The mighty barramundi is now an eligible target species and with the spectacularly calm seas that Cooktown has been experiencing, avid lure anglers have been able to target these large headland fish from small boats comfortably.
The headlands from Archers Point all the way to Elim Beach have produced plenty of quality fish with most fish averaging over 75cm with plenty of 80-90cm fish thrown in for good measure.
While I did not succeed in landing a 1m+ fish from Cooktown this season, I did manage to see three fish over 1m including an absolute monster of a fish near the mouth of the Annan River that easily would have went 130cm+.
I was fishing with Shane Miller of Cooktown Barra Charters when we spotted this fish with her head down and tail out of the water in less than 5ft of water. Initially we thought the huge yellow tail was a large Queensland grouper however we soon realised it was a monster barra in excess of 50lb.
With the amount of netting (both illegal and legal commercial netting) that happens on a regular basis in the Annan River and surrounding bays and headlands, it is an amazing sight to see massive wild fish with dazzling silver flanks and a bright yellow tail still around our local waterways.
Although there is a massive range of purpose built barra lures on the market today, I am yet to find a lure that will out fish the Richo range from Yeppoon Lure maker Ken Richardson. All lures and colours in the Richo stable will catch fish, but I find it hard to go past my all time three favourite colours: fluro pink, fluro yellow and mackerel gold.
For lure casting I prefer the Extracta 11 and 9 models in one of the above mentioned colours. The mackerel gold coloured Extracta 9 is the first lure I tie onto the end of my 55lb pink Schneider leader when targeting barra, regardless of water depth, clarity, colour or run.
The age-old debate regarding leaders for barra always stirs the pot. However when targeting big headland fish from oyster covered rock bars in less than 2m of water, a hard wearing and hard to see leader is a must have. While barra are not overly dirty fighters, when they are holding over an otherwise featureless bottom a large rock bar is usually the first direction that a hooked fish will head too.
I used to religiously use 40lb flurocarbon however after a disheartening losing streak of four 90cm+ fish in a row I decided to up the ante and try another option. I have been using 55lb pink Schneider as leader material for some time now when targeting trout on soft plastics and have found it an extremely hard wearing and easy to tie option.
I recently had a 90cm barra wrap my leader around a rock bar and the Schneider leader held on for grim death with the leader only chaffing through once the fish was brought into the boat. I have no doubt that any other weight or brand of leader would have rubbed through a lot faster and I would have lost a great fish.
The river is still quite dirty from all of the rain that Cooktown received over the start of the wet. But there have been plenty of big mangrove jacks, pikey bream and fingermark around the mouths of Two Mile and Four Mile creeks and around the Queen Steeps area of the foreshore. Fresh mullet or live prawns have been the pick for the bait fishos.
The end of January and start of February usually sees a great run of large buck mud crabs however some of these crabs have been empty and are best returned to the water to fatten up for the next angler. Most anglers have been catching their 10 crabs without too much effort, so hollow ones are really not worth keeping when you can check the next pot and find a full crab instead.
The wharf has been offering some spectacular pelagic action with big trevally and Spanish macks terrorising the mullet that are trying to find cover under the largest fish attractant in the area. The few tourists in Cooktown at this time of the year have been kept busy by some of these big Spaniards with many line burnt thumbs and even sorer egos.
The best place to target these speedsters at this time of year is by looking for the dirty water line where the fresh water meets the warm clean sea water. Big diamond scale mullet and yellowfin pike can be found feeding in the nutrient rich run-off waters and once you have found the bait, over sized Spaniards will not be too far away.
One thing to keep in mind when you are hooning around in the cloudy coffee coloured flood waters is that submerged logs can make short work of propellers and skegs and that the outboard will always come off second best. A friend recently had to repair the skeg, propeller and gearbox of his four-stroke outboard after hitting a small log hidden beneath the filthy water.
With the barra season now open and plenty of creeks and drains flowing freely into tidal reaches, don’t hesitate to get up here and get out on the water. The beauty of Cooktown is that you do not need a boat to target an array of sport fish in any weather conditions, I have seen everything from cobia to crayfish and trout to tuna caught off the wharf and rock wall.
With plenty of accommodation and eateries catering for all budgets, plenty of kid friendly, all weather land based fishing spots; Cooktown is the perfect place to bring the family for a fun and entertaining fishing holiday.
This will be my last report for the Cooktown region as my better half has taken a position up in Weipa so there will still be even more fishing on the horizon.
If you are planning a trip to Cooktown and have any questions, please do not hesitate to call The Lure Shop on (07) 4069 5396 or shoot us an email at --e-mail address hidden--Reads: 2387