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Mackay freshwater firing
  |  First Published: May 2004



AT THE TIME of writing the Mackay area has missed out on the annual monsoon rain, but there has still been enough to give the freshwater fishing a great boost.

One of my favourite wet season hotspots is the run through into Kinchant Dam, which occurs when the DNR are harvesting water from the Pioneer River to refill Kinchant. Harvesting occurs only when the river is running, and delivers highly oxygenated water and a ready food supply. It’s a major attraction for the various fish species in the dam.

Until recently, Kinchant was closed to boating so my son Lachlan and I walked to the lower parts of the channel to try our luck. As we got closer to the narrow channels we could hear the fish smashing small baitfish, and at times saw fish ‘beach’ themselves on the sides of the channel before struggling back. There were some solid sooties and forktail catties up to about 500mm among the melee. Solid fish in 300mm of water!

BREAM TACKLE

Lachlan and I have tried out some of the tackle and techniques we saw on the AFC Bream Pro series on TV, and we’ve found that they work really well on sooties and catties.

Pumpinseed grubs are popular with the bream crowd so we followed suit, and the Atomic 2” models on very light jigheads were absolutely hammered each time the lure was allowed to drift down the channel. My best sooty for the hour we spent there went a whisker under 450mm, and believe me – in a channel 900mm wide and 300mm deep on light tackle, a sooty that size is great fishing. The fight was a typical ‘drag ’em out’ brawl that attracts sooty devotees.

We experimented with several plastic lures, but while others were successful we kept coming back to the 2” Atomic which was a guaranteed fish every cast. Lachlan and I went through the best part of a bag in about an hour.

That little session proved to me yet again that you have try new tackle and techniques if you want to be consistently successful. Experimenting also adds to the enjoyment of your fishing.

CATTIES

Forktail catfish aren’t highly regarded as a sportfish, but in this scenario they readily hit lures and were in some cases unstoppable on our light gear. Large catties were regularly screaming off 50m or so of line down the narrow channels, and recovering that line sure took some time against the fish and the current. Many times other fish hit the line or lure and busted us off. Those that we ‘grassed’ were easily released as the small jigs were usually hooked into the corner of the mouth.

That action-packed session gave me a new respect for the catties as a sportfish, and there must have been thousands of them in those channels. In places the water was boiling with a writhing mass of catties. This was a case of maximum fun for little effort, other than a walk down to the channels.

BARRA

The freshwater barra scene has been excellent. New surface techniques, visiting American anglers, great plastic catches, busted rods lures and some egos have all featured throughout the summer. One real worry has been the low water levels, especially in Teemburra, but at least there is less water mixed with the fish. Hopefully a downpour will raise the level soon.

This lack of water has meant a change in MAFSA’s stocking program this year. Normally we stock barra at sizes up to about 60mm, but this summer we put in fewer barra but at larger sizes, from 50mm to 100mm long. At time of writing we have stocked 18,000 barra in Teemburra Dam, and are expecting more any day now.

On past results we can expect those fingerlings to be legal size early in 2005, so the great barra fishing in Teemburra will continue to go from strength to strength. Teemburra barra over the metre mark have been taken by quite a few anglers during summer. Most of these larger barra have been caught down in the main basin of the dam and it will be interesting to see if this trend continues when the dam starts to fill again. Trolling has been the most successful way to catch larger barra here, but I still prefer to cast lures. The anticipation of a hit when using lures – surface lures in particular – is a buzz I will never tire of.

Kinchant and Eungella dams are also due to get a boost in barra numbers from our next lot of fingerlings, so the whole freshwater barra fishery up here is looking good.

VALUE ADDING

We often talk about the social and economic benefits to communities from fish stocking, and a new business set up directly from stocking is proof of this.

Mackay now has a guided fishing business set up specifically to take clients to experience the great dam fishing here. Mick Rethus from Pioneer Valley Fishing Tours has spotted an opportunity here and grabbed it. Mick also works at Barra Pro in Mackay, and is an experienced impoundment barra and sooty angler. Visitors or locals looking to get the scene wired can now use Mick’s expertise to put them onto fish.

Mick’s charter business will act as a further attraction for visitors to our area. Many visitors prefer to spend some time with a guide before heading off on their own and Mick can be contacted either at Barra Pro or on (07) 4959 1514. Don’t forget that you need a Stocked Impoundment Permit to fish any of Mackay’s dams, even if you’re fishing from the bank.

WINTER

The cooler months see a definite downturn in barra catches; they’re still around but you have to work harder for them. Barra love water temps in the 30s but will still remain reasonably active down to the mid-20s. In fact, in Eungella Dam we have caught barra in net surveys when the water surface temps have been as low as 16C.

If you’re chasing barra in cooler weather, look for pockets of warmer water or where the water is shallow with rocky banks, which retain heat from the sun. If these spots are out of the wind, that will also help to keep the temps up and attract the barra.

Sooties are a year-round proposition and are readily caught during the depths of winter. The World Sooty Championship Series Barra Pro event has recently been run and won at Eungella Dam, and hopefully some new anglers have been introduced to the joys of sooty fishing. Keep an eye out for the results in the next issue.

1) You can catch sooty grunter all year round.

2) How’s that for a good barra?

3) Releasing barramundi fingerlings. All of Mackay’s dams are getting a boost in barra numbers.

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