Yeppoon – Fishing Creek – 14 October 2013

Monday

Last morning in Yeppoon for a while and yes, of course I was heading for Fishing Creek. I had wanted to fish some of the headlands on this trip but the wind was up to 15 knots everyday by 10.00 am, so it had been out of the question. In hindsight, I was glad I had been forced to explore. I was enjoying fishing in this estuary system.

It was the same basic plan as Monday – walk down the creek from the top end, following the receding tide, casting into the pools and channels. I started at the shallow end with the GULP 3” Minnow in the Peppered Prawn colour. I was using my light spin rig, 2.8kg Fireline, 12lb fluorocarbon leader and 1/8th ounce, size 2 hook, jighead. This is the perfect size jighead for this size soft plastic. The weather was overcast but there had been no rain. There was a light north-easterly wind blowing but it was gradually picking up. I started just before the sun came over the horizon.

It took a while to find some fish, first some small flathead, then one that was big enough to keep, then a couple of small cod. Then I caught a magnificent spotted ray. I was tempted to let him keep my soft plastic but managed to safely remove it.

I swapped up to a GULP 5 inch Jerkshad in the Peppered Prawn colour. After a few casts, this got slammed and I thought I might have another barramundi. Then I realised this fish was too frantic to be a barramundi. After some spirited runs I saw a flash of silver and realised it was a small Trevally – these fish always pull surprisingly hard. I released it and moved on.

I reached the spot where I had caught the barramundi, the day before and decided to try one of my DUO hard bodies. I pulled out a Spearhead Ryuki 70S in a pink silver and black colour. This is really a trout lure but I have found it works well in a shallow estuary situation. The bream like it and so do the flathead. It weighs 9 grams and is effectively a sinking minnow. It is designed to maintain its action in fast flowing water and that is why it was ideal in this situation. I put in a few casts and immediately felt a few bumps. After fifteen minutes of casting, up and down current, I connected with a fish, but it spat the lure out. I cast back in the same spot and this time there was no hesitation – as soon as I took up the slack, the fish was attached.

It pulled pretty hard and the current helped it. After a minute or two it settled down and I pulled it ashore. It was a chunky grunter bream. I released it and continued casting the DUO Spearhead Ryuki 70S. I had a few more touch ups from interested fish before the inevitable happened – I lost the lure to the mangrove roots. Yet another lure to add to the very long shopping list I am collating.

It was now about 11.00 am and the wind had started howling, so I made the long walk/ wade back to the car – keeps you fit this fishing lark!

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Yeppoon – Fishing Creek Barramundi – 13 October 2013

Sunday

The wind was forecast to be a north-easterly that would build through the day and we were 6 days off the full moon. I could not stay away from Fishing Creek – the sandflies were driving me nuts but the good catches of the day before, drew me back to the same spot, just after dawn. The tide was another hour further in, as I waded through the shallows. I stopped at all the usual pools and channels and continued to fish with lightly weighted GULP soft plastics, in the natural Banana Prawn, Peppered Prawn and Watermelon Pearl colors. I caught a couple of small flathead and tried out a new MARIA suspending minnow hard bodied lure, that I have been sent. Sure enough it got the small flathead going and accounted for another two, before I lost it to a mangrove root. I could not find any big mothers but there were some enormous ‘lies’ in the sand, so they were around.

The MARIA lures that I have used so far have been very good. Despite this, they are slightly cheaper than many of the more established, mass produced lures on sale in Australia. Like my favorite DUO lures, they have superb colours and always have a very refined and specific action. I would love to see them in more tackle shops.

I wanted to fish the area where I had found a Trevally the day before. It is a mangrove lined curve in the bank with several fallen trees along it. The water powers round the curve, when the tide is running and the fallen timber offers a good ambush spot for bigger, predator fish.

My hunch proved right. I was now fishing with a 3″ GULP Minnow on a 1/8th ounce, 1/0 jighead. First taker was a 45cm estuary cod. It tried to lodge itself in the mangrove roots but I let it swim out and then pulled it ashore.

Something was smashing bait close to the mangrove roots and I thought it was probably another cod. I lobbed a long cast and it landed inches from the roots in exactly the right spot. I let it sink and thought – it will either be snagged or it will catch a fish. I twitched the rod tip up but there was no resistance. I let it sink again, paused and repeated the process. I did this about four times until the lure must have been on the bottom, in about mid-stream.

I twitched the lure up , off the bottom and it stopped dead, on something solid. Before I could register line was screaming off the reel. The fish was heading up current but in the direction of the mangrove roots. I instinctively started walking backwards and winding against the screaming drag. This had little impact at first but then it turned back towards me.

I tightened the drag a little and the fish seemed to pause in the current, for a few moments. It then lunged off again. It kept making long powerful runs but they gradually got shorter. After what seemed like a lifetime, I caught a glimpse of large silver scales and a big tail slapped the surface – it was a barramundi. I was as patient as I could be and I let it run when it needed to. I was fishing with 12lb fluorocarbon leader, so brute force was not going to land this fish. Fortunately I was on a gently sloping sandy bank so when I was sure it was played out, I gradually eased it out of the water.

It was a beautiful 57cm saltwater barramundi. As it lay on the sand, the jighead just dropped out of its chin. I took a few pics and measured it and after a minute or two, decided it was just too handsome to eat. I took it back to the water and it swam off. It was about 9.15 am.

Now I was excited, but cast as I might, I could not find another barramundi. I swapped to a MARIA MJ Twitch hardbodied, suspending minnow and cast this out. This got whacked on its second try, but it only pulled up an angry estuary cod.

I moved on to larger GULP Jerkshad in the Cajun Chicken colour. After a few casts, something walloped the plastic and took off. It went berserk and started leaping and splashing. I took it for a Tarpon and after a very violent fight, I landed it.

I fished on until about 10.30 am and then decided I had had enough. It had been an excellent mornings fishing in a beautiful location.

Yeppoon – Fishing Creek – 12 October 2013

Saturday

On Saturday I drove back out to Fishing Creek so that I could be fishing as the sun came up. There would be a few hours more water in the creek than the day before and I was sure that would mean some better fish.

I used the same tactics as the day before – light spin rod and reel, light leader, light jigheads and small, natural coloured soft plastic lures. The earlier start paid off and on my first two casts, I caught two small flathead.

As I moved down the creek there were plenty of bait schools moving up and down. I paused at a point where the main channel ran over a sandy drop off. I was now fishing with a GULP 2” Shrimp in the Banana Prawn colour, on a 1/8th ounce, size 1 jighead. I crossed the channel as quietly as I could and cast back up into the tide, which was running out. I caught two small flathead (about 30cm long) and then another one that was just over 40 cm. They were all sitting along this bank. I was convinced there were some bigger ones somewhere here, so I carried on casting.

It was now about 7.20 am and I think it was still a couple of hours off low tide, at this point in the creek. I had now switched to the GULP 4” Minnow soft plastic in the Pearl Watermelon colour. There was good current flow but a 1/8th ounce jighead gave me just the right sink rate. I kept casting as close as I could to the mangrove roots and the deeper water along the edge of the channel. I let the lure get washed along the bottom for about ten seconds on each cast. On one of these casts, I lifted the lure and felt some resistance. I set the hook with a jerk of the rod tip and there was a long, powerful run back up the creek against the current. I had found a decent fish.

Fortunately this one did not seem to want to go back into the roots but it did start to cause problems when it turned and started swimming with the current flow. I just let it run – with a 10lb fluorocarbon leader, I did not have much choice.

It kept its head down but I gradually tired it out. As I brought it into the shallows it created some big swirls and I saw it was a nice flathead. I grabbed the leader and gently pulled it up the sand. It measured about 77cm on my tape and after a few pictures, I let it swim off.

I moved onto the next likely patch of darker water and loaded a new soft plastic in the same pattern. After a couple of casts something ate it. I could feel the fish trying to wedge itself against the terrain on the bottom and knew it was an estuary cod. Eventually a 40cm cod popped up on the surface.

I was now about 3km from the mouth of Fishing Creek and it was just after 9.45 am. I was still using the 4” Minnow soft plastic and something grabbed it and took off. After a tough fight I pulled up a 30cm Trevally which had completely swallowed the lure.

I turned around and headed back to the car. I looked at my legs and realised I had been monstered by sandflies – I would be itching like hell in a few days’ time. On the way back I caught a few more cod and tiny flathead. The fishing had definitely been better than the day before, but I had probably just timed my session better. I’ll be back!

Yeppoon – Fishing Creek – 11 October 2013

Friday

On Thursday, I found myself with time off for a few days. I was in Central Queensland and decided to drive out to Byfield National Park, just north of Yeppoon. I stayed at the Rainforest Ranch Cabins in Byfield (which are very comfortable, but more focused on providing a romantic getaway than fish filleting facilities) and intended to drive over the sand hills, to fish in Corio Bay, as I have done before.

I was up early and reached the foot of the big sand hill that leads over to Nine Mile Beach, at about 6.15 am. I lowered my tyre pressures to about 22 PSI and put the FJ Cruiser into low range. Last time it had floated up this hill – but that was after months of rain. This time it was like wading through treacle. The sand was soft and dry and the track had no doubt been torn up by previous drivers, who had found it as tough as I had. I tried three times and stopped when I started to sink and rolled back down to try again. After three attempts I gave up. I was on my own and I was concerned I would get stuck and not be able to simply roll back down. I need a bit more practice at this sort of thing.

I turned around and looked at my options. It was now just about low tide. I decided to drive back through Byfield and towards Yeppoon. I would go to the end of Fishing Creek and walk down it, towards Corio Bay, fishing in the pools and mangrove lined channels. This spot had produced a few fish for me in the past but it looked like it had potential for far better things.

By the time I got going it was about 8.30 am. Low tide was about 7.30 am in Yeppoon, so I assumed it would be about 1.5 hours later, this far up Fishing Creek. The moon was a somewhere between new and full and it was not a particularly big tide. It was hot – already about 28 degrees. It was still but a northerly wind was forecast to pick up later in the morning.

I was fishing light – 2.8 kg Fireline and a 10lb fluorocarbon leader, Loomis GL2 Fast Action spin rod and Shimano Stella 2500 reel. I started with small soft plastics in natural colours on a 1/8th ounce, size 1 hook jighead. The locals had recommended the GULP 2” Shrimp and 3” Minnow, in the Banana Prawn colour, for flathead and grunter bream.

I waded through the shallows and paused to cast wherever there looked like there was a bit of a hole or drain. There were plenty of schools of small mullet (or perhaps blue salmon) cruising the shallows. I was hoping the bigger predators had followed them up the creek.

I passed plenty of flathead lies on the exposed sand banks, but most looked like the fish would have been under the legal size. My first fish of the day was a tiny flathead that was sitting a metre from the bank, in about 15 cm of water. It was now just after 9.00 am and I expect we were nearly at low tide, as the water was slowing.

I found a slightly deeper channel, on a mangrove lined bend and concentrated on putting my casts in close to the mangrove roots. I lost plenty of jigheads to the trees and roots – but that’s where the fish live so if you are not pretty close, you will not catch them. I had some solid bites and caught another small flathead. At about 9.30 am something grabbed the GULP 2” Shrimp soft plastic and dragged it down into the roots. I could not pull it out so I let the drag off and eventually it swam out and I pulled it up on to the sandbank. It was an estuary cod, but only a small one. I let it go but as it swam away another predator – an eagle, swooped down and grabbed it. It did not have a good grip and dropped it on the sand. It soon swooped for another attempt and this time it was successful. It disappeared into the mangroves to eat its breakfast.

I continued along the creek and caught several more cod, the largest of which would have been just over 40 cm long. At about 11.00 am the tide turned in and I decided I had better head back to the car. I was delighted to be catching fish, even if they were small. I decided to try and get back here a little closer the high tide next time.

Between Gayndah and Biloela – 1 October 2013

I have been stopping at as many creeks as I can during my recent travels. I keep the light rod rigged with a 10lb leader and light jighead, ready to go, in the back of the car. The other day, somewhere between Gayndah and Biloela, I crossed this puddle just after dawn. I could not resist a quick cast.

The pool was just about a metre deep and hardly any water was running through. I put on my new freshwater favorite soft plastic; the GULP 2 inch Crabbie in the Emerald Shine colour. On my first cast I felt a few taps. On the second I pulled out a tiny pretty spotted fish – I assume it is a spangled perch. Great start to the day!

Bedford Weir – Blackwater – Saratoga – 23 September 2013

Over the next 7 days I had four more afternoon fishing sessions at Bedford Weir. I decided I should explore the skinny water of the Mackenzie River, below the weir and I had heard tales of saratoga lurking in the pools downstream. There is a fairly rough track that runs alongside the river, as it runs away from the weir wall.

There are a few turn offs along the main track that lead down to the water. There are steep banks with lots of fallen timber and neck high grasses. The fallen timber makes it almost impossible to walk continuously along the bank for any distance so you have to keep scrambling up and down. Its a good workout and needless to say you have watch out for snakes! Judging by the dug up banks and flattened tunnels in the grasses, there are plenty of wild pigs around as well.

On my first session I concentrated on a wide pool, about a kilometre from the weir wall. There was a steep bank and then a small gravel beach area, next to an enormous fallen tree. At one end of this stretch the deeper water was close to the bank I was on and at the other, it was across from me. The water was fairly clear. It was hot again – well over 30 degrees. The sun was behind me and I started fishing at about 4.45 pm. I started with a GULP 2″ Shrimp in the Banana Prawn colour on a 1/12th ounce, size 1 hook, jighead and 8lb fluorocarbon leader.

The first taker was a small catfish. Then a much larger one took the lure under a log and I could not pull it out. As I was tying on a new leader, a long thin narrow shape slowly swam up the middle of the river, a few centimetres below the surface – it was a southern saratoga. It was followed a few moments later, by another one. I scrabbled around and tied on the new leader and jighead as quickly as I could, but they were long gone by the time I hurled a cast in their direction. After a few more catfish I gave up at about 6.00pm.

The next session was few days later. I arrived earlier, at about 3.00 pm. It was super hot – about 36 degrees. I approached the river bank as quietly as possible and my stealth approach paid off. Two saratoga were cruising mid-stream whilst another was lurking under a fallen tree branch, near the far bank. I thought about my options. I would need an accurate cast, as I might only get one chance. I would be trying to emulate an insect or bug, dropping from an overhanging branch. I decided on a lightly weighted soft plastic lure.The GULP Crabbie shape had legs and arms flailing and could work as a bug but I had run out. It had worked well but I also wanted something bright in the clear water. I had a 3 inch Ghost Shrimp in the Red belly colour,so I chose this.

My heart was pumping as I crept forward to the bank. I checked the knots and got myself as close as I dared. I lofted the cast over towards the fish in the shadows and it plopped into the water, inches from the bank and inches from the fish’s nose. Then time stood still, for about 2 seconds. I paused and slowly let the lure sink, then bang, it all happened so fast!

The saratoga from the shadows grabbed the plastic and instantly swam forward with it. As it did so, it pulled the leader under a partially submerged log. The leader caught on it and set the hook and the fish then went crazy. It leapt backwards over the log completing a nice loop over it. It pulled back and forth and fought and after about a minute, settled down. I let the drag off to see if it could, by some miracle, free itself but it just swam off with the leader sliding up and down on the log. It was only 8lb fluorocarbon and after a few rubs, it broke.

The commotion had scared the others off so I moved downstream and tied on GULP Ghost Prawn soft plastic in the same colour. I cast it at a likely looking snag and let it sink. When I lifted it off the bottom there was a tension and the rod tip started wriggling. There were a few pulls then a long, blistering run right across the river to a submerged log on the other side. It was obviously a very big catfish. I tightened the drag and heaved but I could not pull it out. I loosened the drag and tightened it again and the line pulled free from the fish. When I retrieved it, I could see it had been a catfish – the leader and lure were completely slimed.

I put it back in and over the next hour, caught a few more smaller catfish but the saratoga had gone into hiding.

Over the next few days I found the saratoga at various points up and down this stretch of the Mackenzie. I often saw two or three fish cruising mid stream. I tried casting everything at them. Surface lures, shallow and deep divers (including my favorite DUO hard bodies) and every soft plastic lure I had with me. Occasionally one would strike, but only because the lure landed right on its nose. I had more success with the fish I found sitting under tree banks in the dappled shade. These would follow a shallow diver or popper out into the stream, if I could land the cast close enough. A few made a real strike, but I could not hook up.

Frustrated – I looked for help on the web and, coincidentally saw a brilliant post on “Micks Gone Fishing” on ‘spybaiting’ for saratoga. Mick’s blog is brilliant and often makes me consider selling everything and moving north! He achieved what I wanted too – maybe his saratoga were just angrier or hungrier http://micksgonefishing.com/spybaiting-aussie-style/.

Bedford Weir and the saratoga, yellowbelly and catfish encounters had been a fascinating freshwater interlude – but it was time to get back to the briny.

Bedford Weir – Blackwater – 19 September 2013

Thursday

Flushed with freshwater success, I could not resist another session at Bedford Weir, on Thursday. I arrived below the weir wall at about 4.30 pm. It was the day after full moon and it was stinking hot, again – about 36 C with no breeze.

I was not going to change the winning formula of the day before. I dropped down to a slightly lighter jighead – 1/16th oz, size 1 jighead. I wanted the plastic to flutter down through the water column a little less quickly and with no wind, I could still cast fairly accurately. I stuck with the GULP 2.0 inch Crabbie soft plastic in the peppered prawn colour.

The session played out pretty much as it had the day before. At about 5.00pm I felt a few hits, as the sun dropped behind the weir wall. Over the next hour, I dropped four fish, but I ended the session with two nice golden perch/ yellow belly and several catfish.

I finally felt like I was getting the hang of the freshwater thing.