For the past couple of years, we have picked certain dates and tides that we think will work, and depending on the time of the year, we have not been disappointed. In saying that, as fishermen, we always hope that we will catch a few more but are usually happy with what we get. 2019 we are hoping will be no different.
It has been an interesting start to the East coast wet season with Cyclone Owen paying us a visit in December, and it definitely helped to kick it off with a bang. Most of the rivers and creeks north of the Burdekin have had a good flush out, and with a continued wet it will only mean another bumper barra season, and in turn, it will make us happy fisherman.
There is something magical about the Hinchinbrook Channel. To wake up each morning and look Northwards at glass calm conditions and know that your day has been planned out. It definitely does pay to plan what creeks and drains to fish and work out your timing to be in the right place at the right time. If it is your first time fishing the channel, it can be daunting, but don’t be put off by its size. Plan your trip and the location where you will fish. It may even be worthwhile to get a guide for the day to give you an idea.
Accommodation is definitely no problem, with a range of places at either the Northern end at Cardwell or the Southern end at either Lucinda or Dungeness. This year's trips will be no different, and we will be basing ourselves at the Lucinda Fishing Lodge, at Dungeness. The Lodge provides an ideal area to base any of our trips from.
Based at the Southern end of the Channel at Dungeness, it offers waterside accommodation and private pontoons to moor your boat when you return. They have just expanded their accommodation and also sell bait and ice from their office. The air-conditioned units feature everything that you need for your stay, from ample refrigeration to cooking facilities. It is most definitely a home away from home.
Not to say that you cannot base yourself at Cardwell. If you decide to base yourself out of Cardwell, you will have all of the Northern end to fish and also Missionary Bay and all of the 9 creeks that feed the Bay. To explain the bay is a whole other story in itself.
To look out from the ramp at Dungeness you will notice that the whole channel opens up. It provides a varied range of fishing options from creek and river fishing to flats fishing. A lot of what you will decide to do will be based around the tides of course. There are options that will suit all types of fishing.
From Dungeness, if you do not want to travel too far, then there is an extensive flats area straight opposite the ramp with a few drains and small creeks that empty out, and just around the corner is the mouth of the Herbert River. A quick word of advice, always keep an eye on the depth of water as it drains fairly fast and you can be caught out very quickly. It can be a long wait in the boat when you have to wait 5 hours for the tide to reach you again.
We tend to have a plan each trip to work certain areas that are tide dependent. With the higher tides, we have a look at the top of the flats and at the isolated rock bars and back eddies. As the tide starts to drop, we start to look at some of our more favoured areas to fish – drains and points.
There have been a couple of good articles in the recent editions of Fish and Boat on drains and what to look for and how to fish them. Now everyone has their own particular way of fishing flats and drains and by no means is there a right or wrong way. Each time you go, you always learn something new, and this will all get put into the memory bank to use at a later date.
Hinchinbrook Channel is a place that is full of drains, and it is where you can put a lot of what you have read into practice. The only problem that we, as fisherman, have when fishing the channel, is that you will want to be in about 4 different places at the same time as they all will work at exactly the same time.
As with any area we look at, always keep an eye out for the presence of bait schools. If you can achieve the mix of current lines, dirty water, a drop-off or ledge and bait then, you have the recipe for a fishing story of epic proportions. Well, that is the picture that is in my head. It does happen, and Hinchy is the perfect place for all of this to come together in one package.
Another area we look at now are the points where major creeks and rivers come out. This will normally be a junction of 2 creeks or systems that will be a mangrove-lined flats area with a couple of deep drop-offs just before the water pushes up onto the flats. There will be current on each side of the point, with the main current breaking onto the main part of the point and creating a stirring of dirty water and a place for bait to gather.
Don’t be too concerned if you are fishing in less than a metre of water on the points or near the mouth of the drains. We usually cast into the shallows and slowly retrieve our plastics back towards the boat. It is a common sight to see a barra swimming sideways in less than 20cm of water feeding and chasing bait. That picture will never leave your head, especially when it locks in on your lure and charges after it with its shoulders out of the water ready to inhale your lure.
What I will recommend is having a look at the area you are wanting to fish at low tide. This will not only give you an idea of bottom type but will also give you an idea on where the mouth of the drain will be and also where the backwater and bait may sit on the points. It will also give you an idea if the drain curves in any direction. The points are another area to look at, you will be able to see if there are any ledges or holes that will also hold fish.
If you are there for a couple of days, then spend the first day looking around while you fish the channel and make yourself aware of your surroundings. It can be daunting to look at the size of the channel and think where it's best to fish, but with a bit of research and talking to some of the fishermen where you stay, it won’t take long before you will find some productive areas to fish.
To start with, if you are staying at either Lucinda or Dungeness on the southern end, then have a look at the Herbert and Seymour Rivers. They are large systems with plenty of feeder creeks flowing into them. As explained, beware at low tide. Also, have a look at the rocky outcrops at low tide along the Island side of the Channel.
If you want to travel a bit further, then head up to an area called Benjamin Flats. A large mud island of inter twinning creeks in the middle of the channel. This is where the drains really come into their own. Depending on the tidal flow, it will determine how much run is in the drains. The more run the better as it will create a distinct current line and colour change.
If you are based at the Northern end of Cardwell, then you have a short run to Hecate Point - a known big barra spot and also have a look
along the marina wall at Port Hinchinbrook. There are a multitude of creeks on either side of the channel from here to fish. Either the mainland side or along the island.
The options really are endless when it comes to looking for country. As stated earlier, it is an area that you can spend a lot of time driving around and looking and like any good fisherman, you will always have some backup areas to go and have a look at.
Hinchinbrook is a magical area and it produces some amazing captures. Spend some time in the channel and you will be hooked. You will want to come back every year or in my case nearly every month. Get out and enjoy our backyard and who knows we may bump into each other on the water and share a story or two. Until next time take care.