The winter weather may test the patience and passion of many anglers, however the thought of landing thick winter barra is just too tempting for me!
Every year, along with my fishing buddy Craig Griffith and my son Tommy, I search for an area that will produce some quality fish and set up camp for a few days. It’s always tough to convince my wife that we need to go and catch some barra in the winter as it’s usually the time we get all the maintenance done around the house.
Living near Lake Monduran we are accustomed to catching big barra but with winter slowing them down we often look at chasing saltys. Last year we went to the Fitzroy and nailed plenty of barra so this year we decided to head north and fish the Hinchinbrook channel.
Luckily for us this time we had a deadly advantage; ABT Barra anglers John Millard and Daniel Grech came along to give us a guided tour of the region. John is a local in these parts and is the number one barra angler in the area after recently winning the local Hinchinbrook tournaments. John told us our best bet is to fish the edges of the creeks up tight and watch the side scan sounder for snags protruding from the edge. This information proved invaluable and we ended up with consistent catches every day.
We arrived at Hinchinbrook on the Wednesday at 3pm after a draining 12hr drive. We dropped our gear at the pub, set up the boat hit the ramp. We headed out to the jetty to mix it with the queenies and we weren’t disappointed. We landed several and lost heaps of tackle to these monsters.
We arrived back at the Lucinda Hotel where John, the local publican, made us feel very welcome as we settled down to a good meal and a couple of beers.
The locals kept telling us it’s too cold to catch barra and we had at this stage of the trip we had to agree. We had lows of 9c in the morning and water temperatures around 19c. What was promising was the temperatures were very similar to what they were last trip when we caught plenty of barra in the Fitzroy.
We were up at 5am on the water fishing the wharfs around the front of Lucinda and Craig was straight onto two big fingermark. They both took 7” plastics hopped of the bottom; one was 80cm and the other was 62cm.
Tommy hooked up another queenfish, however it was lost at the boat, however his misfortune didn’t last long. We moved on to an old disused Wharf and he hooked the first barra of the trip; it measured around 70cm and was caught on a white 7” plastic hopped across the bottom.
This was just the beginning of our trip and we were pretty stoked with the fish we had already. On john’s advice we headed across to the Bluff where I hooked a 72 cm barra in tight to the rocky bank on a Rapala Glass Ghost X-Rap. The tide rips through this area and large arches were displayed on the sounder. John told us this was the place to troll deep diver lures and try and lure a metre plus barra.
Next we headed up to the mouth of the Herbert River to fish the snags on the high tide to no avail; we watched a bait angler in the back ground who was anchored at the mouth of the river catch a large queenie as we worked the snags with hard bodies.
We moved up to the next island in the middle of the Hinchinbrook channel and started fishing the rocky edge around the shore of the island. The sounder showed plenty of bait out wide of the island but all our bites came from in close; we caught stacks of trevally, queenies and small Spanish mackerel. As we moved along the southern edge of the island Tommy hooked up his second barra that measured 68cm.
We continued north up the channel to fish the creeks on the western side of the island. Fishing the creek edges and the occasional rock bars saw plenty of small estuary cod and trevally, but no barra. The scenery throughout the creeks was spectacular. Words and photos don’t do this wonderful part of Australia justice so I recommend coming and seeing it for yourself.
Overall we caught four barra and jumped another six off, and caught seven species for the day. You have to be happy with that!
We returned to the hotel just after dark and had a great reef and beef, a couple of beers with the locals and then off to bed.
Day three started at 5am hooking up on queenies out around the front of the channel, these fighters are just too good to resist! We searched around for barra to no avail and then continued up the channel in search of new territory to fish for the day. We decided to fish the creeks on the western side of the islands, fishing the edges, snags and rock bars.
The highlight of the day was Craig and myself having a double hook up on barra. All in all we hooked nine different species for the day.
Another day done and dusted and another day of good fishing. John Millard and Dan Grech arrived that night and suggested we drive up to Cardwell the next morning and fish the creeks on the north east of the island. There areNine creeks in all and barra through the whole area.
Another clear but cold morning as we arrive at Cardwell at 5am and top up the fuel tank at the local service station. It is amazing to see the carnage that was the aftermath of cyclone Yasi. Months after Yasi, the whole area has snapped off trees and houses that are still without roofs. The Cardwell locals still have a long way to go to fully rebuild their homes and businesses. Cardwell is right on the coast and copped the full force of cyclone Yasi; one of the downsides of living in this northern tropical paradise.
We cruised into the marina and were once again astounded by the damaged boats that litter the marina precinct. This recently new marina village also received the full force of Yasi.
We drove across to the island with the sunrise in the distance and pull into our first creek in search of fish. We used the same method; working the mangrove edges with hard bodies ever looking at the side scan sonar for snags out towards the middle of the creek. We found snags and they instantly produce fish; 14 species were caught for the day including mangrove jack, fingermark, cod, grunter, GT and threadfin salmon. Later on in the day we fished deep holes and small rock bars that are Barra, jack and fingermark hots spots.
At the end of the day we headed back to the hotel with 14 barra under our belts.
Our final day on the water saw us head out early to check out some creeks to the north of Cardwell. All limbs stayed firmly in the boat with many of the local crocs sunning themselves on the bank; no room for swimmers around here.
We didn’t catch a lot of fish in these northern creeks but with the right weather and tides you could tell these places would produce. We wanted to return to Hinchinbrook Island but had to battle 12c temperatures on each move.
We headed out around the islands to the north of Hinchinbrook Island checking out some of the GT hotspots on the way through. Once again these GTs smashed soft plastics hopped across the bottom. The white sandy beaches, crystal clear water and the rocky perimeter all add up to plenty of reef fish that go nuts on plastics.
We headed up to the creeks at the northern end of Hinchinbrook and with the little we had left caught another four barra and headed home.
The Hinchinbrook boat ramps are excellent and the tides aren’t as big as say places like Mackay. The time to fish this place is on the big tides around the full moon. The water movement when we were there was about 1.5-3m and the tides during the day were the smaller of the two.
There is plenty of accommodation in Hinchinbrook ranging from quality units to caravan parks and house boats. We paid around $700 a for fully self-contained two bedroom place for five nights at the Lucinda Hotel. The whole trip cost us around $2000 for five nights with two days of travel. It’s a huge drive but with two keen drivers you can knock it over in no time; the total distance from Brisbane to Townsville is 1368km and to Lucinda is another 150km.
The fishing definitely scored about a 9 out of 10, just imagine this place during summer! John Millard was catching up to 80 Barra a day just weeks before we got there. As per usual we arrived on the coldest winter days in years and it still fished well.
With Queensland reeling from recent cyclones this is a great time to put some money back into your own country and support Australian businesses. Although there was plenty of flood litter around, the Hinchinbrook area was very tidy, so be sure to keep it that way when you visit. We came, we saw and we left it as it was so you could see it as we did to.Reads: 9939