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We can still get our barra fix
  |  First Published: November 2015



The barra closed season is now here and that means no chasing barra in the salty stuff until February next year. But anglers still have access to some top-notch barra fishing in our dams, and they have been firing well, depending on the weather.

October was unseasonably very windy with many strong wind warnings and 25-30knot SE winds were common. This caused much frustration with local anglers who usually count on October to be a month of mainly northerly winds, which allows plenty of offshore activity. So here’s hoping that November calms the winds down and gives us a chance to get out on the briny.

But back to the dams, and MAFSA Inc has been busy as usual with 6300 fingerlings at 250-300mm barra stocked into Eungalla dam the last weekend in October, and these will grow rapidly over the summer months and provide a great top up for the Dam. The dam is not at 100% capacity and if the dry summer weather continues it will be drawn down further.

This draw down is a positive for anglers as the lower level opens up new areas of shallow points, bays and other fish holding areas to try out. There is also the benefit of less water, so the fish will be more concentrated, but stick to the formula used when the dam is full and look for the same types of habitat and the barra won’t be far away. Barra are creatures of habit.

Just go a bit steady around the dam as there is now a fair bit of timber just under the surface and smashing into this at high speed will not do your boat, outboard or yourself any good at all.

MAFSA Inc has also been busy stocking barra into the 3 weirs on the Pioneer river early in October. Members released 1000 barra between the weirs and every fish was tagged. The fish were around 260-300mm long and have a prominent yellow T-bar tag on their left hand side. These tagged fish will move through the system and hopefully when caught, anglers will record the length, location and date, and call the number on the tag. This data will provide info, which can be used in future stocking and research programs.

Reef Catchments have also stocked 1000 barra into the Gooseponds in North Mackay recently and these fish were held in MAFSA’s hatchery overnight while being weighed measured and tagged. Again, their movements will show the importance of the Janes Creek/Gooseponds area as a barra nursery. Hopefully they will also assist in controlling the tilapia outbreak, which was discovered about a year ago.

The release of these barra was in conjunction with an information day and family fishing fun day, which saw about 140 junior anglers take part. This was a great way to introduce young fishos and promote the healthy waterways projects. Mackay Recreational Fishers provided gear for the juniors if they did not have their own and the mums, dads and the kids all had a ball.

For those anglers new to the game of chasing barra in our impoundments, there are a few basic tips that will go a long way to success. Firstly, make sure you have a Stocked Impoundment Permit (SIP). These are available at tackle shops stores, or online from Fisheries. The Patrol boys regularly check the dams so make certain yours is current.

The dam fisheries have developed basically as a lure and fly fishery as getting live bait legally (no cast nets are allowed in fresh water) is difficult.

Lure types that are successful include hard and soft bodied lures, surface and subsurface lures and flies. The range is endless, but the local tackle shop staff can assist with choices.

Fishing light gear is also not recommended in the dams, as there are fish well over 1200mm in all 3 of our dams. I suggest at least 10kg braid with a 20-30kg leader and both baitcasters and spinning rigs are suitable. Use snaps if you like but make sure they are top quality. I prefer to use a loop knot and just retie the knot each lure change as that way you also unconsciously check the leader is in good nick.

For the fly angler, I suggest a minimum of an 8-weight outfit and you will need both floating and intermediate (slow sink) lines. I really like the cassette style fly reels as several different cassettes means only one reel needs to be purchased. I use both Greys and Snowbee models for several different types of lines and the system is very user friendly.

Flies need plenty of flashy material, a good size profile and at least a 1/0 solid hook in case you hook the big one. A few surface lures like poppers and gurglers will complete the gear. There are plenty of flies in the local shops and for those wanting to roll their own, YouTube has heaps of instructional tying videos.

Lure anglers will have a diverse range of hardware but ‘must haves’ include plenty of paddle-tail plastics. Black and gold combos work well and most successful dam fishers use a variety of sizes from 70-150mm. Squidgies, Berkeleys and similar offerings all are successful in the dams and the norm is to use a very slow retrieve speed interspersed with the odd burst of higher speed. A variety of pre-rigged lures and some others with different weight jig heads will see plenty of action.

Hardbodies can be equally confusing at the start but again a few ‘must haves’ include Gold Bombers, B52s, Halcos, and similar types. Generally speaking you will not use deep divers very much as most of the barra are caught in water less than 5m deep. Throw in a few imported lures like the Lucky Craft range and you will cover most of the bases.

Surface lures are a great way to catch barra and one of the very best is the Tango Dancer, which has a great walk-the-dog action that barra find almost irresistible. My other go to surface lure is the Z-Man Pop Frogz in the larger size and preferably in white. These can be dynamite among the lilies and weeds. Have a couple of cup face poppers in the box and you are good to go.

While the dams will get plenty of attention from now to Christmas, the saltwater is still fishing well and if this wind ever dies down we will get amongst the small mackerel, which have been spasmodic at best so far this summer. On those rare days of light winds, which always seem to happen when I am busy at work, the fishing has been good, with plenty of grunter, mulloway and golden trevally about. The last of the snapper seem to have headed back down south as I haven’t heard of any over the last few weeks.

Everyone is waiting on the wind and itching to get offshore and into some top fishing. I am looking to chase small macks, goldens and tuna, all of which can be found close to the harbour or the river mouth. The goldens have been going off around Flat and Round Top islands with plastic vibes being very successful worked in a jig style fashion. Trouble is everything with teeth likes them too so the attrition rate can be high, but this can be offset a bit by getting the cheaper brands, which seem to work just as well.

There has been a good run of jacks in the creeks, particularly the creeks north of the city and there has been a few caught getting up towards the 60cm mark. They’re great fun to catch and a great fish on the plate, it’s a shame we don’t have higher numbers here, but many of our creeks dry almost right out at low tide.

If you are chasing jacks, check out creeks with reasonable water at low tide, especially if that water has rocks or a rock bar in it. The jacks will be on the chew right through summer and can be caught on lures, flies, livies or cut baits, just make sure you get right hard in on the cover and hang on!

The bread and butter species like whiting bream and flathead are year round propositions and can be found in all our systems. Due to our tide ranges a boat is a distinct advantage and also keeps you a at a safe distance from those big mud geckos. My last trip to Constant creek showed up a nice salty about 3m long not far from the ramp, so caution is the operative word.

For the angler looking for bream and flathead, the universal bait would have to be freshly pumped yabbies on a light rig with a running sinker. This outfit will score on grunter, bream, flatties, whiting and the odd king and blue threadfin as well.

Mackay during November and December has much to offer the local and visiting angler with options aplenty in fresh and saltwater, so why not come and try our patch of paradise? See you at the ramp

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