The heat is on and fish have responded well with good catches being reported all around, from the reef to the freshwater dams and streams. From late September through October, barra went nuts over live baits and lures with plenty of fish up to 1.2m being caught in the creeks from Rocky Dam to the south, right through to the Proserpine River. A good sign for the future is the good numbers of smaller fish around 45-55cm. Many of these fish will be legal size when the season reopens in February.
With the closed season kicking off from 1 November, barra anglers will have to be content with fishing the three stocked impoundments here, Eungella, Kinchant and Teemburra dams. Each of these dams produces barra well over the metre mark with many now over 1.2m and they respond to a number of lure fishing styles as well as being legitimate fly targets with appropriate gear of course.
Kinchant dam is a favourite venue for water skiers and jet skis and of a weekend can be very crowded with lots of boat activity. During the week, you’ll often have the dam pretty much to yourself. Barra can be found all over the dam, but look for wind blown shores as the bait tends to congregate here and the barra follow. They like to patrol the weed bed edges and around the weed islands, generally in less than 5m of water.
This scenario is not hard to find in the dam and any little inlets or channels into the weedbeds should be thoroughly worked over with long casts. Work the lure all the way to the boat. Many barra have been hooked as the angler starts to lift the lure to make the next cast, so be ready for the instant action.
Kinchant barra will also respond to trolling hardbodies as well as the big plastics in 150mm or larger. Many trollers work from the old creek bed back towards the southwest shoreline and use lures that work 3-5m deep. Any of the well-known Aussie lures like Reidy’s, Halcos or Gadens will work without needing upgrades of hooks and rings. Many imported lures are excellent, but they usually have flimsy hooks and rings that need changing.
For casting, it’s best to have a range of hard and soft lures. On the plastics front, big paddle-tails like Reidy’s, Squidgies, Tropic Angler, ZMan, Storm and Castaic will all work and catch barra. Just make sure the hook and jig is up to the job. I recommend a minimum size of 5/0 be used. There are plenty of other soft paddle-tails on the market, but these are ones I’ve had success with. As always, talk to the staff in the local tackle shops for the latest news on lures.
Surface luring is my favourite way to fish for barra. Kinchant is a good spot for this technique with plenty of weedbeds and lilies to work a surface lure around. I use a variety of poppers, the largest Tango Dancers and frogs with my preference being the ZMan PopFrogz, largest size in white. There are plenty of others that work as well and half the fun is in experimenting with new gear.
While Kinchant has no timber, both Eungella and Teemburra dams have plenty and they’re home to some monster barra, but these areas are hard to fish and even harder to land a barra from among the heavy stuff. Eungella timber is not as dense as Teemburra and having been flooded for about 50 years, much of the smaller stuff has rotted away. Many areas of Teemburra are so thickly timbered, it’s difficult to get a boat through. For this reason, most anglers tend to fish more open bays.
Barra show up really well on sounders and will often be out in deeper water in numbers. If you find them like this, check around for the nearest prominent point or bay, anchor up quietly and fan casts out into the dam, the bay and along the points. If there’s a few regrowth trees or old stumps and some weed, you’ve likely hit the jackpot. This type of fishing requires patience, as you’re really playing a waiting game until the fish move from the deeper water into the shallows to feed.
Again look for the windward shore. On a northerly, check out the bays, points and weed along the southern side of the dam, where the bony bream will be feeding on plankton. Use the same techniques and lures as previously described, and make sure your gear is up to scratch or you’ll get dusted big time.
Sooty fishing also heats up in summer. A recent session in Cattle Creek rewarded Lachlan and I with half a dozen aggro little sooties to about 350mm, which in the running water on 4 and 6 weight fly rods were heaps of fun. MAFSA members will be keeping a keen eye on the weather and the river waiting for suitable conditions when the sooties start to roe up. When this happens, brood stock will be caught and transferred into the hatchery to kick off this season’s breeding program.
Summer is not all about dam fishing though – plenty of saltwater action is still on the agenda. Down in the creeks and estuaries, jacks and golden snapper are on the chew, along with the ever-present estuary cod. These three species will be the bulk of lure captures over the next couple of months, along with the old reliable flathead.
Jacks have been on the go over the last week or so in Murray, Victor and Constant creeks with a few having been reported from Sarina inlet and Rocky Dam Creek. Jacks will be found around rocks, heavy snags or freshly downed mangroves where they have ambush points among the leaves and branches, so get the lure in there and hang on.
There are plenty of whiting about in the creeks and estuaries as well as along the beaches. Yabbies and worms are the best baits while strips of squid will also work. The old hands all suggest using red plastic tubing or red beads on top of the hook as an added attraction.
For the tinnie anglers, the northerly winds have started. Bait schools and small macs are appearing around the harbour and Shoal Point areas. Small macs and northerlies go together well and they respond to trolling lures or pilchards, cast and retrieve, or anchoring and berleying. Birds wheeling and diving are a reliable pointer to action, which may not always be visible on the surface. Most of the macs are caught slightly down in the water column, while tuna like to work bait on the surface. They’re great fun in the reach of even small tinnies.
Reef fishing has been weather dependant, but good catches of grassy lippers, red throats, red emporer and trout have been filtering in from even the close inshore islands with big reds coming from the shipping channel. While some of the close in islands are in tinnie range, reef fishing proper needs a substantial boat with reliable motor and good fuel range as a reef trip can involve a round trip of 150km or more.
Mackay as usual offers plenty of options for anglers from the rainforest to the reef so why not take a trip to paradise and join us. See you at the ramp.
Simon Fechner took advantage of light winds to try his luck near Siloth Rock and hauled in this trout, which was a welcome addition to the icebox.
MAFSA member Matt Trott checked out the Kinchant barra and landed this fish working the shallows along the southern side of the dam.
Casting a Woolly Bugger on a 4 weight fly rod to the snags in the background produced this lively little
Cattle Creek sooty for Lachlan Day.Reads: 408