Barra to Fire Before Closure
  |  First Published: October 2011

Barra is the fish in most angler’s sights this month, as the 2011 season draws to a close.

The barra fishing throughout the north has been sensational this year, with fish caught right through, in spite of one of the longest, coldest winters on record.

October usually marks the start of the seriously hot weather, even though it is only the middle of spring. Water temperatures will be warm, without being so hot that the fish shut down through exhaustion. The La Nina seems to be fading away after last year’s massive wet and hopefully there won’t be a repeat of the howling winds and wild weather. October in Cairns is usually a warm up for the wet season and the weather can be as unpredictable as the fishing.

If the water temp is slow to rise, the tropical trophy fish will be slow to fire up. On the other hand an early warm up will trigger the fish into action.

The river mouths are generally the best starting point for barra, as the big females and smaller males start to gather in anticipation of the wet season to begin spawning. The snags and rock bars closest to the mouth will often hold a barra nest, so fishing these spots on the turn of both the high and low tides will be productive.

Long flat spells can occur in October, so anglers should shift their focus to the headlands, especially when low tide coincides with dawn or dusk. The weekends of October 15-16 after the full moon and October 29-30 after the new moon are perfect for barra headland hunting. The pre-dawn turn of the tide is the pick, as the winds and waves are invariably lower. Some of the best headland luring I have had has been in the hour or so before dawn. Generally by 6am, and definitely by 7am, it’s all over bar the dog walkers.

There are some fantastic, light weight and powerful head lamps on the market for under $100 that make night fishing a breeze, especially off the rocks. They provide ample light and leave the hands free to focus on fishing. My favourite head lamp is a LED Lenser H7, which packs down to the size of a tennis ball in its soft case and only takes 3 AAA batteries, making it super light. It throws a beam up to 180m, lasts for hours and has an adjustable zoom and brightness, making it perfect for the variables of fishing.


Make the most of the reef fishing early in the month, as there is a Coral Reef Fin Fish closure from October 24-28. The shallow waters closer to the reefs will hold coral trout, spangled emperor, trevally, sweetlip and stripies. There will be some quality red emperor, big mouth nannygai and small mouth nannygai in the deeper gutters and rubble grounds.

Overnighters are a great option in October but be very wary of storms. There are plenty of mobiles and laptops that have access to weather radars, and they are well worth the investment. The peace of mind they bring when the night sky starts flashing is worth the investment alone.


The marlin season will soon be in full swing, but there will still be plenty of action on smaller billies, dogtooth tuna, yellowfin, wahoo and Spanish mackerel for the smaller boat brigade. The bigger billies, doggies and wahoo will be out around and beyond the Continental Shelf, but there will still be ample pelagic action in and around the outer reefs and islands. Trolling a pattern of lures and heads is the easiest way to hook a fish, while the more experienced will often be slow trolling lives into the action. Look for birds working and bait schools on the sounder.


While barra are the main target, don’t forget the less profiled tropical species as they will also be warming up their appetites with the weather. Fingermark, mangrove jack, blue and threadfin salmon, grunter, queenies and trevally will all be feeding up a frenzy in October.

Quality grunter will be on the flats, along with the odd blue and king salmon. While the barra will mostly be found closer to river mouths, mangrove jack and fingermark will be busy amongst the fallen timber and rock outcrops further upstream. Look for jacks in the fallen trees on the edge of deep water, using fresh dead bait or small lures. Focus on fingermark around any structure on the bottom of deep holes, with live sardines, mud herring or prawns the pick of baits. Even further up the systems, trevally and tarpon will be in aggressive moods. Casting small lures or poppers on light tackle can turn on a heap of fun. The odd barra and red devil high jacking the action will add to the excitement.

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