January can be a real mixed bag on the water as we are likely to be either flooded out or desperately wanting rain to cool things down and lower the humidity.
There is no real set weather pattern in the coming month; it will either be hot, humid and dry or hot, humid and wet. Either way there are still plenty of new year options available for anglers in the creeks and dams or offshore.
In early December the weather was hot, still and humid, which was ideal conditions for many species and allowed a short stint out from the harbour for me. Similar conditions can be expected right through January if the weather stays much the same.
For a few days I had been hearing rumours of grey mackerel on the chew together with some doggies and spotties, so we decided to check these rumours out. Mick, Ben and I hit the water about 4pm to find fairly strong northeasterly winds and a decent current running. The mouth of the harbour was typically a sloppy mess of water, but once we got through the heads things settled a bit.
We spotted some birds a few hundred meters away and then saw the unmistakeable leaping and slashing of mac tuna working bait. We motored over for a closer look and fired off a few casts, but the fish sounded and moved with their usual speed, bobbing up again a further few hundred meters away.
After following the fish for a while, we realised they were skittish so we found a patch of bait on the sounder, cut the motor and drifted with the bait.
Eventually as we hoped, the tuna showed up about 20m from the boat and we sent three lures their way, which resulted in a double hook up for Mick and I, but we dropped both fish. The plan had come together well but we just failed to stay hooked up.
We stayed with the bait and Mick’s new colour sounder showed fish under the bait and right on the bottom in about 12m of water. We dropped a jig to the bottom and sure enough a hook-up resulted and after a short fight a doggie around 65cm came to the boat.
By this time we lost touch with the bait so we motored off looking for other bait patches. I dropped a Tsunami 100mm out the back and I got two hits before the macks had disintegrated the lure. Memo to self: when fishing soft plastics for small macks, use a stinger treble or have plenty of shortened lures!
By this time several other boats started to work the patches of tuna, but they kept driving right up to the fish, immediately putting them down. This gets pretty frustrating when we had carefully drifted silently near the tuna and before we could even cast at the fish another boat roars in at high speed and disperses the tuna.
If you see anglers standing off and casting to feeding fish DON’T drive right in among them, just stay well back, cut the motor and cast. Alternatively go off and find another patch of feeding fish.
Finally we had a boil just near the boat while we drifted with bait and we flicked the lures out quickly. I downsized to a small slug and was rewarded with a solid hook-up, a bent rod and howling drag. Don’t you just love those tuna when they get motoring?
After about 10mins we had the fish boat side and netted a chunky mac tuna about 3.5kg, which was immediately bled and then it joined the doggie in the esky. It’s a good feeling when a set plan comes off.
With dark was fast approaching, we left the tuna still smashing bait and headed for the ramp. It was a great couple of hours with plenty of visible action, a few hook-ups, a few lost fish and a few feeds to bring home. Mackay really is a magic spot to live as this all took place no more than 2km from the harbour. Now if only I can track down some of those grey macks.
I expect the tuna and mackerel will stay around well into January, as long as we don’t get heaps of rain and lots of southeasterly winds. The word goes out quickly when they are on the chew and the local tackle shops are always in the know, so spend a few bucks and get the good up to date info.
Remember though these predators are usually feeding on quite small baitfish. Use either a small plastic on a heavy head or a small heavy slug around 50-75mm long to match the hatch, but still be heavy enough to allow 50-70m casts with spin gear.
I don’t use wire much and prefer a 25kg fluoro leader instead but this sometimes results in bite-offs and lost lures; it’s a trade off but I reckon you get far more hits without the wire. Hook the fish first, then worry about the bite-off problem!
When trolling with hardbody lures, there is less chance of a bite-off as the lure tends to hold the fish’s mouth open and keeps those razor sharp teeth away from the leader.
This is not a problem with tuna, but all the macks have severe dental gear, so watch their teeth when you bring a fish into the boat. Toes, fingers, legs and hands are all fair game and a mackerel slash can open flesh to the bone. If this happens to you wash the wound straight away with clean water or disinfectant if you have some, stem or stop the bleeding, and get to a doctor pronto.
Further offshore, the reef fish are on the chew with reports of good bags of trout, sweetlip and pink jew being caught by anglers with larger trailer boats that are able to work safely well out to sea. The reddies have been few and far between by all accounts.
Surface activity around the reefs includes Spaniards, shark mackerel, longtail and mac tuna. These fish are mainly caught on the troll while moving from spot to spot and are a welcome addition to the icebox.
Both lures and trolled garfish have been successful and many of the mac tuna are used as cut baits for reef fish. Their oily flesh and silvery skin make them ideal bait.
Up the creeks, all the usual summer species are still on the chew with flathead, whiting and grunter about in good numbers while the water is clean. If January brings heavy rains and lots of freshwater, these species will be harder to find.
The upside however is if we get rain and the creeks are flushed out there will be prawns aplenty and good catches of king and blue salmon can be expected, along with barra which are on the menu again from 1 February. Until then release any barra caught as quickly as possible.
Crabs have been on the move coming up to Christmas with many anglers stocking up for the festive holidays. As seems to be the case everywhere now, the crab pot thieves are out in force, so I suggest you stay close by your pots or dillies and keep an eye on them.
All three dams are firing mightily during the hot weather so far, and will continue to do so in the new year.
Kinchant is rapidly becoming the place to fish for trophy barra and fish up to 140cm long are regularly caught there. Anglers are using a variety of methods and lures to score the big girls and while trolling is often used, anchoring or drifting and casting lures is getting more popular.
Wayne Kampe recently boated one barra on the flyrod that went 110cm on his annual sojourn to Mackay. The same night I managed a 98cm fish on my old favourite the Tango Dancer. What a lure, and what a blast when a big barra hits it only a couple of metres from the boat.
Teemburra Dam is also fishing well and Kampey again scored a neat 1m barra at night on fly. This was a really meritorious capture as the fish took the fly right amongst drowned suckers, lantana and other hazards. It was quite a spectacle from my boat to see Wayne and Denise maneuvering in and out of the snags trying to stay in contact with the fish and avoid a bust off.
Wayne and Denise have great success on our Mackay barra on fly rods and rarely fish with anything else when they come up. One thing I have noticed they use consistently is a fly with a flouro eye that can be activated by a camera flash or powerful torch.
Their flies feature plenty of flashy material, and usually an epoxy type coating on the head, but I think those luminous eyes really help the barra to locate the fly. I have some lumo plastics that I want to try out and am also stocking up on those beaut eyes for my own flies.
Eungella Dam has been firing up with good size sooties being caught right around the dam in heavy timer, along weed beds, lilies and around the rocks. The wall near the old quarry is always a pretty reliable spot for sooties.
Some big sleepy cod have also been caught on lures among the rocks and an unconfirmed report of a 65cm fish has come to my notice. The best I have seen from here was a 58cm fish my son Lachlan caught some years ago.
The recent ABT/Daiwa BARRA tournament at Teemburra Dam was a great success and the full details of all catches are available on the website and on page … of this issue.
I had the pleasure of fishing with Gary Botd from California in the event and it was most enjoyable. The best part of these ABT events is the fish are all returned to fight another day and provide other anglers with a great fishing experience.
Tournaments also throw up new techniques and info on the dam barra, and for me one of the notable things that came out of the Teemburra event was the fact that quite a number of fish were caught in more than 10m of water.
The majority were still found in the shallows but those fish out in the deeper water intrigue me and bear further investigating. There is no reason that barra wouldn’t be in even deeper water during the summer particularly as the high water temps should extend to some depth. It’s definitely worth checking into.
Anyway that’s a round up of what’s been happening and likely to happen during January. I trust all our readers have had a great Christmas season, and wish you all the best for the new year. See you at the boat ramp.Reads: 1580