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Barra still a target
  |  First Published: April 2012



April in Mackay equals wet season rain and since the end of February it has been falling in earnest with daily sprinklings, storms, night showers and very humid days, all of which can spell bonanza for anglers.

Wet season means prawns barra and jacks in the creeks and estuaries and limited opportunities close inshore due to freshwater run off. This is also a great time to be chasing snub nose dart around our estuaries and nearby beaches, as they don’t seem to mind a bit of dirty water around. Golden trevally will also sometimes be found with the snubbies.

But most anglers will be out chasing a feed of prawns or drifting a couple down onto a snag or rock bar hoping to entice a barra or two. There have been plenty of barra around to keep everyone happy with good hauls coming from the Pioneer River being caught right in the heart of the city and at the vee behind the pylons of the Ron Camm bridges.

The most popular bait in the city reaches of the river seems to be good size live mullet as prawns are not that easy to find in the river and will be knocked off by all kinds of undersize pickers.

Lures can be spectacularly successful in the river around the bridges with large paddletail plastics being the preferred choice. Due to the tidal runs in the river fairly heavy jig heads are called for to get the lure down to where the barra are holed up.

Night time in the river at the bridges brings different tactics for the lure angler, as the barra tend to move out from the pylons and patrol the shadow lines caused by the bridge lighting. At this time the barra are susceptible to a well presented shallow diving minnow or even a surface popper or tango dancer. Obviously the best ticket is to cast into the shadows and work the lure back out into the lighted areas.

Barra to 15kg or so have been taken at the bridges. With the strong current run heavy tackle is advisable otherwise many fish will be get in around the pylons and rubble and will be lost. Try using a minimum of 10kg braid lines with at least a 20kg leader of strong mono. This is not a place for finesse fishing but rather a knock down brawl once the fish is hooked.

Barra are around in all the creek systems from Carmila to Proserpine and all the usual hotspots are working well. I’m not into crowded fishing and prefer to mooch off until I can find somewhere to work alone or with just one other boat. While places like the barra hole in Constant Creek are well known and hammered, there are plenty of other spots in that system that can be equally as productive, and are a lot less crowded.

The barra seem to be just about everywhere in the systems at the moment, from rocky headlands at the front of the creeks, to mudbanks and of course hard up amongst the mangroves. Any small feeder creek or rock bar is worth exploring for barra also. As the tide makes, the barra tend to move with it so if you are getting into fish and then suddenly there are no bites or action, move upstream as the barra have probably gone with the tide.

Fish the run-out tide and bottom of the tide then head back upstream with the tide. This tactic also suits many of our creeks where the boat ramps are a problem at low tide. Barra also tend to be easier to find on the run-out and bottom of the tide.

Many anglers concentrate on looking for barra in deep water but they will get right into shallow water barely deep enough to cover them when they are chasing prawns. On a recent trip we found barra hard up against a bank in about 30cm of water and unless the lure was placed right at the bank, there was no action. A few cod and steelbacks also increased the melee and added danger for the hapless prawns.

Undersize king salmon were also in the mix and try as I might I could not find a legal size one. But they will be worth chasing as should be in good numbers given the prolific prawns about at the moment.

The jacks are also feeding well and are fattening up nicely on a diet of prawns. Regular reports of jacks in the mid 40s are coming in and they are all good solid fish in great condition. Look for the jacks around rocks and similar hard structure like bridge pylons, as well as the usual mangrove haunts.

In our area they seem to be more common away from the mangroves or perhaps it’s just that extracting them from way back in the roots is a tad harder and needs really accurate casting. Again chasing jacks is not finesse angling, but does require good casting ability, as 30cm off target usually means no jack. We use 10 or 15kg braid and up to 30kg leader, and still get skunked at times.

For the bait angler, live prawns drifted down into a snag or rock bar will tempt any jack in the area. I like to put several live prawns on a wide gape hook so there is lots of clicking and movement to attract the predators. Unfortunately everything from juvenile bream and fingermark to little estuary cod will snaffle such a bait and at times there can be many lost baits between keeper fish.

With the tidal runs here some weight is necessary otherwise your prawns will be on the surface and likely to attract a brahminy kite or sea eagle if there are any in the vicinity, and unhooking one of these birds is not recommended unless you want to lose fingers.

The snub nosed dart and goldens they tend to be around the mouths of the creeks and along the adjacent beaches. They also love prawns, but will also fall to a bunch of yabbies as well as live whiting baits. These fish seem to be in certain areas rather than spread throughout the district, with hot spots being the mouth of the river, Eimeo and Bucasia beaches and Reliance creek. The harbour walls also attract plenty of snubbies and goldens too. Best results seem to be on the run up tide.

The main targets for this month will continue to be barra and jacks in the saltwater, with kings and blue salmon thrown in, and a snub nose dart or two – not bad choices really.

The barra in the dams are also going bananas at present with good fish coming from Kinchant and Teemburra dams, with the bigger fish being caught at Kinchant. Barra measuring 130cm aren’t too bad for a dam that many sceptics said should not be stocked as it would be a waste of time. I notice some of those sceptics regularly fish the dam now!

So while April presents some difficulties for the angler, as always, there are plenty of options here in paradise, so hook up the boat and come and join in the fun. See you at the ramp and have a happy and safe Easter.

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