Rainy Bonanza to Come
  |  First Published: March 2010

Well what a start to the year weather wise! Not just in the north but throughout the state. At our place we recorded 1,200mm of rain in the first 7 weeks, so the whole place is soggy and hot and humid. There is run off water everywhere and creeks and gullies go up and down like the tides.

This will eventually be a bonanza for the local fisheries but it was a bit of a pain in early March, as there was no let off and the creeks had not cleared up.

The hot, humid weather has been just great for the barra chasers though with all the mangrove creeks firing despite the abundance of dirty, fresh water. Unfortunately due to work commitments, I have not had a chance to go chase a salty barra, but I’m working on it.

Many of my mates are having a ball and catching barra on all manner of baits. At this time of year the prawns are usually running well and live prawns fished off the bottom are normally the most reliable bait you can get for barra. My spies tell me that they are being caught on yabbies, gar, mullet and whiting, while many of the largest barra have succumbed to strips of mullet.

It just goes to show when bait fishing that it’s a bit like lures, you have to have a variety of options to handle any situation. That’s my excuse for an ever-growing lure collection!

The barra are being caught in the salt and up in the freshwater reaches as well. There have been consistent catches of barra up to 80cm at the top of the tidal influence in the Pioneer River near Dumbleton. The best spots are around the rocks with lures like Bombers and B52s in gold, flashy colours scoring well. Just be a tad careful as some large mud geckos have been seen in the area.

While I haven’t worked the tides for a salty barra, I did hear a whisper that the banana prawns were running up at St Helens from a very reliable source so a quick couple of phone calls and Mick Stone and I were up there to work the bottom and first of the run in tide. I prefer prawning on the run out tide, but we were a bit later than intended. A few throws with the cast net convinced me that I was way out of practice (its been probably getting on for 10 years since I have thrown a net) so we borrowed a drag net from Bob Sutherland who has a beach house there and went prawning. After an hour or so we had managed to fill a 5 litre bucket with fresh banana prawns off the beach and thankfully only meshed a couple of small gar and other unidentified small fish.

Generally I would use a cast net but off the beach there is no argument, the drag net is the go. Dragging for prawns is pretty simple, but a few tips will help get better results. Keep the lead line on the bottom and keep a good belly in the net so the prawns are more often than not in the centre of the net in the belly. Keep the float line up high and angled slightly outwards so prawns that jump near you hit the mesh and slide back down to be caught in the belly of the net.

Keep moving slowly so the net keeps dragging and take the net well up out of the water to remove your catch. It is easy to tell if there are prawns about as they hit the net and some jump forward away from the belly.

Look after your catch and use an esky or keep them in a bucket with some cooler water. Don’t forget there is a bag (bucket) limit on prawns so take enough for a couple of feeds and leave them for another day.

Lastly, do not overcook them. I use very salty water with a tablespoon of brown sugar in it making sure it’s boiling well before I put in the prawns. As the prawns change colour and float up, pull them out and dump them in an icy slurry or very cold water. They should only cook for a minute or two. Done this way they sure taste better than any bought prawns!

On the close inshore scene there is not much happening as there is dirty water, weed and all sorts of debris floating around the ocean. It is a time for great care and a sharp look out as running into a semi-floating log at high speed is not recommended for the health of your outboard or hull, and at worst could see you in the water.

A few small doggy mackerel have been caught and the odd trevally and queenfish, but generally those inshore spots around the close islands have been shut down. Hopefully, as this issue comes out, the worst of the wet season should be over and these areas will clear up and really fire. Usually there are plenty of schools of small baitfish like herring and juvenile gar around after the water clears and they attract the larger predators. As a bonus the weather in April is usually starting to calm off and we get those lovely balmy days on the water.

On the freshwater scene, the river sooties have been looking for some lady sooties to make babies with up in the rapids, and these spawnings will help restock the Pioneer and its tributaries such as Cattle Creek. The dam sooties are milling about in the inflow currents and have been roeing up too. Unfortunately they need a fair distance of running rapids to successfully spawn.

Fish in the dams never seem to go really quiet. Some days are far better than others but with persistence a fish or two can be found. Teemburra Dam has fired up with plenty of barra from 600-900mm being boated or in some cases hooked and released at long range!

The soft plastic craze for barra does not seem to be slackening off, but remember, while they are very effective, they don’t always catch fish. Keep a good range of traditional barra lures on hand as well as a few poppers and Tango Dancers to cover all the bases.

Now that all 3 dams are full, the barra will be right up in shallow water feeding among the drowned grasses. Cruise around quietly on the electric and they can often be sight cast to among the reeds. The sight of a near metre long barra in water so shallow the dorsal fin is above water is enough to give anyone a bad case of barra fever. This usually means the required perfect cast is anything but, and the fish gets spooked. Ah well next time.

That’s about where we are at with wet weather fishing around Mackay, and even after 1200mm of rain there are still a couple of very good options, so get out there and have a go. See you at the boat ramp.

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