Around Mackay in May
  |  First Published: May 2007

After approximately 1400mm (56 inches) of rain our district can well and truly claim to have had a real wet season. Thankfully apart from some minor flooding there have been only minor problems for us.

We have all had to adapt some of our fishing tactics but there has still been enough fish around to make the effort worthwhile. At least all of our dams received a good top up!

Kinchant Dam is full and Teemburra and Eungella dams are now over 50% capacity. The only downside to all this water in our dams it is that we will have to learn to fish them all over again. I find this to be a great challenge, and I have sights set on a number of old spots that will get a work over once the water calms down. By that time we will be into the cooler weather and the barra will be sluggish, but there will be some tremendous fishing available in all our dams by September.

I have had a couple of short trips to Teemburra Dam but have not yet scored a barra since the wet started. I have earmarked a few places though that will be worth revisiting.

Kinchant Dam fished well up to the moon in late March with fish around the metre mark being caught trolling large plastic shad type lures around the lake margins. Some fish were also taken using poppers and very shallow diving lures. Basically stick with the favourites, but I expect by late April the bite will be just about shut down.

Teemburra is quieter than usual for this time of year thanks to the dirty water that is still running in. Because all the lake surrounds have been saturated every shower of rain is producing run-off, and this brings debris into the dam and keeps the water cloudy. The sooties have been up around the top reaches and I recently found another partly decomposed sooty (around 45cm) up Middle creek and near some debris. I couldn’t tell if this fish died from natural causes or was just roughly handled by an angler.

Look for both the dams to fire up later in the year with higher water levels, new weed growth and warmer temps.

Much the same pattern is happening in our creeks with plenty of freshwater run-off a feature so far this year. This has meant there are plenty of catfish and stingrays mixed in with some worthwhile fish.

Prawns have been around in good numbers with plenty readily available for bait. A few throws with the cast net at low tide into the mouths of little gullies or under the shade of the mangroves will soon get enough for bait. If you are after a feed then you may have to spend quite a bit of time to get a good feed. I have found it really helps to use the electric outboard rather than main unit when cast netting for prawns. The prawns don’t seem to scare off as much from the electric motor.

Crabs have been very on/off with some days the pots fill up in no time and on others the baits don’t get touched. The only remedy is to keep shifting the pots and using fresh bait to attract them. Some of my mates use pilchards in hard gutter guard type mesh and this provides a berley trail that draws crabs in. It has also been known to attract small crocs, sharks and cod.

Estuary cod have been one of the most reliable catches in our creeks with fish to 70cm being caught. At that size they hit a lure or bait hard and fight well right to the boat. Cod aren’t really fussy eaters and will happily take live prawns, yabbies or small fish and will also show interest in strip baits.

Lure fishing for cod is pretty simple and relates more to getting the lure in close to cover rather than having a particular type or colour. Any shad style plastics, minnows, lipless crankbait or even poppers will entice a strike. Make sure your hooks are strong enough though as they are powerful fish.

Barramundi have been playing havoc with some anglers in our creek systems. Barra don’t mind a bit of dirty water as anyone who has fished the Territory can confirm, and they are about in good numbers at the moment. There have been some absolute monsters around and most have not been landed.

One of my old mates, Anthony Agius has wanted to catch a really big barra for a long time. Anthony regularly scores a few barra or kings in a couple of his favourite creeks and is a handline angler who uses live bait almost exclusively. A week or so ago, he decided the tides were right and although the water was a bit dirty, he reckoned on a fish or two at one of his haunts.

After securing some prawns and mullet for bait he anchored in ‘the spot’ and just as he was about to shift, his line started to peel off. This was a slow fish and after letting it run a metre or so he set the hook. Nothing, the fish just sat in the current. This situation did not last long and the fish bolted.

“Big stingray,” was the advice from his mate Raymond. “No way,” replied Anthony and after a 20-minute tussle they saw a massive barra under the boat. All this on a 20kg handline and after cut fingers and much ado it was finally boat side. Its head just fitted into the landing net and it took both men to haul the fish aboard. What a monster!

Out came the tape and the lie detector stopped a whisker short of 130cm. What a magnificent fish, and Anthony had time for a quick photo before the old girl was lowered into the water and revived. She swam away strongly and hopefully will have a few more seasons left to produce lots more little barras.

It just goes to show that if you want to catch a big barra or any fish for that matter, you have to get out on the water. There are plenty of places worth a try even in adverse conditions. See you on the water in paradise.

MAFSA Inc has been busy as usual and the wet weather coincided with further releases of barra fingerlings into Kinchant and Teemburra dams. These fingerlings will be legal size in 12 months and will provide anglers with great freshwater fishing.

Kinchant Dam received 18,000 barra and MAFSA members released another 22,000 barra into Teemburra Dam. These fish were purchased from the Gladstone Area Water Board with funds from the SIP scheme, and this scheme is vital to the continuation of Queensland’s very successful stocking programs, and allows stocking of substantial numbers of fish.

While assisting with the release of the Teemburra Dam barra, I had an interesting experience. After the release, I was trying some new flies only a few hundred metres from the boat ramp when the line got tangled on the prop.

I put the motor on tilt, braced my weight against it and leaned out to free the line. The motor chose that moment to drop down onto the shallow drive level. Off balance, I went over the back of the boat.

I tried to climb back into the boat but wasn’t able to clear its high sides. There was no way I could get in by myself so hung onto the boat for the 70m drift to shore. I was never in any danger but I would not like to be in the same situation 4-5km offshore.

I am now looking at fold-down transom ladders and realise that I am not as young and fit as I used to be. For those that find this a little on the funny side, I suggest you try the same thing with a companion to assist and see whether you can clamber back in. Obviously the dams are an ideal place to experiment as there are no crocs, sharks or fast currents to deal with.

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