Hatching Sooties for Summer
  |  First Published: November 2007

Mackay Area Fish Stocking Association (MAFSA) members have geared up for the summer production of sooty grunter with a thorough clean out of all the hatchery tanks and pipes. The recent return of normal weather patterns has members hopeful that they will overcome the poor results of the previous couple of seasons.


Hatchery director, Russel Bilney, is anxiously waiting for the first summer storms to begin so he can go on the search for brood stock in the Pioneer River. The sooties usually start to roe up anytime from September after a good storm and rise in water levels. During this spawning time, members rally and search for female sooties that are in roe. The fish are then transported to the Association hatchery near Mackay for hormone injections.

MAFSA has always adopted a very conservative approach to the spawning of sooties, and never pair the same males and females. This guarantees plenty of diversity in the genetic pool.

This forward thinking policy avoids issues that can occur through repeated production from the same pairings. When fingerlings are transported for release, they are salt bathed before leaving the hatchery environment to minimize any risk of possible contamination.

Recently, I was able to observe a different type of hatchery set up with a visit to the New England area of northern New South Wales. The Mallard and Claret Fly Fishers Club released rainbow and brown trout into a small New England river.

The L P Dutton hatchery at Ebor supplied the fry and the members of the Mallard and Claret Fly Fishers Club provided the labour. They transported the fry and distributed them into an approved public waterway in the New England area. I was fascinated with the scale of the hatchery, and I am indebted to Peter Selby for a guided tour and explanation of the workings of the operation.

Peter, the hatchery manager, describes himself as an Ebor ‘troutologist’ and showed me fry in various stages of development throughout the large ponds of brood stock.

The fry at 30mm are 16 weeks from egg stage and the fingerlings were in top condition, with only two deaths found in 44,000 fry supplied by the hatchery. As a confirmed fish stocker, it was great to be a part of the release operation. I got just as big a kick out of releasing trout fingerlings in New England as I do from releasing sooties and barra around Mackay.


The Mackay summer is going according to plan with plenty of fresh and saltwater action to satisfy any angler. Barra and sooties are smashing lures in the fresh, with Teemburra dam firing well so far. The barra are averaging around 80cms and are full of fight.

The rise in water level has produced plenty of new areas to explore. For newcomers, I suggest looking in the open areas in and around small bays with plenty of weed growth. The fish can be found right up in the timber, but extracting them is a tricky matter. Reports coming in suggest that surface lures and plastics are the go, and personally I love catching barra on the surface more than any other method.

Mackerel and tuna are dominating the close inshore scene and will continue to do so up to about Christmas. The dominant factor in mackerel fishing around Mackay is the presence of bait schools in close.

Macks and tuna do not like strong southeasterly winds, and any time there are N/NE winds there will be mackerel around. They are mainly spotted and doggie mackerel with a few greys and Spaniards thrown in. Remember to check your legal sizes and bag limits and take only enough for your immediate needs.

By limiting your catch of any species, you are doing your bit to make sure there are fish for future generations. To any anglers in the Mackay area who would like to do more for our future fish stocks, I would suggest they contact MAFSA through any of our local tackle or boat shops, as we are always looking for helpers.

This is a great time to be fishing in Mackay so take advantage of the good weather and see you at the ramp.

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