Our Hinchinbrook Adventure – Part 1 – By John Boon
It’s a bit of a shame really, the holiday that we had counted down to for so long has been and gone. Did we have the time of our lives? You bet we did. Did we absolutely slay the fish? Well, not exactly. Just with fishing any new place it takes time to work things out. Unless you’ve been given golden information then you can’t expect to hit the ground running and start braining fish. After all, there’s an apprenticeship that takes place before you’re considered qualified.
This trip had everything that you would expect from a week long fishing holiday. There were the good times, the tough times, slip ups, banter, silly mistakes, triumphs and lots and lots of fun.
For our extended Hinchinbrook adventure we choose to stay at the Lucinda Fishing Lodge. For anyone who doesn’t know anything about Lucinda it’s a tiny town ship located at the southern end of Hinchinbrook Island on the main land. Lucinda would be best known for the 5km long sugar loader jetty that stretches out into the ocean. It’s just one great big fish attracting device.
The fishing lodge where we were staying is situated right next door to the main boat ramp. Yes sir, you don’t even need to put the straps back on the boat if you choose to pull the boat out and put it on the trailer. This wonderful place also gives you the option to leave your boat in the water and tie it up to the private jetty right out the front of your accommodation. How cool is that!
Some other awesome aspects of the lodge were the ample parking options. We took two cars and two boats for our stay and there was still heaps of parking available with all of the other guests cars and boats.
There’s a private clothes washing room, communal BBQ area and a fish filleting table. They really have put a lot of thought and effort into the lodge to make it one heck of a comfy stay. If you have a look through some of the photos, everything is absolute water front.
The lodge is about 1km from Lucinda itself but at the boat ramp area there’s everything you would need. Fuel station, convenience store, fishing shop and also a dedicated two lane boat wash down facility. If there’s something you couldn’t find then as mentioned before Lucinda is only a short drive away.
If you’re planning a trip up to Lucinda then I’ve got a quick bit of a run down about the ramp and access to the channel.
Be very careful using the ramp around low tide and the end of the ramp would be almost exposed on bigger tides. Half tide to full tide launch is ideal.
The ramp itself is a bloody good setup, multiple pontoons and four lanes. Even when it was quite busy you didn’t have to wait long to get the boat in or out.
The second warning is about access out into the Hinchinbrook channel. If you follow the channel markers you can still get stuck. On the bigger tides around two hours either side of low you can’t get in or out. On our last day we were lucky to get back across the sandbar, thank goodness that my boat doesn’t draw much water at all otherwise it would have been a good four hour wait.
That’s enough of the boring stuff, let’s get down to business. The trip would consist of the three amigo’s. Myself and two good mates from Emerald Luke Peisker and Matty Arnold. I’ve known both of these lads a long time and been on many fishing trips with them.
I would be towing my new (second hand) pride and joy Nitro up from Yeppoon while the other two would be leaving from Emerald and towing Luke’s 6.1m Barcrusher. You see, we wanted the best of both worlds, if the weather wasn’t great we would be fishing out of my Nitro up and down the channel but if the weather come good then we would be a able to hit the reef in Luke’s weapon.
The trip from Yeppoon up to Lucinda for me was a bloody long one. I left home at around 2am so hopefully we would be able to check in and get on the water for the afternoon. Between rest stops and roadworks it turned into a ten and a half hour drive. Pretty brutal when you’re by yourself.
Luke and Matty arrived about an hour before me so they were well and truly settled in. We performed the quickest unpack of non essentials and then re packed the essentials for a quick afternoon squirt up the creek. We had a couple of tins to celebrate the start of the fishing week. Unfortunately no joy was found that afternoon but we did get to function test everything I had done to the boat and so far so good.
We had an epic cook up on the first night with Matty cooking up a BBQ storm consisting of steak, bacon and sausages. My lovely wife had made us up a massive dish of fried rice which just topped the meal off. We had a few beverages and made a plan for the following day.
We were up early as everyone was too excited to sleep. We made our way down the channel towards the Cardwell end. Our plan was to have a good look around on the flats while the tide was high before looking to snags and drains on the falling tide.
We were now scanning some flats and looking at the Humminbird Apex 16. In amongst the maze of timber we could see some likely suspects. It gave us confidence that we were in the right place.
Luke was the first one to kick our campaign off. We were working a few lay downs when Luke put a cast right into the fork of it. A couple of quick twitches and it was fish on. The poor little barra got ripped into the boat at a great rate of knots. I’ve never been so relieved to see a rat barra on the deck. It represented the start of a great trip.
I can remember looking at Luke removing the placcy from the barra’s mouth. I looked around and the serenity was breath taking. Glassed out with cloud now lifting off the mountain ranges. Hinchinbrook sure is one pretty place.
We continued to work along this stretch of bank and there were still plenty of barra showing on the side imaging. Matty was next to put a barra on the deck slow rolling a Z man 4 inch diesel minnow. The tide was now retreating rapidly and we had to get off the flats before we got stuck.
We headed for a well known area called Benjamin Flats to see if we could locate some drains holding fish. We slipped up a shallow side creek and were amazed at the fish life showing on the Apex. We deployed the Minn Kota and crept our way along the banks working the small drains.
It took a while to get a fish on the deck but small paddle tails seemed to be the order. The majority of the fish coming over the side were small grunter and trevally. We could see barra moving through but they just weren’t keen on the chew.
The rest of the day was spent searching and trying different techniques for not much result.
Day two was an absolute fizzer. I guess you can’t really call it a failure when you’re trying to figure out a new area. We snag bashed, scanned, fished shallow and fished deep all for one measly little gold spot cod. To take a positive away from a negative, we were narrowing down what didn’t work.
Day three was going to be our offshore day. The forecast was for light winds most of the day. We swapped our gear over into Luke’s Bar Crusher and loaded up the eskies with ice.
We left Lucinda at a sparrow fart, well before any of the locals were even contemplating launching a boat. We made our way out through the channel markers and pressed on to our first mark.
We were disappointed to realise that the reason why it was so calm to start with is because it was blowing a south-wester. By the time we got out about 20km the south-wester would have been pushing a stiff 15 knots.
The first mark was an old wreck. It’s probably a well known spot, but for us it was a good starting point. Luke put his Solix on 2D and 455khz for side imaging so we could side scan in the deep water.
It took us a few minutes but the side scan showed the wreck perfectly. We marked it up and went and spot locked on top of it. The bait and fish were thick but that bloody south-wester was making it difficult.
I finally got a decent bite and struck hard. I only got two cranks of the handle and the fish was instantly sharked. That was all the proof we needed to keep moving.
We pressed on out to Britomart Reef and started searching on the close bommies. We found one really good rise that went from 40 meters up to 20 meters with plenty of life on it.
We positioned Luke’s Bar Crusher and sent down a few baits and artificials. Between the razor gang snipping off jigs and the sharks giving us a flogging it was tough going to put a fish on the deck.
We kept moving every time the sharks would take a fish. Finally Matty hooked up to a decent fish and went hard to get it to the surface.
We were all cheers as Matty swung a good sized trout over the side. At least we now had a reason to buy some bloody bread crumbs.
We cruised around this bommie for most of the day because it was too rough to go searching. We tried every bit of good looking country we could find from the shallow to the deep. It had been a long time since we had to work this hard to take home a feed.
Matty hooked up solid once again but this fish came straight to the top. I was thinking cobia until I saw a flash of silver. Matty had picked up a nice sized Spanish mackerel. Now we would have to grab some beer batter as well as the bread crumbs.
We worked our asses off and those two fish is all that made it over the side. We left the reef early as we wanted to get back to the lodge and get dinner organised. The trip back in was rough and wet. We were relieved to be back inside the channel markers.
Make sure to keep an eye on this website to check out the second and final part to our Hinchinbrook adventure.