Plastic vibes are not lures that I’ve had much experience with but my inquisitive nature got the better of me yet again so this morning I gave them a go. First I needed a target species and after much deliberating I decided on that green backed speedster the queenfish (Scomberoides commersonnianus). These fish are extremely entertaining to catch and I have had a lot of success in the past, mainly using live herring as bait. Queenfish are quite plentiful in the local estuaries at this time of year and they can be found chasing schools of baitfish with the spectacular gusto that they are renowned for. Once hooked these fish fight well above their weight, readily taking to the air attempting to dislodge the offending connection to the angler.
Next thing I needed was a location but for me there really ever was only one choice. My childhood fishing nirvana that is the mouth of Bakers Creek. If you would like to find out more about what this now very popular local fishing spot means to me please see my previous post “My Fishing Roots“. I have spent many hours fishing this ledge and the steep drop off is perfect territory for queenfish, barramundi, bream and during a fresh north easterly the occasional mackerel can be taken.
After a quick visit to my local tackle store (Nashy’s Compleat Angler) and a few quick words of advice from the guy’s there I was on my way with two brand new Transam plastic vibes. A perfect morning greeted me with comfortable temperatures, very light winds and a vivid clear blue sky, you have got to love winter in Mackay.
It is easy for me to fish the mouth of Bakers Creek, although I am casting, working the lure and anticipating a strike, my soul is somewhere in the past, re living a myriad of happy memories that this humble little creek gifted me all those years ago …….. at peace.
A violent surface disturbance awakens me from my sentimental reflections as a school of herring scatters from a pursuing predator. Acting quickly I cast the Transam vibe in the direction of the turmoil and with one lift of the rod the tiny pulses of the vibe through the rod tip were replaced by a solid strike and screaming drag of my Shimano Aernos XT 2500. A very entertaining fight ensued as the fish predictably started its arial routine, dancing on top of the water with spectacular leaps. (Tip – When a fish takes to the air keep the pressure on and lower the rod tip).
I glided the fish into the shallows and with a firm grip on its tail landed my first target species on plastic vibe. A smaller model followed shortly after then a little trevally decided to have a go as well. I was very happy with the mornings effort and found the vibes relatively easy to use. The vibe transmits a signal through the rod tip and successful retrieves can vary from slow rolls to erratic lifts and pauses, vibes have the ability to explore the entire water column and the two trebles used are needle point sharp, although if targeting larger species I would recommend an upgrade of the split rings. I will definitely be using this technique a lot more and can see myself purchasing a few more of these great lures.
Today was all about the good vibe, the vibe of the location, the vibe of the queenfish and the Transam vibe.
My tireless attempts at improving my skills as a fly fisherman has meant that my latest blogworthy efforts have been limited to tarpon and catfish. This, coupled with many hours of frustration, blisters and my family not having had a decent feed of fish for quite a while prompted me to pull the yak out of the shed and take to the Pioneer river at dawn for what turned out to be a memorable session.
The tide was on it’s last run in and the Yak sliced through the glassy surface with very little effort, with a light wind from the south east I made a beeline for my favourite rock wall in the half light of pre-dawn. My plan was to jig soft plastics whilst drifting along the wall in the hope of picking up an estuary cod, mangrove jack or even a barramundi.
The action was fast and furious with the cod smashing every bait I dropped down, all up I would have caught over 30 of them but only a couple were legal so all were released to fight another day. I had a feeling that with so many fish on the chew it was only a matter of time until I banged into something a bit more challenging.
Estuary cod dwell in the heavy cover of sharp oyster encrusted caverns so my gear of choice is 30lb Fins Windtamer braid with about 6 feet of 20 lb fluorocarbon leader loaded onto a Shimano Caenan baitcaster with the drag locked up tight so I can extract some of the larger specimens before getting busted off, matched with a 4kg -6kg Silstar Power Tip Pro baitcast rod.
I was enjoying the familiar comfort of fishing from the Yak and with a fish every other cast I was having a great time. Suddenly my Atomic Prong 4″ prawn in Old Penny colour was smashed hard adjacent to the rock wall but instead of the fish heading straight for cover this one took off into open water. With the fish under the Yak and the drag locked up tight I had to think fast dunking the rod into the water as the fish powered off. Realising that this fish was not a Cod and had no intention of burying me deep into the oyster strewn abyss I regained my composure, loosened off the drag a little and settled in for the fight. At first I had visions of this being a Barra but as it dived deeper and deeper swimming in large circles under the yak I was convinced it was a Giant Trevally.
My suspicions were thankfully proven incorrect and I found it hard to contain my elation as the golden tail and barred striped flanks of a Golden Trevally became apparent through the clear water. A nervous couple of minutes followed as I did not want to rush such a fish only to lose it yak side so I played it out until it surfaced then slipped the Environet underneath.
Golden Trevally ( Gnathanodon speciosus ) are quite common around our local estuaries and inshore reefs and can reach sizes of 25lb plus. Eating quality is average to good with the pictured specimen being a better option if catching a feed is your goal. They can be found on both rocky reefs and shallow sand flats. Targeting Golden Trevally with a lightly weighted 5/0 hook threaded with several saltwater yabbies is a tried and tested way of tempting these aggressive fighters. They will also (as in this instance) succumb to soft plastics, in the shallows where they can be quite skittish fly fishing methods can also be very successful.
A brilliant morning on the river with a light wind and perfect conditions served up a piscatorial plethora of enjoyment culminating in one of my favourite species and a new Personal Best from the kayak.
“GOTTA LOVE MACKAYAKKING!”
Keeping with the theme of my last post, “Accepting The Challenge” I decided to try a form of fishing that I have never attempted before and that I have very limited knowledge of … Fly Fishing. The first thing I required was a fly rod and reel and after doing some research I decided that an 8 weight 9ft rod and reel combo would be perfect for the type of fish I would be targeting, Tarpon, Barramundi, Saratoga and Sooty Grunter. Together with this combo I also purchased an assortment of flies in a variety pack for targeting native fish, bought from Tackle World Mackay, I paid just over $200 all up. Fly fishing gear can fetch huge price tags as can many specialised forms of fishing gear but I was happy with this deal for an entry level dabble in one of the oldest recorded forms of fishing. Armed with my new combo, and after a night of watching you tube videos on fly casting I headed down to the Gooseponds in North Mackay, before dawn with an anticipation that every hopeful angler is familiar with.
An overcast morning greeted me with very little wind and I quickly found a likely looking area in the upper reaches of the Gooseponds. I could hear fish working the surface in the darkness and although I could not make out their identity just yet I positioned myself as close as possible to where the action was. The ensuing sunrise unveiled the target species as juvenile Tarpon, as they chased the surface bait their tails and backs broke the surface of the glassy water and offered my first opportunity to sight cast at fish with Fly! I was fortunate that the fish were holding fairly close to the bank as my novice casting skills were only allowing me to cast around 20 to 25 feet but it was enough. With only a handful of casts and a few near hookups under my belt I managed to tempt a small tarpon to take a small Black Muddler. The fight was a bit clumsy as I tried to keep pressure on the fish while retrieving the stripped line back onto the reel however I managed to get the little Tarpon right next to the bank. It was at this moment, in the absence of a landing net, I grabbed the leader to lift the fish up onto the grass when SNAP! the ultra thin tapered leader popped and the fish escaped with my Black Muddler. It was a rookie mistake but I was not disappointed one bit as I was confident I could land another one. Sure enough after a few casts, this time with a Chernobyl Ant in black and yellow I was on again, this time a much better fish that actually took a couple of runs and jumps but unfortunately as I was thinking I had its measure my contact with the fish was lost. Oh well thats Tarpon fishing!
I fired out the Ant again and by this stage my casting was improving which was quite fortunate as the fish also had moved out to deeper water, I was landing casts right next to fish but they seemed to be very wary now. With an hour passing and a few fly changes without success I was almost ready to call it a day when my Black and Purple Vampire Fly was solidly taken just as it gently kissed the glass like surface of the pond. A great little fight followed with the fish showing good energy and spectacular acrobatics, I also felt my retrieval of the loose, stripped line at my feet was much smoother. I slipped my hand under the frame of the 32cm Tarpon and lifted him gently from the water and after a few quick photos he was released full of vigour.
This session was about trying something new and improving my skills. I felt that my casting has vastly improved both in distance and accuracy as has my use of the fly reel in general. Although I am still most definitely a fly fishing novice I was extremely satisfied with a fish on my first attempt and look forward to more days on the fly.
“Sometimes it is more fun to be a beginner, try something new!”
Fishing is a huge part of my life, and when I am not wetting a line I can be found reading, writing or compiling information for my next challenge. A challenge is an invitation to engage in a contest and the piscatorial world invites me to these contests with a myriad of variables that can foil your ambitions without apology. Some of these variables I speak of are the weather and tides, equipment failure, geographical anomalies and elusive species that require many hours of persistence to conquer. It is this personal perception of a contest that drives my fishing obsession and I gain an immense satisfaction from accepting and overcoming these challenges.
My latest challenge has been to catch a legal sized Estuary Cod from the Kayak. In the past month I have caught around Twenty but all undersized usually by only a centimetre or two, I have been targeting them at the last of the outgoing and the first of the incoming tide along an oyster encrusted rock wall in the Pioneer River. During this month long challenge I have been bricked several times, a common problem with targeting such a species that resides within the crevices of razor sharp oyster rocks, these fish hit the lures hard and dive back into cover snagging you in the process. The first time this occurred I inevitably wound the drag up on my little Shimano Aernos 2500 loaded with 6lb Braid and 20lb Fluorocarbon leader when the lure was hit with such force that the outcome was a major equipment failure resulting in my reel being snapped off at the rod.
This is when the challenge really commenced. This fish had not only won this battle but it had totally destroyed one of my favourite reels! This had got serious, very serious. The very next time I went out I had a plan, I knew where the fish were so that was not a problem. I knew what lure to use so I had that covered also and now I had my Shimano Caenan Baitcaster outfit loaded with 30lb braid and 30lb Fluorocarbon leader with a fully locked drag. This time on a higher tide last of the incoming first of the outgoing with a stronger current, I used a 5/8″ TT jighead with a 4″ Atomic Prong S.P. After 3 smaller versions I finally landed my first legal E.C. of 45cm Not a big fish for the gear but they fight dirty and with razor sharp oyster rocks everywhere you can’t give them an inch!
Soon after I banged into what I thought may be a Fingermark or Mangrove Jack but unfortunately a 46cm Blubber-lip Bream also known as a Brown Morwong came on board. Terrible eating qualities saved this fella’ from the table and he was released to disappoint another angler further down the track.
Some people fish to catch a feed for their family, others fish for a chance to land the “next big one”, some may even fish for the prime purpose of having something to write for their next article. My fishing comes from somewhere much deeper, a family tradition, a salute to my ancestors, to honour my childhood but most importantly of all it is to accept an invitation to a challenge. Sometimes I may win, sometimes I will lose but one things for sure, I will keep on fishing!
One of my favourite times of the year to fish in the waterways around Mackay would have to be Summertime, with the Mangrove Jack and Barramundi firing and the rivers and creeks producing quality fish chasing the copious amounts of bait flushed out by the seasonal rains. The fishing tends to be better during the early morning or late afternoon although some good fish are also taken well into the night, especially in the impoundments such as Kinchant and Teemburra Dams. The Pioneer river also fishes well this time of year with the upper reaches producing some nice Mangrove Jack and Barramundi.
Remember the closed season for Barramundi starts from November the 1st through to February the 1st so during this time this species should not be taken or targeted, although it is almost inevitable that you will bang into a couple whilst chasing other species. If you do happen to catch a Barramundi during the closed season it should be released immediately to limit the amount of stress caused as this can affect the breeding habits of the fish.
If you love a good feed of fresh prawns and let’s face it, who doesn’t? This is the time of year to be chasing them with most local estuaries and creeks having an abundant supply of these tasty morsels. The fish also rate prawns highly and there is no better bait than a live prawn either lightly weighted or floated out on an incoming tide.
Some good catches of Mud Crabs are also common during the summer and a couple of pots set before you start a fishing session can be rewarded with a couple of “Muddies” for the table.
So when the the mercury rises and the humidity is so high you could cut the air with a razor. Get out on the water and you just might score yourself a feast of some the most sought after delicacies of the sea, right on your doorstep.
“Summackay and the livin’ is easy”
I have a serious passion for fishing lures, this obsession has led me to collect 100’s of lures, some of which are quite valuable and due to this these lures will not enter the fray ever again. They have been retired, some after many hours swimming over snags without seeing a fish, some that have the battle scars of an old warrior and some that due to their reputation are still brand new in original packaging. With this post I will attempt to explain my obsession, if not justify it by showing some examples of these works of art created by some very talented craftsmen.
I would like to start with my favourite collectible, an Allcocks Paragon circa.1890. This lure was generously given to me by a workmate, he came across it after a clean out of a deceased estate of his wife’s uncle Bob who lived a hermit like existence in the hills behind Kuttabul near Mackay. A heavy brass spinning type lure I can just imagine Bob casting this lure into the rock strewn streams searching for his next meal. Although the hooks have been removed it was given to me with a large treble on the back end and this coupled with its weight I find it almost incomprehensible that this lure survived for so long. These lures were crafted in England by retired jewellers which is evident from the clasped stone eyes and detailed engraving. In addition to this the Paragon spins upon a central through wire of brass as it is pulled through the water and this feature still works exactly how it did when Bob used it!
George Dempster was a prolific North Queensland lure maker and all his lures show an original artistic flair that are instantly identifiable by those who seek out his work. These lures were the go to Barra Lures of the 70’s and 80’s and I am still certain they would catch fish today. I love his subtle use of colour and how he layered his paint to achieve a realistic look. A great Aussie timber lure.
Killalures…..Dave Killalea in my opinion is an Aussie icon and I am sure these simple little timber Barrabaits can be attributed to 1000’s of epic Barra captures. The secret of these lures is in the action with a distinctive wobble that Barra seem to sense and react to by instinct, a lure made by a Barra Fisherman for Barra Fishermen! With an extensive colour range there is a Killa for every occasion. Dave’s still carving up a storm with Old Dog Lures check ’em out.
The late and great Ken Richardson of Richo lures has a cult following and as late as this week a sixteen year old angler was singing the praises of the “Tiny Terror’ and the “Extractor” asking where he could purchase some more as they were his favourite Barra lure. He was visibly devastated when I told him that “Richo” had passed away and that they were no longer being made. It is reactions like this that has prompted me to keep these for posterity as a tribute to ‘Richos” and Aussie made timber lures!
These are only a few of my favourite lures. These early pioneers of the Australian lure industry deserve recognition for supplying an original and quality product. The modern plastic, mass produced, heavily advertised, overseas made lures may catch fish but there will be no stories of retired jewellers, or of Aussie guys sweating it out under their houses or in their sheds striving for a quality product unless we support our local lure makers. Guy’s like this are still out there and are still making quality lures but they need our support to survive, so ask at your local tackle store or check out lurelovers.com for local lure makers in your area. I hope this gives the uninitiated an insight into lure collecting, a unique combination of Art, History and Physics all rolled up in one neat package.
“Aussie Made For Aussie Fish”
Well, this post was going to be titled Saratoga Saturday but unfortunately the primitive beast has eluded me yet again. It was frustrating but far from disappointing with a couple of ‘Toga spotted under snags and although they could not be enticed by my offerings it was amazing to see these fish in their natural habitat, just below the surface with the morning sunlight reflecting off their flanks. Other wildlife in the area included a small brown and white wild pig, numerous water lizards and schools of Bony Bream. With the usual waterbirds and local cattle leisurely grazing on the riverbank it made for an enjoyable days paddle.
The fishing was not all bad either with the first part of the session looking very promising, every cast seemed to attract a bump or a swirl behind my Halco Night walker. Unfortunately as the sun rose higher in the sky the fish retreated back into the heavy timber and the interest seemed to wane. With no fish boated in the first hour I changed tactics and tied on a Z-man Soft plastic Pop Frog in white and paddled deep into the snags, using short casts and a slow roll retrieve paid dividends instantly. This fish struck with tremendous force and in hindsight I probably should have tightened the drag a bit more as I did not get to set the hook effectively and the fish spat the lure from its mouth. I do not know what species it was and it doesn’t really matter but fishing is all about learning and that mistake will not be made again.
Sooty Grunter (Hephaestus fuliginosus) love to reside under fallen timber such as this and are aggressive fighters that punch well above their weight, they are a perfect species to target in a Kayak and are prolific in the Dawson-Fitzroy river systems but their range stretches further north through to the Northern Territory. “Sooties” respond well to a wide variety of lures and flies and where there is one there is usually a few more. I tend to think of these fish as a toned down freshwater version of the Mangrove Jack and similar techniques and lures will deceive these hardy little sportsfish.
After losing a lure to the many overhanging branches I decided to target the bridge pylons and my first cast was met with a bump of the Pop Frog so I put my second cast in exactly the same spot and fish on! Not a large specimen but a very welcome one and after a quick pic’ a 25cm “Sootie” was released to fight another day.
The wind started to pick up at this stage which pushed me downstream a little quicker than I would have liked but as I drifted past a large fallen tree I threw a Reidys 50mm Bonito next to it and a few twitches resulted in a screaming strike which took me by surprise. It was a great fight with the fish firstly having to be extracted from his lair then once in open water he dived under the yak a couple of times before this 32cm prizefighter finally succumbed.
The ‘Toga didn’t play the game on Saturday but the location, the wildlife and the Sooty Grunter made it all worthwhile!
“Love those “Black Jacks”
I am a very keen fisherman and kayaker as most of you would have probably guessed by now but I am also just as passionate about my writing and photography, hence the reason I started this “Mackayakka” blog. I’m the first to admit that my abilities may not equal my enthusiasm just yet which is why I read a lot of other fishing articles in blogs and magazines and I’m an avid viewer of most fishing television shows (this also passes the time when I can’t wet a line!). It always amuses me when the writers of the above mentioned media catch their target species so easily and always with the very lures that they are trying to flog off to the average punter. It can be interesting and advantageous to see the latest in fishing practices and techniques but at the end of the day for us part-time weekend anglers sometimes “Fishin’ can be tough”. My weekend started with a 4am rise on Saturday morning for a launch at the Pioneer River Street boat ramp at daybreak for a bit of Yak fishing. I had decided to cover all options with a large baitcaster outfit, a light bait rod and my soft plastic flicking rod. I also brought along a yabbie pump and cast net. I worked the southern bank of the Pioneer drifting with the outgoing tide using an Atomic prong to no avail so I ventured over to the northern section of wall and immediately hooked up on a small estuary cod.
Drifting out on the outgoing current with a light breeze at my back I managed to boat another 2 cod by jigging the Atomic prawn on the drift. The largest went 37cm, just under the legal size of 38cm and an equal Yak Personal Best for me.
I then paddled into the Bassett Basin where I picked up an undersized Flattie in the main channel but otherwise it was very quiet. Then I came across some mates in a boat who were finding it almost as tough as myself with no decent fish to report. The tide by that stage was well and truly on its way in and being a 5.36m high the current was way too strong for me to work the wall with any confidence, even so I did manage one very strong hit and run on a 5″ Squidgy paddletail but alas no hook up. Drifting up towards the Forgan bridge in the northerly branch of the river I could see a fellow Yakker working the Mangrove banks, as I got closer I noticed it was a mate of mine, Gary. Just as he got within earshot my Atomic Prawn was hit hard mid water resulting in a screaming drag that I had not heard all morning. This fish fought extremely hard. It went under my yak then rose to the surface with the telltale Flathead head shakes, I knew then what I was dealing with so I slipped the net under him and brought him in. Now to those who don’t fish from a Kayak, having a very lively 60cm Flathead onboard thrashing about around your legs can really get the heart pumping! Gary witnessed the fight and proceeded to tell me how the fishing had been a bit tough for him of late also. We paddled up to the bridge threw a few more lures around and I was off the water at 11.30am, ready for a beer or two. I was feeling a little seedy from the aforementioned beer or two as I lifted my head off the pillow at 4.30am Sunday morning but nonetheless managed to make my way to Dumbleton to throw a few lures, landbased. I worked the usual rapids with no result but the perfect weather and conditions had me feeling very positive and I was really enjoying the session. I had a couple of enquiries from some bream but it wasn’t until I spotted a submerged log and hit a perfect cast right on it that my Rapala Skitter Pop was smashed by a 28cm Mangrove Jack. This lure was one that I found on the high tide mark at Dumbleton two years ago, it is not the latest and greatest, it did not cost $30+ dollars, you wont see it on any fishing shows or in the most popular local blog. What it did though was finish off a tough weekends fishing with a smile and a burning desire to do it all again next weekend.
“When the going gets tough, the tough get going!”
The Australian Dusky Flathead (Platycephalus fuscus) would be my target species for my first serious days fishing on my 7 days off work. With low tide at 12.30pm I launched the yak at 10am hoping to fish the last of the outgoing and the first of the incoming. My Shimano Aernos loaded with 6lb Braid and 14lb leader has accounted for many Flatties and with my lure of choice being an Atomic 4″ Prong soft plastic prawn imitation in Carolina Pumpkin matched with a 1/8oz 3/0 TT Jighead i was confident that I could bag a lizard or two.
After a short paddle I arrived at my favourite Flattie spot and threw my first cast in anticipation, BANG! my lure was hit immediately and after a short tussle a 45cm Flathead was landed and released. I had the feeling that today was going to be a good one.
Flathead are the perfect species to target with lures and soft plastics and are plentiful enough to reward the novice angler but also present a challenge for the experienced. This, coupled with the fact that they are an excellent table fish give the Flathead, in my opinion, a solid 1st place in the order of bread and butter species. Being able to read the water is one of the most important attributes an angler can possess when targeting these fish, in addition to understanding that they are an ambush predator. Keeping these ideas in mind I started to work a sandy drop off where the outgoing tide was flowing, again my offering was devoured by another fish but this one was substantially larger. The fight consisted of two large runs with the fish continually breaking the surface with viscous head shakes, this is typical of Flathead and to combat this you must lower the rod tip to prevent the fish throwing the hook. I did exactly that and as a result landed this 52cm model.
Working the same drop off I was immediately rewarded with another, slightly smaller specimen of 49cm that did not put up nearly as good a fight as the previous fish but with not even the first hour gone I had landed three good fish and was stoked! The day just got better with about 7 Flathead landed in total with the largest going 61cm. I took 3 home for a feed and the rest were released to fight another day.
I also managed to pick up this little estuary cod which was not much bigger than the lure he swallowed so I thought he deserved a photo or two for his efforts.
So try flicking some plastics for Flatties, but be warned, its addictive!
“Flathead, ugly but so cool.”
Saturday morning 4 am, I open my eyes and drag myself out of bed. It’s the middle of winter but the temperature is sitting around 15 degrees . With this warmer than average winter weather I decided my target species for the day would be Mangrove Jack (Lutjanus argentimaculatus). Now, a lot of fisherman tend to stop targeting Mangrove Jack in the cooler months and although these fish do slow down their eating habits during this time, a couple of warmer days can reap rewards for the savvy angler.
At the launch site I was greeted by a spectacular red dawn with the clouds setting the glassy surface of the water on fire with dazzling reflections. In my family, Mangrove Jack have always been somewhat understatedly, referred to as Red Bream and with that red sunrise at my back I paddled upstream prepared for an encounter with this iconic fish. Preparation is essential when targeting these fish as they will test your terminal tackle like no other with a savage strike and dirty fighting tactics, they have won many battles with anglers including yours truly by diving back into the heavy cover in which they reside, breaking you off in the process.
My Shimano Aernos 2500 was spooled with 6lb braid and 14lb leader which is most definitely on the lighter side of Mangrove Jack fishing. I was about 2 hours into the session with only a couple of follows by some tentative fish. My lure of choice was a Rapala Skitter Pop and I had been using a slow retrieve most of the morning. I decided to change it up to see if I could entice a strike using a much quicker retrieve making lots of surface disturbance. Almost immediately my lure was smashed only ten feet away from the Yak. The ensuing fight consisted of several screaming runs where the fish attempted to take my lure back home to place on its trophy wall but this time it was not to be. A 42cm Mangrove Jack was netted with minimum fuss and I then paddled to shore for some photos of my first Yak Jack.
“Red is now my favourite colour”