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Barra burst before closure
  |  First Published: October 2013



October, although not officially summer, normally brings hot dry weather, northerly winds and occasional storms and that spells barra for the estuary, creek and impoundment angler.

Barra will be the main target as there is only a short time to the closed season, which starts on 1 November, so expect plenty of boats on the water at all the favourite barra spots. Lure and bait fishos will be out in force, but a good way to avoid many of the crowds is to have some early morning starts, like about two hours before daylight, or fish into the night.

Night lure fishing brings its own hazards unless there is some moonlight, although I have found that on really bright nights the barra can be pretty touchy. If you can score a night with plenty of moonlight, but with cloud periodically drifting across the moon then in my opinion is almost the ideal night fishing scenario.

Full moon and barra fishing at night is very popular, but if you only fished the full moon then there would not be a lot of barra fishing time. Remember the barra have to feed regardless of the moon phase, and this applies equally in the dams or the mangroves. In the mangroves on darker nights the big flats covered with the tide can see some spectacular barra fishing as they move right up into the shallow water over the flats under the cover of darkness chasing bait, which also feel safer on the flats in the dark.

One of my favourite ways to lure fish for barra at any time, but especially at night, is with surface lures. Traditional poppers work well but the walk-the-dog style lures such as the Tango Dancer are in my opinion even better, and they can be worked with a varied speed retrieve for slightly different actions. Z-Man Pop Frogz are also rapidly becoming one of my favourites as they can be worked slow, fast on the surface or dig them down with a low rod tip and fast retrieve.

In the dams target the points of bays where there are good weed beds or lilies at night as these spots are generally fairly snag-free and the barra will come right into the shallows to feed. There are plenty of barra in the timber areas too, but they are difficult to fish at night, and you spend more time unsnagging lures than fishing, which is not good.

Kinchant dam will be very popular, and on good nights the camera flashes are all over the dam. Kinchant offers plenty of bays with points, but don’t ignore straight shorelines as they all have good weed beds jutting out and there are small inlets into the weeds, which are hot spots. If there are some weed islands out from the main beds and you have around 3-5m clear depth then fish the area hard.

Teemburra has plenty of open areas, including the boat ramp bank, the bay on the south side of the ramp, and the various bays straight across from the ramp. Similar type country is all over the dam, but the point is you don’t have to travel for 20 minutes to find good productive areas. Teemburra, although a little further away than Kinchant, does not see the same amount of boat activity of a night and offers plenty of opportunities.

For dam fishers, lure choices are many, but a few favourites standout and should be in your tackle box. Shallow divers, like the Reidy’s B52 in all sizes, and a few Bombers are a must-have. Rapala XRaps have a great reputation as fish catchers but the standard hooks are light on, so upgrade them rather than lose that fish of a lifetime. Koolabungs, Lively Lures, Warlocks, RMGs and Tropic Angler all make proven barra minnows in various sizes and running depths and are always in my gear. Remember though most of your night barra fishing will be in shallow water so ultra deep divers aren’t needed. Save them for the day, and particularly those times when you find barra lying deep on the sounder.

For surface fishing get yourself plenty of Tango Dancers, cup-faced poppers and frogs. I prefer the Z-Man ones but there are others that work well too, but the toughness of the Z-Mans also is a bonus, and you can rig them weedless and fish them right in the weedy stuff.

For the anglers who prefer soft plastics, the list is endless. Try to stick with the better known brand names like Squidgies, Tsunami, Storm, Tropic Anglers, Reidy’s and Z-Man. These are all proven performers, but are by no means the only ones that will be successful. Call into our local tackle shops for advice as they all have keen anglers working in them and they will give you good advice on plastics that are producing the results. As well as the usual paddle- and curl-tail plastics, don’t ignore the vibration baits like Transams and Threadybusters as barra find them very much to their liking.

While the above info is mainly aimed at the dams, the same principles apply in the saltwater, but be aware Mackay’s creeks have some pretty serious crocs in them and they are more active at night. A good spotlight will show you lots of red eyes with some big mummas among them, so be careful.

The same lures will work in the saltwater and again using the same techniques, look for the barra in the shallow water, or anywhere there is small baitfish. Remember the fish will be more active at night, and less cover orientated, so get out onto those flats as the tide is rising and if you can find some small gutters they can be absolute hotspots. Because you are fishing shallows, it pays to keep as quiet as possible and avoid shining lights down into the water. Long casts work well when fishing the shallows and remember the barra can be found in water that will not even cover their backs, so if there is 200mm or so of water and bait around, fish it.

Mackay during October is not all about barra though and is not necessarily a night fishery only. The advantages of fishing late include, lack of crowds (Kinchant dam excepted), personal comfort, less risk of sunburn/skin cancer and less spooky fish. But you do need to know your way around and travel slowly as there are plenty of rocks and shallow banks to catch the unwary.

Apart from barra, the big target during October will be the small macks and tuna, provided the northerly winds arrive and that in turn means schools of small bait in close. The doggies, spotties and tuna play havoc among the bait schools and provide top sport and plenty of quality food fish. Recently we have had a few days of calm northerlies, but the bait is yet to move in close, but with a week or so of northerlies that will all change. At this time of year the south wall of the harbour/marina sees lots of vehicles cruising out to the end light, with anglers all checking out the conditions and waiting for signs of bait schools, birds or fish feeding.

Once the conditions are right, and the bait is in the fun really begins with boats from 3m up, small kayaks and canoes all out chasing the fish. It is a time of crowded boat ramps, lack of trailer parking and some tempers frayed, but once on the water all that is forgotten and the adrenalin kicks in. The sight of fish slashing into bait, birds wheeling and diving, and bait spraying out of the water will get any angler with a heartbeat fired up.

Trolling or drifting pillies on gang hooks, live herrings and small gar under floats will all bring mackerel undone and can be fished with some berley to crank up the action. Trolling barra style minnows that run 2-3m deep will also get good results on the small macks, but I reckon the best fun is casting slugs, shinies, blades or vibes to feeding fish.

This is eggbeater country and a good spin stick around the 7ft mark will get you plenty of action. A 4000 or 5000 size reel will handle anything you are likely to hook, but some chasing of a fish may be needed if a solid longtail or cobia is hooked, but that just adds to the fun. Double hook ups and general mayhem can be the picture, but remember to bleed your fish immediately and get it packed in ice quickly.

We usually have a tail rope handy and the fish, after unhooking, is then tail roped, hung over the side and the throat latch cut to bleed it. A few jiggles up and down and then the fish is onto the ice after a quick wipe down of the slime on the skin. An old towel is the best for this and can be discarded or washed and used next trip. Result of this is prime high quality fish that is delightful to eat. Magic!

So while it can be bloody hot and a little uncomfortable, October is really the start of the summer months and provides fantastic fishing opportunities from freshwater to the deep blue sea.

See you at the ramp.

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