The estuary scene is pretty good too, and while barra are officially off the menu, those red devils disguised as mangrove jacks more than make up for it by trying to pinch a few lures off you. Even the freshwater species are revved up and ready to smash your lures right off the surface.
At times, there can be so many options to choose from that it can be hard to know what to chase next.
Unfortunately, the weather is rarely as reliable as you’d like. Summer in Central Queensland is also the wet season and when it rains, it pours. Around here, a couple of hundred millimetres in one downpour doesn’t raise too many eyebrows. It only takes one decent low pressure system to come barreling in off the Coral Sea to dump enough rain to flood the region and shut most of your options down.
Summer can also be windy here, which further limits your options. Of course, we often get both wind and rain at the one time and when that happens, there’s not much you can do about it except head out to the shed and sort out your gear, or read your copy of Fish & Boat as you dream of future fishing trips.
Now I don’t want to get too pessimistic here. While it can feel like weather is trying to spoil your holidays, unless we’re in the middle of a full blown flood or cyclone there are still usually a few options up your sleeve.
You might have to travel a bit to miss the worst of the weather or restrict yourself to a couple of the more sheltered waterways, but there is usually a fish or two still waiting to be caught.
So, seeing as the summer of 2017/18 is off to a fairly wet start, here’s a bit of a survival guide for visiting anglers.
Hopefully it will give you a couple of suggestions for making the most of things, despite what looks like being a pretty wet, wet season.
The Burnett River
The Burnett is not a clean river at the best of times so don’t be put off if it looks a bit dirty. If there’s been a lot of rain around, the saltwater section which flows through the middle of town tends to colour up pretty quickly and stay that way for long periods.
That’s not all bad however, as barra and threadfin salmon don’t mind a bit of dirty water at all. In fact, it can really concentrate them in deeper holes and around significant structure.
You might need to resort to live and fresh cut baits for consistent results but the fish will still be there.
Another fish which is not put off by a bit of dirty water is the tarpon. These enigmatic fish have become quite prolific in the Burnett over the last few years and you will often see them rolling and splashing on the surface of the river in the town reach.
They are not something you target to eat, but on light tackle they put on a great performance, often leaping high and throwing lure with ease. When other options are washed or blown out, they can provide a lot of stress release.
Moving downstream, the river mouth area is generally the least muddy section, as the incoming tide often pushes cleaner water back in with it. This is generally the section I like to focus on in summer, as it provides the best conditions for lure fishing.
Trolling in and out the river mouth and out around the first couple of leads in the channel can often turn on a few school mackerel and the occasional queenfish, even if the water is less than crystal clear.
The start of summer saw good numbers of grunter in the river with fish up to 60cm being caught. Again, a lot were taken on bait but plenty also fell to soft plastics, particularly the scented variety like Gulps.
The schools of grunter move around a bit but the handful of anglers I know who target them on lures usually look for a bit of gravelly bottom. Prawn shaped lures are also high on the preferred lure list.
Provided the wind is not blowing a gale, getting offshore can be a good way to escape the worst of the muddy water from a big wet season. Being somewhat sheltered by the tip of Fraser Island, we generally escape the big swells and if the wind has dropped out, it can be as flat as a tack out the front. This is good news for small boat owners as you often sneak out to the closer marks, provided you play it safe.
Generally, you won’t have to go too wide to find clean, or at least much cleaner water. Anywhere from just out past Ryan’s Reef is usually where it will start to clean up.
There will often be a fairly distinct line where the muddy inshore water meets the blue sea water and this demarcation line can be a good place to start your offshore session.
It’s certainly not unusual to find schools of mac tuna herding bait up against the edge of the dirty water. I’ll either cast chrome slugs into the schools, or troll along the edge.
Along with the tuna you might also find schools of spotted mackerel and these guys are a lot of fun on light gear, as well as being quite good eating.
Of course, if you have a bigger boat, you can head really wide. Often the further out you go, the bluer and flatter the water will get. It always pays to keep an eye on the horizon however as summer storms can often blow up in the afternoons.
It gets pretty hot out there too if there isn’t much breeze blowing, so I generally go early and try and get home before lunch time so that I get the best of the conditions.
If the wind is being a pain and you still want to head offshore, then driving an hour and a half down the road to Hervey Bay to launch can be a really good option. With Fraser and all those other islands out there, the bay is a lot more protected than Bundy.
If the wind is easterly, as it normally is this time of year, you will often have relatively smooth water right up the inside of Fraser. We like to run up to Moon Point and chase mackerel or tuna. Now that I have my new Stabicraft, it’s something I’ll be doing a lot more of.
When the river is running brown, Lake Gregory can be a real sanity saver. This small, weed lined waterway doesn’t receive much in the way of natural inflows as it’s mainly fed by irrigation canals. This means it often stays clear enough for lure fishing, even if the river is in full flood.
For such a small lake, Gregory is an amazing fish producer. Thanks to the work of the dedicated local stocking group (Bundaberg Sportsfishing Club), it holds good numbers of bass, with some pretty impressive specimens amongst them. Bass to 50cm are regularly landed here and are great fun on light spin gear.
Lake Gregory is also home to an ever increasing number of Saratoga. ‘Toga can be a bit fussy in dams, so you probably won’t catch them unless you target them specifically. When you do come across one, you might be surprised at the size of it as some large adult fish have been put in there. Saratoga are expensive to stock, so if you do hook one, please treat it with care and return it safely so that they can establish a self-sustaining population.
During the peak of summer Gregory turns on some amazing surface fishing action. Generally, you need to either head out super early in the morning or stay late and fish into the night for the surface bite, but if it’s raining, the fish will sometimes come to the top all day long. All sorts of surface lures work but some are better than others. If the editor is keen, I’ll put a bit of guide together about which ones work best for a future issue.
Ever since the floods of 2013, there has been increased angler interest in the freshwater section of the Kolan river.
Quite a number of barra have been caught there but as they are off limits, just target the bass instead.
We have hooked some massive bass in the Kolan and they love surface lures. Provided the river is at normal levels they aren’t all that put off by a bit of dirty water either and will still happily belt a surface lure.
If you are into kayak fishing, the Kolan can be a good option. Launching facilities for anything bigger than a car topper are pretty much non-existent, so don’t bother heading up there unless you can bank launch. I prefer to head up closer to Gin Gin to launch, but the fish are spread right out through the freshwater sections.
As strange as it sounds, local rivers and creeks which generally run gin clear can actually fish better when the water gets a bit of colour in it from minor flooding.
The Elliott is normally very clear and gets a lot of boating traffic. Being so shallow, the fish can be hard to come by during the day but are generally more cooperative after dark.
The Elliott has a reputation for producing mangrove jacks but it also holds some reasonable barra for those in the know. A bit of dirty water in the system seems to make them a bit easier to come by.
It’s hot out there
I’ll finish off by just reminding you about the importance of covering up. The summer sun can be a real scorcher in this part of the world and nothing ruins a trip like a bad case of sun burn.
Even though it’s hot, make sure you wear a hat, sunglasses, a buff and long sleeved shirt. Of course, put plenty of sunscreen on anything that’s not covered up.
Remember to always drink plenty of water too. It’s very easy to get dehydrated and soft drinks or alcohol might be appealing but they can’t keep your fluids up like water does, so take and drink plenty.