fishing mackay estuaries
Jun's 84cm barra took a big live herring and put up a proper fight.

Bait fishing the Mackay estuaries

fishing mackay estuaries
Damon held a cracking creek fingermark of 54cm caught on a live herring.
fishing mackay estuaries
Darren boated a grunter on a cut bait.
fishing mackay estuaries
Todd and Devan with a good size grunter and terrific permit caught on light gar.
fishing mackay estuaries
Ethan nailed a grunter on a herring with the backbone removed.

AFTER the recent weeks of strong southeasterly wind and patches of heavy falls, the Mackay estuaries have had a bit of a flush with fresh water.

These freshwater run-offs into the estuaries can create perfect fishing conditions, even in the least favourable weather. The weather sure hasn’t give us much chance for anything else of late, with trips out wide to the islands and reefs cancelled until we get better weather. We all hope that during June the weather will finally become favourable for us to get out wide and among the fantastic offshore action including catching the big hump-headed snapper that appear at this time of year.

Fishos who frequent the Mackay estuaries aren’t deterred by poor weather, with a number of fishing opportunities still available when the weather is at its worst. For an estuary fisher, understanding the weather and what fishing situations they can create is a useful skill. Usually a little local knowledge or pre-planning is required, but great fishing locations can appear in the estuaries at any time, so you just have to be there!

A super-heavy downpour from a small squall could wash all the prawns out of a drainer gully at once and get fish feeding for 20 minutes. If you’re in that location five minutes after the rain, presenting the right bait, you are likely to experience successful fishing. Great fishing can warm you up even on a cold and wet day and make things a lot more bearable. Finding these situations in the estuary is about being out there and among it, or at least in an area you know and are starting to understand.

As always, safety is the paramount consideration when it comes to fishing, but with the large number and variety of estuaries on offer, finding one protected enough to access and fish without a splash over the side is always achievable, even in windy conditions. Knowing where and when to fish is always the challenge.

Often the goal is finding calm waters with a bit of depth in a situation where the wind can be managed. This is usually the best starting point. Here you can stick it out for a bit, put good baits down and keep your eyes open for any opportunities. Luckily, the intertwining creeks and estuaries tend to hold more fish than normal during crummy conditions. In horrible weather, even the fish seek shelter. So due to the poor weather in recent weeks, I put this to the test many times and managed great results.

One wet day, armed with heaps of enthusiasm, my clients and I headed down the Mackay estuaries. The overnight rain and more on the forecast was concerning, but only seen as an obstacle to be overcome. Throwing lures in windy conditions is nearly impossible, so bait fishing is the best option to get into rod-bending action. One of the few things a fisho has control over is the bait they use. Fresh is best, and live is as fresh as it gets, so it’s the top choice.

Time spent catching live and fresh bait can be rewarded later in the tide when things line up. Half a dozen throws of the cast net in the right areas and you can have a live bait tank take full of prime baits. Fishing the approaching low tides in the bay, estuaries will have drained into narrow channels and navigating can become easier because the channels become more identifiable at this time.

We fished along a mud bank on the end of a deep channel as the tide began to make and the clean ocean water started to push up the channel, making a clear colour change in the water. This is where the waves on the shallow mud bends stir up the dirt and cloud the water to meet the cleaner incoming tide. These locations are predator hunting grounds and present a great opportunity to hook into fish in the estuary.

We used two 5-8kg rods set up with 25lb braid, 40lb wind-on and 60lb leader, one with a large live herring and the other with a smaller butterflied herring, both fished on the bottom. These setups were used throughout the following weeks of tough weather in the Mackay estuaries.

For most of the making tide, grunter will take a well-presented cut bait or live herring, just like many estuary predators. On most occasions it’s a few minutes after the squall that the fish are triggered to bite. These bite periods created by squalls are exactly what you are chasing as an estuary angler on tough days.

The following weeks produced great fishing action, from big barra to good size grunter, salmon and cracking creek fingermark, all on live and butterflied herring in truly tough conditions. This weather really doesn’t bother the fish so much as it does the angler, so invest in quality wet weather gear and it will be fish on. Now the cooler months are here, as well as the snapper offshore, blue salmon and winter whiting will fire up and provide most of the action in the Mackay estuaries.

Add these to all the usual predators to target and often more variable weather and it’s a great time to be fishing the Mackay region.

About Jason Kidd

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