Offshore fires up
  |  First Published: October 2012

Well that’s it for the mighty barramundi in the Gulf of Carpentaria for another year. I hope you all managed to tango with a few before the season closed.

I found the 2012 season to be an absolute cracker here in Weipa and here’s hoping that 2013 fires up as well. While the barra were patchy early in September the latter half has seen them really start to get twitchy as they gear up for what we hope is a top breeding season. With daily maximums of between 33° and 35° for the past few weeks it wont take long for the water temps to reach the right range for the big girls to spawn.

There is a real bite back in the sun now and with a set or two of the gulfs slow run in neap tides the estuary water temps will go through the roof. The expansive mud flats that are located in nearly all the gulfs major rivers play a huge part in increasing the water temps as they are baked with a searing sun. A slow run in tide that may run in for over 12 hours pushes water slowly over the flats and up into the gutters and creeks, really firing up the local inhabitants, and this is one of the main reasons that the barra breed earlier in the gulf and hence the season closes a month earlier than the east coast.

Offshore has really started to fire for those keen for an early start and who are prepared to do the miles. The closer reefs continue to produce good catches of fingermark, cod, black spot tuskfish and a few trout. While most are taken on cut baits of squid and pilchards, don’t be scared to target these reefies on trolled lures. Trolling barra style lures in and around the shallow bommies and drop offs in depths of 10-20’ can be extremely productive. Keep your speeds a couple of knots slower than what you would for a mackerel and use your sounder/GPS and eyes to locate and choose your best troll run. The main thing to remember for this style of fishing is to get your lure depth right. It needs to be down far enough to get the bites but not so far as to get snagged all the time. The most successful lures I have for trolling the shallow reefs are the Halco Scorpions - the 90mm models in both 3 and 4 meter depths are absolutely dynamite. They have a good rattle, strong hooks and great colours. Any colour will work from time to time but it pays to have a good selection and switch a few times to see what’s working best on that particular day. I would recommend a minimum of 30lb braid and 50lb leader on a spin or baitcast outfit with a smooth drag that can be cranked.

Both sailfish and black marlin continue to be raised and caught out wide of Weipa and some days in ridiculous number. There is no doubt Weipa is becoming a real hot spot for light tackle billfishing and the whole town is getting in on the act. A handful of local billfish junkies have put in some huge hours on the water in the last couple of years and have cracked the code of the billfish that inhabit the eastern side of the gulf. The recently set up Weipa Billfish Club will have a lot to do with how this fishery progresses and with their first tournament just around the corner it will be some interesting times ahead. I will do a full report on how the tournament went in next month’s column.

Though October a lot of the hype in the area will be about the billfishing as this really is the peak time of year. Plenty of other fish will be on offer throughout the month however. Spaniards and both longtail and mack tuna will make up the surface feeding fish offshore, with trevally and queenfish harassing anything that moves around the rocky headlands. While barra are off the list in the rivers, king salmon, jacks and fingermark will take over as the target species and with good reason as October is one of the best months to target all these species.

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