Flooding Rains and Barra Breeding
  |  First Published: February 2011

What a start to the year for Central/North Queensland: Near record floods, mass evacuations and hundreds of millions of litres of freshwater is still pouring into the Pacific.

This type of catastrophic flooding will affect our fishing activities for some time yet, but it is not without some really tangible benefits for the fisheries. For the barra fishery, it means long stagnant lagoon areas are replenished with fresh water, and every creek, gulley and drain will have baby barra in them.

The barra recruitment from this summer’s spawning will really start to show up in anglers catches later in 2011 and it looks to me like it will be a bumper year for the barra fanatics. Already many undersize barra, between 30cm and 50cm are being reported and with the abundance of feed, these fish will be well over legal length by year’s end.

Given the amount of fresh water around, there have still been some surprisingly good fish around. Of course the start of February means that many anglers’ thoughts turn to chasing barra, and for some this becomes an activity that excludes any other fishing.

Unfortunately due to work commitments in flooded areas like Emerald, it is likely I will miss the opening day. But there have been compensations, such as a ready supply of quality redclaw from Emerald’s Fairbairn Dam, where the flooding does not seem to have affected their numbers at all. In fact my contacts tell me that this flood event, which covers new ground, will see their population boom again.

The other benefit of all the rains will be for the prawners, who will find cast netting a feed much easier with the increase in prawn activity. Of course it naturally follows that with the increase in prawns will come an increase in fish numbers feeding on the prawns. This situation will likely continue through the summer months, but it all depends on the rains. Early indications are for a massive wet season. 2010 was very wet, with Mackay recording over 3m of rain for the year which is about double the average.

For the barra angler I would recommend live baits as the first choice, given that there is a lot of dirty water around, which will make lure fishing a bit tougher than normal in the saltwater estuaries and creeks.

Live prawns are number 1 barra tucker, and I like to use 2 or 3 back to back on a wide gape hook to tempt old pink eyes. One problem with prawns is that every picker in the area will have a go at them and it is surprising just how quickly a small bream can knock off a couple of prawns. But when the barra takes the bait there is no mistaking what you have hooked when it smashes the surface. Great stuff!

Sometimes if there is a long solid run without any surface signs, you may have hooked a dreaded catfish. With all the fresh and dirty water, the forkies will be out in force and they love prawns too.

Barra will also readily take live fish baits, even very small herring or mullet. Whiting are great baits for big barra, but be careful to observe the legal lengths even when using them as bait. Remember barra are opportunists and any small live fish will get their attention if it is put in the right spot.

Lure fishing is my favoured way to chase barra, but the dirty water will limit the chances although a switch to lures with a prominent rattle will increase your chances at this time. Regardless of the water conditions, the barra will still be active and burning up energy, so they need to eat and will chase down a lure readily. Use any of the well known barra lures, like Bombers, Reidy’s Tropic Angler and Prawnstars in the shallow runners.

Poppers will also work well and are very handy to use where small gutters run off flats into the main creek system. Barra will sit in really shallow water knocking off bait that drains off these flats, so that is one spot to go looking for them.

Any small side gully or creek junction is likely to hold a barra or 2 and if there is some type of snag or rocks in the area, then your chances increase. Fishing in these spots on run out tides is the way to go.

On the run in you really have to keep moving as the barra will move around rather than sit on one spot. Good places on run in tides include rock bars, and larger snags lying across current. Bridge pylons can also be a hot spot as the barra can sit in the pressure wave facing the current and wait for food to come to them. Bridges in particular of a night time are good spots to chase barra, as most have some lights and these create shadow areas where the barra patrol.

With the amount of rain so far this year, it looks like barra will be a prime target for local anglers, and most activities will be in the creeks. The close inshore areas will not fish well with the huge amount of dirty fresh water around which currently extends well offshore.

So for February it looks like being a barra month and there’s nothing wrong with that. See you at the ramp.

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