It’s amazing what a difference a good dump of rain can make. When I wrote my report in the last issue of QFM, Kinchant Dam was nearly dry, and the other two dams in our area were very low as well. Thankfully, we’ve had some great rain with widespread 300-400mm falls throughout the district. Although the dams are all still far from full, the rain has had a major impact on both our fresh- and saltwater fisheries.
Kinchant has very little catchment of its own, and is instead filled by water harvesting from the Pioneer River. Pumping water across from the river is very controlled and depends on river flows and heights.
With the widespread rain there was a good run in the river, and thankfully no flooding or damage to crops and property. This rise allowed Sunwater to man the pumps and their local staff under Ross Wheeler did just that. Because of flood-borne debris the pumping has been restricted to about 900 megalitres a day, but with continuous pumping the dam has now reached about 30% capacity and is just above the bottom of the boat ramp. At least now we can launch boats again from the ramp and see whether we can take advantage of the rise in water level.
Obviously the fish will have now scattered far and wide and will be much harder to find. Or will they?
From the electrofishing surveys that I saw, it’s apparent that the sleepy cod favour haunts along the rocks in shallow water, so that would still be a good starting point. ‘Sleepies’ respond well to baits and they hit lures with surprising energy and give a short but relatively powerful fight. Anglers have always been able to catch Kinchant sleepies along the lake fringes on the grassy banks near the boat ramp, so that would be another good spot to try for these tasty, white-fleshed fish.
Sleepies are a prime target just after dusk along the shallows. You can see them easily if you use a good torch to walk along the edge and select your target. If you have a fresh prawn, small squid strip, yabby or strip of fish flesh, just cast past the cod, being careful not to let the line touch the fish or you will spook it. Slowly retrieve to bring the bait slightly in front of the fish and bingo – you’re on!
If you’re a lure angler, use very small minnows, soft plastics or tiny spinnerbaits. Colour doesn’t matter but size does – keep the lure to less than 50mm and you’ll score. I haven’t heard of sleepies being caught on fly but I can’t see why they wouldn’t hammer a small Crazy Charlie or similar.
Kinchant’s sooties and barra will be out and about, cruising the open waters looking for prey. Sooties in this dam don't have stacks of timber for cover so they tend to be in more open water. This means that in the main lake basin they can be located using a bass dam strategy, and by keeping a sharp eye on the sounder.
There is, however, one place in the dam where I guarantee you’ll find sooties: where the inflow of water from the diversion channel runs into the dam. When the dam is full this is easy to find, and using a little common sense will get you in on the action.
After launching the boat, head in a general northerly direction towards the wall and then head more west. The other day I drove past the dam and the channel in was easy to spot as there were terns wheeling and diving into the water, feeding on the small fish being carried into the dam. The sooties will be lining up here, too, and small plastics like the Berkley range or the tiny Tsunami shads will get hammered. You should expect to find plenty of fork-tail catties here, and maybe a barra or two.
So where can we find the barra now that the dam is larger than a puddle? I’ve haven’t had time to chase them yet, but my pick would be to adopt some Teemburra tactics and look for the shallow bays and points formed by the rise in water level. There are quite a few of these spots in the dam at present. A good time to fish is early in the morning through to around 9am. I reckon that 100mm plastics or flies on an intermediate line will be the go.
This dam is on the western watershed of the Clarke range, and rain right on the top of the escarpment has provided run-off into the dam, causing it to rise by 1.5m. Not a lot, but certainly better than it was at the start of the year.
The sooties are reportedly going bananas with the influx of freshwater. Surprisingly, according to one of my contacts, the best fishing wasn’t up where Broken River runs into the dam but in the main basin area around the heavy timber. I guess that the sooties here are pretty well programmed in their habits and the heavy timber has always been a favourite haunt for them.
I’ve had no reports of any barra being caught in the dam, although I would have thought they’d be on the chew with the hot and sticky conditions. Barra well over a metre are in this dam, and by now some would be well over 1.2m. Impressive fish in any anglers language.
Boat launching is still a hassle so it may be better to leave Eungella off the ‘must do’ list until we get more rain.
The water level has come up about 3.5m from the rain and the bottom of the boat ramp is now under water. The dam is now well over 20% but needs heaps more rain to fill from here. Fingers crossed for a traditional Mackay wet February and March!
The barra are still out in the main areas of the dam and will still be found around the usual points and headlands. Don't discount the shallow bay areas either, as the freshly inundated ground is a favourite spot for bony bream. While the barra are in these spots they seem less sociable than usual, with only one or two at any one spot. The weedbeds in the bays and points are now under a couple of metres of water, so try using poppers or fizzers over the top of the weeds.
An alternative is to use large unweighted Squidgy Wrigglers. These curl-tail plastics have been very productive for Mick Rethus and his clients on this dam. They cast well enough off a baitcaster and are no trouble off spin gear. Simply cast up into the shallows and work the lure slowly back with the odd twitch. Given the water quality in the dam it’s possible to sight-fish these almost back to the boat, and I suggest you work them just above the top of the submerged weeds.
100mm plastic shads like the Tsunami range are still the best barra producers in the dam, but many anglers don't slow them down enough. These lures should be worked at a barely-moving pace, at a maximum of 30% of the speed that minnows are worked for barra. The idea is to keep the lure just moving, with little extra nudges to keep the lure down in front of the barra for longer. Each ‘pulse’ of the lure also sends out signals to the fish. By working slower you can draw fish in over a wider area and maximise the catches.
Another good tip is to use a ‘sink and draw’ retrieve, where the lure is hopped up off the bottom a metre or so then allowed to freefall back. The strikes usually come on the drop.
Sooties are well scattered in the dam at the moment, although John Trigg did manage to find about a dozen sooties in very clear water up in Middle Creek last weekend. John tells me they weren’t the least bit interested in a lure as they were more intent on making heaps of little sooties! John watched them for a while from a distance of about 3m, and they were oblivious to him. Sooties will often roe up in a dam but fertilising the eggs is very hit-and-miss.
But with some further rain, and more run-off in Middle Creek, the sooties just may be able to spawn up in the top of the creek. Several years ago MAFSA members in conjunction with DPI&F staff built a fishway passage around the causeway in Middle Creek. This causeway was designed to let fish access the upper waters of Middle creek and might give the sooties enough running water to spawn in. Let’s hope so, anyway.
We at MAFSA have started uts 04/05 stocking program with a small purchase of barra fingerlings that were released just before the rain in Teemburra Dam. At this stage we are likely to hold over the SIP funds for Kinchant and Eungella dams unless we get substantially more rain and rises in the levels of these dams.
The good new is that we’ve had a successful spawning of sooties in our hatchery. Russel Bilney, the hatchery director, has reported a small batch of sooties for the first run of the year. The eggs appear to be viable and he estimates that although it’s only a small spawning there are around 30,000 fish there. As the spawning has only just taken place, the committee hasn’t yet decided where the fish will be stocked.
We have made further modifications to the hatchery, including the purchase of a holding tank for large fish in the hatchery. These fish are kept for display purposes and as back-up for spawning if necessary. The tank was purchased with funds from the ABT award we received last year and will prove a valuable addition to the MAFSA operations.
The weather pattern so far looks like a typical Mackay summer, with plenty of heat and humidity. I hope that this is a forerunner to a typical wet season with heaps of rain to fill the dams, flush out all our creeks and river systems and provide our local and visiting anglers with a bonanza over the coming months. One thing’s for sure – you won't experience Mackay’s wonderful fishing sitting at home. See you at the ramp!
1) A female sooty checking out the pump in an MAFSA tank.
2) Kinchant Dam’s boat ramp now reaches the water mark.
3) Three sooties in the MAFSA hatchery. A successful spawning has just taken place there.Reads: 650