Land based fishing the Pioneer River in Mackay seems to always produce the goods………
Season: Late Spring
Strategy: Fishing the river on the incoming tide
Technique: Jigging spoons back with the current
Gear: 6’6” graphite travel rod, 5000 size reel, 15lb braid and 30lb leader
Lures: 40g spoons and 90mm surface stickbaits
Session Rating: 7/10
Land based fishing the Pioneer River and the Mackay surrounds is a joy. The variety of quality fish ready to take your lure without having to venture out in a boat can make for some truly awesome fishing experiences. With Matty the local fishing legend in tow, we set out for the harbour at dawn in the hope of connecting to another inshore pelagic. After an hour of fruitless casting however we decided to move on.
On the incoming tide, the Forgan bridge in town sees a lot of quality fish pass through on their way up the Pioneer River. It is always worth a cast when the conditions are right. I tied on a metal spoon and cast it out into the incoming tide and slowly jigged it back along the bottom. Spoons are a simple lure but deadly on a wide variety of species. On my second cast the spoon got thumped as soon as I lifted it off bottom.
Fish on, fish gone
This was a real solid fish and I knew I was in trouble as soon as it started pulling line off the reel like it was nothing. It suddenly turned back down-current toward me, and came straight for the bridge. This sudden charge back towards me left me with slack line and almost no connection to the fish. I started running along the bridge to take up line and re-apply pressure back on it. This worked and the fish was quickly pulling drag again as it continued charging under the bridge.
The rod was bent down and I tried to pull it back out but it was too little too late. Five seconds later, I was winding in to inspect what was left of my 30lb leader. “What the hell was that”? muttered Matty echoing my own thoughts. He had just witnessed that fish completely dominate me. I kind of felt like the first grader who had just been beaten to a pulp by the high-school bully. The only difference being that I actually wanted to go another round with this particular thug.
The spoon strikes again
I gathered my nerves, tied on my last precious spoon, did my drag up really tight and cast out to the same spot again. The follow-up hit came immediately. It was alarming how easily this next fish again pulled line under tight drag. The margin for error when fishing from this bridge is always small and I already felt like I was on the back foot again.
The fish followed the same pattern; a quick short run away from the bridge up into the current before turning back towards me with the current. I put as much hurt on the fish as I could but it was quickly under me and still pulling drag as it powered under the bridge.
Crunch goes my chest cavity
The line was close to cutting on the underside of the bridge and I was just about to lose this second fish in as many minutes. I needed to get the tip of my rod as low under the bridge as possible to get my line clear. I leapt forward; chest-first onto the steel hand rail and half hung over it with my rod pointed down. The heavy impact against steel resulted in a loud crack and sharp pain as one of my right ribs audibly broke on impact. I hung the rod tip as far down as I could and just kept yanking on it as hard as I could.
Somehow, I managed to drag the fish back up against the current to where it broke the surface below me. I couldn’t believe I had stopped it. I rocked backwards onto my feet again then started the long, hard walk to the far side of the bridge to land my prize. To get both my rod and fish past the numerous light poles located along the bridge, I had to run the rod around the outside of them and pass to my other hand. The whole time I did this, the fish below continued to buck and run. I finally got him to the bank where I then jumped the rail and went down to land my 66cm Blue Salmon. Easily a new personnel best and an absolute brute of a fighter. I photographed him and swam him a little before release.
Tarpon busting up
There was no time to asses my painful chest injury. By the time I got back up, Matty was pointing to a school of fish that were boiling just under the middle of the bridge. We hurried over, cast out and both hooked up immediately. Despite my heavy breathing now causing me considerable pain, my bridge technique was primed and practiced. The tight drag meant that my Tarpon was easily subdued and we both quickly landed our fish on the bank of the river. As I was jumping over the railing for the second time to grab my fish, I completely tore the front side out of the only pair of shorts I had with me.
Between the lost lure/fish, broken rib, torn shorts, I feel like I lost a hard-fought round to the fish of the Pioneer river in a tight 3-2 score line.
More fish from the Pioneer River
After this bruising, opening round encounter, we moved onto another little spot along the Pioneer River. Bait was jumping everywhere so we tied on a couple of surface stickbaits and started flicking them along the bank and out wider. Matty quickly hooked and landed a sensational Queenfish while I managed a respectable GT not 10 minutes later. It all made for another memorable morning of fishing on Mackay’s very own Pioneer River.
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