Offshore Tough But Barra Play
  |  First Published: February 2008

I’m sitting here in the middle of a low pressure system looking down the barrel of 2008 thinking about what I will do in the year a head and what happened to all the years.

I had great year with my fishing and I think the highlight of the year came from one of my lowest days.

It all started with a call from this man Mike Young who was coming to Bundaberg to do a public speaking engagement at St Lukes School. I had a very busy schedule this week and with a function on the Friday Night that would definitely not finish until after 1am. I knew I would be pushing myself but I had a good feeling about this guy over the phone - he sounded like a nice man and had never caught a barramundi before.

I don’t profess to be the best freshwater fisherman in the world as I fell into freshwater fishing because I would often get blown out with my offshore game and reef fishing charters. The fresh water gave me an alternative for overseas and interstate guest keen to wet a line. The first thing you realise about freshwater fishing from a charter perspective is there are not too many alternatives. If the fish won’t bite you really do it tough and you usually only get a couple of chances a day.

With this in mind I met Mike at 7am at the pub in Gin Gin and I was very tired from the night before. I was amazed at Mike’s energy and I was thinking all the time I hope he can cast. I quizzed him on the drive up to the dam and found out that he was one of the Australian Cricket coaches and that with his obvious broad American accent there weren’t too many great American cricket players. He went on to tell me that he was previously the Australian baseball coach and ex-pro baseball player, but still the big question loomed, had he cast before?

I have had some disastrous charters in the past with people who said they can cast and you find out later they can’t and that, although they have done some fishing, they still don’t get the concept. Mike went on to say he had done a fair bit of fishing and he wasn’t very good at casting, I thought great at least he is honest. Also in the back of my mind was the thought that my wife and her brother grew up playing baseball and both can throw a ball straighter and twice as fast as me so I new this guy had the credentials to cast better than most.

Mike could talk and I’m known to be one of the great listeners and we touched on every subject on the 19km trip on the way up to the dam, but me not being a great fan of watching sport I soon lost interest in cricket after school. As far as I was concerned the Australian cricket team was Dennis Lillee, Rod Marsh, Greg Chappell, Geoff Thomson and Booney. I know this sounds a little ignorant but the only sports I love to watch on telly are soccer and golf. So, as Mike was going on telling me all about these guys in the Australian side who I could only just recognise, I sort of zoned out and looked ahead at the day.

Mike would have to go down as one of the top ten people I have met in my life for interesting conversation. Even with his cricket passion we hit it off right away. We had a half day charter and I thought we would troll to start the day to see if we could raise fish. So we started trolling as Mike was telling me how much he would love to catch a barramundi and how he hadn’t been fortunate enough to catch one yet – not realising the pressure that puts on the poor old charter operator!

After two hours of zip we decided to tackle the casting. We went to and old spot that had been performing really well over the last few weeks. The weather was still coming out of winter so the fish were still pretty slow.

I was amazed at how easily Mike picked up the casting. We were in business but were running out of time and I was starting to think this would be one of those charter stories you hear of how I went here and caught nothing for the day, I hate those stories.

We are casting in this open bay with nothing happening and while looking the other way I hear my name called in a thick American accent ROOOOBBBBB!

I turned to see this massive barra just leave the water and dance into the sun. I couldn’t believe it we had nailed one and in the open as well. This should be easy. The fish continued to jump around in the open water until it found a tree. The fish jumped through the fork of the tree landing on one of the branches hanging for over a second and then falling into the water amongst a mass of roots and tree branches.

All the time I’m giving chase with the electric motor. We were doomed.

I said to Mike to give me the rod as I’m going in (I have never jumped into the water for a fish and I don’t know why the hell I did it this day).

I grabbed the rod and pushed it tip first down under the snag leaving Mike sitting in the boat drifting away wondering what the hell was going on. The rod was being pulled down further into the snag I was totally committed now. If I didn’t follow the rod down I would loose the rod.

I could still feel the fish pulling off line as I dove down into the water with the rod in front of me. It reminded me of the days when I spear fished. I could power on by thumbing the spool and the fish would pull me through the water.

This was getting dangerous though as this fish pulled me through the snag and I started to realise I could get stuck in this root and tree system.

I ran out of air and came to the surface with slack line. I swam to the boat with Mike screaming what’s going on and I passed the rod to him and asked him to wind the line and see if the fish was still there. To my surprise it was and as I scrambled back up the back of the boat as Mike led the fish to the boat, then we netted it. To say we were pretty happy would be an understatement.

We continued on back to the pub to have a steak for lunch and enjoy our capture.

The Lake

Monduran still going well even with the cooler conditions over Christmas. I took the kids to the dam the other day and my 8 year old son, who is dying to catch a metre-plus barra and my daughter who is eleven who never fishes, decided to come. We trolled for a bit and to my surprise we hooked up straight away. My daughter had caught the fish and she was being pulled near to the side of the boat and wasn’t coping well at all with this fish.

We were in 17m of water and we were almost spooled on 50lb braid on a fully spooled Shimano Calcutta. I reluctantly had to take the reel from her as this fish had the better of us. I could not believe the fight in this fish. I was fighting it for over 20 minutes. This was the hardest fighting barra I have encountered up at the dam. The fish was over 1m I didn’t have a brag mat to confirm the length as the kids decided to empty out my boat while playing over Christmas, but it was a large, long, lean fish.

We caught this fish on Predatek in gold colour. I have had a fair amount of success on the bleeding mullet diving around the 12 foot mark while trolling and also the Qantas red and white Predatek. I wasn’t a great fan of these lures until I had a customer insist on using the Qantas type after years previously catching a world record barra at Tinaroo. I managed to talk him out of using this lure right up to the end of our day when I thought that it would entertain his idea so we gave the colour a run. This lure was in the water for five minutes before being nailed by the biggest barra I have seen in Monduran. We never got the fish to the boat as it rolled and pulled the hooks out of itself right next to the boat.

One thing though if you buy Predatek lures you must upgrades the hooks. This is one of my gripes with lure companies and I urge all anglers and tackle stores to put pressure on the manufacturers and say if you want to make barra lures upgrade your hooks to something that will hold a barra.


This year has been great with the game fishing. Sailfish have been prolific and we have had one of our best years on them with my son catching six fish (not bad for an eight year old).

The light tackle black marlin have been absent this year and it seems to be the same right down the coast.

We have been having good luck with the discovery of new heavy tackle grounds this year where we have an average of two fish per day. On a recent trip we managed a double hook up on black marlin, tagging one around 140kg and losing the other which looked to be much bigger around 200kg.

On a recent jigging trip we trolled for three hours with light tackle and saw nothing - not even bait. One week later on the return from a heavy tackle trip we saw heaps of bait and had one hook up with a small billfish.

The tip of Fraser Island is usually great this time of year for light tackle black marlin from Rooneys Point down to Wathumba Creek but they haven’t turned up at all this year.

The reef fishing was brilliant with some great reds and trout coming in. Between the closures over the last couple of months monster cobia have been coming from the wreck sites too.

If you’re in Gin Gin stop in and see us at the Gin Gin Hotel and see if you can catch up with the latest on the Monduran Dam. If you would like to try one of our charters the light and heavy tackle fishing is at its best in the months ahead and don’t forget the GT fishing and jigging trips also.

All QFM readers are eligible for an accommodation discount on their rooms at the Gin Gin Hotel when presenting a copy of the latest QFMwhile booking in and don’t miss out on the best steak in Gin Gin while you’re there.

For any charters or accommodation enquiries, or even a chat about how the dam is fishing, contact me on 0427 590 995.

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