As spring unfolds and temperatures rise, many of us switch our fishing into overdrive as our favourite warm water predators spring into action. No one fish inspires more fishos or creates such excitement as our beloved barramundi – and their season is upon us – right now!
We are blessed to live here on the Fraser Coast. A region that offers not only a diverse range of saltwater habitats that are home to barra of all sizes, but also close proximity to some of the best impoundment barra lakes in Qld.
We can be fishing the smallest snag-riddled creeks and backwaters for barra one moment, and then venture out onto the vast mudflats, or head upstream in our mighty river systems to pursue even bigger fish. The Mary and Susan Rivers house quality barra, and potentially some of the largest you will find this side of the Fitzroy.
The Burrum, Gregory, Isis and Cherwell Rivers make up the picturesque Burrum System, where not only naturally occurring barramundi stocks thrive, but overflows of barra from the well-stocked Lake Lenthalls in the headwaters re-stock the river system with huge numbers whenever there are major flood events. Spill-over of excess fish from such flooding spread throughout the region and even our smallest creeks can be home to some impressive barra.
The vast Great Sandy Straits offers another whole range of options, including sensational flats fishing for barra when the tide is full, and such a huge number of creeks and feeder channels that you could never fish them all in any one season. Fraser Island’s western creeks are renowned barra waters, where mangrove jack and king salmon bycatch is just part of a productive session.
Some of you might opt to drive up to Rockhampton and join the party on the mighty Fitzroy River. Since going net-free years ago, the fishing has improved incredibly. Massive saltwater barra wander its length and are caught regularly, along with big numbers of king salmon. Nowhere else offers a fisho the chance of tangling with proper salty monsters like the Fitzroy currently does. If it is on your to do list, then now is the time to head on up.
Queensland’s barramundi season closes for three months as of the 1st November each year. During that closure (initiated to protect breeding stocks in the early wet season) you are not permitted to fish for barramundi in any waters, other than recognised stocked impoundments. At that time, many barra fans will shift their focus to the region’s impoundments, but until then, our saltwater scene is where many will focus their efforts and enjoy potentially sensational sessions catching not only barra, but king salmon, blue salmon, jacks, queenies, GTs, grunter and flathead.
There are many impoundment barra options within a reasonable drive from Hervey Bay. Lake Lenthalls is the closest, and also the smallest. After a very lack-lustre previous season due to flooding and lost fish, local Lenthalls fans are once again catching barra in this pretty little lily pad fringed lake. There are restrictions on Lenthalls, being four-stroke or low emission outboards up to 60HP only, plus speed restrictions, but these factors only further enhance the appeal of kayaking on a lake devoid of the roar of the big outboards of other lakes.
A couple of hours up the Bruce Highway is Lake Monduran. “Mondy” as it is affectionately known, is quite sizeable and a vast maze of flooded creeks, gullies and every type of impoundment barra terrain you can think of. Mondy’s popularity is undeniable, and many more boats and crews ply its waters than its boat launching and parking infrastructure can actually handle. However, once away from the chaos of the boat ramps, its immense waters will blow your mind with the insane number of potential hotspots you can discover in a day.
Mondy is full of big numbers of barra or all sizes these days, but it is the metre plus models and the relative ease of which they can be found and caught that keeps drawing the crowds. Much bigger barra are swimming its waters, with true giants in excess of 130cm on offer for anyone lucky enough to tangle with such a beast in forgiving terrain. Add to that, the sheer numbers of hyped-up little “rats” around the 65cm mark right now, that you can catch simply one after the other, and you have something to offer the whole family.
From vast weed banks and lily-fringed shores to heavily-timbered bays, a plethora of large lay-downs and prominent points, Mondy offers countless options for lure-casters. Fishing the daylight hours is popular, but it is when the sky grows dark in the evening that the barra really come out to feed.
Whilst casting is the preferred option for most fishos, there are many that prefer the simple art of trolling. As summer approaches and the wet season storms start to roll in, many larger barra will head for open waters to be greeted by keen trollers slowly wandering the creek lines and verges in search of active fish. Until then, trolling the shallower flats of the big open bays, or rigging large weedless soft plastics and meandering through the timber or along the fringes of the weed banks is a viable option.
It is fair to say, that Mondy has a reputation of dishing out donuts and has frustrated many fishos in the past. If that is you, then perhaps considering the alternative of an extra hour and a half in the car in lieu of fruitless hours in the boat is worth some thought. Heading further up the Bruce Highway to the mighty Lake Awoonga is favoured by many, and the significantly larger barra population and easier-to-navigate waters sees vastly better results for many fishos.
Awoonga has just fired back up in recent weeks - and fired up big time! Like the barra lakes further north, Awoonga can really turn it on and has been so excessively stocked that huge numbers of fish of all sizes now reside in its waters. Mobile schools of large barra often do the rounds of certain wind-blown bays and points, and fishos willing to sit and cast can score fish after fish from one site alone as scores of fish swim past the boat.
Night sessions are often most productive and bring the big numbers, but a savvy fisho will soon learn how to work the weed-fringed lake edges looking for active daytime barra. When the barra are super active, there are many topwater options both day and night that add that extra level of excitement to any session.
Awoonga spilled years ago at the same time as Mondy, and restocking efforts since have recovered its barra population to its impressive current state. There are hundreds of thousands of barra in this lake, and a large proportion of these better the metre mark. Just like Mondy, Awoonga has its share of true monsters and undoubtedly several fishos will get to hoist aloft a few huge barra this season.
If you have a case of wanderlust, then you can head further afield and ply the waters of Lake Callide out near Biloela. At just over four hours travel from the bay, it is still within reach for a short visit, and offers another whole spectrum of huge barra opportunities.
Callide is only a small lake, with unique differences to the others. Possibly its greatest attribute – apart from its relatively small size and ease of navigation – is the fact that you can fish from many stretches of its shoreline. Few other lakes offer such opportunities as Callide, where a shore-based fisho can cast lures from rocky points or weed-fringed banks and catch huge barra from terra-firma.
Of course, you can always plan an extended barra road trip and head further up the Bruce. The Mackay region is home to magnificent lakes, well-stocked with great numbers of sizeable barra. In one trip you could fish the snag-free weed-bowl that is Lake Kinchant, then head west to the majestic waters of Lake Teemburra where topwater options abound. You could even challenge your ability and head further west up into the hills and mix it with Lake Eungella’s barra and impressive sooty grunter population.
Without doubt, Lake Proserpine, banked up behind Peter Faust Dam, offers one of Qld’s greatest impoundment barra waterways. Renowned for its big number of impressive barra, “Faust” offers champagne fishing for anyone who times their visit well. Add Tinaroo in the Atherton Tablelands further north and a handful of other smaller lakes in between, and a keen enough barra fisho could spend years just fishing Qld’s impoundments.
We have never had better tools for the job than we do nowadays either, with enhancements in electronics, electric motors, quality tackle, and a seemingly endless offering of barra lures at our disposal. Some simply cannot function with the latest in live-scope technology these days, whilst just about everybody has some form of side-scanning sounder to help them track down the fish. Add mapping options as well and you no longer need the thousands of hours we once needed to learn a lake and find the fish with our lures.
Fish for barra for long enough and you will tend to carry an ever-increasing range of favourite lures. Last year’s best producer is often set aside as a changing scene demands alternative approaches the following season. Right now, the barra are willing to take a swipe at so many various offerings that your arsenal needs a degree of diversity.
In the saltwater, a good mix of hardbodies, both suspending and floating, will always have their place in the boxes of those well-tuned in their deployment. Soft vibes revolutionised barra (and salmon) fishing many years ago and still out-fish all other alternatives at times, whilst paddle-tailed soft plastics and prawn imitations have huge followings due to ongoing and constant success. Topwater offerings come into the mix too for those not scared of the dark.
Head for the impoundments instead, and you will find yourself favouring suspending hardbodies, larger paddle-tailed softies and swimbaits of various kinds. Rigging weedless is paramount when it comes to working weedy fringes or slow-rolling plastics through the heavy timber. Soft vibes are underutilised in lakes, yet can be the very trigger required to spur seemingly inactive barra into action.
Topwater fishing in barra impoundments is mind-blowing. Where once it was a mix of poppers, fizzers and walk-the-dog-styled stickbaits during low light periods, we can now also throw weedless frogs all day long when the waters are warm enough. No matter how you catch your barra, their vicious bite and explosive reaction to being hooked is what pumps your adrenalin. Experience the same boof from a big barra on topwater, and it is an absolute adrenalin overload!
So, don’t sit at home googling some other fisho’s exploits. Get out on the water and mix it with our saltwater barra or pit your skills against the big impoundment barra this season. The El-Nino declaration this summer suggests this could be one to remember.
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