Local flooding means good things for fishing in mackay
  |  First Published: May 2017

Late season Cyclone Debbie certainly gave our local communities quite a touch up with massive damage being done in and around the Whitsundays and to a lesser degree around Mackay district. The rain from the system was a good boost to our local fisheries.

There was plenty of local flooding plus an impressive flood event in the Pioneer River that runs directly through Mackay. Fortunately there was no major flooding in the city. We saw up to 800mm of rainfall over a couple of days – this was some serious rain.

This has given every creek and river system a second huge flushing for the year which means more bait, crabs and fish will be available for local and visiting anglers.

Dams exceeded capacity

One consequence of the heavy rain was the overfilling of our dams, with Kinchant Dam going over the spillway for the first time in nearly 30 years. Although the last major rain event in the region was pretty spectacular, it was long before MAFSA started to stock the dam with barra so most of the fish that went over the wall were catfish and smaller baitfish species.

This time there was a heap of barra up to 1m that went over and were trapped in the pool at the bottom of the spillway. MAFSA went via the official channels to get a recovery action going but this got bogged down in bureaucratic red tape. Some enterprising young local anglers took action and got into the pool with large landing nets and cradles and managed to save almost all the barra that were trapped. Great initiative was shown with great results. Footage of the rescue effort can be seen on Facebook and Youtube. Every angler who fishes Kinchant owes these young guys big time, as every barra in the dam is a valuable asset for Mackay. The dam is probably THE place to catch huge barra and attracts plenty of anglers to our area.

Our other dams also went over but not by as greater margins and without fish loss. This means we now have full impoundments and plenty of fish. MAFSA have been topping up stocks across our impoundments over summer and this season fish 250mm+ were stocked. There are plenty of barra in the impoundments for locals and visitors.

Visitors wanting a head start should get into the local tackle outlets and talk to the guys there as they have fingers on the pulse.

The flooding of the Pioneer catchment will hopefully mean more tag returns from the 1000 barra released by MAFSA 18 months ago into the upper weirs of the Pioneer. It will be interesting to monitor the movements of these fish and the fish released into the Gooseponds in North Mackay. These returns will highlight the importance of the river for the barra stocks in the region.

Saltwater systems

The floods have not only had an effect on the freshwater areas but have also flushed out all the saltwater creeks and estuaries and this has muddies on the move. Pre-cyclone they were around in good numbers and they will continue to feature in anglers catches over the next month or so. As the weather gets colder (or what we call cold which is pretty mild) crabs will be harder to get.

Prawns thrive after a flush of freshwater and already there are signs of juvenile prawns in the creeks. These are the ‘jelly prawns’ and they are an important element of the food chain. All predatory fish from humble whiting and bream to the mighty barra just love to slurp up these tasty little morsels. Of major interest to clued-in local anglers is the fact that king threadfin thrive on these little beauties - sometimes to the point they become so fixated on them they refuse any other offerings.

My contacts tell me that the NFZ has had a positive effect on the numbers of both king threadfin and their smaller cousins blue salmon. I am looking forward to those balmy calm winter days and a session or two on the ‘blues’ as they are great fun on light gear and if bled and iced down they make quite acceptable table fare. They are a great fish to either hot or cold smoke, too.

Coming into the cooler time of the year, bream will be a feature of many anglers catches along with whiting and flathead. There are still numbers of grunter around, but generally they are more likely after winter and in the spring/summer seasons. Again visitors should check with the tackle shops to get the latest info.

May usually sees the start of the snapper migration into our waters, although all the rain and run-off may mean they will arrive a little later this year. The word soon gets around once the snapper are in our waters and anglers offshore from Sarina and Points South are usually the first to get among them. Fortunately snapper can be caught close inshore and within reach of a 4m tinny on a good day. Again, check with the local tackle shops for the good oil on the arrival of snapper. Close in haunts around Hay Point and islands just off Mackay will all start to hold numbers of these quality sporting and eating fish.

Along the beaches we can expect a run of golden trevally and dart during May and those beaut calm days are great to walk our beautiful beaches with a rod in hand. Beach fishing is not overly popular here as many locals own small boats, so they tend to be a bit ignored, which is a shame. On the plus side there is none of the overcrowding we see happen further south and there is a good variety of fish caught on the beaches.

With the cooler weather, we can also expect to see some black jewfish being caught around the full moon at the harbour, Hay Point and around Newry Island in the NFZ. Generally jewies are chased with big baits at night time around the full moon, but anglers often pick them up during the day when chasing other species.

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