Wednesday, 23 December 2020
Mackay is one of those quaint little regions that flys under the radar a little as far as large scale tourism goes. But being the start of the Whitsundays and having a huge range of net free estuaries and lakes all fishable in a half day trip from town it is certainly no secret amongst well-travelled anglers…including me. The variety of fish and environments is exceptional, I will take you through a few of my favourite ones:
My most recent trip to Mackay started with a visit to Kinchant Dam. About 35 minutes drive from town this lake is exceptionally well stocked with Barra and is one of the places to target these freshwater beasts. Being a stocked lake there’s no closed season so you can fish all year round. It’s not a large lake either, so the number of fish per area is high, and it is easy to get around.
The lack of tides and current along with a massive amount of baitfish and other feed in the lakes sees the Barra grow huge and strong in double quick time.
The easiest way for newcomers to catch a barra is trolling any of the well-known barra lures along where it gets just deep enough for the aquatic weed to stop growing-this is where the barra often travel.
Keener anglers love catching them on the cast – and anchoring up on wind facing points and casting towards the weed edge is effective. Soft plastics, vibes and hardbody lures made for barra all work well, Fly fishing is a brilliant option for more advanced anglers.
A consistent warm to hot northerly wind weather pattern is best. Fishing at dawn/dusk and into the night is not only most productive…it beats the heat of the day and hence is much more enjoyable in the hotter months.
Modern sounders, especially side scan or live scanning units help locate fish, but are not essential. You can also catch the barra off the bank, and even the boat ramps produce a few for those that are lucky.
The big thing is to allow yourself some time…us seasoned anglers still only catch half a dozen barra per 5 hours session when all goes well, but just one for a newcomer will have you cheering – these are big strong fish that erupt out of the water with breathtaking power.
Allow at least a few days or more if you’re going it alone. If you need a quicker result hire one of the brilliant official guides at www.mackayregion.com/hooked-on-mackay … they will get you onto barra and you’ll fast track your learning along the way.
This component of our trip started with a little sneaking about on the sand flats at the mouth of the Pioneer River with a mate of mine.
The Pioneer River is a stunning blue coloured river characterised by the rare fact that the sediment from the river mouth doesn’t cloud up the river on an incoming tide. It really is as sparking and blue as the postcard pics providing there hasn’t been heavy rain and you time things towards the top of the tide, especially on the smaller tides of the month. This is a great river if your in town - my mates get Barra next to the main bridges and rock walls, while threadfin, whiting, trevs, queenfish and many more patrol the nearby holes and flats. Barra migrate right up the river when floods allow, and there’s loads of bream and a few jacks around most jetties and rock reefs too. A boat is best to tackle this river, but the Blue Water Tourist Trail also has lots of access spots for land-based anglers.
My mission however on this part of my trip was to see if I could locate the holy grail of fly fishing – Permit. These incredibly fussy fish are one of the top five global fly fishing target species, and Mackay is lucky enough to have them in stupidly huge sizes up to a meter! We spotted them…I wasn’t expecting to fool them in the first effort, they need a bit more effort to figure out, but given what I saw I am most excited to re-visit just for these fish alone.
Next inshore venture was 45 minutes drive north where we boarded with Arthur Lovern from Seaforth Island Charters. A big comfy flats fishing boat with lots of shade and room made this filming and family trip bliss. Arthur is a fountain of knowledge and loves teaching people about his back yard while you fish.
Being part of the new net free zone the fish and marine life is abundant…I’ve never seen so many inshore turtles in my life! It was pretty straight forward for Arthur to put us onto some big hard fighting trevally along with some tasty reef fish and mackerel.
Barra are his specialty in season, and Arthur also gets into threadfin salmon and Mangrove Jacks to name a few. Arthur is a most experienced high end guide but is also patient and happy to help newcomers and kids. He helped my daughter get her PB Golden Trevally, a wonderfully healthy and strong 75cm specimen – she will never forget this and is still smiling as I type.
Given the amount of inshore islands in the area there is plenty of places to shelter and fish if the wind or tide is up, and if you get one of those idyllic low wind days the place sparkles like something out of a movie. In fact early 1900’s mega film star Annette Kellerman holidayed on Newry Island and Arthur takes tours out to her old shack – the stories you can read about on site or hear from Arthur are brilliant.
Besides Arthur there are other great guides, again check out www.mackayregion.com/hooked-on-mackay and find the one that suits you.
Such is the variety on offer we missed out on some iconic spots like scenic Temburra and Eungella Dam up in the hills. And we didn’t even get out on the Great Barrier Reef on this trip – which is where the fish get even bigger and more prolific. But I’m not complaining – In fact I’m cheering – usually you are forced to go way out to the reef to get the big fish TV viewers want… instead we had the option of cruisy half days on calm inshore and lake waters and got our big fish there! It’s a very sociable, budget conscious and exciting way to fish!
Really lost for words as too how much else there is to catch and do -if this sounds like a place you’d like to visit, and lets face it who wouldn’t, I urge you to check out www.mackayregion.com to help plan your accom and travel. On the site you can also learn about the iconic activities like the Kangaroos viewing on the beach at Hillborough and the Platypus at Eungella National Park.
For yet more inspiration from The Mackay Region, follow Hooked On Mackay on Facebook and Instagram?
I’m really looking forward to airing the episode we filmed and we can’t wait to get back to Mackay for all of the above and much more.
See you on the water.
Host Fishing Australia.