If you live in the Gulf of Carpentaria, or have planned a trip up this way September is your last month on the calendar to chase a barra.
With the Gulf barra season closing on October 7 it is time to awake from your winter lull and fire up like the barra will be. Midday temps exceeding 30°C will be the norm and this coupled with low tides throughout the day will see water temperatures rise as the mudflats get baked in the heat of the day. Early in September it’s quite often the afternoon run in tides that see most of the action as the water is at its warmest while later in the month it will really be up to what the barra feel like doing.
Keep in mind that even though the season is still open, a lot of these fish are getting ready to or are already in the process of spawning. Most fish over 70cm will already have eggs ready to go so it really does pay to let any big fish you catch go as quickly as possible.
Having said all this however, doesn’t automatically mean that if you put a line in the water you’re going to catch a barra. Their habits can be quite weird in September and while there can be some awesome sessions to be had, there will also be days where you wonder if there is even a barra living in the river.
A lot of the other estuary species also enjoy this warmer weather and the ‘bycatch’ of a day’s barra fishing in September can be awesome. Jacks, fingermark and threadfin salmon are the pick of this bycatch, while blue salmon and queenfish will also be firing up almost becoming pesky at times. I like a midday low tide for river fishing in September and usually fish the runout tide for all these species with lures in the morning and then switch to live bait for the run in tide after lunch. However there are plenty of techniques that will all work at different times, it’s just up to what you enjoy doing and deciding what to do when.
Offshore has been pretty quiet through August with generally milky water the main cause of this. A persistent southerly swell and the larger moving tides around the full and new moon haven’t helped the water clarity and it really just needs a week or so of current from the right angle to bring some serious action. September is a top month for Spanish mackerel in the Gulf with them also spawning around the time that barra do. They will start to school on some of the wider shoals and feed voraciously at times, how far in they come will depend on the water colour. When the rich blue water pushes in close, boats of all sizes can get into the action with areas out from Westminster and around the channel markers turning up some lovely Spaniards. Trolling is the most consistent way to target Spaniards in the Gulf while floating pilchards or gar will also work at times. Over on the east coast this is a gun way of getting into the mackerel however in the Gulf the huge numbers of small sharks can often make it near impossible to keep a bait in the water long enough for a Spanish to find it.
Easily the most talked about topic in Weipa at the time of writing is the sighting of a killer whale just out from Weipa. My fishing charter colleague and owner of Weipa Sportsfishing Lee Hodgetts was out on an offshore charter about 15 miles to the south of Weipa when one of the most insane things I have ever heard of happened.
Lee and his three client had just finished lunch and were drifting along less than a kilometre off the beach when a fully grown manta ray came to the surface nearby. It appeared to be injured with one wing all banged up. Within seconds, and out of nowhere, up pops none other than an estimated 10m long killer whale. After sticking its head out of the water on 3 occasions, no doubt sizing up the boys in the boat and the injured manta ray, the killer whale proceeds to line up the poor old manta head on and eat it. Lee found it nearly impossible to describe the power the orca showed in devouring the manta which was about 3m wide wingtip to wingtip in its own right. The good thing is Lee carries a quality camera and put it to good use getting some phenomenal photos of it before it disappeared as quickly as it turned up.
Unfortunately I decided to fish up the river that day and missed a once in a lifetime event, but it does go to show while you’re out on the water anything can happen and if it’s out of Weipa it usually will.Reads: 1496