Our Hinchinbrook adventure – Part 2 – By John Boon
So, the first three days of our Hinchinbrook trip were quite tough as we covered last month. I guess it comes with any new destination that it takes time to figure it all out. Honestly, we really do enjoy putting all the pieces of the puzzle together.
Day four started pretty much the same as any of the other days. Loading the boat with gear, prepping and rigging rods, fine tuning lures and plenty of chat about tactics and also putting a game plan together.
With the high tide getting later each day it did give us an opportunity for a bit of a sleep in. When we are fishing then a sleep in would be considered 5am.
We launched the Nitro at the Dungeness ramp and took off down the Hinchinbrook channel. The conditions today were the best we had seen so far so we were hopeful that the bite would be a lot better. The channel was a glass out and the clouds were lifting from the mountains once again. The early morning chill dispersed rather quickly.
We were now sounding along a stretch of flats that just looked fishy. It’s hard to know what is fishy when the tide is full because everything looks like it should be holding life.
We flicked, sounded, spot locked, moved and flicked some more. Unfortunately, there was no joy to share. We moved positions to time the stage of the tide. We deployed the Minn Kota Ulterra and gently moved into position. Before the first cast was made we had to keep the tradition alive by fuelling the fire for the day which consisted of coffee and biscuits. Fishing one of the prettiest places with a coffee in one hand and a biscuit in the other is an amazing feeling.
We heard a pop over in the mangroves so the coffee got ditched and there were three amigos standing on the casting platform with rods at the ready. It didn’t take long for the action to start.
Both Matty and Luke were getting solid hits and putting rat barras on the deck.
I was looking at the Humminbird Apex and did notice that there were some really nice barra shadows showing from the deeper sections of the bank. I moved the boat out a bit so we could concentrate on the snag fringes. It paid off well with Matty putting our first legal barra on the deck.
While we were getting a few photos Luke decided to keep casting and hooked up instantly. It was a great feeling to finally be onto a hot bite. We had done the hard yards with searching and it was paying off. They weren’t giants but it was good fun all of the same. With two fish on the deck it provided a great photo opportunity. It was clear that the barra were responding to four inch paddle tails. The boys were doing well with Zerek Flat Shads and Zman Diesel Minnows. Other confidence lures like Lucky Craft Pointers and Gulp Shrimps were turning donuts.
Once the barras were released we kept probing the snags. Matty hooked up fairly quickly once again but this time he was in all sorts. We had to do some fancy boat manoeuvring and rod work to get that fish to the boat. No wonder it was bloody tough as Matty had hooked a reasonable creek GT.
We worked these snags for another good hour. More barra were landed along with some grunter (javelin fish). By this stage we needed to get out of there quick smart as the flats were draining fast. It would be quite embarrassing getting stuck for a ten hour turn around.
We spent the majority of the day scanning with the Apex and trying some different ideas and techniques. We scanned past one drain that was absolutely loaded with small fish. There would have been hundreds, it was quite a sight to see. Even though they weren’t the desired target we just had to see what they were.
We downsized all our gear to throwing small plastics and hard bodies. It didn’t take long to find out that all of those fish were micro grunter around the 200-300mm size. It was bloody great to see and gives you an indication of how healthy the system is.
We continued to search and also casting at anything that looked fishy. As we were approaching an anabranch in the system the Apex lit up in the middle of the creek. We scanned over a lump and it was covered in life, once again they weren’t big fish but lots of them.
We were thinking it was another school of grunter until the first lure got pecked. It turned out to be a mega school of bream and the buggers were hungry. It was a fish a cast and we hung in there hoping there were other quality fish mixed in but unfortunately not.
The next spot we found was at a creek mouth. There was a good school of bigger sized barra which we were excited about.
We worked the area hard for a good half hour before we got our first bite. The little Nomad Vertrex I was using got belted on the lift so I was pretty confident it wasn’t a barra. After a short fight a nice fingermark made its way into the net. I hadn’t put a decent fish in the boat all day, so it was a welcomed surprise.
Since we had to put three blokes and all our gear into my Nitro we were running short on room. We had a small food esky on the deck but had no room for a fish esky. We came up with a great idea of purchasing a fish esky bag from BCF. I was a bit sceptical at first but the reviews were good. It measures about a meter long and I’m able to fit it in one of the rod lockers.
I can put a few fish in it and three average blocks of home-made ice. At the end of the day there would be at least half of the blocks left. It well and truly exceeded expectations.
We kept persisting in this area but could only manage a few bream and cod. We had a quick scan around and the area and noticed a few fish hanging out a bit deeper. Reposition the boat, cast out and fish on. I was expecting another fingermark but a good sized grunter was a welcomed addition.
The sun was all but gone and it was time to head back to the lodge for a well-earned beverage and a wicked fresh feed of Hinchinbrook’s finest.
The following two days were spent in similar fashion only this time we really wanted to concentrate on putting a jack or two on the deck.
We started early on the barra as we had the previous day with similar results. We had fine-tuned this area down to a T. We did check a few different areas out on the flats after the bite slowed and what we found is that we were able to follow the tide across the flats which allowed us to follow the bite.
Heartbreak came when we were almost about to leave the flats and we had a cast at one more lay down.
I got hit straight away and saw a red flash take off sideways only to watch my lure pull straight out. Yes, I did say a few choice words.
We tried deep timber, shallow timber, deep and shallow rock bars, flats and everything in between for a jack but we just couldn’t get the monkey off our back. We were even pushing the Nitro across sand bars to get into areas.
One particular area we fished we would have caught just about everything that swims off snags and drains but no jacks. For a place that is rich with them it sure was frustrating. The following day we did get another chance at a jack. I had skip cast under a mangrove canopy with a Flick Prawn. I watched this jack come out of the shadows and grab the prawn imitation. I struck and what came next was a big shock.
The line went loose and I could see the leader. Upon inspection the Mustad fastach clip I was using was all that was left. I Have used these clips a lot and never had an issue. The clip wasn’t spread and still looked brand new. The lure somehow had been stolen by Houdini himself. The most frustrating thing was we had worked so hard for a couple of jack bites and I managed to blow them both.
The final day was upon us, well it was only going to be a half day because we wanted to pull out about lunch time so we could clean up and also pack up. We have also now started a tradition that the last night is now pub night.
We launched and shot up to work the flats on the high tide once again. With the drop in tidal movement there was a noticeable difference in flats action. We still caught some nice barra but the bites were becoming a lot tougher with the lack of current.
We put a big effort in around Haycock Island on the way back down the channel. There was plenty of small fish on offer like Moses perch. We did scan over what I believed to be a big school of fingermark but as quick as they showed up, they were gone.
We checked a few drains and other locations on the way back but apart from a few smaller fish it was all she wrote. We had one final issue which was getting back to the ramp.
We had left our run a bit late and we could see very shallow water and waves at the channel marker entrance. If we couldn’t get in, it was going to be a 4-5 hour wait. The best thing about bass boats is they draw bugger all water, so I told the boys to hang on while I trimmed it out.
We did touch down a few times but we made it over the sandbar and back to the ramp. Pulling the boat out was touch and go because we could see the end of the ramp. The boat was now back on the trailer and it was time to start the pack up process.
Did we have a lot of fun up at Hinchinbrook and staying at the Lucinda Lodge? You bet we did. Did we learn a lot? Absolutely. I highly recommend a Hinchinbrook trip to anyone who loves a beautiful location.
So just one more quick idea for anyone out there who wants to put a trip together with the lads. I got this idea from a mate at work. The three of us all put money into an account every fortnight. We let it build up and then decide on a location we want to fish each year. We did make a rule that we can’t fish the same location twice to keep us visiting new areas.
I really hope you’ve enjoyed following our Hinchinbrook adventure because we had a lot of fun living it. The biggest question, ‘where too next?’.