Back in September we rounded up the boys & descended on Hinchinbrook for the annual 4lb Club Challenge. We brought the beer, stories & fishing gear… the weather gods put on the rest of the show & what an amazing weekend it ended up being. Looking out over Missionary Bay each day you were hard pressed to even see a ripple.
I have to say that the 4lb Club is more about having fun than competition… but when someone says ‘Point Scoring System’ & ‘Prizes’ you can’t help but get a bit competitive! Not wanting to make similar mistakes to 2012 Justin, Dylan & I decided it was a good idea to venture down to Hinchinbrook a couple of days early, giving us 2 days to check conditions & fish movements.
Game plans are always thrown around when planning a fishing trip but sticking to them never ends up happening! This trip was going to be different & I was adamant that having times and places on a plan of attack would be the best way to tick off the list of point scoring fish.
What happens when you mix fishing with nerd? You end up with a digitized plan of attack to carry round on your GPS enabled smart phone.
Justin & I spent an evening with Google Earth mapping out each spot that we would stop at for the first 2 days of fishing. It really didn’t take much & was such a relief to get 18 months of fishing trips documented into a system that can be saved & shared.
If you plan on doing something similar, watch this space & I will write a step by step guide for exporting the places list to your smart phone. Really handy to have with you!
Coming up with the list of places to fish was the hard part. It took about 7 frustrating trips over a period of 18 months to come to terms with just how big the Hinchinbrook system was. We made mistake after mistake for all 7 of those trips, often turning up 10 minutes after a critical push of water had finished or 5 minutes after a piece of structure had broken the surface becoming unfishable.
When fishing gets tough, a lot of guys crack it & give up believing that they completely wasted their time. Time on the water is never time wasted! You just have to take note of what is going wrong & realize why so that you can use it to build the next attack plan. Once you get it figured out, everything falls into place and becomes easy… And that’s how the first two days of fishing went. Turn up at a pre-planned spot at a pre-planned point in the tide, hoping to target a pre-planned species.
We started in the southern sections of Hinchinbrook after launching the boat at Fishers creek boat ramp. Justin was quick on the board with a Mangrove Jack that ate a Gulp soft plastic. It’s worth noting that the Jack was caught in a creek that had running fresh water at the top of it.
We kept moving right away along the GPS track through a few more stops. The tide was very close to turning but not quite right & the schools of Barramundi that we sighted were too spooky to hit a lure. It’s very frustrating counting 15 or so barra swimming round in a small inlet that just aren’t interested in feeding. Another one of those times that you mark the spot & just turn up a bit earlier next time.
With the tide just starting to run we got into position over a rubble patch in 16m out in the channel. I sent down a Mask Vibe, Justin sent down a Gulp & Dylan sent down a Tranzam. The Mask Vibe came up with the goods after the first twitch & we had the first Fingermark of the trip. The fish that were sitting on the rubble weren’t huge but you can’t complain about catching a stack of Fingermark in 10 minutes. Just like clockwork they shutdown the second the tide fully released.
The two major point scoring fish for the weekend were Permit & Golden Trevally & with just enough water left on the sand flats it was time to go searching. We didn’t have to move far out of the channel as on a previous trip had observed what looked like Goldens feeding in the mouth of a nearby creek. The only time I have seen a Permit caught was in the Barron river on a bait… none of us really knew what we should be throwing for either species. We didn’t luck any fish but did sight 3 Permit after spooking them off the flat.
The tide was well and truly on the way out so it was time to make the mad scramble back to the ramp. We got the boat out & headed back to Cardwell for a shot at the other side of the channel.
The first planned stop out of Cardwell was a shallow water wreck in Hinchinbrook channel that usually holds a good school of barra & fingermark. My mind was drifting off about what the wreck would hold when we saw some of the other boys from the club coming back into the marina. Jimmy & Jack had been playing silly buggers (nothing unusual) and anyway, Jack managed to throw a Fingermark at Jimmy with the main dorsal spine going all the way through Jimmies toe! Those two are always a laugh…
We called them idiots & got out to the wreck in no time but it was sounding up really weird. The first drop I got destroyed instantly by a solid barra, second drop Justin got destroyed too. We tied back up & soon realized that the strange sounding was because the wreck was being shadowed by a cloud of school mackerel. All three of us were retrieving at the same time, Dylan got snipped & then Justin & I managed to hook a Mackerel each in the corner of the jaw.
The trend continued until we had all lost a lure or two. Pretty dumb to keep dropping but with large barra only a couple of meters below the mackerel the temptation was too much.
The tide was now at its low point & with the first big push of water coinciding with dusk, the fingeries were just waiting to chew. We had about 45 minutes of fingermark action ending with a double header right when the golden sun was setting. After this photo was taken, it was Dylan’s turn to get owned. He hooked a monster that made it to the surface out of 9m in a couple of seconds. Blinder of a day & all with a horse barra that gave us a schooling.
Day 2 was going to be all about chasing Mangrove Jack & Barra. We had mapped out two possible creeks that both had a good freshwater tributary above them but had to wait for the tide to be just right before chasing Jacks. We started off in the lower sections of one of the chosen creeks. We worked a bank that looked the goods but couldn’t turn anything other than bream, cod & grunter. I was on the electric at the time & looking ahead on the bank could see something strange approaching. As it got closer I was dumbfounded. I started counting the super school of barra before the other two knew what I was on about… ’10, 20, 30, 50, oh $#%#$ I give up’.
The 3 of us in the boat couldn’t believe our eyes as the massive school just swam past in 30cm of water on the bank. Fish ranged in size from 40cm up to about 70cm. You would think that out of a school of 100 or so fish you could pick a few off but they weren’t interested, they just kept following the jelly prawns down the bank. Justin did manage to pick off a straggler on a Gulp. That section of bank has been filed away under ‘Top Secret’ & will be visited many times in the future.
We kept heading up the same creek & had a ball for the rest of the day chasing jacks. After scourges of mid sized fish, Dylan hooked a ripper with a floating ZMan. When we ran out of water it was time to head back to Cardwell & have some beers with confidence for Saturdays fishing.
Over the rest of the weekend there wasn’t enough time to stop for too many photos. A large portion of our catch was made up of bread & butter species with only a few prize fish thrown in to beef up the species tally.
Our biggest barra for the weekend ended up only going 78cm & was taken from the edged of a school of salmon. This fish was easily identified using side scan technology.
And the fish of the weekend had to go to Justin with this ripper of a Golden Trevally that ended up being hooked in the bum. The golden went 82cm.