Bedford Weir & Rileys Crossing – Blackwater – 25/6 November 2013

Monday/ Tuesday/ Wednesday

Back out to Blackwater for the last time (for a while). I had the afternoons to myself, so I went exploring along the Mackenzie River. There had been a couple of good rain storms, since I was last out here, which had raised the water levels. It had also made the track alongside the river, to the south of Bedford Weir, too sticky to negotiate on my own. As soon as I hit the muddy ruts, the standard tyres I have, just clogged with mud and started spinning. I did not get stuck but without someone on hand to pull me out – it would have been silly to carry on. The weather had warmed up and the rain had brought the humidity up to very unpleasant levels.

One of my blog followers had recommended I have a go, fishing upstream of the weir, where the Mackenzie river runs alongside Rileys Crossing Road. This is also a dirt road, but it is a real road, not a dirt track, so it is in pretty good shape. I drove along it until I could see some tracks down to the river bank, then turned down one of them. I parked up and climbed down the still fairly steep banks to the water’s edge.

The rising water level had covered the base of many of the trees that line the river. The water was pretty stirred up. There were three dried catfish hanging off a fence post. I am not sure what the correct fishing etiquette is for disposing vs releasing catfish. The locals often seem to throw them up the bank or hang them off a tree branch. I appreciate they compete for food with the stocked fish in the impoundments, but they are a naturally occurring species. There appear to be so many of them that it makes me think killing the ones I catch will hardly make any difference, so I just release them. I would love to hear what others think – should we destroy them or release them?

I think by now you can predict where this post is going. I caught more catfish. I fished from about 5.00 pm through to 6.30 pm. I fished with the GULP Ghost Shrimp soft plastic in the Pink Belly colour, on a 1/12th ounce, 1/0 jighead and 8lb fluorocarbon leader. As the sun dropped the fish came to the surface to swallow various insects and you could see them ‘rising’, in all directions. Occasionally, I would make out the wake of a Saratoga, cruising just below the surface. I would cast the plastic in front of its nose and it would usually turn and come over to have a look, but I still could not illicit a strike. There were catfish sitting under just about every fallen branch or submerged root. I caught about ten – and was beaten by two or three who tangled me up.

The next afternoon I fished the pool below Bedford Weir. The increased turbidity from the rain had definitely turned the catfish on. I started with a 1/8th ounce, Zman Chatterbait in a white/ yellow colour. This is like a mini spinner bait lure. I cast next to the big branch, sticking out of the water in the middle of the main pool, below the weir. As the lure sank, a fish grabbed it. It was a weighty beast and took a while to subdue. As I pulled it to the surface I could see it was , of course, a catfish. I caught another, smaller one on the Chatterbait and then swapped to the other side of the pool. The catfish were so thick I could see their fins breaking the surface. I swapped to a small soft plastic GULP 2.5” Crabbie in the Camo colour in the hope of attracting something else, but this just caught more catfish.

I decided to move downstream to a pool just below the road, which crosses beneath the weir. There was a bad smell on the bank and the flies were buzzing. The source was four big dead catfish lying in the grass. I moved away from the smell and cast out my soft plastic with predictable results – another catfish.

On my final afternoon I drove out to Riley’s Crossing and walked a little way along one of the tracks, up stream. This is another beautiful spot – even if it was stinking hot and humid. The results were exactly the same as the previous two days. I varied my lures, swapping between spinner baits, soft plastics (in various colours) and hard bodies, but I could not find anything other than catfish.

I have had great fun exploring some freshwater fishing in Central Queensland, over the past few months, but now it is time to head home and reacquaint myself with some Moreton Bay flathead.

Bedford Weir – Blackwater – The Mackenzie River – 17 October 2013


Back to Blackwater – theoretically to do some work but, of course, my true purpose was to have a go at those fussy saratoga, swimming around down-stream of Bedford Weir. I arrived on Wednesday and got the paid work out of the way. On Thursday I had some time in the afternoon.

It was full moon. I had fished the full moon last time I was here and I had found a few good fish. This time I drove down the four wheel drive track, which runs to the east, alongside the Mackenzie River downstream of the weir wall. I followed it almost to the end – about 6 kms in total. The track is reached by turning to the east, off the Blackwater Cooroorah Road (right – if you are coming from Blackwater) just before you reach the weir.

Take care on this track. It is fine while the ground is dry and solid but it would be fairly tricky once it has rained. Also be aware there is a very high fire danger at this time of year, with tall dry grass lining the river banks and tracks.

At this point the banks of the river are quite steep and there is wide pool that has formed as the river runs against a rock bar, which slows it to a trickle, beyond this point. It looks like the fish cannot comfortably travel beyond this pool so it should be a good fishing spot.

Sure enough, as I approached the bank I could see several large saratoga lurking under the overhanging branches. The only thing that had worked on them before was a GULP soft plastic with arms and legs flailing everywhere – the 3 inch Ghost Shrimp. The hard bodies had just spooked them. I was out of suitable plastics so I started with a ¼ ounce spinner bait in a yellow and white colour. The fish were very well protected by the overhanging branches and it was pretty difficult to approach them without spooking them. I managed to get the spinner bait quite close to them a couple of times, before they dived down out of sight. These are very cautious fish.

I moved a little further along the bank and loaded a 1/11th ounce/size 2 hook jighead with a 2” GULP Shrimp in the Banana Prawn colour. I hopped this along the bottom around the snags and soon connected with a small catfish. I caught three of these.

I moved a bit further along and switched to the same soft plastic in the Peppered Prawn colour. I cast this at some sunken branches, which were close to the bank and felt a slightly more urgent tap, as I retrieved the lure. I cast back in the same spot and this time I hooked up. It pulled hard and fast, faster than the catfish. But it was not big enough to be a saratoga. I kept the rod tip up and pulled it clear of the snaggy timber. It was a respectable golden perch/ yellow belly.

I looked for a few more and may have had one on, that I did not land. After a while I could see the saratoga out in the middle of the stream, again. I swapped back the spinner bait and even though I pulled a few directly past their noses, I could not entice them to strike. They would turn towards the lure as it hit the water and sometimes swim towards it – but then lose interest. Its pretty tough fishing in the fresh water but I learn a little more on each session.

At about 5.30 pm, having caught a couple more catfish – I gave up for 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

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


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.

Bedford Weir – Blackwater – 18 September 2013


My freshwater adventures continued on Wednesday afternoon. I had a bit of work to attend to in Blackwater and decided to go and have a look at Bedford Weir, when I had finished. I was getting good at catching common catfish but I was really after something a bit more interesting.

Bedford Weir is about 25 km from Blackwater. There are saratoga, yellowbelly, sleepy cod, black bream, the odd barramundi and of course, catfish. There is a camping area beside the weir and a boat ramp. Above the weir there is a fair amount of boat traffic and it is a hard slog to find areas where you can fish from the bank, so I decided to try the pool immediately below the weir wall.

The area is drying out as there has been no significant rain for a while. I arrived at about 4.15 pm on a very hot, still afternoon – the car thermometer said it was 34 degrees. The moon would be full on Thursday. I started by fishing downstream of the weir wall. Water runs over the edge of the weir, down a horizontal channel and then cascades into a small pool, before running off under the road.

On the Burnett River, I had established that Catfish will get stuck into soft plastics, if they are left on the bottom for a while. The action does not seem to interest them, but I think it is the GULP smell that attracts them. I could see a few turtles around and there were a few swirls and bait scatters, as fish came up for a feed.

I decided to fish light, again. My light spin combo rod and reel with 2.8 kg Fireline, 8lb fluorocarbon leader and a 1/8th ounce, size 1 jighead. I chose a 2.0 inch freshwater yabby style GULP soft plastic called a Crabbie, in the peppered prawn colour. I lost a few rigs as I felt my way around the snags on the bottom but also felt a few bumps and nudges.

I cast at the point where the water cascaded over the small wall and let my lure sink. I counted to about 15, very slowly and then gently flicked the lure off the bottom and let it sink again. The next time I did this, something grabbed it and took off. I struck too quickly and too fast and it was gone. This happened two or three more times over the next few minutes. The strikes were cleaner and more distinct than the Catfish, slurp, so it was something else.

I slowed everything down and cast as close to the wall as I could. I paused until I was sure the little yabby-like lure was on the bottom then gave it a gentle hop. I felt the bite and paused for a few seconds then set the hook. This time I thought I had it – its broad tail broke the surface but I was still not sure what it was. As I looked for place to pull it up the rocks it slipped off – bugger!

I swapped to a lighter 1/16th Gamakatsu, size 1, round hook jighead and put on a fresh soft plastic – these jigheads often hook up when the traditional pattern is having trouble. They are incredibly sharp.

The sun had now dropped behind the weir and I had some shade. I repeated the procedure from the last cast and after a few attempts; I felt the bite and hooked up. The fish tried to bury itself in the snags but this time I had it. It took a few minutes, but I soon slipped it out of the water at my feet. It was my first golden perch/ yellowbelly on a soft plastic. It was a chunky fish, just over 35cm long. After a few pictures I returned it to the water.

I continued casting, same spot, same technique and about ten minutes later I had another one. It fought pretty hard and headed straight for the snags but I pulled it out and landed it. It was another golden perch / yellowbelly. This one was shorter but a bit fatter than the first. I released it, things were hotting up.

It was now around 6.00pm. It was getting dark and the full moon was clear in the sky behind me. I kept getting bites but they were quite gentle and hard to convert. Suddenly there was a very solid thump, gentle pull and then powerful run for the rocks. This felt like a big fish. I could feel the leader rubbing on something so I loosened the drag and kept very minimal tension on the line. I waited about a minute and slowly the line started moving through the water. Once I was sure it was out, I tightened the drag and pulled hard with the rod.

A fat fish popped up on the surface. It looked a bit like a drummer or luderick. It was not particularly fast but it was heavy and had a powerful tail. After a check on the web I assume it was a sooty grunter, although it was quite a pale colour.

It was still stinking hot and as with all good fishing sessions, I was now getting eaten alive by midges and mosquitoes, so I gave up. I was very happy with my first freshwater session at Bedford Weir. The hot weather and the full moon may have had something to do with my success – I would be back.