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Mackay suburban guide
  |  First Published: May 2003



IN THIS day and age we often have little time to go fishing, so the ‘quickie’ outing is becoming more popular. Mackay is fortunate to have two local suburban spots where it’s possible to have some good fun and catch some wonderful fish.

GOOSEPONDS CREEK

In North Mackay there is the Gooseponds Creek area. It’s not a pristine environment, but it does produce good numbers of various fish species. There are numerous access points to what is now essentially a shallow lake system, and visitors can get to the water’s edge from Malcolmson and Glenpark streets and Evans Avenue. It’s only a short walk to the water, and fish can be caught at all these areas. Like most shallow lake systems, this one has extensive weedbeds. While they can make fishing challenging at times, these same weeds provide shelter and food for predators.

The two fish most often caught here are the tarpon and juvenile barra, although every so often there is a 3-5kg barra taken. Another species caught here is the snake-head gudgeon, which is a close relative of the sleepy cod. These fish will really smash a small lure, but because they don’t grow very big the fight is usually short-lived. A 35cm snake-head is large for the species.

Most people target barra and tarpon. Barra in weedy freshwater are suckers for soft plastics, and these are probably the most practical lures to use near the weeds. The water is not more than about 600mm deep, so use a very light jighead or rig the plastics without weight as casting distance is not a priority. I normally use a simple single- or double-tail grub in yellow, orange or similar colour. Some of the newer paddle-tail grubs should also go well here, and rigging them weedless definitely means less frustration among the weeds. Crayfish imitations are also worth a try here. Their design leaves the hook point exposed, usually out the top of the lure, but this isn’t too bad for running in and around the weeds.

For tarpon I like to use soft plastics as well, particularly the small single-tail or paddle-tail grubs, similar to those used for bass. Use a very small jighead and make sure your hook is extra sharp as these fish are hard to hook in their bony mouth. With tarpon, I’ve found that you can go as wild as you like with colours in soft plastics, as long as the tail has plenty of action. When targeting tarpon the lure has to be worked faster than the slow retrieve for barra. Tarpon often strike when the lure is moving fast just under the surface. This is a good tactic as it also keeps the lure above most of the weeds and leads to great surface strikes. If only they grew to 5-6kg!

Because of the light lures, my preference is to use a very light 2kg spin rod with 6lb braided line. The braid lets you feel what is going on with the lure and also cuts through weed better than mono.

Flyfishing is very much an option here as there is much open space for backcasts, but be mindful of pedestrian traffic as this is a popular area for walkers and joggers (who usually don’t appreciate getting whacked around the ears with a Crazy Charlie). Because of the shallow water I suggest using a floating line on a 5-7wt outfit and a long, clear leader. Good flies include small Crazy Charlies, Clousers, tiny Deceivers and, of course, poppers. All of these flies will appeal to both barra and tarpon in ‘the Goosies’, as the spot is locally known.

THE LAGOONS

Another local spot worth checking out is the Lagoons area near the southern entrance to the city. Access is via parking areas on Lagoon St near the water treatment works. There are plenty of walkways along the lagoons complex and access to the water is not a problem. The lagoons get overgrown with water lettuce and other weed at times, but periodically the council has this harvested and clear out the waterway. At present there isn’t too much weed growth and fishing is reasonably easy, although there is a metre or so of weed right at the water’s edge.

The most prolific species caught here is tarpon, and they usually don’t get much bigger than about 37cm in the lagoon. While they are small, there are heaps of them and it’s not unusual to have five or six hits per cast. Not all hits result in hook-ups because of the bony mouth on the fish, but it sure is good fun.

Most days, tarpon can be seen rolling on the surface all along the lagoon which extends for about 500m until it gets very shallow and weedy at its outlet, which is usually dry. The anticipation is great when you first look down on the water and there are fish everywhere. I normally fish along the Lagoon St end, although some of my mates score well at the opposite end near the new botanical gardens.

Again, when fishing the lagoons I prefer to use a small spin rod, and soft plastics have been my best producer here. I keep the rig simple without a double as there is really no need. Use a short clear nylon leader and no clips as they catch weed and affect the lure action. The plastics can be a simple single-tail, or one of the more ‘high tech’ types, and again they can be worked fairly fast, both to keep out of the weeds and also to attract the tarpon’s attention.

Because it is relatively open at the moment, small minnows can be successfully used in the lagoon area. While you generally get more strikes with minnows, the hook-up rate is really poor. If using minnows, try small Rapala Fat Raps, StumpJumpers set to run shallow and similar styles. The specials bin at the local tackle shop always seems to have some small, cheap minnows for sale.

Poppers cast from a spin rod or fly outfit will also attract plenty of attention from tarpon, and it’s amusing to watch them repeatedly hit and strike at a popper during the retrieve. Once again, while this is good fun, not many fish actually hook up.

Fly rods are not as easy to fish here as at the Gooseponds, but there are still a number of spots worth trying. Back casts are more of a problem here because of the steeper banks, but a reasonable length of line can be cast (even by me), so anyone who can use a fly rod well shouldn’t have much trouble. Stick to light 5-7wt gear and use flies recommended above and you’ll have heaps of fun. This area is also popular with walkers and joggers so be careful with your backcasts here too.

Small spinnerbaits have also proved successful in the lagoons but I haven’t caught any tarpon on them. No doubt the whirring blade is the main attraction and when the weeds are thicker these lures will certainly have advantages over other types.

If you are considering trying either of these spots, the best time is late afternoon and into the night. Both the barra and tarpon get more active and will hit lures readily at this time. There is usually enough light to see by and as long as you use a good repellent the dreaded mossies won’t be too much of a problem.

I expect both these spots to improve as they have received attention from the DPI’s Fishway team headed by Tim Marsden. Tim’s work will allow greater migration of fish into and from both these partly land-locked areas. Hopefully some barra will end up in the lagoons and don’t be surprised to hear of barra well over legal size being caught here in the future.

If you are visiting Mackay, give these spots a try. For locals, when you are looking for a ‘quickie’, don’t ignore the Gooseponds or the Lagoons. Good fishing!

1) The suburban lagoons aren’t pristine, but they hold plenty of fish.

2) Lachlan Day with a typical lagoon tarpon.

3) Soft plastic grubs are a big hit with tarpon.

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