Yaks rule the creeks

Michael Welk with a more modest Boggy flathead. This fish was caught in the upstream section of the creek, an area most often ignored by anglers. Having nearly been spooled twice in the same area, next time I go upstream it will be with a little more firepower!

by Troy Brown •

Having endured a couple of months of transitioning weather and the patchy fish catch rates which often accompany the change of season, anglers are primed for the warmer weather.

      Spring typically yields increasing catches of species such as large flathead, but it is also that awkward shift from species which are predominately active in the winter or summer months. As a result, targeting a particular species can yield inconsistent results, with many anglers complaining about the tougher conditions. The approaching summer not only gives us more comfort when braving those early morning launches, but it also brings us some iconic species which are tough to target during winter. For me, the warmer months allow me to reignite my recent passion for chasing mangrove jack in our abundant creek systems.

Trevally are amazing fun in small systems. This fish was caught in a section of Saltwater Creek only a few metres wide. The fight only took a few minutes, but it was heart-in-mouth stuff as it continually wrapped my 6lb leader around snags. Heavy gear would mean a swift and simple fight, but none of the satisfaction you get on light combos.
I have found that 2-4” paddle-tail soft plastics, grubs and small cranks are all tempting targets for flathead. Big fish will hit bigger lures, but moderating the size of your offering will typically “match the hatch” in the creeks and guarantee more fish.
Gene Grehan successfully employed my “lazy fisho” technique for chasing flathead. This passive approach works best when fish seem more tentative and unwilling to strike a more actively presented lure.
If you launch from outside Boggy Creek or want to explore the creek mouth, watch your sounder like a hawk. Finished for the day, I spotted a large fish arch in deep water, grabbed my bread rod with a two inch grub and let it flutter down to the fish. The result was spectacular and a great fight on a 1-2kg bream outfit.
The typical Boggy Creek flathead….. This area is known for larger fish, but you can usually expect fish around the 50-60cm size.
The lazy fisho strikes again. Testing my latest home-made lures, my first cast for the day was placed far onto a shallow bank. With the rod in my lap while reaching for a bottle of water, the rod tip bent and it was fish on!
Adrian Shaocott is not a Boggy Creek regular, but after the success of his recent visit he’s sure to return.
Small creeks offer some great angling opportunities, but there are few better than mangrove jack. Boaters often cannot access some of the most ‘fishy’ areas, but a kayak is near unstoppable!
Tim Donselaar typically targets bream with soft plastics, but like all successful anglers knows you need to alter you offering to suit the mood of the fish. This Boggy bream was tempted with a 38mm crankbait.

      Boats may rule when chasing fish long distances offshore, but the humble kayak is king when exploring skinny creeks. Many devout boaties are now turning to kayaks for a more budget friendly and simple means of hitting the water. As a former boater myself, I feel kayak fishing is bounds ahead of boating in terms of satisfaction and relaxation. Boats are less physically demanding than a kayak, but for most kayakers that physical interaction is part of the attraction. Not only are you more physically involved, but a kayak also allows the angler to explore areas which cannot be reached in most boats. In addition to improving accessibility, small hulls are more stealthy and place the angler closer to fish which are easily spooked, while also giving the fisher a more immersive experience than a boat can offer.

      Recently, my focus has been more on bread-and-butter species such as the humble flathead, with Boggy Creek featuring heavily in my weekend expeditions. I’ve also had the opportunity to start reconnoitring Saltwater Creek on the Gold Coast, but more on that system later.

      Boggy Creek is well known to any fishers who regularly visit the Brisbane River, with a reputation as an exceptional flathead nursery. It is also barely bothered by boaters, as there is a multitude of muddy flats which can be bothersome on high tide, but near impossible to navigate when the tides are very low. Having rescued a jetskier recently from these very mud banks, losing my footwear to the sucking mud which swallowed me up to my hips, I can attest to the fact that the word ‘boggy’ is no misnomer.

      With the sucking (and somewhat stinky) mud in mind, I suggest that only the most diehard or foolish yakkers attempt to launch on low tide from anywhere other than a dedicated boat ramp. The photos and video of kayakers braving the mud to attempt a mid-creek launch are hilarious, but the reality is that extracting yourself from waist-deep mud is unpleasant and can actually be dangerous if you are not in good physical condition. For that reason, I suggest you launch from the rudimentary boat ramp on Bancroft Road or, if you are feeling energetic, from the Pinkenba or Port of Brisbane ramps. Personally, I suspect my recent rescue efforts looked more like a sumo wrestler fighting his way through a giant pond of chocolate, rather than the fearless hero I envisaged myself to be. In hindsight, it was just plain stupid. After all, it was only a jetskier, so leaving him stuck there may have been the smarter decision!

       Boggy Creek is a compact system, with a wide mouth tapering down to a barely-there trickle within a relatively short distance. The mouth is expansive, feeding into the fast-flowing Brisbane River and marked at its entry by an unmissable pipeline. The pipeline itself is worth a few casts, with bream and even some small snapper being extracted from its base. As you enter the mouth, you are immediately introduced to the varied structure of the creek, with a narrow deeper channel to the left tapering to expansive flats on the right. Tidal flow in the creek is more easily managed than the strong surge of the main river, so even paddlers on compact craft can easily navigate its reaches.

      The contrasts in Boggy Creek provide a conundrum in terms of technique, as the narrow flats on the edges border a deep channel and a wide body in its centre which is more like a small lake than a typical creek. While your sounder will often show some large fish schooling in the deeper centre, extracting them is another matter entirely. I can only guess at what they are, as the solid arches on my sounder would suggest big mulloway or threadfin salmon, but so far I’ve been unable to tempt any onto my hook. If fishing this area, I’d stay with the basics, targeting the flats and edges for Boggy’s prized flathead.

      Small hardbody lures, large swimbait offerings and some of the more extreme offerings like the large Slapstix plastics will all work for flathead, but I tend to favour the humble grub. For simplicity, grub impersonations still rule when chasing flathead, working equally as well with a more active or passive technique. Casting onto the flats and slowly working the lure to a drop-off is deadly, with a slow wind, small stalls and gentle lifts being the most effective technique. Grubs don’t require a lot of interaction from the angler, so keep the action simple and you’ll catch more fish. If you want to guarantee a fish, simply drift through the area with a grub lure bouncing on the bottom and do NOTHING!

      I introduced another angler to my ‘lazy fisho’ technique recently, as he was struggling to catch a fish and had indeed been having difficulty for many weeks. I tossed him one of my grubs and a light jighead, asked him to tie the lure on and simply toss it overboard. After a few minutes of employing the lazy fisho technique, he had a nice flathead on board. I prefer the more active style of fishing, but sometimes that subtle action of doing absolutely nothing is what the fish need to be tempted. If the tide and wind permits, I often will actively cast the edges with a small paddle-tail soft plastic or crankbait, while passively towing a grub on the opposite side of the kayak. It is surprising how often the grub gets more hits!

      If you’re using soft plastics, regardless of the method you use, the most important factor is to stay light. Light jigheads, with just enough weight to get you down in the flathead’s face, will dramatically improve your strike rate. If I’m drifting a lure, I want it to be gently hopping off the bottom with the motion of my kayak, rather than dragging it through the mud. Sure, flathead will still occasionally hit this unnatural presentation, but using just enough weight will increase the number and aggressiveness of strikes.

      Flathead are not particularly leader shy and heavier leaders of around 20lb will make boating larger fish much easier, but a light combo of a 1-2kg rod, 6lb braid and leader will amplify your fun factor. When you get a solid flathead beside the kayak, be ready for the dreaded headshakes, with an unhappy fish slicing through your leader before you slide the net under them. You can keep the fish more compliant by keeping it low in the water while netting. Ensure the fight is truly out of the fish and gently swim it into your net. Rushing this last step has cost many anglers prized fish, myself included. Sometimes excitement wins over logic!

      When you next fish Boggy Creek, consider grabbing the opportunity for some additional exercise and launch from the Port of Brisbane ramp, targeting deeper sections and jetties on the way to your final destination. It is a great way to mix up your fishing for the day, offering up potential of a mulloway or threadfin salmon. There are horse-like fish lurking below the nearby port jetties, although you need to be respectful of the many restricted access areas, as the potential fines are simply not worth the risk.

      In addition to the pipeline crossing the mouth of Boggy Creek, there is a substantial rock wall to the left which can provide prolific catches. If I am launching from a spot which is not near my final destination, I am always looking for opportunities on my sounder, as all that water is too good to waste!

      Lastly, please stay safe. Recently, we’ve heard of too many tragedies involving kayakers, all of which could have been avoided with better planning and safety gear. Unlike other states, PFD rules for Queensland kayakers are quite relaxed, so many anglers choose not to use them. I’ve heard numerous times “they are not necessary”, as an individual considers themselves a strong swimmer, or it is their right to put their own life at risk. While both may be true, being a strong swimmer is no benefit if you are unconscious or fatigued. Also, you may be willing to risk your life, but think of those who must risk theirs to save yours.

      When the wind is stronger, or if you are a beginner to our great sport, these narrower systems offer some protection from the elements and also reduced boat traffic. Most importantly, they also offer some stellar fishing opportunities.

      My focus will now shift to a new creek, with a far angrier target species. The mighty mangrove jack is calling and I am ready to renew my chase for this amazing species. Having just made my first foray into Saltwater Creek, I believe I’ve found another waterway which will join my list of favourite locations. When I write about my next creek adventure, I hope to bring you news of some great battles with the red dogs.