When February begins there is no other fish that is on anglers’ minds more than the iconic barramundi.
Last month there had not been any substantial rain and it’s looking pretty much like staying that way for a while. Everyone is hoping for a bit of rain and some flooding as it always means the fishing will be better in the following months and years to come.
Rain, hail or cyclone there will be plenty of boats on the water on 1 February and when the clock strikes midday there will be some gutters and snags getting plenty of pretty coloured hardware thrown at them. For those who don’t know, I’ll just remind you that the open season for barramundi officially starts 1 February at midday – so be careful not to get caught out like a few people did last year. How to get some Hinchinbrook chrome into your boat is up to you, but basically you need to fish live baits or lures.
If live baiting is your thing then you should be choosing to hit the water a few hours before low tide. Gathering good baits is critical and can be the difference of getting opportunities or not registering a bite. If bait is plentiful, it may only take you a short time, but keep it in mind that sometimes gathering good baits is a mission and you will be exhausted, sopping wet and the boat will be very dirty.
All live fish are good but the best all round bait is mullet, as they are tough and barra can’t resist them. Gar is also a deadly bait but they die quickly, even with good aeration and care.
Find yourself a creek mouth, rock bar or somewhere that barra will travel by or feed and set a good anchor. You want to have your baits secured, anchored and casting your first livies out as the tide changes and the water just starts pushing in.
Rigging is simple and a running sinker rig, where the sinker runs to a swivel, which is then attached to a trace (50lb minimum) to the hook is sufficient. Use enough weight to anchor your bait on the bottom, even when it starts running a little harder, as this will help with tangles and will keep your bait in the strike zone.
Leaving the rod in the rod holder is actually a very helpful way to hook barra. It is not uncommon for fish to play with the bait before eating it and anglers can pre-maturely strike or scare the fish off. I like to leave my rod in holder with a slight bit of slack line so the fish will feel no resistance. When the rod loads up, simply grab the rod from holder and set the hook.
Plenty of the best barra guides actually insist on clients using the rod holders when it comes to live baiting. You will be likely to encounter mangrove jacks, big javelin fish (grunter) and the odd threadfin salmon while fishing these locations with live baits.
For those who prefer to chase barra with lures and plastics, then my advice would be to get out on the water on the outgoing tide and start foaming the drains with shallow divers and lightly-weighted plastics. Hardbodied lures such as the faithful Gold Bomber or any shallow running lure will work in the drains. Soft plastics such as ZMan 4” SwimmerZ rigged on 1/4oz TT jigheads are deadly for drains.
The secret is to quietly stay off the drains at a distance that you can still land a cast up the top of the drain. The best drains will have plenty of bait and will be have a distinct colour change. The barra will be sitting in this dirty water as it offers cover for them to ambush baitfish. Barra will nearly always tend to sit with their heads into the current, so bringing your lures with the current will seem more natural and will help get you more bites.
Fishing the drains is a simple form of fishing and the best thing is you can get the entire family involved as it doesn’t take pin point accurate casting and fighting fish is normally easier due to lack of serious structure.
Last month there were a few opportunities to point the boat east and head out into the mighty blue. Fishing was tough and bite windows were small and plenty of other boats confirmed this.
Heading out before sunrise was the best option weather wise and fishing really was only worth it for the first few hours after sunrise.
Nannygai have been about out wide, but the closer spots have been devoid of nannies and I wonder if this is the result of no wet seasons in the last few years or possibly too much fishing pressure. Let’s hope this year sees better numbers coming in close as it makes it easier for the small boats to get a feed and some fun.
Trout have been making up bulk of catches off the reefs and we have found the 28-35m depth range the best places to target for numbers.
During summer it gets so hot on a windless day on the reef that it’s best to call it a day, or anchor up and relax and even swim until the sun drops a little in the afternoon, which will signal the fish to bite again.
Another option at this time of year is to break out the surface gear and chase some GT over the shallow flats of the reef. It’s hard work and even without hooking fish it will give you a work out, but when you watch your popper or stickbait get annihilated by a big black angry GT, it is adrenalin pumping stuff. Stopping them takes good gear, great angling, fancy boat driving and a whole lot of luck.
The best part about fishing the blue holes and drop offs is you never know what might swim up from its coral lair to check out your offering. It really is a lucky dip.Reads: 642