Bundy’s Burnett River is an under-rated fishery. Everything from bread and butter species like flathead and bream to sporting targets like tuna and mackerel frequent the tidal reaches of the Burnett at different times of the year. Once you figure out what makes the river tick, you can expect some pretty impressive catches.
We fish the Burnett a lot and generally do quite well, considering that somewhere around 95% of our fishing is done with lures. Of course there are times when nothing will outfish a well-presented bait. But in general, lurefishers should be able to at least match it with bait fishers and at times, they will definitely out-do them. They also tend to catch a better class of fish, which is good news for sporting anglers.
With that in mind, the following is a brief guide to some of our more productive spots in the Burnett River from the Town Reach to Port Bundaberg.
When fishing the Town Reach, I usually start by flicking a few soft plastics around the southern bank of Harriet Island. The shallows here often hold a few flatties that will happily pounce on a soft plastic dragged past their noses. The majority will be the smaller bar-tailed variety, with only the odd 40cm fish around.
Opposite Harriet Island, along the southern bank of the river is also worth prospecting with plastics. We have caught a few fish from the section around the hospital and further upstream. Don’t be afraid to get your lures right up into all the nooks and crannies here, as the fish will sometimes lie right along the edge, particularly if there is a bit of cover around.
There are two road bridges and a rail bridge over the Burnett in the Town Reach and like all bridges, their pylons are always worth checking out. If the prawns are about, the fish will sometimes hold in the eddy on the upcurrent side of the pylon, waiting for the tasty crustaceans to be washed to them. Bream are a common catch, although flathead are also likely to be encountered.
Many anglers target whiting in this section of the river and even upstream from the Town Reach and when you get onto a school good catches can be had. Yabbies are always worth trying, as well as small school prawns, particularly if they are freshly netted.
Finally, the Town Reach does produce the occasional mangrove jack, with some substantial fish around. The majority fall to live baits, fished on unweighted rigs. Lure anglers can enjoy success but will need to be stealthy, as the fish are very wary of boat traffic in the area. Lure trollers and casters alike will find an electric motor almost mandatory for consistent success on the larger predators in this section of the river.
It is also important to be aware that there is a ban on all types of netting, including cast netting in the Town Reach. If you want live baits, you will have to net them outside of this section and bring them in. There is also a sign-posted and heavily policed 6 knot speed limit in this section of the river.
As you head downstream and leave the numerous moored craft and jetties behind, there are still plenty of fishing options in front of you. The section of bank below the distillery and sugar refinery is always worth a look. There is some substantial structure in this area, and during the cooler months fish are attracted to the warm water outlet. Estuary cod and queenfish are commonly encountered, with live baits and soft plastics both accounting for fish.
Further downstream, you will come to one of the best known fishing structures in the river – Kirbys Wall. Kirbys is a long, low wall of rock built to funnel the flow of the river that begins in the Millaquin Reach, roughly opposite Paddy Island. Kirbys disappears under water at the top of the tide, so take care when boating in this section.
Kirbys is accessible from the southern bank of the river, off McGills Road and is a favoured spot with land-based anglers. During the cooler months of the year when the bream are on, it is a real Mecca for dedicated bream chasers. The most popular line of attack is to float an unweighted or very lightly weighted bait along the wall. The current flows quite strongly here and the bottom is very rough, so anything that’s heavy enough to reach the rocky bottom often stays there, Hence the use of ‘floating’ baits.
Soft plastic anglers can really cash-in here, by using their lures in much the same way as baits are presented. Lightly weighted stick baits and Gulp Sandworms have become very popular for this type of technique, however the need to use very lightly weighted presentations cannot be overstated.
Just below the end of Kirbys Wall, a long section of the southern bank lined with rock is a great place to troll for all sorts of species. We have had some great sessions trolling deep diving lures for estuary cod and flathead here and as long as your lure gets down bumping the bottom, there is a relatively high chance of hooking up. Unfortunately, quite a few fish do get back into the snags, so be prepared to fish with solid drag settings and use no nonsense leaders and terminal tackle.
On the opposite side of the channel there is another rocky groyne which is worth trolling or baitfishing around. The water is pretty shallow here, so there is no need for really deep diving lures and again, the main target species will be bream, estuary cod and flathead.
On the start of the bend below the groyne sits the remains of an old wharf. The water is very deep here and I know of some anglers who have had success jigging soft plastics on the bottom for trevally. Bait anglers fishing the drop-off into the deeper water with live baits (particularly prawns) can take some excellent captures, particularly after a bit of rain has freshened up the river.
The next main point of interest to anglers is the area around Strathdees boat ramp. The bend just upstream of the ramp contains some deep water, which swirls and eddies on the outgoing tide. During the cooler months of the year, wolf herring, tailor and steelback salmon school here and it can be almost a fish-a-cast on small lures. My kids love this spot and a white Tassie Devil is all that is required to drive the fish crazy.
Some nice flathead are captured around the mouth of Rubyanna Creek too, on both soft plastics and baits. When things are quiet during the middle of the week, even schools of tuna push this far up the river and land-based anglers have been known to spin up mack tuna from the rocks around the boat ramp.
Heading down past the cable ferry crossing, you come to the sugar loading terminal. The substantial pylons sitting in deep water and the huge natural bait supply make this section very popular with anglers. Bream spinners pull some nice fish from around the pylons and schools of tailor, wolf herring and even school mackerel hunt the bait schools out the front of the jetty.
On the other side of the river, another section of rocky bank begins and this wall provides a favoured trolling run for flathead and estuary cod. Stick to water between 2-4m deep and troll lures that get down and bump the bottom occasionally and you should find success. Just remember that flathead have an upper limit of 70cm and some very large fish can be encountered along here, so make sure you release them in good condition.
By this stage, you have just about come to the Port and Burnett Heads, which offer so many fishing opportunities that they are deserving of an article all on their own.
Essential lures for the Burnett River
Eco Products Eyeball Tails
Berkley Bass Minnows
Berkley Gulp Sandworms
Squidgy Fish and Wrigglers
Reidy’s Little Lucifers & B52s
No. 3 Stumpjumpers
Tilsan Barras & Trout Minnows
Nearest boat ramp for Town Reach
Town ramp, located on northern bank, between the bridges. Plenty of parking and public toilets. For high tide times, it is necessary to add 32 minutes to the high tide time at Burnett Heads.
Nearest boat ramp for Kirbys Wall
Many anglers make the run downstream from the town ramp. Others may choose to launch at Strathdees, which is located adjacent to the cable ferry crossing, and there are no toilet facilities here.
Nearest boat ramp for Rubyanna Creek
Strathdees or launch at Burnett Heads Marina (which has public toilets) and head upstream.
Salty’s Tackle Store
22 Quay Street, Bundaberg 4670
Ph: (07) 41534747
35 Targo Street, Bundaberg
Ph: (07) 4151 3194
DJ’s Fishing and Rug Shop
103 Bourbong Street, Bundaberg
Ph: (07) 4151 0902