Barra Bonanza at Noosa
  |  First Published: December 2011

Every year I hear of a small number of barramundi being caught, and for the most part released, in the Noosa River system.

This has been happening for years and thus isn’t really news. Barra fingerlings have also been caught in cast nets from time to time, showing that barra breed in this system.

What is news however is that the last month or so has seen a very dramatic increase in both numbers and size of barramundi hooked and landed in the river. The fish seem to be widespread and have been tempted by slowly worked poppers in the wee hours, live baits drifted into likely looking holes or structure and trolled hardbodies in between the lakes.

Suntag Co-ordinator Bill Sawynok has recorded recaptures of large barra that have escaped from lakes Monduran and Awoonga during the floods earlier this year. His data reveals that a large proportion of the escapees have hit the coast and headed south, populating creeks and rivers all the way down the coast to Noosa, and perhaps beyond.

Aside from confirming the importance of a comprehensive tagging program, this evidence also shows that many of the escaped barra have also avoided the clutches of pro nets and the myriad recreational anglers chasing them in the rivers immediately below their host dams.

Mr Sawynol said that 650,000 fish have been tagged via this program.

“A lot of the credit for reaching that milestone goes to the frequent taggers that have individually tagged over 1,000 fish. Just 89 frequent taggers have tagged over 240,000 between them which is around 37% of all fish tagged,” Mr Sawynok said.

So, now that we seem to have a viable barramundi fishery in Noosa, what will happen to it? Firstly the professional scene will make a quid out of these fish, and no doubt some already have. Plenty of recreational anglers are chasing them too, thankfully for the most part to catch and release.

Now that the season is closed they will be further protected and we can only hope these fish stay when the water begins to cool in April/May next year. Should that occur we might have a sustainable barra fishery for all to enjoy assuming these hatchery bred and impoundment raised fish are capable of spawning. There is no evidence to suggest that they are infertile, however we eagerly await the arrival of many thousands of baby barra in a few months time.

The keener and more astute anglers amongst us have worked out systems already to target these fish. Indeed, the barra do seem pretty keen in water of only 23-24ºC, with some fishos hooking four or five fish in one session. It’s probably fair to assume that there will be plenty of stories bouncing around the rumour mill during the forthcoming holiday season when the water is much warmer and we start to get those steamy afternoons.

There is no doubt that these fish will be considerably more active then, and anglers chasing jacks and almost anything else will be blown away with monotonous regularity.

Just in case you were wondering barramundi need to be over 58cm and no more than 120cm in length, or they must be immediately returned to the water. The season will reopen on the east coast at midday on 1 February 2012.

So, we have had an interesting year in and around Noosa, and it is all positive. The resident mangrove jack population is out in force, and some anglers coming in to Davo’s Compleat Angler are reporting catches of a dozen fish or even more in a session. Most are being released as these brutes really are too much fun to catch only once. Plenty of fish well past 50cm are being boated and the most popular and perhaps successful tactic is to troll.

Good troll runs are pretty well anywhere near structure or deep holes, with dawn and dusk prime time. Lures need to smack the bottom occasionally to attract attention. Gold is a good colour as is red on gold. River to Sea Saltwater Plugs are a standout lure and Davo’s has them on special so get in there and grab a handful. Hang on tight.

A few serious threadfin salmon have thrilled anglers up river in recent weeks. Hopefully we will see an increase in numbers with this species also, although there doesn’t really seem to be a logical reason for this to happen…just a bit of wishful thinking.

Bream and flathead as well as plenty of whiting have kept the bread and butter brigade busy with the run out tide in the lower reaches the best bet. You could do worse than drifting live or fresh baits, just be mindful of other boats in the system. Noosa is a busy place during the peak holiday seasons.

Offshore results seem to be rather mixed. The closer inshore reefs have been slow, however this will change when the bait schools move into shallower water, followed by hordes of various tuna and mackerel species.

There have been reports of a few early Spanish mackerel already and northern bluefin tuna have been evident one day and impossible to locate the next.

When you do find some it is worth having a spin stick pre rigged with a slug or an Izumi Gastronomic Bait, which were another standout product last summer and accounted for many pelagics.

Cobia and trout have been occasional catches lately, however there have been some quality fish boated. So, by the time we hit the school holidays the fishing will be at its best in and around Noosa.

If the salt isn’t your speed the more relaxing sweet water impoundments such as Macdonald near Cooroy and Borumba just past Imbil are worth a look. Plenty of thumping big bass and saratoga are there waiting.

As mentioned the river and its incumbent ramps and car parks are ludicrously busy during the holiday periods. Arrive early or expect to be parking a long way from the ramp. Please be mindful of safety on the water and don’t dawdle on the ramp or you can expect the usual tirade of foul language.

Thanks to Bill Watson and www.fishingnoosa.com.au for this months photographs.

Merry Christmas!

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