The right spots around Mackay
  |  First Published: October 2016

October is hotting up and so is the barra fishing with both the saltwater and the freshwater scenes firing on all cylinders. Reports of 80cm+ barra in the salt and fish well over a metre from the dams is enough to get any angler stirred up and on the water.

With the closed season due on 1 November, everyone will be in for their last crack at the salties. The ramps and secret spots will have plenty of attention particularly on October’s two sets of neap tides. So far, the barra have been showing up in the usual haunts. A few purchases from the local tackle shops will give you the latest info and what the barra are biting on.

For the lure fisher, there are a couple of real safe bets for lure choices. Must haves include soft vibes in a range of sizes and colours, some big paddle-tail plastics, 150mm or bigger, and reliable hardbodies like the Reidy’s range, Halcos, Koolabungs and similar.

For the novice lure angler, I suggest the big paddle-tails with a range of jighead weights and minimum 5/0 size hooks, as they’re easy to rig and simple to use. Cast out, let it sink and then make a very slow, steady retrieve – just enough to get the tail working. What could be simpler?

No lure will catch fish if it’s not used in the right place. There’s a number of spots close to Mackay that will regularly produce good barra during October, and for the boat angler, the Pioneer River is a good start. Head down towards the mouth to the ‘V’ and work the rocks, converging currents and the hole there. On the southern side of the river along the trainer walls, there’s a number of cut throughs, which are fairly narrow breaks in the walls. At times these spots hold sizeable barra working bait as it’s funnelled through on the making or ebbing tide.

The city bridges are an obvious spot to chase a big barra, particularly at night as they patrol the shadow lines created by the bridge lights. Near the Ron Camm Bridge, that’s the highway one, there are rocks both upstream and downstream. The ones on the upstream side are accessible on foot but care is needed and they are probably best fished on the run out and bottom of the tide. Both these spots produce plenty of barra as well as jacks and the odd trevally.

I expect the creeks like Reliance, Constant and Murray to the north of the city will get plenty of attention, as well as those around Seaforth where the net free zone is centred. Close to the mouth of these creeks, look for junctions and side gullies and fish them as the tide drops. Any distinct drop off along the edge of the mangroves is also worth peppering with plenty of casts. Moving upstream, look out for rock bars, isolated rocks and any freshly fallen mangroves along the banks, particularly on bends. Deep holes are always worth a look, but often the barra and other species will not be in the bottom of the holes but working the edges.

To the south, Bakers, Alligator, Sandy and Rocky Dam creeks are well worth a look, as well as the Sarina Inlet area. Some of these areas have limited foot access, but a boat is always handy, considering the number of crocs around these days. Caution is the key, particularly while throwing a cast net or running a bait net. For the most up to date info, visit our local tackle stores and have a chat – they know the best what, when and where for barra during October.

Our dams continue to fish well with Kinchant and Teemburra going off with metre plus fish on the chew. Kinchant would have to be the most reliable big barra dam in Australia these days and metre fish are now common. Only those over 1.2m really cause much comment. Kinchant is not a hard dam to fish, but it’s one that needs some persistence, as you’ll often get a few lookers before a hook-up. Weedbeds are the key to the barra in this dam, although some really good barra are trolled up along the old creek bed that runs through the dam.

To work the weeds, some weedless rigs are handy as well as surface lures. In more open water, I love the Tango Dancers with that great slow walk the dog action. Their weight and bulk makes them well suited to the long casts down along the front of weed beds or lilies. That long cast means more time to work the lure in the water and more chance of attracting a barra hit. On these lures the hits often come while the lure sits, bobbing up and down and they are explosive hits too.

Night time is something special with surface lure fishing for barra. Around the weeds, I use the ZMan Pop Frogz in the largest size, preferably lime green. They can be rigged almost weedless, worked super slowly or with a high rod tip skittered across the water at speed. Barra like them as much as I do!

Temmburra is mainly a points fishery – the best fish to be found are at obvious points at either ends of small bays or inlets. Keep an eye on your sounder. If there are shows in deeper water, look around for the nearest, most prominent point and head there quietly. Anchor up and fan casts around, as those barra will move in and out of the shallows to feed on bony bream. The Teemburra timbers are justifiably well-known as they hold plenty of barra, but the biggest problem is not getting a hook-up. It’s landing a fish among the standing and fallen timber. Temmburra is a wonderful fishery in a very attractive setting.

October offers more than barra – the estuaries really come to life in the warmer weather, storms, showers and calm still days. A real mix of weather and species like jacks, golden snapper, estuary cod, threadies, flathead, grunter, bream and whiting provide plenty of fun during the summer months. Many of these species can be found while barra fishing. Live baiters curse pikey bream, which have a habit of knocking off live prawns intended for barra.

Whiting, flathead, bream, dart, and trevally can all be found feeding along our beaches. A well presented yabby is rarely refused by any of these species. Small plastics, clear small hardbodies and vibes will all take these fish and with light gear provide plenty of fun in a beautiful clean environment.

The tinnie brigade are all sweating on getting some consistent northerly wind patterns to bring the schools of small bait close inshore. That will signal the start of the small mackerel run. There’s been some odd days of northerlies but the weather has not been the consistent calm mornings, windy afternoons and high humidity that favour this inshore bait movement. They can’t be far away, and I’m looking forward to a nice feed of freshly caught mackerel.

Bait also bring marauding tuna, trevally, queenfish, cobia and plenty of sharks in close too, so anglers have plenty of fun in stores between now and Christmas. Local tackle outlet staff know what’s going on and will happily help anglers out. A drive to the end of the southern harbour breakwall is also a good indicator if the bait and mackerel are in, as the anglers can be almost shoulder-to-shoulder here.

Mackay offers plenty of variety of fish species in habitats ranging from rainforest streams to the open ocean during October, so why not come and join us here in paradise? See you at the ramp.


Keeley Barbeler enjoys luring the flats in Sandy creek and has been scoring plenty of nice flathead on soft plastics worked on top of the flats on high tide.


Mackay's dam barra just keep getting bigger and better. Geoff Newby caught this solid 114cm barra slow rolling a black and gold Squidgie Slick Rig

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