There’s been plenty happening on the salty scene around Mackay, although offshore opportunities have been restricted by the wind, which generally isn’t angler-friendly at this time of year. The snapper fishing has been a big letdown because of the high winds, although there were some nice fish boated offshore from Sarina early in the winter.
Up here the snapper come very close inshore, making them accessible to 4m boats when the wind drops. If there are a few days of light winds up to 10 knots, the places to be are all the local snapper hotspots like Flat and Round Top islands, Reichlemans Reef and Taroba Rock, all of which are only a 20-minute run or so from the mouth of the river. Check with the local tackle shops to find out the latest before you set out.
Offshore there have been some great Spanish mackerel caught by trolling lures and baits such as gar and ribbonfish. It’s a good idea at this time of year to have a few Spaniard baits ready in the freezer so you can set out as soon as the wind drops. A good area to try is around the southernmost corner of Round Top Island. There is usually quite a strong current line running through this area and that is where the large macks hang out.
For shore-based anglers, the harbour walls are a great spot to try for a Spanish mack. The southern wall is the best but don’t try to fish it in a southerly as this tends to keep the fish offshore. A calm day with herring rippling the surface just out from the walls is best, fished with a livebait such as a pike or gar. Many a 20kg-plus Spaniard has been hooked, and a few landed off the breakwater.
At this time of the year there are also plenty of queenfish caught on the same baits and lures in the all the above spots. Queenies really go for a live garfish set out in a current line, and a great spot with a bit of shelter from the wind is on the inshore side of Flat Top Island in water less than 5m.
On the creek scene, big whiting are being caught in the Pioneer River, Sandy, Reliance and Alligator creeks and along the beaches like McEwans, Bucasia, and Shoal Point. Many of these fish are elbow-slappers and there are also plenty of smaller ones that are good for a feed or two.
Blue salmon are around in pretty fair numbers but most are small. They will snaffle almost any livebait but I’ve found that a bunch of yabbies on a small wide gape circle hook is the most reliable. Fish the tide up for them as they graze over the yabby banks and then target the small run-off gutters as the tide drops.
Bream have also been plentiful around the mangrove creeks and rockbars, and right in hard on the mangrove roots is the place to find them. Pikey bream are the predominate bream species here and respond to all the usual baits and also to small lures. They are thicker through the shoulders than a silver bream and flesh recovery is high because of the thickness of the fillets. If you’re in doubt about legal lengths, get a booklet from a tackle shop or buy a measuring rule to stick on your boat/esky.Reads: 999