‘Summer breezes’ here means light northerly to northeasterly winds with very hot, humid days. It’s the time of year to be out on the water early, have a few hours’ fishing and be back around lunchtime before the wind kicks up too much.
On a recent morning trip to the Pioneer River, my son Lachlan and I left home a bit late – 6am – with no particular plan in mind. After launching we decided to head off down to the mouth of the river and see what conditions looked like. If they were calm we intended to take a quick run out to Flat and Round Top islands to chase doggie mackerel. Lachlan was also keen to try out a new baitcaster that he got for Christmas, but because the trip hadn’t been pre-planned we had no bait onboard and had to rely on lures.
Arriving near the mouth on the run-out tide we decided to stay in the river and try for flathead along the sand banks and adjacent to the trainer walls. Rigging with plastic shads around 75mm long, we reckoned we were dead-set certs to get a lizard.
Well, we saw a few junior models that we spooked in the shallows but that was it for the flatties.
There was a bit of bait movement right near the end of the southern trainer wall so we decided to investigate. This spot had regularly produced good fish for us in the past, although we had mainly fished it at night.
There was little run in the tide so we drifted past the point and I used the plastic while Lachlan tried a Fat Rap for a while. My little Tsunami clear shad elicited a number of follows and I identified several small trevally, a little mackerel and several others checking out the lure. Lacho soon changed over to plastics and within a couple of casts he had a hit.
We both hoped for a small trevally but up came an undersized stripy. We caught several more before Lachlan hooked up to a small queenfish. This was looking like a good way to blood the new reel but alas, after several jumps the queenie threw the hook. We continued drifting past this rocky outcrop for a while, and had several more follows and taps that felt like pike, but there were no hook-ups.
While this was going on, a battered old Quintrex tinny came slowly up and I recognised Manny Carvalu – an avid fly angler who used to live in Mackay. We invited Manny to follow us through the drift area with his fly outfit. Manny is a very accomplished angler, and within a few minutes he had a good strike and a little trevally was hauled in and released.
We all kept getting small bumps, strikes and the occasional small fish when all of a sudden Manny had a big hit. Fly line tore through the water and within seconds Manny was into the backing. The fish was powering away, having little regard for Manny’s 10wt Sage rod. To compound the problem, boats milled around for a look, and other boats coming back into the river just about ran over the fish. I acted as traffic cop and tried to get other boats to stay well clear, but sometimes curiosity can be a very strong emotion. Manny asked me to take over and drive his boat so he could recover some line, and just as I reached him and prepared to go onboard the damn fly fell out.
The fish had been very powerful and had stayed deep so we figured it was a big trevally. 20kg fish are often hooked here in the main channel leading out of the river. Why the fish wasn’t well hooked after powering off for over 100m is beyond me, but that’s fishing.
The fishing went quiet at the bottom of the tide. It was getting hot and I was about to suggest to my deckie that we go home when he spied some bait working over near the northern trainer wall. This was more or less on our way home so over we went.
Well, by the time we had crossed the river there was mayhem, with bait getting smashed over about half an acre of river. Yahoo! Out went the plastics. I let my 3” Powerbait on a very light jighead sink slowly through the melee and was rewarded with a smashing hook-up and blistering run. The fish ran a good 50m or so against a fairly light drag on my little spin outfit, causing the reel to sing that happy song we all love to hear.
In the meantime Lacho had a couple of hits and hook-ups, and then nothing. I should have guessed what the species was when this happened to Lachlan.
My fish ran powerfully but steady pressure eventually had it circling the boat, but down deep and out of sight. Suddenly, a large silver flash showed deep in the water. I picked it for a queenie and told Lachlan it was a good fish and that he wouldn’t need to ready the net for a while. Lacho reckoned I was just mucking around and stopping him from fishing, as by that time he was two fish up on me.
Soon a big silver flash came into view – a tarpon around 600mm long and still swimming steadily. More pressure and he was in the net, unhooked, photographed and on his way. Great fun, and something the meat anglers will never appreciate.
That was the start of a great session on these silver beauties that lasted for a couple of hours. Lachlan and I boated three each, and around 20 more threw the hooks by jumping or with heavy head shakes. Several times we had double hook-ups and were swapping ends in the boat trying to keep control of those crazy fish. The great visual spectacle of these silver bullets is the stuff of memories.
Manny couldn’t hook up on the fly, possibly because his fly wasn’t going deep enough straight away. Most of our fish were hooked at least 4m below the surface, and then the turbos kicked in and they took off. The rooster tail from the line and the sound of braid hissing out is magic!
At this point, Steve Palmer, who does a local fishing show on 4MK, came over for a look-see. After missing a few and a couple of bust-offs he was into the action too. Soft plastics jigged slightly up off the bottom was the killer technique that morning.
In amongst all the tarpon – and there were hundreds there – Lachlan managed to find a nice little queenie which I bled and iced down immediately. Later on we presented it to Manny, who was happy to score fresh fish for lunch. We drifted back to the ramp with Manny and talked flyfishing and fish stocking all the way. It was a great way to finish off the session.
Summer breezes and summer fishing sure do make me feel fine. Give it a go – I am sure you’ll be happy with the results.