Here we have another year just about finished and the Christmas break or family annual holiday is on the agenda, so what better way to enjoy it than getting out fishing? Especially if you have managed to score some new gear for presents which of course just have to be tried out on the water.
Predicting what the fishing will be like in December is a bit difficult as it will really depend on the early arrival or not of the wet season. Mackay is normally fairly dry during December with the odd storms and showers, but having said that, it will now probably pour with rain and flood all the local creeks. One thing to count on is that it will be hot and getting progressively more humid, which will stir up the fishing both on the saltwater and in the freshwater dams and rivers.
The offshore and close inshore scenes will depend largely on wind patterns, and since November the southeasterly winds have been dropping and swinging into more northerly winds. This will mean still mornings and hot winds during the latter parts of the day.
Northerly winds are ideal for early morning starts, with first light being around 4:30am anglers can get out on the ocean for 5 hours or so before the winds get up. But the ride home can sometimes be wet if the chop comes up quickly.
The close inshore islands from Seaforth to Sarina will see plenty of small boat traffic and small mackerels will feature prominently in the catches of many anglers. Coincidently the best times to be chasing the small macks is early of a morning with preferably a tide change happening not long after daylight.
Trolling or drifting pilchards on ganged rigs would be the most used methods of catching small macks here, and a visit to the local tackle shops will provide info on where the fish are biting. Pre-rigged ganged hooks can be bought or easily homemade, and pillies are always available through out the district.
Lure fishing, either by trolling or casting can also be very productive for the small macks. Any good barra lure will usually work on mackerel although it is advisable to use lures that run down at least 1m on the troll. Dave Fraser has the runs on the board and has used Reidy’s lures with great success over many years. Unfortunately the old Mighty Mite is no longer made but the new larger model Lucifers will soon become a favourite for mackerel trollers.
Heavy and lighter metal also works well on the small macks, with old toby-style lures being very popular and available in a variety of weights styles and colour highlights. Trolling for small macks is not rocket science as they can be encountered anywhere and usually in some numbers, but a little thought will see better results.
Current lines are always worth investigating and rock patches in otherwise flat sandy areas will also usually produce fish. Any spot where the current runs onto rocks or headlands will also hold small macks.
As a starter, try the areas that fit these descriptions around the islands off Seaforth (watch the green zones), Slade Rock, Danger Reef, Flat and Round Top, Hay Point, Taffy Islet off Sarina and similar spots. Check out the charts and you will find heaps of likely spots.
When on the water simply look for the boats congregating in an area and it is a pretty safe bet they will be onto schools of macks. Don’t barge in on others though and use some common sense and courtesy when fishing.
For the small boat angler, the close inshore areas at this time fish well for small sweetlip, cod, grunter, trevally, queenfish, blueys and occasionally some nice trout. Most of these will be caught bottom bashing although many are caught trolling deep divers for macks in shallow waters. Getting on towards the end of the month the tides get quite big and this can make anchoring and fishing difficult around the islands.
The creek fishing will depend on the rain or lack thereof. If we get substantial storms, and the creeks have some fresh, then prawns will be about in abundance and a session with the cast net will result in a few feeds or plenty of fresh baits. Of course if there are heaps of prawns around it follows that the fishing will also be good.
Barra are off the menu because of the closed season, but there are plenty of other options in the creeks. Whiting, flathead and bream are around in good numbers, but look for the cleaner water when chasing these species in the creeks.
Some of the younger local lure aficionados have taken to lure fishing for bream and whiting in the creeks. They have had some quite surprising results on lures ranging from tiny poppers to small plastic worms, grubs and prawn imitations. This fishing requires accurate casting and a stealthy approach with either an electric outboard, or paddling a kayak.
If kayaking, remember our creeks hold some rather large crocs. Clinton Hassan from Tackleworld recently photographed an estimated 4m specimen sunning on a mud bank only several hundred metres from the Constant Creek boat ramp. Being cautious and watchful is the best advice when fishing in the mangrove creeks.
Jacks, fingermark, cod and grunter are other species available in the creeks in December. The first three will usually be located around heavy snags or rock bars while the grunter prefer more open water shared with whiting and flathead. Bait fishing will be successful on all these species with the best bets being live or very fresh prawns. I like to use 2-3 prawns on a wide gape hook and feed this down current onto the snag or rocks and if there is a jack present, then such an offering won’t be ignored.
Naturally there will be plenty of bust-offs so I don’t use stainless hooks so that if a fish swims off with a hook in its lip, it will rust quickly. Mustad All-rounders have been my choice of hook for years now.
While fishing in the creeks, don’t forget to set a crab pot or two around the small gullies as crabs are in good numbers at the moment and should stay that way through December. If the creeks get flooding rains, set your pots on the mud flats out from the creek mouths for a couple of crabs.
Remember to check sizes of all male crabs and return any females caught immediately. Be warned the Patrol guys are out on the water checking boats, safety gear crab pots and catches.
The hot weather is a godsend for the dam angler, as the barra and sooties get well and truly on the chew with the rising temps. Barra in particular shake off their winter lethargy and become much more consistent and predictable.
The barra in the dams are on the bite, with plenty of 1m+ fish coming from Kinchant Dam, while my favourite haunt Teemburra is producing plenty of fish in the 60cm to 1m range.
Kinchant’s water level is dropping because of irrigation which is revealing more banks to fish and giving better access to some of the extensive weed beds that now drop almost straight into deeper water.
As of November Teemburra has been down about 1m from the full supply level, so that means there is still a lot of water to explore. Barra have been coming from the main basin, up in the side bays, and in Teemburra and Middle creeks. I have no reports on Pinnacle creek but expect the same scenario there.
The fish are around the weeds and lilies as well as small trees and shrubs. They are also deep in the heavy timber, but extracting a decent size barra from the timber is almost impossible and usually results in a bust-off and lost lure. Over the years I have collected quite a few lures from the dam, many with straightened hooks and broken bibs.
December is a great month for night surface fishing for barra in the dams, which is an addictive style of fishing if ever there was one. Nights with some moon are the best as they enable anglers to better see where to cast and avoid trees while moving about. I thoroughly recommend surface night fishing with large poppers or in my opinion, the ultimate the Tango Dancer lure. Strikes can happen right up to boatside and getting showered with spray is not unusual.
While a little moon helps with visibility, I do prefer those nights with intermittent cloud cover so the moon is not constantly on the water. Often the shady period will herald an increase in action. For visitors, the local tackle shops all have keen anglers working in them and they know the good oil, so a visit and a few dollars spent will get you the wheres, hows and whys of the local scene quickly.
Finally all the best wishes to our readers for a happy, safe Christmas, may all of you get lots of super new gear and get out on the water to enjoy it. See you at the ramp.Reads: 1920