This was the Hinchinbrook Invitational Catch and Release tournament’s 11th year and I was once again thrilled to be a part of one of north Queensland’s premier sportfishing tournaments. The event is held in one of the most scenic and awe-inspiring locations in Queensland, the Hinchinbrook Channel. The tournament is run by Ingham Rod and Reel Club out of the Lucinda Point Hotel Motel and this year’s event attracted a record 54 teams.
There are ten eligible point-scoring species of fish: barramundi, mangrove jack, fingermark, trevally, queenfish, salmon, javelin fish, estuary cod, bream and flathead. All fish have minimum sizes and different points depending on the species, with the barramundi the highest point scorer.
After an angler catches a point scorer, he writes down the species, size, time it was caught and the lure it was caught on. It is then placed on a measuring ruler and photographed to verify the catch (both ruler and camera are supplied by the organisers).
The team that accumulates the most points is the champion team, while champion angler titles go to anglers who catch the highest aggregate points for each species. There are also champion and runner up flyfishing titles; champion angler and runner up titles for individual point accumulation; and a prize for the biggest barra.
On the Thursday night before the competition, all teams received entry bags containing the rules, ruler, camera and sponsor products including some great lures and a lifesaving can of Bushman’s spray. Before dinner we got the low down on the rules and where the no go zones were. This was followed by a sensational meal washed down with a few cold beers.
For those anglers who have never experienced the rush of a 50 boat-plus shotgun start, let me tell you this is nothing short of entertaining lunacy. The start is spread far and wide but because of the sheer number of boats, the sound, spray and wakes really test your metal. Thankfully the Polycraft just ate it up.
Our plan of attack was really dictated by the cold snap that hit the channel during the week. We decided the barra on the flats and drains would be really hard to tempt, so we stuck to the creeks and rivers. The run up the river was very cold and when we dropped off the plane it was hard to get the fingers warm. The first cast made in our first spot produced a serious bust up and Steve could not believe he had been done so early.
My next cast with a Purple Prawnstar was nailed and as I leaned back on the fish it hit turbo and the braid parted like a shotgun when it rubbed on the structure. What happened next was even more heartbreaking – I sank my honeypot coloured Prawnstar down and it too was taken by yet another freight train bound for home.
As we gathered our thoughts and reconcentrated, we began casting at a few likely looking snags when I hooked our fist point scorer – a small flathead. As we moved along the bank under the power of the Minn-Kota, I saw a 55-60cm mangrove jack freely swimming in crystal clear water. It was probably one of these oversize jacks that caused the big bust-offs.
We worked our way down the river, both of us picking up a few cod. Then a bit of luck came out way and we nailed a couple of jacks that weren’t in the same class as the big fellas but were still good point scorers. Our technique was simple – cast Prawnstar Juniors into the fishiest looking country we could find and let them sink before slowly hopping them out. It is a very simple way of fishing and also very effective.
As the tide dropped and the run became faster, the fishing got better. I nailed some more cod and also caught plenty of big black bream and more flathead. On the other end of the boat Steve was racking up quality fish including more jacks, a very respectable trevally and a lone barra that unfortunately didn’t make the size limit.
We experienced some great shallow water fishing and Steve’s Pink Prawnstar shone in this department; cod, bream and jacks raced out of the fast water to nail it as he swam it past their snag. By the end of day one we had pulled 24 scoring fish into the boat.
On Friday night we settled back in at the Lucinda Point Hotel for a great feed of prawns and caught up on the current scores. Steve and I thought we would be happy sitting in the top half of the field but when the scores came out we were holding down a very respectable third.
As we suspected, the barra were not co-operating on the flats and there were many teams that struggled in the colder conditions. The runaway leaders were Rob Laspina and Lenny Catalano. These guys had found the barra and got them to chew – not easy in the prevailing conditions.
The shotgun start again aroused the competitive nature in all the anglers and the race was on again. This time a staggered start made for an easier passage out of the river. We again stuck to our plane and headed into the snag-riddled creeks of the Hinchinbrook channel. The morning was even colder than the day before and the fishing was a bit slower as the fish had seen so many plastic offerings over previous days.
We managed to get on the board early with a few more cod and a good jack. Changed out plan a little, we went to check out some creeks we hadn’t fished at low tide before. We headed into a creek that had very little cover left in the water but plenty of bait. Moving around and casting at anything at all left in the water paid off quickly in this situation and we caught more cod and flathead.
We also hooked some good jacks that were living near tinny snags, but unfortunately, both Steve and I pulled the hooks out as we got them to the surface. I believe because the run had slowed and they weren’t in their preferred hunting zone, they were only nipping at the lures. Therefore, as they got to the surface, a headshake enabled the lip-hooked jacks to escape.
As the time started to run out and the tide started to run in, the fish became more active and I finally caught a point scoring barra. At 58cm it wasn’t going to break any records, but I was a very happy angler. By the end of day 2, team Polycraft had added another 17 point-scoring fish to their tally. We knew we had fished as hard and as smart as we could and that is a very satisfying feeling.
Presentation night was a blast and the runaway leaders kept their form going, with another colourful local identity Peter Mammino holding his team in second. Team Polycraft held down a respectable fourth place, which kept us happy and certainly helped build a thirst for the night’s entertainment. A big thanks goes to the guys from the Ingham Rod and Reel Club and all the sponsors of this great event. I am already looking forward to next year! – Jason Medcalf
Fish Caught: 481
Barra caught: 120
Barra: Peter Mammino
Mangrove jack: Glenn Platzer
Fingermark: Ray Hubert
Grunter: Kim Strathern
Salmon: Shane Third
Trevally: Stewart Skinner
Estuary Cod: Jason Medcalf
Queenfish: Morris Gori
Flathead: Shane Summers
Bream: Jason Medcalf
Biggest Barra: Russell Noris (100cm)
Champion Team: Rob Laspina & Lenny Catalano
Runner up Team: Peter Mammino & Rolly Newton
Champion Angler: Rob Laspina
Runner up angler: Lenny CatalanoReads: 3170