Early Openers
  |  First Published: February 2012

Barra season is now open after a three month layoff. The amount of barramundi caught prior to the closed season means that it should be another great year.

The Fitzroy River is the pick location in our region due to the sheer size of the system and the millions of rock bars and mangrove structures that seem to always hold fish. There is a much higher number of lure fishers targeting barra around there than bait fishers. The lure guys use both types: soft plastic and hardbodied. They both work well but the preferred territory is generally different due to terrain.

The town reaches of the river is a plastic paradise. It has a lot of deep channels between vertical rock walls with big gaps in the face where large barra sit out of the main flow. They just pick off critters getting pushed along by the huge volume of water that moves in and out on the big tides or when the barrage gates are open. A lot of this country is too deep and hard to fish hardbodies deep enough when throwing to a rock face.

Thready Busters and Transams are popular soft plastics, and being vibration lures they work even when the water clarity is down. This sort of lure nails quality fish. When the river is running pick a drift using the slower part of the flow or use your electric to control your drift to cover every feature they might lay. If you keep an eye on your sounder it is easy to find where the fish are holding.

There are two main options when working vibe type plastics. The first one is to sit over the top of the fish, drop the lure to the bottom and give a couple of short jigs. Then drop to the bottom again and pause. Barra will sometimes grab it on the drop or on the lift after the short pause. Method two is cast past the fish and work the plastic using a jig, jig, drop and pause style.

Hardbody lure fishing here also has two main methods. The first one is to cast at all visible structures getting the lure right in amongst the sunken trees or hard along the rock structures. The depth of the fish dictates the lure to use. When the fish are up high in the water column just cast and twitch on a very slow retrieve using shallow divers or stick type lures. When the fish are deeper use a deep diver like a Richo Extra Deep Extracta by casting into or just past the structure, give a couple of firm jigs to get the lure down before using a slow retrieve twitch, twitch, pause. The slower you can work a lure for barra and still maintain the depth the more barra you will capture.

The second option for hardbodies is to slow troll the deeper spots using a lure that will get down to almost touch or even better, touch bottom occasionally. Live baiting is a great way to catch barramundi but it can sometimes be hard to get good size livies in the river.

Regular baiters get silver perch from the creeks around Rockhampton or bring baits up from the coast when times are tough. Coorooman Creek and Corio/Waterpark have a few barra but nowhere near the numbers of The Fitzroy. The best options are to checkout every structure in water from as little as 500mm deep to the deepest hole in the system, it doesn’t really matter as long as there is structure it can hold fish.

We did a big ‘recky’ this week and found barra from the mouths of the creeks and the bay right up to the fresh in The Fitzroy and Corio and the whole Coorooman/Cawarral Creek system. King and blue salmon have been showing fairly regularly down the bottom end of the river, Coorooman Creek and Waterpark Creek. The large amount of small prawns in the systems lately have switched everything on to feeding mode, making it easy to score a feed. Whiting, queenies, flathead and big bream complete the scorecard giving us great prospects for the coming weeks.

This year so far has been the opposite to the last couple with a distinct lack of rain, we are lucky in that previous wet years have given our inshore and offshore fishing a boost that should continue in the short term.

The offshore fishing locally is firing from the islands, the fern country and out to the shoals. Our usual trout numbers seem to be up at present especially in the smaller sized fish indicating that recent years have had very successful spawning periods. We have two main varieties of coral trout around here one is the bar cheek, which is the most common in shallow waters around the islands, and blue spot, which are found along the deeper drop-offs and shoals.

The back of The Keppels (not in the green) has just kept turning out fish after fish. The last trip I took to the islands I came home with prime coral trout despite going for sweeties and parrot, which was not a bad thing.

We started fishing early and went snorkelling when it got a bit warm, as I was heading back I noticed a decent trout rising to checkout a glitter bird float tied to the back of the boat. It got too much for me so I got back on the boat and started throwing poppers and minnows over the shallow country and out past the reef rocky ledges. It took a few goes before I had any lookers but once the first fish was hooked several more came up to investigate all the commotion. The louder the sploosh from the poppers and the heavier the vibration coming from the lures, the more enquiries we got.

It was quite a successful day and best of all it only took 20L fuel and nothing for bait. Coral trout love any pressure points or current faces where there are ledges or coral bommies they can hide under. Too many people go straight past the fish and often miss out; try something new it might just broaden your options in future. Pretty well all the reefies are having a chew at the moment so any offshore trip is definitely worth a crack.

Inside Keppel Bay last year we didn’t get the quantity of smaller mackerel, although they came through the outer islands and the shoals. This month there have been lots of mackerel schools travelling offshore and not stopping to feed for long. Many anglers think it is tuna when they see the birds working and don’t bother to have a go. There is a difference we have noticed around here that may help distinguish the tuna from mackerel as you see them from a distance. When birds are flocking over tuna, the tuna are smashing baitfish jumping, breaking and foaming the surface then disappearing to rise to the baitfish in another spot as a rule. Mackerel schools, on the other hand, usually have far less surface action and don’t tend to break up very often. Unless we want some fresh tuna bait we rarely stop at the ones we think are tuna but always throw a Flasha at what looks like mackerel, and mostly we get it right after a lot of practice.

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