Well as some are aware I headed North to Townsville to spend the week recently and hopefully chase a few of the species I had targeted in my youth. Flying in I was sooooo excited as the weather was amazing with warm temperatures and little wind and within a few hours of landing I was rigged up and hitting the local break-walls for a quick flick before dark. The tides were all wrong but I didn’t really care as I was too excited casting lures with the potential of some big tropical predators smashing my Bomber. The few hours casting was very slow however I did miss a big surface strike from a monster Mangrove jack that hit the lure at the end of the retrieve and didn’t return when he missed the trebles. I then managed an average gold spot cod that I dropped as I lifted him from the water when the trebles which were only lightly hooked pulled.
The following day I hit the break-wall early as I needed to be back at the hotel for my 40th birthday shindig. This time the tides were really low and although I knew it wasn’t an ideal time I had to use every available moment casting lures in the hope of finding myself a reasonable barra for the trip. The fishing was again very quiet except for an average barra of around 50cm following the lure to the surface without hitting it and then me managing to pin the lure on a rock on the next twitch. This was a lost opportunity!!!
That afternoon I had few of my local friends , who strangely enough also happen to be keen fishos, all give me the same sad news that the barra season in Townsville this year had been very slow. Unlike Brisbane that has had a ridiculous amount of rainfall the rainfall has been severely lacking in part of the North Queensland coast and many of the rivers and creeks have barely been flushed out. As a result the barra have not pushed up into some of their regular haunts and even the Summer was slow let alone Winter.
As you can imagine this made me more determined and so the following day I headed out to some of my old “secret” spots that seemed to no longer be as secret as they used to be. I initially ventured into some land-locked lagoons that are surrounded by 6 foot high grass but these were very shallow due to the lack of rain and filled with surface weed due to the lack of drenching rains.
I then headed off to location B which was the top end of a large freshwater river and had held good numbers of barra in the past. I was ecstatic to find it running however there was a lot of surface weed again due to the lack of flow. The system was filled with timber and the pools were very skinny, I knew that if I managed a decent barra in some of these pools I was going to be in the fight of my life. My dad was the first to hook up on a snake head gudgeon on one of Harris’s homemade divers before I managed my first barra for the trip which I have to say would be one of the smallest I have ever caught.
Both fish were caught early in the small session and so I was fairly confident we would find a few more. Dad managed another small barra but I was too far away with the camera to get a shot of it. The pool were amazing in terms of structure and it looked very bassy but no more barra showed any interest regardless of the lures I tried.
The next day I headed off early again with my Dad and decided to fish some of the rocky points, flats and creek mouths north of Townsville in the hope that the barra were still on the coast and had not pushed upstream due to the lack of water. It was a great walk along some amazing coastline but after quite a few hours of casting the barra (and any other fish species) were very quiet. The winds had also increased and were now blowing 20-30 knot southerlies which were not going to do me any favours either.
I managed to work my way up a small creek that I knew had some great structure not far from the mouth. Harris and I had managed some magic sessions in here 10 years ago and I was hopeful that I would find a fish or two holding around it. 10 years ago I had to climb through the mangroves to stand on the boulders that studded the creek and due to the difficulty of accessing the spot the fish were always there. 10 years later and some feral had taken his chainsaw and cleared a patch of mangroves to open the access to the rocks! Not happy Jan!!!!
I then luckily got a call from a friend that he was heading to a large system south of Townsville and that my brother and I were welcome to tag along. I was keen as as I knew in the past this system had provided me with some magic sessions and that I was a good chance of catching a reasonable barra or two.
We headed off early and took some crab pot with us. We set these early and started to hit the upper ends of some smaller creek that drained into the main river. We cast and cast and cast with barely a touch. The muddies however were very thick although the majority were undersized or empty. We did however manage to catch three keepers in one pot with one being a monster.
We continued casting and my brother missed a monster pelagic of some sort that hit his lure on the surface while it smashed the local baitfish population. Terry (the boat owner) then managed to hook a rat barra which was our first fish after four hours fishing!
We decided to head up a few of the arms closer to the mouth and as we ventured up one of the larger arms we saw our first salty. He was well over 4m and sitting high on a steep muddy bank and as we approached he slid off into the water and disappeared. After casting the upper end of the arm for no touches yet again we returned to find him in the exact same spot and sliding into the water on approach yet again. I didn’t manage a photo but I did manage some dodgy video footage.
This was then the pattern for most of the day. We managed no touches on our lure but managed to see four other saltwater crocodiles the smallest about 3m and the largest about 4.5m. When I lived in Townsville a while back I fished this creek regularly and in close to ten years did not see a single crocodile, It was amazing to see so many in single day, much more than a visit to the Daintree I had years ago. I actually wonder whether more have migrated to the area or whether there are just less shy about human activity.
As the tide made its way back in I managed my first fish of the day on some structure at the mouth of a large creek. It wasn’t huge but after a day of no action I was a bit in shock when a 38cm Mangrove Jack smashed my lure and had me in the sticks soon after as my reaction time was dead! I little manoeuvring and I easily extracted him and finally had my first legal fish of the trip.
As the day started to get late we moved into one final arm that was quite skinny and had a multitude of fallen timber and collapsed banks. As we moved up the creek casting madly and saw a good sized fish smashing bait metres from the boat and reacting quickly I made a lightning cast at a short range and with a silver flash the lure was smashed upon hitting the water. The fish took off fast and was clearly not a barra. After a leap in the air and another lightning run or two I managed to net a quite reasonable blue salmon.
Moving up the creek a short distance we found another school of bait pushed up into some timber and being smashed by unknown predators. The first few casts in were unrewarded but eventually my Nobroko Crank was smashed in tight and I managed to extract the average sized fish. Suddenly the rod loaded up hard and I initially thought I had misjudged the size of the fish. I managed to lift it near the surface and when it broke through I saw the unmistakeable gold spots of a cod but then it had a long grey body!? What the…? It took a while for me to register that a bull shark had taken a liking to my gold spot cod which when I finally boated it was now undersized!!
The afternoon started to drift into dusk and the jacks started to make an appearance. I managed another small fish and then in the last few casts of the day while we retrieved the crab pots my brother also managed his first fish of the day when another undersized mangrove jack took a liking to his lure.
Dusk quickly started to drift into night and the first few mozzies started to make an appearance, they quickly multiplied until they were so thick you could wave your hand through the air and almost feel resistance. The funny thing was some local bloke was walking through the boat ramp carpark with his pup wearing nothing but a singlet and stubbies and somehow not bothered by the blood loss he was suffering from their assault. They do breed them tough up here!!
We returned to the hotel at 7.30PM and I was out cold by 8.30PM. At 11.30PM I awoke and started getting ready for my last fish of the trip. At 4AM Harris was picking me up and we were going to chase a few sooties off the surface for a few hours before I had to head back to town. We hit the water early and started casting our Nobroko Softcadas in the dark. I managed a hit early which was only small and it wasn’t long before I managed my first sooty in the dark although it was only a small one. Like the rest of the trip the fishing was slow and considering the country we were fishing it was a shame we couldn’t raise many fish.
Harris was the next to score a sooty when a cast right next to some timber was smashed on touch down and he was hooked up to a quality sooty which he landed after a spirited fight. He was in the high thirties and was in perfect condition.
We managed a few other small sooties with Harris picking up two small models and me one. On the return trip to the cars Steve picked up another bigger model in a similar manner to the first with the cicada being smashed off the top as it landed adjacent to some timber.
We had a wander at the head of the pool where Harris missed another surface strike before time ran out and I had to head back to the hotel for a joy-flight in a vintage biplane. It was my last opportunity for a fish and although the fishing had been slow for the rip it was still great to visit Townsville and visit some of my old haunts. It was just a shame I couldn’t spend longer there as there are so many more places I wanted to get to. Oh well next time