Queensland offers a diverse range of fishing locations, with everything from targeting trout on the Great Barrier Reef, to fishing the impoundments for barra and bass and chasing various species in coastal estuaries and rivers. However when we think fishing, we don’t often think of what outback Queensland has to offer.
The Western Downs town of Mitchell, located 587km west of Brisbane, is one of Queensland’s little unknown fishing destinations. Set on the Maranoa River, fishing is a popular past time among Mitchell’s local residents.
Bernadette is a born and bred Mitchell local. She grew up fishing the waterholes and weir in the Maranoa with her family and friends, and now she lives just minutes away from the river.
“Every time we go away, we go fishing, and every spare moment we’re down at the river, fishing. We’ve got a big family. All of us love to get out in the bush by the river and catch fish. It's a way of life for my family,” she says.
The Maranoa River has much to boast about in terms of fishing. Usually it’s a quiet, slow-moving river, famous for its deep waterholes and weir. However, when the river is in full flood it’s one of Queensland’s fastest flowing waterways.
Best of all the Maranoa is well stocked with yellowbelly and there are no crocodiles to compete for your life with.
Yellowbelly are to Mitchell locals what flathead are to estuary fishers. With firm, white flesh and no muddy taint, yellowbelly don't need to be soaked like barra and are the best local eating fish.
“Anything we catch that’s legal size we eat, except for the really big ones,” Bernadette says. “If they're too big they get fatty and muddy. Up around 8lb or more are too big in my opinion, and should be released.”
Once the fish are caught then comes the all-important task of preparing the fillets and cooking the meal.
“We cut the gullet to kill the fish and bleed it,” says Bernadette, “then we knock off the two fillets, remove the skin and they’re ready for cooking. If we’re camping we just put the fillets straight on the barbie, or wrap them in alfoil with lemon and whatever else we’ve got out there on a fishing trip.
“If we’re in the bush and we’ve caught a big one, we often cook it whole. We scale the fish first and leave the head on. Then we gut it and give it a good wash. I like to stuff the belly with cooked rice, chopped up parsley or capsicum, celery, onion and bits of lemon. Then I sprinkle a bit of salt and pepper, wrap the fish in alfoil and put it in the coals of the campfire to bake,” she says.
“There's nothing like fresh fish. I just love it, especially with salad greens picked fresh from Dad’s garden. I could eat it every day and it’s making my mouth water just talking about it.”
Bernadette works for her parents at Mitchell Hardware, where she gives tourists advice on camp cooking gear, fishing hotspots, bait and tackle.
“And when I'm not at work, I'm fishing,” she says.
So, if you’re travelling in the area and feel like talking to a friendly local, or picking up some tackle, drop in and see Bernadette at Mitchell Hardware. – Robin and Doug Stewart
MITCHELL FACT FILE
Mitchell is located 587km west of Brisbane, between Roma and Charleville, on the Warrrego Highway. You can travel to Mitchell by car, bus, train or light aircraft.
When to go
May to October – the days are warm and sunny but nights can be frosty.
Where to camp
Major Mitchell Caravan Park
(07) 4623 8177 or 6600
Bridge Service Station & Caravan Park (only 10 sites)
(07) 4623 1125
Fishermen’s Rest is about 5km west of Mitchell, and 400m off the Warrego Highway. Caravans and two-wheel drive vehicles and can negotiate the dirt road leading to the river, except after heavy rain. No permits or fees are required to bush camp. There are some barbecues and a deep pit, composting toilet, but firewood is not provided.
Bush camping is also permitted at the Neil Turner Weir, closer to the township of Mitchell.
Well-behaved pets are welcome in and around Mitchell.
Things to do
Fishing; bird watching; canoeing; stroll the Maranoa River Walk that meanders along the river to Mitchell; visit the Great Artesian Spa pools; see the Kenniff Courthouse, where the infamous bushrangers Patrick and James Kenniff were tried; most of all relax and enjoy the friendly atmosphere.
For local fishing information phone Mitchell Hardware on (07) 4623 1399 or drop into the premises on 89 Cambridge St. Alternatively, for more info on the area contact the Mitchell Visitor Information Centre Great Artesian Spa Complex on (07) 4623 8171 or visit www.thegreatartesianspa.com.au or www.booringa.qld.gov.au. The centre is open every day except Christmas Day.