the Mary.
The fishing was outstanding. We caught barra, threadfin salmon, jacks, bream, and tailor alongside bass, catfish, yellowbelly, saratoga and a lone jungle perch! Amazing what will show up in totally freshwater a week after a major flood. Masses of boney bream and mullet push up current to the wall, so the old saying ‘find the bait, find the fish’ really starts to take shape!
The river mouth fishes well after the flood too, as not everything pushes upstream. Muddies can’t handle the fresh so they head downstream, which makes crabbing excellent; the same goes for prawns, and of course where there’s a concentration of bait there will be predators. Barra, salmon, grunter, flathead and jacks are all invited to the party.
A few weeks after a big flood the river mouth will have a green look to it. This is usually the best time to fish, especially after the moon as the salt will start to push back in on the reverse tides. This is why barra spawn on the moon as the fry will get sucked back up the estuaries and not pushed out the front.
Offshore after a big fresh, pelagics such as tuna, mackerel and trevally will become active. I remember fishing a fresh colour line from a flood a few years back and the fishing was insane, every cast was a fish and some good ones too! Remember, freshwater is lighter and sits on top of the salt, so the deeper holes and gutters can be worth a look.
For the reef fishos, bonuses of the receding floodwaters are numbers of estuary cod, black spot tuskfish, grass sweetlip and all the other inshore reefies that go nuts after a flood as excess food gets flushed out with the fresh. A good tip here is to use fresh green prawns after a flood, and you will get the results!Reads: 977