Mackay awash with options
  |  First Published: April 2007

After receiving over 1200mm of rain in the first 7 weeks of the year, the Mackay district is awash with water. Every dam is filling rapidly, farm dams and river weirs are all overflowing and locals are commenting on the first “real” wet season in about 17 years.

While not everyone is happy with the continuing rain, all of our rivers and creeks really needed a good flood and flush out to keep them healthy. The Pioneer River has been cascading over all three weirs for a couple of weeks now and dirty fresh water is still muddying the saltwater reaches.

Local anglers are waiting with great anticipation for the waters to clear up, as the fish will be really on the chew and moving around through the creeks. At the moment there are good numbers of prawns and mud crabs about, but it is hard work getting enough for a feed. A week or so of fine weather will see this change for the better.

There are two species that are regularly caught around this time of year, particularly if there is some flooding or rough seas. The snub-nosed dart and golden trevally hang about the mouths of the estuaries and along the beaches during this type of weather, and fish of 7-8kg are not uncommon. Believe me, a dart or golden this size in some fast running water will give a great fight for the angler.

These fish are usually chased with prawns, yabbies or small live fish baits and all are very successful. Live bait is of course best and live prawns will almost guarantee a hook-up. Put a couple of live prawns on a 7/0 circle style hook and this will be an almost irresistible dinner call for the dart and goldens.

Some of the local fly anglers are now starting to target these species and crab and prawn imitation flies are showing up on the tackle shop shelves and among anglers’ fly boxes. My son Lachlan and I have been making a few and I’ll let you know how successful they are.

Soft plastic grubs and prawns will also score these fish. I like the look of some of the new Storm yabbies and prawns with the built-in weight and of course the old standby the Prawnstar works very well.

On the close inshore scene, the macks and tuna have headed off for cleaner waters. We aren’t likely to see them for a few months, particularly if there is more rain or south easterly winds. Still, we can’t complain as they have been here in numbers and on the chew for months now.

Queenfish will start to show up more and more as summer ends, and they will be prolific around the headlands on our close islands and on prominent points like Slade Point, Dolphin Heads and Cape Hillsborough on the mainland. While not a spectacular eating fish, queenies are great fun to catch with their aerial antics and fast runs.

While at Tackleworld recently I got talking to a customer who related the tale of a bonefish capture off Mackay. The catch was made in about 60ft of water near Scawfell Island on a piece of squid. The fish is in the freezer room at Tackleworld and is positively a bonefish. Perhaps we have more of these around our offshore islands than we realise.

The dams are filling rapidly. With the soaking the country has had, any rainfall now in the catchments is putting more water into the dams from every little creek and gully. It is great to see all that water and the best thing is that we look like getting more rain as the monsoon is acting up again.

After the first lot of rain, Lachlan and I went up to Teemburra Dam for a look around. Taking the flyrods, we thought we may be a chance of scoring a barra or three, but it was not to be. The dam was very dirty with lots of floating debris and no action, so we decided to take a run up Middle Creek to see what was happening there. About 12 months ago John Trigg reported seeing heaps of sooties in the shallows in these conditions, and they were obviously trying to spawn.

Well, this year they were at it again. Once we got to the clear running water, we stopped the boat and walked upstream. Every few metres there were literally dozens of great big sooties intent on increasing their numbers in the dam. We saw fish well over 50cm in water so shallow their backs were out of the water.

It was incredibly frustrating when at first we could not score a fish! Lachlan was getting hits on his 7wt and he kept telling me to get a fly with white on it. After he caught two fish I decided to listen to him and changed fly to a small clouser with some white on it. What a difference – I got taps most casts.

Eventually I landed one female around 45cm who had roe bulging out her vent as I gently grassed her to remove the fly. She swam off strongly, and hopefully produced many offspring.

Over about 1.5km of walking, I estimate we saw around 200 sooties, and all appeared to have lovemaking on their minds. What a great sight, yet you would not believe it, I still couldn’t get a 50cm sooty!

Unfortunately about two weeks after this trip, John Trigg called to tell me he had found a large number of dead and putrid sooties in the shallows in both Middle and Teemburra creeks. They were quite decomposed and it would have been little use collecting samples. How and why these fish died is a subject of much conjecture, but hopefully they were able to successfully spawn before dying. I guess anytime there are low water levels and a sudden inrush of dirty water there is likely to be a fish kill but sooties are usually very tough and not easily killed in large numbers like this.

Although I hate to see fish kills, we really needed the rain to get some decent water in our dams, so I guess the positives outweigh the negatives. Till next month be careful and get out and enjoy the great fishing on offer around Mackay.

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