Rain pours down over Mackay
  |  First Published: April 2016

It may have been a bit of a slow start to the wet season, but it has been pouring down over the last couple of weeks. We have had over 300mm rain with plenty of localised flooding in all the usual spots and more to come. While this rain is inconvenient for local motorists, it is just what our fisheries have needed after a really dry 2015, which from my records had only about 50% of our usual rainfall.

So into April, we can all look forward to a continuation of a great barra season, as since the opening in February, there have been excellent catches of barra from systems both north and south of Mackay. In the saltwater creeks and estuaries, the Seaforth area has fished really well and anecdotal reports indicate that the NFZ centred on Seaforth is already seeing improved catches.

One sure improvement will be the fact that anglers can look forward later in the year to some really good grunter, as it has been noticeable for many years that these creeks are full of grunter just under legal size and coincidentally, just a bit too small to mesh in a net.

Some of the better catches of barra have come from Murray, Constant and Reliance creeks and the good flush out will see them improve even more. The rains will bring a run of prawns and every angler understands the attraction prawns have for predators. In fact, there probably isn’t a fish in our creek systems that won’t hammer a (preferably live) prawn. The old traditional method of suspending prawns under a float and drifting it into snags or onto rock bars is still as effective as ever. Best to use stout tackle though, as there have been some absolute horse barra around.

The other fish that will put in a welcome appearance after the rains will be the king threadfin salmon. Threadies, or kingies as they are known locally, just love juvenile prawns and can be fixated on these and ignore strip baits or live fish baits. They can be a very frustrating fish, but when hooked up the angler instantly forgets any frustration as that big fork tail gets moving and the fish hits the power button.

Barra and threadies are often found mixed together, but threadies are not usually snag-orientated like barra are. Look for them on sloping mud banks or around the edges of deep holes. An electric outboard and a quiet approach will often give anglers the chance to actually see the threadies up in the shallows and they can be sight-casted with success, provided they aren’t spooked by noise.

The plastic vibe revolution continues unabated and they are probably the best lure for both of these species at the moment, particularly in the more open waters. However, the weight and two sets of trebles will mean bad news around rocks or other snags. Effective they are, but it can be an expensive exercise. I use the cheaper models and find they work well, and I am much happier losing a $10 or $15 lure rather than a $30 one. For threadies, work them in a very slow lift and drop fashion the lift only needs to be 10-20cm. Barra will respond to more aggressive use of the lure.

The usual creek bread and butter species like whiting, flathead and bream have all fished reasonably consistently, but none of these species appreciate the dirty freshwater, so I expect they will be hard to catch for the next 3-4 weeks. My recommendation is to chase barra, threadies and jacks for the moment.

Before the rain set in, the weather was hot, still and humid and the close inshore islands and rocky reef areas were firing well for a variety of fish including golden snapper (fingermark), grassy lippers, cod and the occasional coral trout. The run-off of dirty freshwater has put paid to that fishery for a few weeks, and if the rain continues it may be well into April before the waters clear up enough to give up good catches.

The deep water offshore scene will also settle down after a few weeks and once the winds die down a bit the bigger trailer boats will be out chasing big reds. I expect the Overfall Rocks will fish well as soon as the water clears up and areas such as the shipping channel will also fire up. Access is the issue with these areas as they involve a fair run from the harbour. For visitors, I suggest checking with the local tackle stores before trying to venture out to any of these areas.

Beach fishing is surprisingly not that popular around Mackay, probably because of our high percentage of small boat ownership. But around March and April, a couple of spots really turn on. The beach either side of the Pioneer River and the beaches in the Eimeo and Bucasia areas are local hotspots for golden trevally and oyster crackers (snub-nose dart or permit). Mostly, they are fished for with either live small fish baits or a bunch of live yabbies on a large circle hook. Both species will often move right in along the beach in shallow water, and they also don’t seem to mind if the water is relatively dirty. Lamberts Beach up near the north wall of the harbour is also a fairly consistent producer of these great sporting fish. Bled promptly and iced down, they also make more than acceptable tucker!

The freshwater scene has also been affected by the rains, with plenty of water going into our dams. The Pioneer River last month was running 1-2m over the walls of the three weirs and will take a while to settle down. One great by-product of the rains has been the tag returns that have been reported. MAFSA tagged 1000 barra, which were released into the three weirs in September 2015 and there have so far been about 10 returns, with one fish having travelled 26km downstream and over Dumbleton Weir.

Last year Reef Catchments tagged and released 1000 barra into the Gooseponds in North Mackay and it will be very interesting to see just where these barra and the river tagged barra get to after the floods. I urge every angler to be on the look out for these tags, and if you catch a tagged fish record the length, the tag number and where you caught the fish. Phone these details through to the number on the tag so we can get as much data on the Pioneer River system barra as possible.

MAFSA members have also been busy spawning sooty grunter since the last issue of QFM. At the present time, there is about 100,000 baby sooties in the hatchery and barring mishaps, most of these should be able to be grown out to release size. Hatchery co-ordinator Kieron Galletly is looking at doing another spawning run as soon as the weather settles down a bit. He also plans to hold some of the sooties in the hatchery to be released at the 11th World Sooty Championship event to be held at Eungella Dam the first weekend in May

As always, the Mackay region offers a multitude of fishing options whatever the weather, so why not come up to paradise and join us? See you at the ramp.

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