Searching for NQ Sweetwater Glory

The popularity of sweet water fishing in North Queensland has undoubtedly skyrocketed in recent years and rightfully so. Breathtaking freshwater streams, nestled amongst some of the densest most magnificent rainforest’s in the country, not to mention the smorgasbord of species that are on offer.

Barra, mangrove jacks, sooty grunter, tarpon and the holy grail of all NQ sweet water species the humble, but sort after jungle perch.

This type of fishing isn’t new to the north, like hidden treasure, it has been buried deep into the memories of wise old angling guru’s from yester year. I believe the increased popularity and thirst for sweet water fishing in NQ is due to the introduction of social media to the recreational fishing industry.

Check out how clear the water is.  Fast flowing, clean water in the aim of the game for jungle perch.

Check out how clear the water is. Fast flowing, clean water in the aim of the game for jungle perch.

On The QT

The locations of reputable captures are still kept under lock and key, anglers from Mackey to Cairns are happy to flaunt their sweet water jewels to the world on a daily basis via Facebook, Instagram or twitter. Which has fellow anglers scratching their heads studying photos in their own pool of saliva trying to nut out the whereabouts of these secluded sweet water wonderlands.
I was only introduced to this style of fishing back in 2012 by good friend and sweetwater bass tragic Andy Towner. Andy cut his teeth chasing bass in the chilly waters of South East Queensland. Before Andy invited me along to one of his sweet water forays, to be honest I had never even contemplated dipping a toe into the crystal clear, icy cold freshwater feeders of NQ.
During that first introductory trip we must have landed 12 sooty grunter and 1 jungle perch, after that I was hooked.

Sooty grunter will hit just about anything.  But as the sun rises in the sky fish can refuse a surface offering, so switching to a subsurface vibe or minnows does the trick.

Sooty grunter will hit just about anything. But as the sun rises in the sky fish can refuse a surface offering, so switching to a subsurface vibe or minnows does the trick.

All-Weather Fishing

The beauty of this type of fishing is that it’s an awesome alternative when the chips are down and the wind is up. Best of all its accessible to anyone.
In this piece I’m going to run you through some of the key tools and must haves, which will hopefully improve your catch rates and make this enjoyable style of fishing much more practical.

Finding Locations

There is one tool which is vital to the modern angler, Google Earth. Since its initial release on June 11, 2001 Google Earth has become the most essential program used by anglers in North Queensland. In most cases it gives crystal clear satellite images allowing for potential locations to be found at the click of a mouse button.

Various Locations

When chasing the holy grail of NQ sweet water species, the jungle perch, locations vary. But you can increase your chances by finding larger pools closer to the source of a fresh water stream. This is definitely more the case during the dry season when NQ hasn’t seen any rain.

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JP Facts

JP’s as they are affectionately known are far more concentrated in numbers the closer to the mountain source, this isn’t to say that they can’t be found further downstream, in fact JP’s require brackish water to breed, similar to sooty grunter. So scouting out areas further downstream after a bit of rain during the wet season can be very productive.

Take Notes!

You better write this down, hint, hint! One big massive nudge in the right direction. Do you ever find yourself cruising down the Bruce Highway piering into every water coarse along the way pondering whether there’d be fish in it? Well they are, but that is where the hard work begins. There are a lot of creeks between Mackey and Cairns.

Couple of my favourite surface lures.  Lucky Craft 'Keroll Bug' and a Maria.

Couple of my favourite surface lures. Lucky Craft ‘Keroll Bug’ and a Maria.

Tackle Choices

My initial outfit during that trip was a 7ft, 1-2kg bream rod matched with a 2500 size spin reel loaded with 6lb braid. It was a bit like fishing with a marlin outfit, very impractical. Most places you’ll fish are heavily vegetated and this style of fishing demands accurate casts, a 7ft rod just doesn’t cut the mustard. My gear has evolved over the last two years and I believe I have the gear aspect of sweet water fishing NQ style sorted.

Travel Rods

This style of fishing has developed a new market within the tackle industry around the country. Many of the leading fishing brands have developed their own compact travel rods, but Daiwa has again in my eye’s maintained its market leading innovation and developed the perfect rod to suit this style of fishing.

Creeking small North Quensland streams is very conjusive for kids,  Beats a play station.

Creeking small North Quensland streams is very conjusive for kids, Beats a play station.

3-Piece Perfection

The Daiwa Black Label ‘Short Bite’, is the ducks nuts as far as I’m concerned. Its folds down from a handy 6ft sweet water rod into a compact 3 pieces, which is packed away into a slick protective travel case. Given that most of your fishing will be off the side of the road it takes up to no space in the car, which is its permanent home. 6ft is a perfect length to wave around in thick country, but the benefit of the Short Bite is its light action and slow taper, which allows accurate casts of small soft plastic’s and hard bodied minnows.

A Perfect Match

I have matched the Short Bite with a Daiwa Sol 2004 loaded with 4lb Sunline. The Sol is a slick, stylish, compact reel priced for those seeking champagne on a beer budget. Loaded with Daiwa’s innovative features like Digigear, Magsealed Bearings and Air Bail makes the 2004 TD Sol and Short Bite a match made in heaven, a bit like peas and carrots, a perfect match!

Clear running water and small pools are JP paradise.

Clear running water and small pools are JP paradise.

What To Take

During long walks stalking sweet water species something to carry your lures, pliers, leader line, water camera etc. is an essential. Till recently a back pack has been sufficient, but since coming on board with Daiwa I have been using Daiwa’s Waist Bag. The waist bag has been invaluable, everything is at your fingertips, more pockets than a castnet. The biggest drawback using a back pack is having to take it off to get anything out of it, Daiwa has got it right again. Practical, plenty of pockets, light and very comfortable, I don’t fish without it.

Lures

When you’re looking at topping up the tackle box with lures for NQ sweet water angling you could spend $100’s. I will name a few which are must have’s, but if you’re a on a budget ratting through the bargain bin at your local tackle store is very worthwhile.
Sooty grunter will eat anything! They hit like a steam train and they really don’t care what is being thrown at them. JP’s however can be a little more finicky at times, but still when they are in an aggressive mood they will take the kitchen sink.

JPs & Minnows

Small shallow or deep diving minnows like the 45mm Maria Shad are perfect for this style of fishing. You really don’t need anything larger than 50mm. If you get any larger due to the weight you tend to spook fish which is obviously counterproductive.

Just makes you warm and fuzzy to be able to tangle with this beautiful native species and be able to release them for another day.

Just makes you warm and fuzzy to be able to tangle with this beautiful native species and be able to release them for another day.

Staying On Top

Top water is a lot of fun regardless of the style of fishing, but all of the species I named above when they are in the mood will climb all over top water lures. Some of my favourites are the Maria ‘Pencil’, 45mm Lucky Craft ‘Keroll Bug’ or the Live Target ‘Frog’.
Although I haven’t used soft plastics a lot, there’re guys that are very accomplished sweet water anglers which slay fish using them. 2 inch Curl TailZ ‘Grubz’ are dynamite when the fish are timid and a lure with a light jighead is required to get down into the strike zone for longer. One thing to remember though, keep your jighead as light as possible to prevent spooking fish.

Don’t Forget The Spinnerbaits

The last, but essential lure which should be added to the collection is a spinner bait. I have fished with Andy when the fish are shy to hit anything, almost shut down. Most times unbeknown to me he has donned a spinner bait and produced instant results, so it’s highly recommended to add a few to your collection. TT Lures and Bassman spinner baits are the pick of the bunch, but remember keep your jig head weight as light as possible!

The holy grail of NQ sweetwater anglers.  Jungle perch are a magnificate species.

The holy grail of NQ sweetwater anglers. Jungle perch are a magnificate species.

Persistance Pays Off

This style of fishing is exciting, relaxing and truly breathtaking. It is not uncommon to notch up double figures of fish and the beauty of it is the next fish could be anything. That said there are at times plenty of water is covered without raising a scale. Like any style of fishing, time, patience and persistence are the key.

No Boat? No Problems

If you don’t own a boat this is a very accessible and worthy option to quench your fishing thirst. If you do own a boat, the weather man is not on your side or aside from a drench with a hose, your unable to get the boat wet this will open up a whole new world for you.
Sometimes only 15 minutes from the hustle and bustle of North Queensland’s biggest city centres its nothing to sneak in a few fish before or after work. North Queensland is renowned for its pristine fishing locations, this is just another string to its bow.

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