Thanks to all who have viewed the Mackayakka Blog, I have finally reached the landmark 1000 views with hopefully many more to come!
The cold weather was really upon us on Saturday morning and having not wet a line in over a week I was suffering from serious fishing withdrawal. I had planned to head west to chase some Saratoga, but as I finished off my second coffee, I read a post on Facebook from a mate saying that it was minus 2 out that way, I decided I would try the Pioneer River instead. I arrived at the boat ramp at 5.45am with the temperature sitting at a balmy 6 degrees (much better than minus 2) and paddled off just as the sun started to peek over the horizon.
To warm up I decided to pump a few Yabbies and after a short time I had enough for a morning session chasing Bream and Whiting with the occasional flick of some soft plastics for Flathead. So armed with my plan, bait and beanie I set off to find some fish. A quick troll along the rock wall to the V produced nothing but when I arrived there were many birds working the area furiously. Terns, Pelicans and Cormorants all fighting each other for the feast of baitfish just below the surface. I thought I should take a photo of this but instead my fishing instincts kicked in and I casted with anticipation into the maelstrom of birds, baitfish and hopefully larger predatory fish. My soft plastic was hit hard with a single strong strike but no hook up and as quickly as it all started, it went quiet. I threw a few different lures around the area but nothing, oh well thats fishing. I then turned back to my plan and flicked for Flathead while floating a Yabbie out the back. I was rewarded almost immediately with a nice little Bream, I have caught hundreds of these fish but I never tire of their honest fighting ability combined with an aesthetic beauty that some fish just don’t have.
I then paddled down the inside of the wall and had no touches on the soft plastic, I managed to pick up a nice Whiting and a very small Flathead. A couple more Bream also fell to the most versatile bait that is the humble Yabbie. I found a nice little beach and had a bite to eat and took in the glorious day that it was, with not a cloud in the deep blue sky and a light 5 to 10 Knot wind I realised why I haul myself out of bed at 4am to do this.
You may regret sleeping in but you rarely regret going fishing!
Like many kids growing up in Nth Queensland in the 70’s and 80’s I was taught to fish at a very early age. My Grandfather (Ga-Ga) was the most influential and patient of all my teachers and I still remember that day he taught me to how to correctly bait a hook with a Yabby while fishing off the ledge at the mouth of Bakers Creek. I don’t know how old I was but this memory has stayed with me over the years and occasionally my mind still wanders back to that precious moment.
The mouth of Bakers Creek is a sacred place to myself and my family. Our fishing hut was built on it’s banks many years before my birth and many family Easter, Christmas and New Year’s celebrations were held at “The Hut”. Vivid memories of huge bonfires, music and dancing combined with epic feasts of barbecued Barramundi and Mud Crabs continue to visit me in nostalgic dreams that I never want to wake from. Central to these dreams is always an acute sense of belonging, of ownership and of right, however reality could not be further away from this idealogical myth.
“The Hut” was built, half on private property and half on crown land, a result of a handshake deal between friends and a sum of money exchanged for the privilege of owning a small hut on the banks of Bakers Creek. Suffice to say such romantic and trusting deals do not survive well in the current world. Unfortunately when the older generation stands back and the next take charge the gentlemanly deals of the past account for little and old friendships long since get forgotten.
“The Hut” itself had two levels, kitchen and bathroom downstairs and bedroom upstairs with one double and four singles. The fish filleting table, the cut out 44 gallon drum to boil the copper , the out house and the water tank all visible and usable to this day but alas this is no longer ours. My family’s story is not unique as there are many other huts that have been taken from those that have given them life, laughter and good times but we all have to move on. My fishing skills were learnt on the banks of that Creek with “The Hut” always there in the background, solid and dependable like an old friend.
All I can say is that I am proud that I had the pleasure of enjoying our hut in a time when life was a little simpler but a lot more genuine. Thank you to all the family and friends who shared these amazing times with me and all those who taught and inspired me to be the person (and fisherman) I am today.
The upper reaches of the Pioneer River below the Dumbleton Weir is a fantastic fishing location with a huge variety of species to entertain even the fussiest angler. Barramundi, Mangrove Jack, Salmon, Flathead, Estuary Cod, Giant Trevally, Queenfish and Whiting are all found in this area in abundance, add to this excellent crabbing and spectacular scenery Dumbleton can only be described as a jewel of Mackay’s Fishing destinations.
Kayaking the Dumbleton waterway is not without risk with strong tidal run, rapids, submerged rocks/timber, a large Bull Shark population and the occasional crocodile sighting. Dumbleton should only be tackled by experienced “Yakkers” or with someone who knows and understands the area well. That being said in my opinion the angling rewards far outweigh the dangers with Dumbleton accounting for many “PB’s” or personal best captures for both myself and other fellow Kayak Anglers.
With a small window of good weather this weekend on Saturday morning, I took the opportunity to head up to Dumbleton with my good mate Pedro aka. Qwikdraw for a Yak session.
My day could not have started any worse, with preparations made the night before I was confident that when I departed at 5am I had everything I required for a great day out on the water. I arrived at the launch site and fitted out the yak at the waters edge, everything was in its place….ready to rock! Now just grab my paddle and away I go….my paddle …OH NOOOO THE PADDLE!!! Luckily another positive for the Dumbleton area is that it is only 10 minutes away from my house which is where my paddle was happily leaning against a post, oblivious to my distress. (It can happen to the best of us). So after a quick, frantic drive I was soon launching from the muddy shoreline with the all important paddle in hand.
There was not much action to speak of during the first hour, a couple of large fish breaking the surface and a few large mullet jumping. So I decided to bait up one of my three rods with some squid to see what I could conjure up, meanwhile I threw my Rapala skitter pop around trying to entice a strike from any quality fish lurking beneath the glassy surface. My little Shimano with the squid bait screamed as a good fish took a solid first run, I called it early as a Catfish and my prediction was correct with a 30cm (approx) Catfish getting a snapshot then its freedom.
Pedro and I then moved further upstream throwing lures at any likely looking snags and peppering the rock bars. I had a big hit from what I thought was a Mangrove Jack but did not hook up and I couldn’t persuade it to replicate its original interest in my popper. Then I detected some commotion coming from Pedros direction and could tell instantly he was on to a good fish. Fighting out in open water he made it look easy and boated a very solid looking Mangrove Jack of 44cm. To see my good fishing mate land his first Mangrove Jack from a kayak was priceless and we were both ecstatic. A quality fish and a new PB for Qwikdraw.
With our morale well and truly boosted I was feeling positive that today was going to be a good one and that maybe, just maybe, a new PB was just around the corner for myself. I had been working the rock bars with poppers and shallow diving lures with a few touches but nothing solid, so with the frustration getting the better of me I decided to try the deeper holes on the other bank with a Rapala X-Rap. This immediately paid off when I landed my lure adjacent to a partly submerged log and twitched it twice, it exploded in a violent strike and started peeling line so fast that I had to take a quick glance at the spool to see how much line I had left. Two to Three minutes into the fight and I was thinking “if this is a Jack, its a big one!” but then I saw the flash of silver and realised this was not a Mangrove Jack. Barra? Queenfish? No, as the fish finally succumbed and the net slid under its 58cm frame, a Trevally was sitting in the Kayak. To be honest at first I was a little disappointed, it may not have been the PB I was looking for but a PB none the less! My biggest Trevally from the Yak so far.
It was a great morning and Dumbleton delivered two PB’s yet again for two fishing mates. I have many friends but only a select few can I call fishing mates. Fishing mates are different to normal mates, a silent knowing of each others thoughts, no need for banter or overzealous conversation, healthy competition and a seriousness that connects you by sharing the common goal…… the pursuit of your Personal Best.
Night fishing can be another way to add a different dimension to your fishing, there are many benefits including lack of boat traffic, calmer winds and more comfortable temperatures. It definitely has some disadvantages also but these can usually be overcome with some careful preparation.
The lack of light can be a concern when there are a lot of boats out and you are floating around in a 4.5m piece of plastic in the middle of the night. I use an all round light that I keep on at all times, a reflective safety flag and also a good quality headlamp for tying knots, re-baiting and removing fish. DONT FORGET YOUR GLASSES! (if you require them) this can be frustrating, I speak from experience here with knot tying at night being impossible without them these days. I try and fish nights when there is a decent moon out which increases your long distance vision and also helps you to feel more comfortable.
If fishing saltwater at night I tend to stick to bait fishing using either yabbies, worms or live bait but I also have been successful with poppers and surface lures after the sun has disappeared. Poppers and surface lures are deadly on the impoundment Barra after dark with soft plastic frogs and large bubble poppers being my “go to” lures.
Winter time sees large numbers of quality Whiting run through our estuary systems but some good specimens can definitely be extracted during the summer months. My bait of preference for this species has always been Yabbies but lately I have found that sand worms catch consistently larger fish and in more numbers. Targeting Whiting at night can lead to unsuspected by-catch such as Tarpon, Grunter, Bream and the usual unwanted Stingray’s and Shovelnose.
With the full moon approaching with the easter long weekend it might just be the chance to avoid the fishing crowds and drop a line at night. Whether it be in a Yak, Boat or Landbased be safe and ensure that you can be seen by others.
It has been too long between posts (and fishing trips) due to numerous excuses none of which are good enough. I did however manage to get out for a couple of Yak sessions on the Pioneer river. Although the weather was not ideal and the normally clear blue water was running brown with lots of fresh still coming down from the last rains, I decided to brave the 15 to 20 Knot winds and take the Prowler out to find some fish.
Launching from the River street boat ramp is very easy with lots of parking, this location gives you quick access to well known spots such as the V, the River mouth, Bassett Basin or the Forgan-Smith Bridge. So at 5.30am I paddled off in search of anything that would take a lure, I was 10 minutes into my paddle when my 50mm Reidys Bonito was smashed right next to the rock wall by what I called early as a small trevally and sure enough after a short tussle a 38cm Juvenile GT was netted, photographed and released.
It then went very quiet and the next couple of hours were spent flicking soft plastics over the sand bars and yabbie beds in search of a Flathead. This is one of my favourite methods of fishing and usually most successful but I could not seem to get them interested. I had tried every soft plastic I had and a few hardbodied lures as well but they just didn’t seem to be biting. I had almost lost hope of enticing any interest when finally my Zerek prawn was solidly engulfed by a small Flathead, not a large fish but good reward for perseverance.
It was a great feeling to get out on the water again and although the fish weren’t huge or plentiful I still enjoyed the trip. I will now be telling myself if the weather isn’t perfect or the tides aren’t ideal, just get out there and have a go because you just never know.
I decided it was time to finally take my two year old daughter fishing with me for the first time. So on a blowy Sunday afternoon we made our way down to the beach for her first Whiting session with her old man. Now the location I had chosen is not really ideal for a two year old being that it was low tide and the water recedes a long way from the shoreline but the little trooper took it all in her stride with a smile on her dial the whole time.
I pumped a few yabbies for bait and we set off on the long trek, usually it takes me about 5 minutes to get out to where the fish are but with my little angel in tow the journey took quite a bit longer. She was distracted by every tiny shell that she saw on the flats and chased the little blue soldier crabs that scurried for cover as she ran after them.
We arrived at the end of the spit and I immediately baited up and cast out into about two feet of water, as soon as the bait hit the surface it was smashed by a hungry little whiting. She squealed with excitement when she seen the little fish and after a quick cuddle she got to release it looking very pleased with herself. I quickly cast out again and let her hold the rod (with a bit of help of course) and yet again it was hit obligingly.
A magical afternoon spent with my favourite little person in the whole world. We got four fish and it was awesome to see her enjoying something that I love just as much as I do. This time it wasn’t about catching a feed, a challenging target species or fighting that big one. It was about something a lot more and I think I have found myself a new favourite fishing buddy!
Take a kid fishing 🙂
Kayak or “Yak” Fishing has been enjoying a tremendous growth in popularity in recent years and in this post I will share with you some of the things I have learned (usually the hard way) to help make your introduction to this amazing pastime a safer and more pleasurable experience.
First of all be aware that Kayak fishing is a dangerous activity and that it is up to every individual to ensure their own safety by only paddling within their limits and to be prepared for any situation that may arise. The following information should be used in conjunction with extensive research on the subject before attempting any type of Kayak Fishing.
Equipment you will need:
1. A Kayak and Paddle. An obvious statement but this is the single most important purchase and will determine whether your day out on the water is a blast or a disaster. Take your time to do your research and if possible, try before you buy. Most Kayaks come with a recommended carrying capacity that must not be exceeded.
2. PFD or Personal Flotation Device. This is essential and must be worn at all times even in shallow or calm water.
3. Safety Flag. So you can be easily seen.
4. Dry Bag. To keep items such as mobile phones, keys and wallets dry and safe.
5. Clothing. Dress to the conditions and with the intention that you may fall into the water. Light clothing, hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, and insect repellent.
6. Water. Fresh drinking water and a snack for energy as required.
7. Fishing Gear. Rods with shorter butts that are no more than 7ft long are good to start out with, although the main rule here is to use what you are comfortable with. Landing net. Ensure that you have a suitable net for the fish you are targeting. Lip Grippers, Knife, Pliers and Gloves are also useful along with suitable storage for lures, tackle and spare line.
8. Other items that you may want to consider having on board are a First aid kit, White all round light (for those early morning starts) and Lanyards to keep everything attached to the Kayak.
There is an endless supply of Kayak fishing accessories available out there, the trick is to find what works for you. Try to limit how much gear you take with you but never compromise your safety.
Your First Trip
1. Take a buddy with you, I recommend joining a Kayak Fishing Forum online such as AKFF (Australian Kayak Fishing Forum) where you can find like minded individuals in your area that are only too happy to help out new members. These sites are great sources of helpful information.
2. Still Water. Keep your first trip out confined to protected waters with not too much tidal run. Leave the fishing gear at home and just go for a paddle. Ensure the weather conditions are suitable. IF IN DOUBT, DON’T GO OUT!
3. Re-Entry. The ability to get back in or on your kayak after capsize. This is an extremely important aspect of Kayaking in general and must be practised and perfected. There are some good videos online that show the correct re-entry techniques. Before your first trip, try these techniques in a pool or safe waterway with help on hand if you get into trouble.
4. Learn to swim. Do not attempt any form of kayaking unless you are a competent swimmer and do not Kayak under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
5. Let Someone Know Where You Go. Make sure you leave exact details of where you are going and what time you are expected to return.
I hope these tips help anyone starting out on their Yak fishing adventure become better prepared for the journey ahead.
Good Luck and Happy ‘Yakkin’
I was invited along to my mates fishing shack for a friendly fishing competition located in a large creek system an hours drive north of Mackay. Our group consisted of 8 mates in 3 boats, Team Strikers (Busty, Vardy, Damo), Team Bream Reapers. (Steve and Josh) and I was part of Team Tuggers along with Mark, Stewy and Mick. Team Bream Reaper would be hard to beat as they had the home ground advantage and they had made up the rules but we were all up for the challenge!
Our base for the next few days was more like a resort than a camp with hot shower, ceiling fans and comfortable sleeping quarters. In our group we also had a fully qualified chef and the meals were devoured with grateful enthusiasm after every hard days fishing.
We arrived at camp mid morning on the first day and launched the boats immediately making our way to our various fishing spots. The weather was typical North Queensland summer conditions with light winds, high temperatures and a good dose of humidity. The fishing was hard on the first day for our team as we explored the area searching out new spots. We did catch a lot of fish but most were undersized including a lot of Grunter, a few Sicklefish and a small shark. We did however manage some points with a Blue Salmon and a Whiting. Team Reaper did the best for the day with 4 nice Grunter, we had to lift our game!
We woke to perfect conditions yet again on the second day and after a hearty breakfast cooked up by Chef Steve we decided to make our way out to the islands out the front. This however did not pay off with no decent fish being caught in the morning session. On returning to the creek and gathering some fresh bait of Yabbies and Prawns we headed to a junction of two creeks and this immediately paid off as Stewy’s reel screamed.This time it looked to be something other than a Stingray (which he is an expert at hooking!) A solid Blubberlip Bream came aboard and although not a great table fish, a quick brag mat photo and release would put our first points on the board for day two.
Not long after, while drifting a fresh prawn in the outgoing current, I was smashed by a solid fish that peeled the 6lb nylon off my little Shimano at an incredible rate. I could tell straight away that this was a quality fish and that maybe I was a little under gunned, so the call was to up anchor and give chase. The fight lasted an intense 20 minutes and we travelled nearly a kilometre but the fish finally succumbed and I was stoked when an 80cm 12lb Oyster Cracker was finally netted. A personal best for me and the biggest fish of the competition thus far.
Team Strikers did well on day 2 with the highlight being a 65cm Flathead landed by the youngest member of the group Damo. A passionate young fisho who is already fishing well above his weight.
Team Reaper extended their lead with a 60cm+ Blue Salmon and a couple more Grunter.
Due to other commitments I had to leave before the final weigh in but the scores at last count had Team Reaper well ahead with the Strikers and Tuggers fighting it out for second place.
I would like to thank Josh and Steve for organising this event. Great times with great mates in an idyllic setting, what more could you ask for?
Thanks for reading and Happy New Year!
An early rise at 2.30am for a departure time of 4am from the Mackay city gates where I was to rendezvous with my good mate Pedro (aka. Kwikdraw) for a reconnaissance mission in search of the mighty sportfish the Saratoga. Our destination lay 85km south west of the city and with yaks on board we set off in search of our quarry.
The Southern Saratoga (Scleropages leichardti) is becoming an increasingly popular species for kayak anglers. Known for their hard and spectacular fighting qualities this fish features on many anglers bucket list including, yours truly. The Saratoga belongs to the family of bony tongue fishes and have a hard bony mouth, this combined with their aerial acrobatics make them a difficult fish to hook and land.
Arriving at our destination we checked out the launch spot which was a little challenging to say the least with a vertical drop of 10 feet to the water. Kwikdraw’s yak had to be retrieved from the middle of the creek after it got away from him on descent. It was pretty funny at the time but does stress an important point about yak fishing with a buddy, if I had not have been there he would have surely had to swim out to his yak which would not be my ideal way to start a session and could lead to more serious consequences.
My Kayak of choice for this mission was my little Extreme Kayaks Fish Bandit at only 2.6m long it is the perfect platform for still water angling. Kwikdraw brought along his Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120 a superb kayak that is extremely versatile and boasts many outstanding features.
Once on the water I was overwhelmed by the amount of fishable structure that lay before us, there were literally hundreds of snags to target upstream and down. I decided to head upstream and Pedro downstream.
I was probably 400m away from him after 20mins of fishing time when I heard the unmistakable sound of a large fish busting the surface. I could see Pedro was in a battle with a serious contender so I paddled as fast as I could and got there just as he netted a 60 – 70 cm Saratoga. We were stoked! After travelling all that way to a creek system neither of us had fished before, to be rewarded with our target species after such a short while was amazing. Pedro did an outstanding job by keeping the pressure on the fish at all times during the fight, this is most important with Saratoga as it is very difficult to set the hook into their bony mouths. His skill was confirmed when as the fish was netted the lure flew from its mouth as it thrashed about. Trying to get a photo was very difficult as we wanted to release the fish quickly with no harm done. The female Saratoga produces only 100 to 200 eggs so every one of these beautiful creatures is precious. With this in mind Pedro decided to forgo the measuring process and return his prized catch to the depths to fight another day.
Buoyed by this epic capture I threw everything I had at those snags and as I pulled in my third Catfish for the morning at around 8.30am it was looking like I had missed the early morning bite window. I was contemplating this thought whilst removing my lure from the above mentioned Catfish when it flipped over and caught my finger with it’s dorsal spine. Ouch!
I was not going to let this dampen my spirits though and the next two fish I boated were Sooties 32cm and 26cm not huge fish but tough little fighters and a welcome change from Catfish. Pedro also managed to drag a little Sooty out of a snag. So the tally for the morning was Kwikdraw – 1 Saratoga, 1 Sooty Grunter. Mackayakka – 3 Catfish, 2 Sooty Grunter.
The target species eluded me this time but I am wiser for the experience and I know that it is only a matter of time until I can tick this amazing fish off my Bucket list. It also gives me a reason to return to this magical waterway.
Thanks for Reading
I decided to finally have a serious attempt to land a Sooty Grunter from the Yak but did not want to put up with the crowds and the Dam Lice (water skiers) at Kinchant. I was in no mood for a long drive either so after a couple of coffees my mind was made up to head for the upper reaches of the Pioneer. So armed with a few likely hardbodied lures, a couple of red bulls and snickers bars I departed rather late at 5 am with the sun a lot higher than I would have liked.
The drive out took only 40mins and I arrived at the launch site with eager anticipation, I had never fished this stretch of water before but I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of fishy structure in the area. Old bridge pylons dotted the river and fallen trees along the banks offered substantial cover for my target species.
I immediately targeted the old pylons and after 20 mins I hooked up and did this fish go hard! I thought for sure it was my first yak Sooty but a 43cm Catfish was the culprit. I was a little disappointed until I realised it was a PB for me so after a quick pic and a careful release I paddled off to my next target.
A large Gum tree had fallen into the water on the bank so I threw a stiffy minnow in amongst the snags, I then let it sit for a few seconds and WHAM! This fish hit twice as hard as the first and the 6lb braid was screaming off my little Shimano Aernos. I was being pulled ever closer into the branches as the fish dived between the timber, I had to use my paddle to push off the big Gum tree and I managed to steer him into open water. The fight was over quickly after that but my hopes of a large sooty or Freshy Barra were dashed when yet another catfish surfaced, this time a 53cm model.
I paddled off upstream and found a deeper calmer section of water and with my first cast I hooked up to a good fish. The fight felt similar to the last two and I had called it for another whiskered brute but when I caught a glimpse of the dark flanked shape I knew I had the Sooty I had come for. After a good fight which consisted of several screaming runs the 42cm fish was netted with no fuss, a quick photo, a few fist pumps, then released. Mission accomplished!
A great morning, a beautiful spot and a few PB’s not a bad way to start the day.