September is here and the weather is warming considerably and likewise the fishing is hotting up. We have seen the last of the cold nights and temperatures will stay in the high teens overnight with daytime highs on the up in the high twenties. Magic!
Of course the first thing that comes to mind with the hotter weather and start of spring is barra, and my prediction is that this spring/summer will be the best season we have seen for many a long year. Regular readers will recall that in May and June of this year I reported on the huge numbers of 50-60cm barra that were being caught all through our area, and the good new is these fish will all be well and truly legal size coming into spring. So we can expect a bumper barra season in the salt water.
If the earlier part of this year is any indication, then anglers can expect an absolute cracker of a barra season and fish will be on almost every snag from Sarina to Proserpine. Barra will be on the job right through the tide range and with a bit of forethought it should not be too hard to find the fish in our mangrove estuaries and creek systems. Remember barra are basically a fairly lazy fish so they will look for spots where they can get an easy feed.
Couple this with their favourite diets of prawns or small fish and the job of finding them gets a bit simpler. No matter whether you are fishing up a mangrove creek or 20 miles offshore, the basics stay the same. Find the bait and the predators won’t be far away, so if looking for barra, locate where the bait will be at certain stages of the tides and hey presto the barra will show up.
Sure there are other factors such as wind, general weather conditions, water temperature and humidity that come into play but the basic rule remains, find the bait first and foremost. Most people in this area tend to favour neap tides when chasing barra, but that is most likely because of our sometimes huge tidal range. The neaps are easier to fish, particularly as the lows tend not to bottom out and leave you stranded in a hole. The reduced flow in the neaps also helps the lure fisher with presentation too but it would be foolish to concentrate only on the neaps. I go fishing when I have the chance, not just when the best tides occur, and I try to make the best of the situation.
Regardless of tide height, it pays to remember that on a flooding or making tide the barra will be cruisers moving around chasing the bait. Whereas on the run-out tide the barra is more likely to adopt an ambush mode and select a spot like the mouth of a gully or side creek where they can sit and wait for the bait to come to them, as the tide drops out.
Mind you the angler still has to be at the right gully or side creek, and this is something learned from experience. Remember though barra are creatures of habit, and if you score a barra at a certain stage of the tide, take careful note of the location and characteristics and chances are you will continue to find barra in the same circumstances/location. Barra are also a schooling fish up to around 70cm, so if you find one there will likely be more there.
There is no such thing as a sure barra lure or fly, but there are a couple of standout performers that I always have on hand. The gold Bomber remains a favourite and even when most of the gold has been knocked off they continue to catch fish. Any quality Aussie built minnow will stand up to barra, and brands like RMG, Reidy’s, Halco, Richo’s and the like will do the job.
Poppers and fizzers are magic on barra, and the Tango Dancer remains a personal must have lure. The soft plastic Z-Man pop frogs are great and I am looking forward to getting plenty of mileage from them this summer. These lures just have to work on a variety of fish and I am keen to experiment further with them.
But spring doesn’t only bring the barra on the chew. Hot weather is red fish weather and jacks will be on the go in the local creeks and close inshore reefs, as well as plenty of fingermark. These are often found in similar spots although the fingermark generally prefer deeper water whereas the jack will sit on a snag quite happily in 30cm of water.
Fingermark are more widely spread than jacks and they can also be found around the rocky headlands and closer to Mackay; the Marina is a local hot spot. They will take live bait such as prawns or small fish, as well as being an obvious choice for the lure or fly angler. Trolling deep divers like Reidy’s or Richo’s minnows around the rocky headlands or islands is a proven way to score with fingermark as is dropping a plastic and jiggling it around the bottom structure.
The warmer weather means the usual bread and butter species like whiting and flathead will be in abundance in our creeks and estuaries, and many pleasant hours can be spent nabbing a delicious feed of fillets. Yabbies are still the numero uno in baits for these fish, but both will take small lures particularly plastics and flies. Good cheap fun and top tucker.
During the winter the offshore scene has been primarily reef fishing although there has been a smattering of Spanish mackerel around. With higher temps, the Spaniards will be more prevalent and will follow the bait schools as they come close inshore. Smaller mackerel species will also move right in along the beaches when the northerlies bring the large schools of herring and small fish right in close, so provided the weather gods smile on us, we should have plenty of close inshore action.
Of course we don’t just have mackerel to play with, as the bait schools also attract mac and long tail tuna, cobia, queenfish and trevally. All of these species can be caught trolling minnows, shinies or pilchard baits rigged on a ganged hook set up. This Mackay area can sure be a tough place to live sometimes! Too many options!
Offshore bottom fishing will see plenty of action too with trout, reds and sweetlip making up the bulk of the catches. Both trout and lippers will come right into shallow water while the big reds seem to prefer the deeper water. Whatever the species, they are all great fun to catch and superb eating fish. Plenty of local anglers are also trying out new ways to catch these fish, with large soft plastics and jigs both being used with some good results.
The freshwater scene will also be hotting up as the rapid increase in water and air temperatures gets both the barra and the sooties on the boil. With 3 dams stocked with both species plus the freshwater reaches of the Pioneer River, we have plenty of options to chase these great fish.
Kinchant Dam has continued to produce monster barramundi through the winter and will now really liven up. Teemburra and Eungella have been a bit hit and miss over the winter months but I expect Teemburra in particular to fire up and I am really looking forward to some great evening sunsets on Teemburra Dam, catching barra and sooties.
So that’s a bit of a wrap up on what’s on in paradise for the month of September. A transition period from winter to summer which presents all sorts of opportunities for anglers. See you at the ramp.Reads: 1232