The onset of the wet season can be a challenging time in the tropics, but by applying a bit of nous you can enjoy success.
A lot of focus will turn to the famous barramundi with the open of the season beginning at the start of the month. For three months they have been off limits but now can be kept if caught of legal size. They can be caught by a few methods whether it be lure, live or fresh dead baits. Use live baits and lures if the water is not the colour of coffee, if it is it generally correlates with dumping of rain. If the water is quite dirty then fresh dead baits such as mullet and sardine strips come into their own.
Your best results for the bigger fish will occur when the water clarity is clearer. This can mean you may have to wait and fish a few days after a decent rain. Keep in mind the estuaries and creeks will clear a lot quicker than the river systems as they do not receive as much water volume from off the coastal ranges.
River, estuary and creek mouths are a good spot to try on the first of the incoming tides and trolling lures is a great way to cover a bit of ground. Following the bank lines is a priority but also zigzagging across the entrance can uncover a few surprises.
As the tide fills the system the deeper holes and steep banks holding structure are prime locations on the top of the tide, whereby live baits such as mullet and sardines are dynamite bait. Getting your bait deep into the heart of the structure is a key factor. You may lose a few rigs but it is where the fish will be holding office. Don’t be afraid to employ a floated bait as well because barra with their eyes on top of their head are always looking upwards.
On the outgoing tides targeting small creek mouths and water run-offs are perfect locations to place hardbody lures, soft plastics and live baits where the barra often wait in ambush. The water line, where dirty water meets the clean, is the ideal zone to pepper with your choice of presentations.
A lot of your bigger fish are caught around the full and new moon periods whether it’s day or night and worth taking note of when looking at your calendar. Also a little bird with a lot of experience told me that the quarter moon with a smile is also a prime time to wet a line a for these trophy fish.
If you can tick off a few of these pointers there’s every chance you’ll enjoy some success on the barra. Along the way you’ll come across many of our other wonderful species, such as the ferocious mangrove jack along the bank edges and small creek mouths, as well as the prized golden snapper in the deeper sections of the system.
On the blue water, the reef fishing can be a bit harder to predict and a lot of it has to do with the amount of rain received along the coastline. If there is freshwater strewn out for miles upon miles out to sea from the rivers and creeks then the fishing is generally tougher. It is also a treacherous time to travel with a minefield of debris and large logs floating everywhere. However, if the rain falls are moderate then the fishing tends to be productive.
The better results for your nannygai and red emperor tend to come from fishing deeper water in about 30-40m+ and big juicy squid baits are effective at this time of year. You’ll find coral trout in a variety of depths but they will be more productive in the slightly deeper water of 25m+ as well. You can expect the trevally family amongst the catch, including the tea-leaf, gold spot and bludger variety. They pull hard and offer good angling.
Keep in mind at the point where a sudden drop in the barometer occurs this can result in a short feeding frenzy. A drop in the barometer will also suggest a change in the weather for the worse so be aware of what is around the corner.
Pelagic species are harder to detect, especially closer to shore, if there is a lot of fresh present. Your best bet is to travel as wide as possible and explore the cleaner blue cobalt waters that come through the reef gaps from the Continental Shelf. Trailing a selection of lures hopefully you should find some Spanish mackerel, possible mahi mahi and tuna, and if you are lucky a sailfish is definitely a possibility.
February is a test of patience, waiting for the right window of opportunity, but if the cards fall into place then it can be a time when you are rewarded with some of your best catches for the year particularly on the barra.
Quality barra such as this one from the Daintree River can be caught under the right conditions.Reads: 613