On 1 February the holiday was over for the barra. Bowen anglers have been dusting off the heavy baitcasters and large hardbodies and soft plastics in anticipation of catching a big barra. I was first in line, being very keen to scratch the barra itch.
I have to say, I think it’s a bad idea to have a fixed barra season (as opposed to the flexible season in the Gulf) because it’s pointless if we don’t receive enough run-off for the bigger fish to spawn. Last year we witnessed this very problem in Bowen waters with the flooding rains not arriving until mid-February, which meant the fish didn’t have a chance to spawn before commercial nets were set. This saw many of the big breeders, which were full of roe, lost to the nets before they had a chance to spawn. Hopefully Fisheries will look at providing flexible open dates to suit each wet season as it comes.
If you’re after a big barra in Bowen this month, I recommend targeting the open headlands and mouths of creeks. This is where the cleaner water will be, and these areas will attract baitfish and eventually the bigger barra. Barra in Bowen love lots of water, so fishing around the outgoing tide with large livebaits set on the bottom will be a productive strategy.
If you’re like myself and would rather go to the fish rather than wait for them to come to you, lure fishing is the best strategy. Luring for barra is all about finding where the fish will be feeding, and the best way to find these spots is time on the water. Hunting around or prospecting for barra is a top way to enjoy consistent barra fishing, as these fish are creatures of habit. Once you find a few spots they will consistently produce the fish you are looking for.
If you are going to be flicking hardbodies, it’s hard to go past the Lucky Craft Pointer 100 SP. These suspending lures are perfect for enticing a big barra, and they come out of the packet with terminal tackle ready to go toe-to-toe with a metre salty. They come standard with heavy-duty split rings and heavy-duty Decoy wide gape trebles for a solid hook-up.
The key to targeting barra using both hardbody and soft plastic lures is a slow retrieve with plenty of pauses and twitches. Try suspending your lure through the water column, especially around laydowns. Barra love to strike a lure from below, so if you can work a lure down around structure and then let it rise or suspend slowly you are doing everything you can to attract a strike.
The other key component is rigging. Barra are notorious for wearing through leader with their abrasive mouths and knife-like gill rakers. If I’m specifically targeting large barra I use either a twisted leader or heavy Sunline fluorocarbon up to 50lb. I know this sounds a little extreme but a metre salty pushing 15kg can really give you a hiding, and big gear can sometimes be essential. When using these heavier leaders you really need to be using either a PR or FG knot to join your main line as they provide the smallest yet strongest join. This is particularly important if you are casting lures.
Barra aren’t the only target up the creeks – jacks are also out in force. It’s been a cracker build-up already and I have landed quality fish whose size more resembles reef jacks than creek jacks. Once again, hardbody lures and soft plastics utilised for barra will also do the trick, so you can really double your chances in February up the creeks.
The offshore fishing will be firing this month, with the extra heat in the water stirring up the reds. The large-mouth and small-mouth nannygai will also be on the chew around the inshore wrecks and offshore shoal grounds east of Holbourne Island. These spots can be tricky to fish as the action can be very hot and cold. Your best bet is to plan your trips around the changes in tide and use your sounder on bottom lock to try to find where the fish are feeding on these large shoal areas. Once you find them it’s a matter of getting your drift right and the fish should come.
Small-mouth nannygai (scarlet sea perch) are more prevalent during the day than their tastier large-mouth cousins (saddletail snapper). Small-mouths over 70cm are not that good chewing unless you bleed them straight away and cook them fresh.
Large-mouth nannygai are more commonly caught during the darker hours and are best targeted using large baits. Whilst you can snare them on pilchard and squid baits, large fillet baits of hussar and mullet on a ganged hooked set up will allow the bigger fish to find the bait amongst the pickers. With the hot weather around it’s not uncommon to encounter reef jacks out this way as well, so make sure your tackle is up to the challenge.
Next month should see much the same as February but expect wetter and windier conditions to prevail. There will be calm spells of weather now and then, and you’d do well to make the most of these stable conditions because this is when the fish really do bite. Fish like barra and jacks love consistent conditions at this time of year, and if you can get on the water during those times you’ll find the fishing is simply superb.Reads: 1055