Mulgrave Magic
  |  First Published: May 2009

Winter here in the tropics can be a tough time if you are hell bent on hitting the reef every weekend due to the consistent southeasters. Fortunately there is a little piece of paradise just down the road.

Launching on the Mulgrave River at Deeral or Bellenden Ker on the Russell River will position you to fish the magical estuarine system known as Mutchero Inlet. This spot is close to Russell Heads, where the converging twin rivers flow out to the Coral Sea. The following is a brief guide to fishing this beautiful system and needs to be read in conjunction with the accompanying map.

A short run down the Mulgrave River after launching at Deeral is the Mulgrave Rocks on the left hand side. This spot is best fished on the bottom half of the run-out tide and produces bream, jack, fingermark, cod and barra as well as occasional trevally and queenies. But it can be difficult to fish when there is a strong current.

If you are looking for live bait, spot Number Two is a good area to collect bait like sardines, mullet and prawns and is also productive for GT. In the small creek that surrounds the small mangrove island, you can fish for jack, bream, cod and barra.

The Mutchero Inlet is famous for it’s tackle busting queenfish and GT. In the Junction of the two rivers is a great spot for the queenies and usually fires best on the run-out tide. But at the top and bottom of the tide, barra and fingermark can be caught as well as grunter. The queenies are a spectacular fish to catch on surface poppers, plastics and flies.

The mouth of Sorensens Creek is also a handy place to collect bait. It is best fished on the run-out tide when the current is very strong or the wind is up and produces GT, queenies, grunter and the occasional salmon. Fishing baits closer to the bank will pick up jack, bream and barra. These species can also be found further up the creek.

The powerline under the Russell River is a productive spot for queenies and GT during the run-out tide and as the tide flows back in upstream. Anchor up under the line adjacent to the sandbar and your live baits should receive some attention. On the run-in tide, fishing upstream a little, and a bit closer in to the bank is also a productive spot. Drift fishing around here as you cast poppers is excellent.

Cassowary Rocks refers to the rocky point at the end of Cassowary Bay and a deep hole here is often a productive spot for many species, including cod, fingermark, barra, jack, black jew and bream. There are often schools of tarpon working in this area on this corner and you can have a ball here with the fly rod or soft plastics particularly on the run-out tide. Back upstream a little from this spot where it is shallower, queenies, GT and grunter can be caught.

Motor upstream until you are level with the next main creek (Harvey Creek) on your right. From here drift downstream virtually in the middle of the river with the run-out tide, casting as you go. This is sometimes a good opportunity for sight casting to queenies and GT. Drift quietly along over these flats with the tide and look for the tell tale cutting of these fish.

The Anna Branch is the creek that runs through to the small settlement of holiday huts and permanent homes that make up Russell Heads. The entrance or mouth of the Anna Branch near Spot Seven is also a good area for bait collection and fishing the run-in tide. Fishing slightly more upstream and wide of the mouth is another great spot for queenies and if there is a big current on you can get some refuge from the run-out pressure. There are also some nice flathead to be taken in this area on the shallow sand and mud flats.

The southern bank of the main channel in the Inlet that is also one side of Anna Branch Island, is heavily treed and there are many snags along its length. This is a good bank for both casting lures or flies on the bottom half of the tide, as well as for the baitfishers. Working the bank can produce bream, barra and jack. Fishing a little wide of this bank is also a good option when there is heavy run-out tide for queenies and GT.

The northern bank of Mutchero Inlet has the deepest bank in the system and is always worth trolling some deep running lures along its length for cod, barras, fingermark, jacks and (of course) queenies and GT. You can never be sure what else you might pick up on this run as some large creatures swim into the river from the open ocean. I have personally also caught large mackerel and huge barracudas along this bank.

The area around Spot 10 through to Spot 11 is a deeper gutter right in the mouth which can only really be fished on small tides or the top and bottom of bigger tides. It can be a productive spot for any of the species mentioned so far, however due to its position it is also exposed to the effects of strong winds so sometimes it is not a good option.

Further seawards out through the mouth there are a number of very shallow sandbars. Look for a marker buoy, (which occasional gets shifted to indicate the deeper water channel) to follow if heading out or back from the open water. Care should be taken when travelling through the bar as it can be very shallow and boats can come to grief. On the edge of the channel is Spot 12, which is productive for queenies on the run-out. Tucking in against the sand bar here also offers some refuge from the strong tidal current that is often present. This is also an ideal place to chase the queenies and GT on the run-in tide when the wind allows.

Take care in this Spot 12 if fishing during windy days if there is a swell on. Also remember it’s a narrow channel so if you are anchored in the deepest spot you may obstruct the passage of some fairly large boats moving in and out of the river through the bar system on the lower tidal periods.

Outside of the area mentioned up to this point there is miles of great lure fishing country upstream of the salt arms in both river systems and great opportunities for barra and jack fishing.

Remember to take care of this pristine area, practice catch and release and respect other boat users as this area is becoming very popular. Finally remember to also be crocodile aware.

Good fishing.

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