December dreaming
  |  First Published: December 2003

PREDICTING catches for December is dicey because much of the activity will depend on the rain (or lack of it). But I’ll have a stab and look at what should be available around Mackay during the festive month.


The dams around Mackay continue to fish very well. This may be because of the low water levels (Kinchant is currently below 20% and the other dams are under 40%) which are concentrating the major predators in a smaller area, making them easier targets. Teemburra continues to give up good numbers of barra and the average size caught is around 600-700mm with the odd fish going way better than 900mm. The weather conditions are really suiting the barra and they are responding by hitting lures with gusto and performing as only a barra can when hooked.

Tim Galletly and I have had a couple of late afternoon sessions on the dam and I had the heart-stopping experience of hooking a big barra on a popper in the pitch black of night before the moon came up. We were working up in Middle creek using poppers without any action for about 20 minutes or so, which is just enough time to relax a little and go on auto pilot when all hell broke loose! The barra slammed the 100mm popper in about 3m of water and went berserk, throwing water everywhere and trying to jump but could only get its head and shoulders out of the water, then slack line. Gone… then suddenly the fish was back for another go and again water went everywhere and the popper flew up in the air. Gone again, and there was no third hit. All this took place about 3m from the boat and left me with a severe case of barra fever!

Eungella Dam is fishing well for sooties although the strong winds are making camping quite an experience. MAFSA members had a recent survey at the dam and several tarps were destroyed during the night and a couple of boats were filled partly with water.

Surprisingly, given the windy conditions, Darren Jennings and Russell Bilney landed a couple of barra well over legal size while lurecasting around the big timber for sooties. While Eungella has had good numbers of barra stocked they aren’t normally a regular catch. There’s no doubt that there are very big barra in the dam because MAFSA netted one barra over the magic metre several years ago, and the arches that have shown up on my sounder from time to time are definitely not small fish! I expect that the sooties and possibly the barra will be on the job during December.

On our last trip to the dam my son Lachlan landed a very nice 49cm sleepy cod on the ever-reliable Fat Rap. These fish are one of the finest tasting freshwater fish I’ve ever eaten, with delicious white flesh with hardly any fat. They are not easy to fillet but the fillets are worth the trouble.

So overall, if you’re looking for a few days off over Christmas away from the crowds, a camping trip to Eungella is highly recommended.


Down in the salty stuff barra are off the menu until February 4 but there are plenty of other options. Jacks are summer fish and can be found in all of our estuaries as well as places like Mackay Harbour, the marina and the tug harbour near Hay Point. Jacks are snag dwellers but I find catches are better around rocks then just the normal mangrove snags. If you find a freshly fallen mangrove lying in the water, still with plenty of green leaves, fish it hard with either live bait or lures/flies. In the creeks try any rock bar or isolated patch of rock and fish both the tides up to and down from the rocks.

In any of the harbour areas fish close in to the rock walls and around the pylons. Fishing from a tinnie is better than fishing from the breakwall because you can place your casts so that on hookup you’re moving the fish away from cover instead of towards it. If night fishing is your bag – and it’s much cooler than during the day – I suggest trying in the harbours around the pools of light cast from the overhead breakwall lights. Tarpon up to about 600mm can be a pain here when targeting jacks but they are great fun to catch.

The jack’s first cousin, the fingermark, is also about in good numbers at this time of the year in the creeks, harbours and headlands. Look for deep water in the creeks, particularly if there are rocks nearby, and get your lure or bait down deep to attract the fingermark. Use the same technique luring or baitfishing the headlands or the harbours. Small live squid (if you can get them) are a top bait for fingermark.

Other species regularly caught in the creeks and estuaries during December include trevally, grunter, bream, flathead and whiting. All of these fish are caught in more open waters and respond to traditional baits such as yabbies, prawns, small live fish and cut baits. In the creeks I recommend targeting whiting, flathead and bream near the top of the tide and on the run-out, and if you’re fishing the beaches fish the run-up tide to the top of the tide. A check with any of the local tackle stores will get you good info as to what’s biting and where.

The muddies are on the move and hungry at this time of year so don’t forget to drop in a crab pot or two while you’re fishing the creeks and estuaries. You can use any pots or dillies, but my mate Bill McGarry swears by the collapsible round pots fitted with mesh sides. Use fish frames or whole fish as bait, and remember to check that they’re not undersize.

The close inshore scene depends on the winds but during December we can reasonably expect to get plenty of north/north-easterly winds which are usually very light early of a morning. That is the time to be on the water chasing the doggies, spotties and grey mackerel. Baiting up with pilchards or herring works well, as does lure casting and trolling with the Rapala CD series, Reidy’s Big Boss, Richo’s Lures. Shinies like the Pegron spoon, Flasha spoons, Raider jigs and the like are all worth a run. As a bonus there have recently been some very nice Spanish mackerel about, taking large ribbon fish or live baits such as pike.

So there you have it – a quick run-down on what to expect around Mackay during the Christmas period. Just make sure you make the effort and get out there as you won’t catch anything sitting at home watching Rex on the telly and dreaming about the big ones! A happy and safe Christmas to all our readers.

1) The spot where Denise Kampe caught this Teemburra barra would normally be about 8m underwater.

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