Boofing barra in the shallows
  |  First Published: February 2015

February is a month of flooding rains, boggy tracks, flowing rivers and tropical lows drifting over the narrow strip of Cape York Peninsula’s river-dissected interior.

Fishers will be in maintenance and gear-gathering mode as the rain falls and the offshore scene deteriorates with powerful thunderstorms and generally unsettled conditions.

There may be some glamour mornings amongst it all and some may appreciate the general lack of other boats and fishers on the water. The barramundi season opens on both the east coast and Gulf and it is time to begin trialling some of those Christmas presents!

It is the pro anglers who will do best this time of the year, with many barra moving up and down the estuaries. Some of the larger bays and saltwater lakes will really fire and those with small punts are best placed to capitalise.

Hordes of mullet, prawns and other little critters will be hugging the margins of these shallow mangrove systems and the barramundi will be in these murky waters, gobbling up their fill as the rainy, wet conditions persist.

Anglers will do well following the incoming tides up into these shallow margins and flicking floating lures or poppers amongst the timber and mangrove spikes where the bait is gathering. Look for rippling schools, flicking prawns, scattering garfish and of course, the telltale ‘boofs’ of feeding barra.

It is exhilarating fishing when you have drifted a shallow punt up and amongst the mangrove forests to silently and methodically polarize the murky waters, looking for finning barramundi amongst the mangrove spikes.

It becomes a real close encounter lesson-session when the fish materialise under a floating lure and only the right twitch and pause brings about a crashing strike. Two things to keep in mind are firsty, placement and retrieve in these moments. Always cast your lure at least 50cm from a sighted barra, preferably in front and to the side of the fish’s head. This will prevent them spooking and believe me, they will always investigate a falling object close by.

Secondly, leave your offering in the strike zone for as long as possible when you know there is a barra there. In particular, leave your offering on the surface for at least 3 seconds before commencing the retrieve. Sometimes, only the most painfully slow offerings will get boofed and with barra, it will often be right at the boat, just as the lure is about to exit the water. An observant angler will out-fish someone who is more interested in the accuracy of their casts or chattering away to the person next to them.

The east and west coasts of the Cape are vastly different in their makeup and while the west coast will usually be waterlogged and flooded this time of year, the East coast can fish surprisingly well, with much shorter catchments meaning water clarity and river heights are still conducive to fishing.

Other fish on the nibble will be mangrove jack and threadfin salmon. These two awesome predators both relish the wet steamy conditions and both are particularly fond of small prawns that thrive in the wet season months. Small poppers, shallow divers, Prawnstars and scented prawn imitations will all work well fished close to flooded mangrove lines and often it will be the stray, wider casts which pick up the threadies.

It can be painful watching hordes of threadfin salmon eating tiny jelly prawns, only to have them balk and shy away at each offering you make amongst the melee. Quick reflexes and razor sharp hooks are an absolute must in turning tentative strikes into blistering runs. Fishing lightly weighted, suspended prawn patterns in plastic and as flies will be the downfall of threadfin salmon feeding in this manner.

Areas where swamps, lagoons and billabongs overflow back into the main river are areas to concentrate efforts during February, especially when these spots have been isolated for some time. Look for a colour change in the main river as clues to these run-offs and concentrate your efforts just on the edge of the run or in spots where the river is back eddying.

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