by Luke Fitzpatrick •
Like most anglers, I love the sound of drag screaming as a fish makes a run for freedom, viciously shaking its head trying to dislodge the hook and using all its might in an effort to pull anglers into the water. King threadfin salmon, more commonly referred to as threadies, are one species which never fail to provide a couple of solid line ripping runs, testing an angler’s gear at every critical point and ensuring that a reel’s drag washers are never left idle.
The Mary River and Great Sandy Straits fishery provides the perfect habitat for threadies to thrive. In the months leading up to the New Year and just after, they feature more prominently as regular catches for local anglers. Most specimens measure 60-90cm. With the water temperature nearing its peak, and the increased movement of bait within the waterway, fish breaking the metre mark are more common with some reaching well past 1.2m.
The start of this year has seen the Fraser Coast Region swelter through rolling heatwaves with very little of the usual deluge of rain that we experience at this time of year. Consequently, the expected flush of bait from the multitude of smaller creeks and muddy drains has not occurred, forcing predatory fish species such as threadies to travel further upstream into shallow drains and skinny creeks in search of a feed. These conditions, matched with an early morning low tide, make it an ideal time to sight cast for threadies in shallow water as they tail after bait.
Threadies don’t have teeth and instead are armed with raspy lips which can make short work of light leaders. I use 30lb fluorocarbon leader attached with a double uni knot to a good quality 15lb braid spooled on a 4000-sized reel, which is mounted on a 5-7kg rod. This outfit is well suited to landing a 1m+ thready with plenty of power, especially when a fish takes an offering and makes a blistering run straight under the boat.
When dedicating a session to hunting for threadies, days with a low tide shortly after first light are perfect. One of the prime bite times is just as those first rays of sunshine illuminate the horizon. Colours are muted, shapes seem to shift, and sound seems to be amplified. Predatory fish with their tuned in senses use this confusing period of transition into light to stalk, trap and kill prey.
I deliberately target areas within narrow creeks that feature several shallow drains. Using my bow- mounted electric motor to maintain stealth, I search for signs of threadies feeding on jelly prawns, especially as the water amongst the mangroves drain off the mud flats and into the narrow creek. Pushes of water on the surface followed by exposed fins and forked tails are the usual tell-tale signs that threadies are about and actively feeding.
Occasionally, I’m confronted with nothing but peacefully still water. Not wanting to risk spooking any fish likely to be holding in the shallows just back from the drain mouth, I use my Deeper Pro+ Sonar – a castable, tennis-ball-sized sonar device. After a couple of casts I generally have a good idea if fish are sitting slightly back from the drains. I tend to discover this when low tide is about an hour away and the water is still dropping. Ideally, these fish will be situated at the mouth of the drains once the tide has dropped.
Threadies on the hunt have a spectacular way of announcing their arrival. It’s awesome to witness spurts of water erupt as a thready chases a tasty meal into the shallows with so much momentum that the entire fish becomes exposed before wriggling itself back into the depths.
Threadies are renowned for being fussy eaters with a gentle bite. On some days it appears that they are in a feeding frenzy but you can spend many hours throwing all manner of lures at them and they will not even gift you with a follow.
Over the years, I have discovered that vibrating lures with a dash of bright colouring (such as chartreuse) tend to result in a higher hook-up rate. This is likely due to the vibrations of the lure mimicking the vibration made by prawns as they move through water. The bright colouring simply makes it easier to grab the fish’s attention and allow it to home in on the lure, especially in dirty water.
I use a slow, single hop retrieve after casting as far into a drain as I possibly can. The aim is to imitate a prawn or small baitfish making a dash from the drain and heading for the safety of deeper water. On some days I can see threadies feeding and it will still take several casts of a lure before I feel weight on the end of the line. Then suddenly, I hear line ripping through shallow water as the hooked fish realises it’s pinned and makes a blistering run for deeper water.
As mentioned earlier threadies have very raspy lips, so regardless of your preference for mono or fluorocarbon leaders, make sure you up your leader size to avoid being cut off mid-fight. I recommend 30lb as a minimum.
Although threadies generate immense speed from their large powerful tails, they generally only have two or three solid runs in them before they tire and become easier to bring to the boat. If you have no obvious structure around, don’t be afraid to let them run and tire themselves out.
If there is structure around then good luck!