Thumper barra rule the school
  |  First Published: February 2016

With the opening of the season barra, barra and more barra will become the goal of Mackay district anglers during February. Thankfully, some good early rain during January created the perfect conditions for creek and estuary barra action.

Anglers will be keen to get to local hotspots like Reliance, Constant and Murray creeks to the north, as well as the Pioneer River in the middle of Mackay. To the south I expect plenty of action in the Sandy and Alligator creek systems, Sarina area, and down to Rocky Dam Creek near Koumala. All these areas are serviced by concrete boat ramps, but take care, as many are more suited to half tide launching. This shouldn’t pose a huge problem as the best barra fishing is generally from half tide out to half tide in. Visitors to the area should check with local tackle shops for up to date info on ramps and tides.

Neap tides are the most popular with locals and allow better movement around the creeks at low tide. There is also a lot less tidal run to deal with, which can be a plus for the lure and fly anglers, although the popularity of plastics and vibes, means they can be fished in any amount of run, depending on the weight used.

Barra mooch around the mouths of small side gullies and creek junctions and these can be real hot spots as the tide runs out. Baitfish and prawns get flushed out of the mangroves and the barra, and jacks ambush them. This is an ideal scenario for the plastic prawn style lures like the reliable Prawnstar range, but there are now plenty of others like Zerek, Atomic, Squidgies to name a few with some great life-like imitations. Don’t charge up to a creek mouth, sneak up quietly by drifting, or use the electric outboard and cast the ‘prawn’ up into the gully and work it out into the main creek. Give any spot like this a good work over for at least 15 minutes.

With the tremendous advances in small boat sounders, anglers can pinpoint barra on the screen and actually cast to individual fish. Barra show up well on even the basic sounders, which is a great help to locate bigger barra. Some anglers spend more time screen gazing than actually fishing, and as barra spots are relatively easy to locate, I tend to go straight to known locations and get fishing. Apart from the side creek or gully scenario, barra can be found around individual snags or a single mangrove on a flat, and any rock bar is worth investigating. Barra don’t populate deep holes, but are found on the edges of these holes and shallow water (less than a metre deep) can hold numbers of good-size barra.

So, for first time barra anglers or visiting fishos, look for any of these spots and you will be in with a good chance to score a lovely chrome plated salty barra. Don’t ignore the sand banks in creeks, as barra will often move up on the sand with the incoming tide, hunting whiting and other small baitfish. My advice to visitors is to get into our local tackle outlets, and talk to the staff, as they are all keen anglers and will give good current information, which is always more freely given after a couple of purchases.

The barra scene is not all about the saltwater, with Teemburra and Kinchant dams firing up over the closed season. Plenty of metre plus fish were hooked in both dams. There have been lots of bust-offs in Teemburra, and the barra show a liking for the timber areas, which makes landing a horse barra just that bit more difficult. Due to low water levels in Teemburra, some of the main basin islands now show, and these can be real hotspots, as the barra move from deeper water up into the shallows chasing bony bream. Kinchant basically has no structure apart from weed beds, so these are the areas to work.

Barra in fresh or saltwater will respond to hardbodies, soft plastics and a range of flies. A few shallow divers like gold bombers, Reidy’s B52s, and any number of specialist local timber lures are essentials in any tackle box. Don’t forget a few poppers and Tango Dancers in the largest size. For the plastic fantastic brigade, a selection of Squidgies, Reidy’s, Tsunami, and ZMans will cover the bases, with a few PopFrogz thrown in (the largest white coloured works well). Fly anglers will get results using Deceivers, Whistlers, flashy bomber styles and poppers.

In the saltwater, there are plenty of jacks and golden snapper around, alongside some lovely grunter, caught over the gravel beds. It will be interesting to see the results of the Net Free Zone based around Seaforth, and monitor catches from that area. Mackay Rec Fishers are committed to annual monitoring to get good solid data about the results of the declaration of the NFZ. Interesting times are ahead.

Offshore, most of the tuna and small mackerel have followed the bait schools south, but trevally and queenfish still provide some pelagic action for even the small boat angler. Results will be dependent on the weather, as both prefer good clean, clear water. If we have our anticipated start to the wet season during February, this will have an impact on close in fishing for these species.

Reef bottom bashing will depend on good weather. Cyclone season is here and anyone heading offshore should monitor the weather forecasts for several days before venturing too far out. Some nice reds have come from the shipping channel, with plenty of nannygai in the mix. The islands closer in have fished reasonably well but copped a hammering over the Christmas break, with anglers on holidays and some great weather allowing plenty of small boat action.

In the freshwater streams and rivers, the sooty grunter have been on the move and preparing for the rising water levels which trigger their breeding season. MAFSA members will be on brood stock collection and look forward to another successful breeding season. Sooties are a great sportfish, I recently had some top fun, walking some of Cattle Creek casting small flies on 6 weight outfits. My mate Lachlan and I caught four sooties between us off one snag all on foam body poppers. Although they weren’t huge fish (30-40cm), they put a nice bend in our fly rods.

While February traditionally sees the start of our wet season, there are plenty of angling opportunities and options available in the district. Cyclone activity and rain can affect the species and spots available, but the great thing about living here in paradise is the variety and diverse options available to anglers. See you at the ramp.

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