February in the Gulf is a good time for fishing. Especially after midday on January 29 because its officially barra time! It is the start of the open season after what has seemed to be an extremely long closed season. By all accounts the wet will be in full swing, hopefully bringing us some great run-off fishing, something that anyone who has been hanging out for a barra fishing session has been praying for.
If you can make it through the wet season deluge you can expect to be hitting the water flooding the flats and wetlands where it drains from feeder creeks. All the tiny fish and crustaceans that are being channelled in provide the main ingredients for the barra soup that brings hot fishing action.
If you are travelling at this time of year please do take care while on the outback’s remote roads. Not only can storm activity bring flash flooding that can cut the roads quickly (such as in the areas from Cloncurry to Normanton and on the Kennedy Highway around Croydon and Georgetown) it can also be a long time between other vehicle sightings, so help can be a long way away if you have had an accident.
If you are attempting to cross flooded creeks do so with caution. The next car to be lost off the road in these parts will not be the first or the last. Contact the local authorities or Queensland Police for assistance if you are not sure of the road conditions.
Normally late February and early March provide a real mixed bag at Karumba. The offshore can fire up well following the wet season, and is a good place to fish if the creeks are not producing or the tides are big.
Queenfish show up around the Sand Island and begin to hunt baitfish, making them a target for all sorts of imitations. When the queenies get fired up and in a pack they become super aggressive and will take most offerings. Gold Bombers and B-52s are a good start and will all bring results but poppers such as Fat R’s ripped across in front of the school has the most appeal to sports anglers and trolling lures will produce the same type of results while covering more area – a good plan if it’s a bit quiet. Other large pelagics such as cobia and monstrous GT’s also call in at this time of year.
Fingermark should also be making an appearance and often hit lures meant for barra or king salmon. Fishing places like the end of the channel at the Fairway Buoy and any other area offshore with a bit of broken bottom is the place to get baits like squid and mullet fillets. If you are lucky enough to find a school try dropping down a jig, soft plastic or metal slice for a bit of fun.
King salmon are also prevalent this time of year. Live mullet and live prawns if you can get them work the best on king salmon but if the water is dirty don’t be afraid to try a fresh strip of mullet. There must be something about the oily flesh that works a treat. The problem is that catties love it too so be kind to the uglies of the ocean and release them alive. King salmon use all those sensory organs to locate food and the next time a mullet fillet out-fishes a live mullet in the soup won’t be the last.
Crabs are also worth a try but their quality can be a bit dodgy at this time of year. Check them carefully as there are plenty of empties in their midst. There will be enough however to get a feed. Keep the pots on the foreshores and along the mangrove edges for the best results.
This time of year is the best time to be running up the coast from Karumba to the northern estuaries and with the advancements in outboard technology, day trips to estuaries 40-50nM away are not unthinkable.
For safety’s sake please let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return. Have at least 1/3 extra fuel than needed for the journey just in case hurdles appear. Carry a spare prop. Try and obtain some local knowledge regarding the channels in and out of the creeks and remember that there is normally only one tide a day here. Getting stuck high and dry on a mud bank at the mouth of a river can involve a lengthy stay in the hot sun waiting for the next run in tide. Carry extra water and plenty of sunscreen and insect repellent.
Most of all go forth and enjoy the magnificent southern Gulf! – FMGReads: 2957