by Lee Brake
Seaforth is a quaint little seaside town that has become a popular holiday destination for travelling anglers due to its readily available amenities, excellent boat launching facilities, central location, the protection offered by an inshore island band and, of course, its outstanding fishing potential.
Seaforth has a great boat ramp, perfect for all tides.
It has always been popular amongst fishing families when the holiday season begins and the local camping ground comes alive with excited children, kicked-back parents and vessels of all sizes. Lately, due to its prime location along the picturesque Hibiscus Coast just 40 minutes north of Mackay, Seaforth has become a very popular destination for miners looking to wind down after long shifts.
Yes, it’s safe to say that during the busy periods things can get a little hectic as this sleepy town of around 1000 residents welcomes a plethora of keen visiting anglers, but don’t despair. The array of options available means that if you do your homework there is a good chance of not only having an outstanding day on the water but also bringing home a feed.
Most of the more accessible creeks in the area lie to the north of the township, and with a reasonable sized tinny and a good day, they can be easily reached by launching at the main Victor Creek ramp, just up the road from the town’s camping ground. This ramp is a snodger and is not just all-tide but is also fitted with a floating pontoon and is multilane so can easily cater for four small boats launching simultaneously. There are, however, other ramps to the north with one in Murray Creek that is usable on most tides but bears careful use during the lower tides of the year, as it can get very slippery.
Like most places, dusk is the time to have a livebait out. This barra was caught near the ramp in Victor Creek by Deion Capra.
Starting closer to home though, let’s look at the creeks near the main ramp. Victor Creek is often overlooked by anglers due to the heavy boat traffic that is a result of the ramp, but its fishing potential is quite untapped. The deeper mangrove-lined banks across from the ramp and further up-stream hold jacks, barra and bream. They can be lured (casting or trolling) or anchored at and worked with bait. They work best over the low tide and anglers should focus on timber in deeper water near drains for best results. Other options include trolling the channel at the mouth – the drains feeding into this deep water attract barra, salmon, pelagics and flathead – and bait fishing the main creek channel for grunter, fingermark and jacks. Strip baits and live baits work best with prawns, herring and mullet available to cast-netters throughout the region at low tide around gutters and along the flats.
From Victor you have a series of rocky flats to the north – starting at the corner of the creek mouth. These rocky areas should best be avoided at low tide by following the navigational markers, but at high tide they fish well for barra, salmon and pelagics and are ideal for long casting with shallow diving minnows and surface lures. Grunter are also taken here with bait.
Casting minnows at the snags in all the creeks around low water is a great way to pin a barra in the warmer months.
The next creek up the coast is Cluny Creek. Cluny is a popular creek and during the busy times is not the place to avoid a crowd; however, it’s busy for a reason. It has nice deep water around the mouth and has easily navigable water until it branches off upstream (beware rocks on the right hand bend). At low tide the flats on either side of the mouth dry out, but by travelling around them and using a GPS with a chart you can find the channel in. This channel is quite deep and there is a rather large hole at the mouth that can be trolled for barra in the warmer months.
Be croc-wise. There are plenty around Seaforth. This one lives in Cluny.
Salmon are also taken on the hole’s fringing gutters. Up the creek there are some nice holes at the mouths of gutters and minor tributaries that fish well with bait, and prawning the minor drains is very productive in the warmer months, especially after periods of rain. Crabs are also plentiful at times, but it pays to be wary of the large tidal difference. If you’re setting pots at the top of the tide, make sure it’s somewhere they can be retrieved from. Many a crabber has set pots only to find that when it’s time to head home they’re 10m up on a mud bank – not fun! Cluny is also known for its healthy population of crocodiles, so stay in the boat at all times!
Crabbing is productive in the area, just be careful with placement as tides can leave them high and dry.
Following Cluny is the smaller Conow Creek. Conow is a very popular crabbing and prawning destination, but its mouth dries out on most low tides. This however makes it very popular amongst small boat operators on calm days, as a punt can sneak in at the first kick of the tide and fish this less pressured system. For something different, try sneaking in with light soft plastic spin tackle. Working 2-3' plastics at the fronts of the drains and around the bottoms of shingly drop-offs is an exciting way to hook grunter, bream and even fingermark. Just be wary of an afternoon easterly sea breeze as a trip home across the bay can get very choppy and uncomfortable.
From Conow there are a series of seagrass beds and tidal flats that are best avoided except on a run in tide. However, if you travel further north, towards Rabbit Island, you’ll come across the rocky point that is Stone Island (only an ‘island’ at high tide). Stone is a great place for those who like sight fishing with lures and casting this shallow, rubble-covered area at the top of the tide is a great option for barra, jacks, flathead and pelagics. If you follow the flat around from Stone towards the northern corner of the bay you come to a shallow mangrove flat called Mud Island that is isolated from the bay by what is known as the ‘cut through’. This cut through is best navigated towards the top of the tide and is a shortcut through to Mathers Creek. It also prawns well around half tide if you’re careful not to overstay your welcome.
In winter, flathead move into the area in numbers. This one took a slow worked fly around Rabbit Island.
Mud Island itself dries out with the low tide, but there is a small channel running between it and nearby Rabbit Island. This channel should not be attempted at the bottom quarter of the tide, especially the run out, as it is narrow and slight deviation can result in a long wait on a mud bar. The other option is to travel right around Rabbit Island and Newry Island on the low tide, but unless you plan to fish you’re way around and the weather is calm, you’d be better timing any trips past this point to ensure passage via Mud.
Big grunter, like this one caught by the author's wife Alanna, are a Seaforth specialty.
In saying that, there is a small creek that runs into Rabbit Island and this creek intersects with the channel passing Mud Island. Because of this, the area at the mouth fishes well for grunter, barra, salmon and trevally. Live baits fished into the hole at the creek mouth on the last of the run out and first of the run in is a good option for small boats, though getting trapped in a small creek system with limited options is always a gamble.
When to visit
Currently the barra fishing around Seaforth is outstanding and is best taken advantage of from February to early May. Prawning, crabbing and reef fishing is also excellent at this time and jacks and grunter are around. This is also the wet season though, so you are taking a risk of dealing with cyclones or possible flooding. August /September is also a good time to visit as you get the start of the barra run and the tail end of the winter species. In the colder months whiting and flathead are abundant and mackerel and tuna are a possibility.
Accommodation and facilities
Camping is the most common form of accommodation in the area and is readily available at the Seaforth Camp Ground for a reasonable fee (caters for caravans as well). All amenities are available.
If you feel like really getting away from it all, then camping is permitted on the three major islands of the Newry Island national park and some facilities are available, however, as a national park there are restrictions that you need to be aware of and you need to book in advance as there are limited numbers (and a fee).
If camping isn’t your thing, then self-contained unit accommodation is available at the Seaforth Holiday Units.