One more day of great weather will see a southeast change come through late Friday, with southeasters of 15-20 knots forecast for the week ahead. We might get some reprieve from the heat and a few light showers, but unfortunately no significant rain for the immediate future. The monsoon trough slipped a few degrees south this week and is currently dropping its load on our northern neighbours, so with any luck we will get our turn soon.
The big news this week is the much anticipated opening of the east coast barramundi fishery at 12 noon tomorrow, 1st February. The building tides leading into next Tuesday’s new moon might play right into the hands of the commercial gillnetters though, so get out there as soon as you can to get a crack at our awesome local barra. For budding first time barra fishos, read on for a few tips on chasing barra in our local estuaries.
A couple of crews made their way out to the gutters this week, and by most reports, they wished they hadn’t bothered. The sharks were simply devastating. No matter how heavy your gear or how fast you think you can wind, you simply cannot beat a big hungry whaler intent on stealing your prize reef fish. It has become glaringly obvious that the noahs have inundated the area and you have simply got to think about finding other less known areas if you want any chance at scoring a feed of reefies during the warmer months. Unfortunately this situation is very much repeated off Rooneys as well, but that won’t be much of an issue this week with the weather we are expecting.
Southeasters will still enable access to Platypus Bay waters for keen crews hell-bent on chasing pelagics. The spotties are still here in good numbers, with schools of surface-feeding mackerel anywhere from south of Arch Cliffs to Station Hill. The impending weather might mean you are forced to fish closer to Fraser’s protected waters where the sharks are thickest, so take the usual care when handling your fish.
Tuna numbers continue to increase, with more longtails turning up to join the ever-present mack tuna. Taking a good mix of slugs, plastics and stickbaits will see you in with the best chance of matching the bait sources being devoured and turning those frustrating refusals into full-blown explosive surface strikes. Think heavier when it comes to your tuna tackle nowadays, as you need some serious stick to turn the bigger longtails before they get taxed.
This week’s building tides auger well for those looking for a feed of reef fish from our shallow reef systems. Avoiding sharks is part of the game these days, and the big noahs are rarely an issue in the shallows (under about 8m). The reefs off Pt Vernon will be popular for those early risers looking to troll diving lures around its protected shores for coral trout and cod. Expect to catch a lot of small trout in these parts, but keep persisting and you are bound to score a couple of nice keepers. Remember, troll slower if you want more cod, or speed it up for more coral trout. Of course you can always drift along flicking plastics just off the bottom for the same species, or anchor up and soak baits for a mix of sweetlip, blackall, grunter, trout and cod.
The deeper inshore reefs are also home to the same species mentioned above, with the addition of a few lost squire and some very nice scarlet sea perch. Grass sweetlip are certainly the most prolific species out there right now followed by blackall if using "soft" baits of squid or prawns. Try live baits over the turn of tide for trout and cod, and look out for those menacing big GTs and spanish if you find yourself anywhere near the arti’s shipwrecks.
Given the weather forecast and need to fish more protected waters over the coming week, we will concentrate the remainder of this week’s report on our local estuaries and chasing the mighty barra.
Local Estuaries and Barra Season Opening Tips
Threadfin salmon catches have increased somewhat over the past week or so, with plenty of anglers scoring nice fish averaging a metre from drains and muddy banks in the lower reaches of the Mary and Susan rivers and down the Straits. If you concentrate your efforts around the lower stages of the tide over the coming week of bigger tides then you should find plenty of salmon willing to scoff your lure or live bait, or at least frustrate the heck out of you by swirling and smashing jelly prawn in plain view with scant regard for your offerings.
As much fun as threadies may be, they barely hold a candle to the majestic barramundi when it comes to sheer bragging rights. After three very long months we can now target our most iconic estuary predator legally - though quite a few obviously ignored these rules throughout the closure. Now, you can catch a barra from so many local estuary systems around here it can be somewhat mind boggling as to where to start. However, regardless of which system you choose, the techniques can be varied and endless but never-the-less remain much the same.
Let’s start with live baiting. Firstly, heavy leaders in the 50lb+ range are a good start, due to the barra having such abrasive mouths. Fairly standard "barra" tackle consists of a baitcast or spin outfit of your choice running 20-30lb braid. You can choose to fish much lighter, and will score well, so long as you are targeting areas that allow you to lighten your drag and let them play out the fight without trashing you in structure. Plenty of these places exist around here including many of our flats fisheries in the rivers, down the Straits and the local creek mouths west of town.
Live baits can include almost anything legal that they can fit in their cavernous gobs, but prawns and mullet would have to be the most proven. Circle hooks or wide gape hooks are preferred for the business end of your rig, enabling better hook-ups and healthier releases. Those that intend on keeping a barra or two to feed the family would be asked to keep in mind the fact that the barra have not had a chance to spawn locally this season due to a complete lack of rains and the associated runoff needed for spawning to take place. Letting the big girls go is doing your bit for the future, and yes we understand the frustration of doing so when gillnets are being used in the same waters.
Lure fishos chasing their first barra are just as spoilt for choices as to where. Given the constant stream of people bragging about barra during the closure, it would seem that the lower reaches of the local rivers and nearby flats are definitely worth a look. The black bank and the ramp area in the Burrum have been home to a few decent barra recently. Having said that though, they are well scattered throughout the whole of the Burrum, Cherwell, Isis and Gregory Rivers, it is just those fish down the front that are gathered waiting to spawn. Whilst in this area you would be mad not to shrink your lure size a little, lighten the leader and try for some jacks, as the whole system has been going off all summer.
Back closer to town and the mouths of our local creeks are a very poorly kept secret that produces barra in numbers and of size that belie the creeks’ miniscule sizes. Shallow diving hardbodies, paddle-tailed plastics and Ecooda Shrimps are all popular here, as are stickbaits for those venturing out in low light or at night.
In town here it has to be the Urangan Pier that produces the bigger and better barra, though mostly at night. Every year these poor fish gather pending an opportunity to spawn, but cop a hammering during the closure, and until now attempts to keep this fishery hush-hush have failed miserably. Don’t kid yourselves that this is in any way a catch and release fishery, as gaffing a barra and lifting it 10 metres onto the pier leaves it little chance of survival.
The Booral Flats will produce some good barra if ever we get any serious rains, but till then the gutter out the front of River Heads is a better bet, along with the rocky shores of the North Shore itself. A bit of bycatch in the form of jewies, flathead, cod and threadies can keep things interesting here though until the rains force them down, the barra catches may only be minimal.
Boaties can venture up the Susan, Mary, Bunya, Bengstons or the many creeks of the Straits and find barra if the nets don’t beat you to them. Trolling is possible for those so inclined, with shallow and medium divers equally effective depending upon the average depth of the chosen areas. Soft and hard vibes will work a treat in the deeper holes and off the back of rock bars, and those adept with a finely tuned suspending hardbody will do well in the snags and around the rock bars when the tide slows. Drain-bashing can produce the odd barra, but until it rains this is more likely to produce threadies and flathead.
Those venturing over the island can expect to find quality barra at Kingfisher Bay Resort’s jetty. Unfortunately little has ever been done to stop spearing of the barra there, so the bigger models often disappear fairly quickly each season. In the meantime, use soft vibes or prawn imitations and squeeze the drag up to extract them from the pylons. Further south and there are stacks of creeks that hold barra, some great jacks, threadies, grunter and cod.
Well, that’s a very very broad run down on barra fishing around these parts that we realise probably raises more questions than it answers. So, for more definitive guidance on chasing barra, drop in and have a chat with the lads instore.
Good luck out there y’all.