In my honest opinion, the Mackay Whitsunday region offers some of the best fishing in Queensland and should be high on anyone’s bucket list of idyllic fishing destinations. The diversity of fishing locations and vast array of iconic Australian sports-fish that inhabit the region is simply mind-blowing.
Saltwater estuaries, brackish waterholes, sweetwater locations, stocked impoundments, inshore/offshore reefs, rocky headlands and beachside gutters provide a long list of avenues available to the piscatorial hunter around Mackay. Popular angling species include the legendary Barramundi, Mangrove Jack, Salmon, Grunter, Tarpon, Sooty Grunter and all manors of hard fighting, fine tasting reef fish such as Coral Trout and Red Emperor from our reef systems.
Mackay is located roughly 1000km north of the State capital city of Brisbane but is a mere 1hour and 20min flight from this location.
Having a boat is paramount for targeting offshore species, however, there are plenty of land-based locations available to fisherman (and women!) within estuarine and freshwater systems. A couple of the standout land-based locations that spring to mind (and definitely worth wetting a line) include the Mackay Marina, East Point and the Ron Camm Bridge.
The Mackay Marina and fishability go together like peas and carrots! All you need to do is drive your vehicle along the marina rock wall and pull over to the side of the road, within the parking areas. The inside of the rock wall is perfect to take children, purely from a safety factor as it is always protected and calm. There is also no shortage of Bream and Moses Perch to keep the youngsters amused for hours. It is at night time however, where the inside of the rock wall comes alive. Jigging big soft plastics such as 6 & 7 inch Atomic Plazo Jerk Minnows around the rocks at night time is a good way of enticing a big Jewfish or Fingermark. I must stress that these fish pull like an absolute train and are not for the faint of heart, pushing gear and angler to the absolute limit.
The ocean side of the rock wall is a very popular place to throw big chrome slices for a pelagics such as Mackerel, Tuna, Trevally or Queenfish. A long handled net or gaff is required to land these speedsters from the rocks. This spot is far more accustomed to the serious and experienced angler, but care should always be taken around the larger swell and slippery rocks. Floating a ganged pilchard is also another way to target these species. This location can be fished day or night and at any stage of the tide.
East Point is located at the mouth of the Pioneer River and as such, provides a real lucky element in terms of species. The Pioneer River is the main river that travels through the city of Mackay and west to the Pioneer Valley. There is a large sand spit and rock wall that can be fished given the angler preference. Species range from Bream, Whiting and Flathead on the sand spit to Mangrove Jack, Barramundi and Queenfish from the rock wall. By far, the best and most visually exciting method to fish this location is with large poppers and stickbaits. In my opinion, it is very hard to beat the visual stimulation for seeing foaming white-water materialise around your popper/stickbait. This method of fishing can be quite tiring but the excitement factor more than makes up for it. I have found surface poppers like the Megabass Pop-X and stickbaits such as the Megabass Dog-X to work very effectively at this location.
The Bream, Whiting and Flathead caught from the exposed sand bar at this location can be targeted on 2 & 3 inch Atomic Plazo Prongs.
Of course, baits also work well if luring is not your forte’.
Be aware that the large tidal variation can cause very large quantities of water to move in and out of the Pioneer River between the tides. I like to fish this location an hour and a half either side of the high or low tide so that the amount of run is minimal.
Ron Camm Bridge
The Ron Camm Bridge is located on the Bruce Highway, just to the north of the Mackay township. The pylons, rock bars and concrete pipeline travelling from one side of the river to the other provide all the “big fish” structure anybody could possibly ask for. Once again, the tidal variation can be fierce at this location but the bigger tides definitely seem to produce a better bite window. Queenfish dominate the topwater as they are a big fan of fast flowing water. The structure also has a plethora of food available to them. The Megabass topwater options mentioned above work very well at this location.
Barramundi and Mangrove Jack are also commonly caught form this location. I have had good success on 4 inch Atomic Plazo Prongs as well as 6 inch Atomic Plazo Jerk Minnows. Alternatively, live herring or mullet are the best option for bait fisherman.
Plenty of large Bream and small Cod frequent this area as well.
There are so many fishing options around Mackay and I have only listed a few of my favourite spots, but if you are thinking of a fishing holiday and don’t want to spend a fortune flying to the N.T, then Mackay should be seriously considered.