Conditions: Cool south easterly blowing the whole time keeping things fresh
Solunar Predictions: OK – building tides after neap
Strategy: Fishing bridges and man-made structure at all stages of the tide
Technique of the Day: Gentle lifting of vibes and spoons off the bottom and let them wash with the current
Target: Trevally and Queenfish
Gear Set Up:
1: 9′ 4-7kg 4 piece Raider travel rod with Saragosa 6000, 30lb braid & 40lb flouro leader
2: 7′ 6-10kg 3 piece Raider travel rod with Stradic FJ 5000, 20lb braid & 30lb flouro leader
3: 6’6″ 3-6kg 4 piece Slingshot travel rod with Stradic FK 3000, 10lb braid & 12lb flouro leader
Lure Types: Blades (DUO Tide Vibe, Strada X- Blades), Flasha Spoons & 3″ Diezel Minnows
Session Rating: 9/10
Fishing bridges and man-made structure is a great way to target a variety of species. Land based fishing of man-made structure such as bridges and rock walls around Mackay is no different. Great options include the numerous bridges across the Pioneer River (including the left-overs of the old hospital bridge), the rock walls along its banks and the recently re-built rock walls at Mackay Harbour. A winter fishing trip targeting a few of these locations around Mackay produced a variety of tropical sports fish including Tarpon, Queenfish, Trevally and Barramundi.
Mackay Harbour Rock Wall
The dawn session began at the very end of the Harbour rock wall as the tide just started to come in. I love fishing here at this stage of the tide as you can easily find yourself tangling with a huge variety of epic fish. Cast your lure out and watch as it gets sucked out past the rocks out to sea.
I was lobbing metal vibes out just past the base of the rocks and letting the current take the line and lure. I was doing sporadic gentle lifts off the bottom when the lure got crunched. The 3-7kg Raider rod bent over as the fish got its head down, pulled a couple of metres off the tight drag and “Ping” went my line as it got cut off in the rocks. I was pretty sure I had just lost a fight with a solid Trevally.
Hooked up again
I retied with a longer, stronger leader, upped the drag even further, put on a spoon and cast out again to repeat the technique that always works so well in this location. It was not long before the spoon got nailed at the bottom of the rocks again. I was ready for the hit this time and just reefed the fish up, up and up before it could get its head down. Within 30 seconds I had it washing up with the waves into the rocks at my feet. My earlier suspicions were confirmed when I lifted up a fat Golden Trevally hooked in the corner of the mouth. I took a couple of photos and got down to the water’s edge where I let her go.
Missed my Tuna but got my lure back
Just as I released her, a school of Tuna exploded at the surface in front of me. Usually you can see these big schools coming from kilometres away but this one caught me completely by surprise. I stood up, sent out the spoon and hooked a solid fish before it spat the hook. I cast out again but the school had moved on.
When I was leaving the spot for the next location, I saw an old bait fisherman hook into something big around fifty metres further along rock wall. He huffed and puffed and pulled up another nice Golden Trevally. He pulled out a pink Duo Tide Vibe from the corner of its mouth and asked me if I recognized it. What are the chances? Not high, but unbelievably he had caught the big Golden Trevally I had lost an hour before. I got my lure back and said my “thank-yous” and then my “goodbyes”. It had been a great session; it was a pity I didn’t land my Tuna.
Fishing the bridge in town
I moved onto the bridge in town to continue fishing the second half of the incoming tide. I love casting sinking lures into the current and bouncing them back along the bottom toward the bridge. It is a deadly technique which works well with spoons, metal vibes, soft vibes, plastics, metal jigs and slugs. The 20g soft vibe I had tied on was no different and soon landed me a couple of juvenile Queenfish. Queenies are fun but I wondered if there were any Trevally about. Around Mackay they are usually very responsive to metal vibes, so I tied one on and continued with the same technique.
The unmistakable hard hit of a solid Trevally came just as the lure was going under the bridge. I fumbled with the rod and reel just trying to hold on. I managed to stop the run under bridge and after a short fight, I got its head up and winched the fish up to the bridged from the waters’ surface. Another beautiful Golden Trevally. It was not a big fish but they really are tough fighting fish at any size.
I continued to get follows on my lure below me and could see there were some bigger models turning away from the lure at the last moment. Seeing the larger fish, I began to ask myself “did I really want to hook another one of these fish from the bridge?”
I was nervous as these fish were schooling and hitting directly below the bridge. They were hitting hard and going straight back under the bridge with the incoming tide. There was no time to fight and very little margin for error. There was a very real chance of not just losing my lure but my rod and reel too. I tightened the drag further and braced myself.
Bigger model from under the bridge
The big hit came and it hit hard. The butt of the rod flicked out from under my arm and flipped up over the railing. I still had the knob in my right hand and with my left, I wrestled the butt of the rod back over the rail. The fish was driving further under the bridge. Somehow the braid had not yet rubbed through on the underside of the bridge. My wrist was getting smashed as it was taking all the strain as I pulled the fish out from under the bridge. I finally got its head up to see it was too big to winch up from the water. The south bank of the Pioneer River was about 100m away to the south. I started the long hard battle to the river bank. This meant 10 minutes of pain as I had to keep the rod outstretched and lead the fish out and around bridge pylons and pass the rod around lamp posts until I got it back to the bank.
The banks of the Pioneer
The fish was caught in the big shadow cast by the bridge located a little further along the bank. I looked to the bridge pylons and figured if I kept the lure tight to the structure I was in with a chance for a Bream or even a small Jack. The lee side of the bridge produced nothing for me despite the lure hitting the right areas. I moved in front and sent in a perfect cast into the gap at the bottom of the exposed pylon. The slow roll out from the base of pylon stopped suddenly.
The best kind of North Queensland estuary fish
I thought it was snagged but a big head shake told me I was onto something. The rod bent over as I walked backwards to pull the fish out from the base of the pylon. It made some determined runs back but I managed to keep it from wrapping me up on anything. A big silver flash in the shallows told me I was onto a solid Barra.
Normally I would be stoked at this point but with a small plastic tied to a 12lb leader; I knew there was a very good chance the leader line would wear through. Small soft plastics usually get totally inhaled meaning the 12lb leader was probably being destroyed on the raspy teeth of this Barramundi. It wouldn’t take long to lose this fish if I pulled too hard on it. I therefore loosened the drag back as far as I dared and the Barra lunged once again back toward its hole.
I continued to walk back applying as little pressure on the line as possible while trying to keep him away from the bridge pylon. With patience and a little bit of luck, I finally eased my deep winter Barramundi up into the shallows where I landed him with my thumb in his mouth. I couldn’t have been happier.
A couple of blokes drove past in a tinny and gave me cheer. I gave them a triumphant wave, took some photos and let my proud winter Barra back into the water so that it could swim back to its gap in the pylon.
Tarpon in the Evening
That evening the tide turned again and I got a couple of Tarpon off the main bridge in town where the Trevally had been patrolling just 10 hours earlier. It was only on reflection of what turned out to be a great day did I realise that all my fish had been caught fishing bridges and man-made structure around town.
Man made structure really are great areas to target when fishing anywhere but even more so in high-flow sandy systems like the Pioneer and surrounding creeks. In these high-flow systems, there is a lot of sand but not a lot of natual structure to break the tidal flow. Rock bars get covered in sand and logs are quickly washed away leaving swathes of featureless sand banks with no obvious means to break up the flow of water. Permanent man-made structures break the tidal flow and thus create feeding opportunities for predators. At different times of the tide, they aggregate fish and if your lure happens to be in the water at the same time then you will get connected to some quality fish.
Sam Hitzke has a written a good article on targeting Jacks and Barramundi around structure in our Queensland estuaries and is well worth a read at https://blog.campermate.com.au/advice/fishing/estuary-fishing-barra-mangrove-jack/. The benefits of land based fishing and targetting structure is also touched upon by local Mackay Barramundi guru Luke Galea in this interesting article for Kayo fishing world https://www.kaydofishingworld.com/walking-the-walk-the-magic-of-land-based-fishing/. If you enjoyed this report on fishing bridges and man made structure land based around Mackay – feel free to write a comment, read more articles at www.scoutfisher.net or sign up to receive new posts directly to your email. Thanks for reading – Scoutfisher.