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Hotting up
  |  First Published: October 2004



MACKAY is starting to hot up, with daytime temps in the high 20s, humidity in the high 80s and night temps down to the only mid teens. This means many of our favourite species are completely out of the winter doldrums and are on the chew.

Barramundi

The premier Northern sportfish will really start to come on this month, in both the fresh and salt. If you look for suitable habitat – clean water with shelter and plenty of bait – success won’t be too far off. Admittedly, it’s easier to bring these factors together in freshwater than in the salt as there is no need to work the tides.

For anglers in this area the best spot to tangle with a barra is Teemburra Dam; for sheer numbers it really can’t be beaten. Sure – you may catch bigger barra in other dams, but overall Teemburra provides plenty of mid to large size barra and you can reasonably expect to get anything up to 20 or 30 barra in a day. The fish range from yearlings of 500mm or so up to well over a metre long.

Kinchant Dam is now revealing its potential as a great barra fishery as well, with regular catches of barra to just over a metre. At the moment, with low water levels, Teemburra and Kinchant are similar in that the barra are not in heavy timber cover but are out in the open basins of both dams.

A real hotspot for impoundment barra is any prominent headland, particularly if there are small ‘twiggy’ regrowth suckers or weedbeds evident. Don’t neglect any feature such as an old tree stump, fallen log or an isolated rock. Barra don’t necessarily need heavy cover, but they do appreciate some shelter.

Must-have lures include the Reidy’s B52, gold Bombers, large Shad Raps, RMG Scorpions, Halcos and the like. These will cover all your shallow diving needs, but don’t forget to include some deeper lures. I recommend Reidy’s Goulbourn Jacks and similar in their range, Deep Bombers, Peter Newell originals, Leads lures, large Rattlin spots, and plenty of poppers and fizzers.

Flyfishers should bring plenty of large Deceivers, Barra Bombers, Bendbacks and Clousers. Don’t forget the floating line and a good supply of poppers.

All the lures I’ve mentioned work just as well in the salt, and most barra around here are caught in the mangrove creeks rather than around the headlands. Work the first of the making tides as the barra move up the creeks and onto the flats looking for baitfish and prawns. If you find a couple of isolated mangrove trees on these flats, work them as soon as you can reach them.

On the run-out tide, look for small gullies running into the main creek, rock bars or junctions where the barra can ambush prey. Small mangrove suckers in shallow water are a favourite haunt for salties and should not be ignored. Barra often hole up in the shallows with only minimal cover – some of my best sessions have been in these spots up the creeks – so don’t concentrate too much on deep water.

Check out the local tackle shops and spend a few bucks and you will get good up-to-date info. The local drum could save you literally days of exploring, trying to get the place sorted out.

Grunter

This delicious table fish is readily caught and is a clean fighter. Most times they are caught in open water over gravel or shale beds, where they get small prawns, crabs and suchlike.

While these fish are generally found in the open water of the creeks and estuaries, they are also often caught right on the top of the tide over rock bars, foraging for small crabs.

Grunter are more a bait species than a lure target, although they are often hooked on plastics meant for flathead. Baits for grunter are the usual estuary/creek favourites. Fresh yabbies bunched on a hook are rarely refused, and fresh or live prawns are also hit with gusto. Strip baits of mullet or gar are very popular baits, as are live herring. My pick is a very fresh strip of gar rigged on a small 2 gang hook set-up.

Use a small lead and let the bait swing in the tide run and hang on. The typical strike is a blistering run that often catches anglers out, and before they can react the fish is gone. I don’t recommend leaving rods in holders when chasing grunter.

Drift fishing with the current is a very productive method, but remember that grunter don’t like to stay in the one spot. These foragers move around with the tide to find the feed spots, so it makes sense for you to do likewise. Keep an eye on the legal limit and remember to restrict your catch to a couple of feeds so there’ll be plenty left for next time.

Trevally

Trevally are found from the upper tidal reaches out to offshore islands and deep reefs.

At this time of year they are more of an incidental catch, as most of the inshore anglers are chasing small mackerel. The trevally often feed under mackerel or tuna and can be enticed with pilchards, herring or squid baits. Keep your rigs simple, as these fish aren’t fussy as long as you get your bait close to them.

Trevally are a great lure target and can be caught trolling, drifting or at anchor on various lures, from poppers to deep jigs. Poppers are the most spectacular lures to use and the sight of a 15-20kg trevally monstering a popper near the boat really gets the adrenalin pumping.

While the big fish are fun (if you can call an aching back and arms ‘fun’), I prefer to chase the smaller goldens and bludgers up to about 5-6kg. They are great fun, respond well to lures, plastics, baits and flies and are pretty good on the Barbie if bled immediately and iced down.

Look for the trevally anywhere you find mackerel. Local hotspots include Slade Island, Danger Reef, Flat and Round Top Islands and the reefs nearby. As always keep a feed or two and don’t go for the overkill.

Sooties

These very territorial fish are caught throughout year, but they’re much more active when the weather warms, as this is the lead-up to the breeding season. Many a pleasant morning or late afternoon session has been spent with these great sportfish at this time of year.

Sooties are found anywhere in freshwater in our area, but the top spot has to be Eungella Dam. The sooties here are big and cranky. Throw a lure or fly near and it will get hammered. Look for them around timber, rocks and weedbeds.

A couple of must-have lures are the 50mm Fat Raps and some small to medium gold Rattlin Spots. Sooties are also suckers for plastics and surface poppers. For fly anglers, small Deceivers, Clousers and poppers are also great.

Teemburra and Kinchant dams also hold good numbers and sizes of sooties, but the barra tend to overshadow them. John Trigg had a recent overnighter at Teemburra and was more excited about the 52cm sooty he caught than his six 70-80cm barra. (Or perhaps he was just being another of my so-called ‘mates’ to regale me with tales of 50cm-plus sooties knowing that I can’t crack one.)

If you’re after a change of scene, try the sooties in the river. This is light gear fishing in skinny water, and is great fun. When you have good waters to fish, nice scenery and plenty of small to medium size sooties, it makes for a really great time.

Overall, as the summer heats up the fishing for these species will just keep getting better and better. Why not come and join me in paradise and enjoy the hot fishing that Mackay turns on at this time of the year? See you at the ramp!

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