THERE’S always that one fishing destination you try to get to every year and for me, ever since I moved to Brisbane, that destination has been Hinchinbrook Channel.
Over the last two years I’ve been lucky enough to go with Steve Morgan, who’s been visiting the area for the past 10 years, and this year we were joined by Trent Butler. Having an experienced angler with us certainly helped with tracking down popper-eating trevally, jacks and the odd barra, but there was one destination we had all heard lots about but had never fished: the Lucinda Sugar Loading Jetty. Let’s just say we came away very impressed by this 6km long jetty that acts as a southern end to Hinchinbrook Channel.
We immediately headed out to the front edge of the jetty, where the water was deep and blue, looking for some trevally or mackerel. Having a bet on all the horses in the race, we fished a popper, plastic shad and lead slug to try to locate the fish. We made a circuit of the top end of the jetty, and after an hour of no action we headed back along the jetty to where Trent had noticed a rise from 30ft up to 15ft on the way out. This rise was about halfway along the jetty and broke the current up, and we hoped it would hold some fish.
Pulling up in about 25ft of water, Trent and I swapped over to an Original Prawnstar while Steve persisted with a jighead-rigged plastic. There was nothing exceptional about our technique – in fact, it’s so easy anyone can do it. Having done a lot of pylon and jetty fishing for bream, we decided to target the bottom of the pylons where there’s marine growth and baitfish, which attract larger fish. To do this we cast upcurrent of the pylons and allowed the lures to sink near their base. Once the lure had reached the bottom we made a couple of quick flicks of the rod to get the lure hopping off the bottom like a startled prawn or baitfish, then allowed the lure to drift back to the bottom.
This retrieve is a standard retrieve for plastics and it’s the drift phase that generally produces the fish. The Prawnstar drifts just like a real prawn and when coupled with the rod flicks, looks the world like a real prawn flicking away and settling back to the bottom. The plastic, with the same retrieve, looks like a startled baitfish that may be injured, flicking off the bottom and the falling back. Both are deadly looking retrieves.
[INSERT JIG PYLON DRAWING]
Like most northern areas, action wasn’t too far away and we took a couple of estuary cod, in the seriously juvenile size range, as we worked the pylons sequentially. This got our confidence up – at least we were on or near the bottom and there were fish down there. We kept up the work, not missing any pylons.
As we moved toward the bank (still about 3km away) we came across some pylons with baitfish hanging off them up high. As if on cue, a little knock on my line indicated another fish. Setting the hook saw the expected cod turn into something a little more serious and the fish took off straight up the middle of the pylons. In short time the inevitable happened and I was rubbed off without getting a turn of line back on the reel. In fact, the drag never stopped releasing line until the fish rubbed me off on a distant pylon.
This fired everyone up and concentration levels rose accordingly. I retied a new double and leader and attached a new Prawnstar with trembling hands, and on the very next pylon another slight tick on the line came up tight to a big fish. This time we were more prepared – Steve jumped on the outboard and slowly motored us away from the barnacle-encrusted pylons. The tactic worked and we started fighting the fish when we got 30m from the jetty. A few big runs (and a bit of nervous banter about losing big fish) and we saw the silvery red flash of a big fingermark. Landed without further incident, the fingermark went 80cm and weighed in at about 7.5kg. We were stoked!
Later, Trent landed another fingermark a couple of centimetres longer and also felt the heartbreak of a bust-off. Sensational action from a great fishing location.
After our early success it would have been impossible to keep us away from the jetty for round two. This time we went straight to the hotspot and concentrated on areas where we could see baitfish. This tactic worked all right with a few scad and a wolf herring landed, plus a bite-off from a mackerel that was harassing a bait school. But things on the bottom were slow and we were starting to lose interest (only because the Boxing Day test was due to start in an hour’s time).
I’d decided to take a break and had almost nodded off when Trent hooked up to a fast fish. It came from a group of four pylons and headed out toward the boat, hitting the surface in a spray of foam and white water. We all watched in amazement as a metre-plus of chrome barramundi shook its head angrily at the side of the boat before leaping into the air, crashing down on my rod tip that was hanging over the side of the boat. As the fish bounced off the rod tip it dove down and headed back to the pylons for a quick bust-off that left us all gob-smacked.
I decided that perhaps I should be casting instead of dozing off and about 20 minutes later hooked another barra. This one was a little more manageable than Trent’s and came to the boat, again with the aid of the boat being driven far away from the pylons by Steve Morgan.
That barra went 85cm and capped off our discovery of a great fishing location. Sure it had always been there, but now we had all experienced it.
• Original Prawnstar (2 weights)
• 12cm Squidgy Fish on TT 1/2oz jighead
• Storm 5” Shad
• Millerods Beast Buster/Shimano Stella 400FE/10lb Fireline/30lb leader
• Daiwa Heartland Baitcast Heavy/Shimano Calais/30lb Bionic Braid/50lb leader
• Strudwick/Shimano Chronarch/30lb Bionic Braid/50lb leader
While we were fishing we noticed a few things that may help you if you plan a trip to fish the jetty. They may or may not have been the difference between success and failure, but nevertheless we all rated them all as important.
• Firstly, we noticed that we had better action as the tide slowed to the top of the tide. The slowing tide allowed us to get our lures down to the bottom more easily. It was imperative to get our lures on or near the bottom to target the fingermark as all the bites we got came very close to the areas where the pylons met the bottom.
• The most productive depths were between 12ft and 25ft. Deeper than 25ft and it was hard to get our lures down, and we didn’t get any bites in water shallower than 12 feet.
• The best action came where there were baitfish holding around the pylons. The baitfish moved up and down the water column and we surmised that the predators were hanging close by to snaffle up any baitfish silly enough to swim near them.
• Lastly, the takes of the fish were subtle. If you’ve ever fished for bream with plastics, the take of a big wary bream is about the same as that of a 7kg plus fingermark. Not one of the fish, including the barra, smashed the lure; they just gently inhaled it as it drifted down towards the safety of the bottom. For this reason, make sure you stay alert for small flicks of the line or subtle tweaks that may indicate a big fish.
1. The first fingermark was a beauty. This fish was taken on a Prawnstar Original worked on the bottom.
2. Trent Butler and Steve Morgan looking mighty pleased with Trent’s biggest fingermark taken on a medium weight baitcaster – not the recommended tackle but it did the job with the help of some great boat driving.
3. Trent hooked up. After moving the boat away from the jetty it becomes a waiting game. Be aware that boats are not permitted within 5m of the jetty so dragging the fish out with the boat is the only real option for big fish.
4. This is a great bycatch. Targeting fingermark and catching barra like this is one of the special traits of Lucinda Jetty and the whole Hinchinbrook area.
5. Wolf herring were aggressive enough to take on some 4” plastics – and with teeth like this, why wouldn’t they be aggressive?