Best Barra Bag
  |  First Published: April 2011

We are having one of the best barramundi seasons we’ve seen for a while. There are a whole range of reasons, from previous successful recruitment years to the floods making it harder for amateurs and professionals to hit them at the right time.

The last few years the average barra caught in the Fitzroy was in the 45cm class, while this year most of them are closer to 60cm and a bit bigger.

Some of the locals have had great success working the mud drop-offs on the northern side of the river when the run slows down, depending on current direction and eddie location. This is probably one area that trolling for barramundi can produce as good or better than the other methods.

My favourite method is casting big lures at structures. I have had a lot of great days with 100mm sized lures scoring lots of average sized fish; the bigger fish definitely go for bigger lures. We always work long distances with the tide sussing every stick or rock that has at least half a metre of water around it. Most of the fish we’ve caught have been right inside or hard up against the structure and only a few of the bigger fish have ventured out of cover to smash our lures.

The abundant baits in all the systems are making the bait gathering exercise much easier. Barra love big prawns or mullet the best, however, plenty of locals catch bony bream in Rocky’s freshwater creeks and use them in the saltwater. They will stay alive for a session and any that don’t get eaten usually get returned to the fresh creeks or the fish tank for the next trip.

Even though barra are notoriously lazy and will hang in an eddie out of the main flow, they like run in the water at feed time. So usually the action stops until the tide moves again.

One of our better by-catches in recent times is mangrove jack. The spots we normally chase barramundi are normally sadly lacking in numbers of jack and fingermark, until recently. There has to be a reason more of them are showing up in estuaries that don’t normally have jacks. The popular opinion is that the recent flood events have spread the mangrove jack populations to other locations along with the added prawns and small baitfish they would feed on day to day. Some of the fresher systems are turning up jacks right where the fresh is still flowing into the little salt creeks.

Having persisted with smaller lures like X-Raps or Jackals and attracting all sorts of small stuff but no jacks or fingermark, it was time to move up until the catches became more regular. I went to my go-to barra lure – the Richo Extracta 11. The only difference is the style of retrieve used to get jacks. When targeting barramundi the longer you can keep the lure in the zone with pauses and twitches the more barra you will get. Jacks on the other hand, prefer a slightly harder twitch and a little quicker retrieve. They rarely ever take a lure far from cover so your casts need to be rattling in timber or against rocks for best results. Floating live baits through a snag or along a rock wall can be devastating to the jack population if you can get them out of the structure before bust off occurs.

The main difference between livies for barra and jacks is the size of bait used. The best jack baits are usually about 100mm or a bit smaller while barra will take 200mm+ mullet without thinking.

Luckily for CQ residents, April is about the best month for nearly all of the favoured species inside and offshore.

The other estuary fish worth chasing, apart from jacks and barra, at present is the salmon. The Fitzroy is going off lately with mainly juvenile threadfin. Big numbers of the larger fish are everywhere from the almost freshwater town reaches down to the delta, Port Alma and round into The Narrows. These guys are feasting on the stacks of prawns available along most mud banks. Threadies like eddies and structures so they can ambush a feed as it swims past. Look for golf ball sized dents in the mud and this will point out where to start looking. Although they do take lures, generally a prawn under a float is dynamite and they can’t pass it without grabbing it.

Coorooman Creek, Waterpark Creek and the mouth of Deep Creek are doing very well this month. Bream, whiting, flathead, steelies and cod continue to perform as the temperatures start to drop and the next month or so won’t be much different. Mud crabs remain the most sort after feed locally and all reports just get better.

Offshore things have been only limited by the continual wind this year. Large quantities of scarlets and red emperor have ranged from the nearer rubble patches not far from The Keppels out to the deeper fern country and past the shoals. We stopped to get some live baits at Findlays on the way out recently and landed a quick six pack of just-legal large mouths among the yakkas.

Usually squid, flesh baits and pilchards are the pick baits but previous weeks have shown that king prawns are now the favourite. Grunter came in on cue among the smaller scarlets at a number of the closer spots, including most of the northern wrecks not far offshore.

The other species making a charge after a couple of indifferent seasons is the black jew. At The Pinnacles a pair of local guys reported that they came in as the moon rose last full moon and virtually shut shop on the already feeding grunter. Some of the local wrecks, The Pinnacles, The Corio jew hole, Ironpot, Double Heads, Quartz and Cape Capricorn have started to produce quality fish around the moon and will continue to do so for the next few months.

All the bigger rubble reef areas are covered in everyone’s marks and cover much bigger than the areas most people suspect. When we get a new mark we slow down and study the sounder from a few kilometres away and even go past until we run out of country. By circling the spot spiralling outwards you often find little lumps and patches that have been overlooked by the average fisher who goes directly to his spot and doesn’t feel the need to explore for future trips. This gives us fresh country to cover in upcoming trips.

Coral trout have become more active in recent weeks, particularly around the islands where they became quiet after the weather events this year. Like many of the other reefies they average a bigger size at the wider grounds.

Spanish mackerel have been going well at lots of local spots particularly on the bigger tides. The calmer morning should start turning up a few spotties and dogs.

This is the best part of the year for ideal temperature, so why not get out amongst the fish in comfort.

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