Hooked on some of the Mackay region's best spots
EVERY weekend and school holiday as a kid was spent riding in a boat, sitting on the sand watching dad bait my hook and reeling in fish until the sun went down.
Casting a line still brings back the best childhood memories and I've never grown tired of trying to catch fish.
I made a New Year's promise to myself - possibly fuelled by a little too much wine - to get outdoors and explore more around the Mackay region where I now live.
After all, it boasts some of the best, and most scenic, fishing spots and beaches in the country.
With a bright shiny new fishing rod and tackle left under the Christmas tree by my supportive brothers, I had no more excuses. Usually, you see, I'm spoilt by having a dad and little brother with boats to take me to the previously-sussed-out definitely-will-catch-a-big-one-here spots in the creek.
My very own fishing pros come fully stocked with tackle boxes, rods and reels, knives and gadgets, and they love putting new hooks, sinkers and traces on my rod when a shark or ray has a field day with my bait.
But as I hit my 30th birthday recently, I realised I have been on thousands of fishing trips and caught my fair share of fish without ever knowing how to tie a hook to my fishing line.
(I've always had the in-built Rex Hunts on board any fishing adventure I've been on, remember?)
So with sheer determination and a BCF members' card, I went to town acquiring all the fishing gear I needed to give Mackay's fishing spots a crack on my own.
After an hour in the shop, I had what I needed.
Tackle box: check. Fish grippers: check. Hooks: check. Sinkers: check. Trace: do I need that? Okay, check. Bucket: check. Fish measuring ruler: check. A bigger esky for all the fish I'm soon to catch: obviously check.
A few lessons from my fishing mate and a few drops of blood later, I think I managed to get the knack of tying a hook to my line. One more demonstration from dad on the next trip and I reckon I'll have it down.
My first weekend exploring the Mackay region may not have been that successful fishing-wise, judging by the empty new esky still on my kitchen floor, but the weather was perfect and it was a top weekend spent with friends regardless.
I'm keen to get out there as the year goes on and the weather remains pleasant to find what fish are out there - with a list of 10 other places ready to explore, I won't be short on options.
For those looking to follow in my footsteps, the following are my top five favourite fishing spots in North Queensland:
GROPER CREEK: 17km from the sugar cane town of Home Hill (three-hour drive north of Mackay). It's a popular spot for grey nomads, and as it's prone to flooding, the huts and homes are high set to withstand floodwater. Some seriously impressive fish have been caught right off the jetty and along the banks of the caravan park reserve.
BURDEKIN RIVER: My Burdekin River fishing adventures usually start right from the Groper Creek boat ramp, 40-odd metres from my parents' house. This is where 90% of my fishing expeditions had been prior to these last couple of months. I've caught big grunter, whiting, flathead, trevally, queenfish ... and over Christmas added a 75cm fingermark to my scoreboard. It's also insanely good for mudcrabs and prawns.
MACKAY HARBOUR BEACH: My local beach, as I'm lucky enough to live right on the harbour. It's one of the best spots to catch flathead on the incoming tide right off the beach, I've found out, and a little cove near the marina is also popular for whiting and bream though I'm yet to check that out.
CAPE PALMERSTON: A recent discovery 115km south of Mackay. I wasn't quite prepared for the stunning views of Cape Palmerston when I went four-wheel driving with some friends. While all we caught was a few small sharks, I have heard big barramundi are often caught in the creeks.
PIONEER RIVER: While I tend to do more cocktails-on-the-river than actually partaking too heavily in wetting a line, a popular tapas bar - Maria's Donkey - offers a unique fishing experience. On Sunday mornings, if you bring down your rod and tackle box, any fish you catch off their deck they'll happily cook up and serve to you through the day. The "catch your own dinner'' is next on my bucket list.