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Barra stocking proves successful upon opening
  |  First Published: March 2016



What a start to the barra season, with the first week of February delivering neap tides, heaps of barra and some great wet season downpours. February was a great month all round and the best way to kick off barra chasing for 2016. This month promises to be just as great.

With early wet falls of around 300-400mm, the creeks were very muddy, but as they cleared, the prawns appeared. Huge numbers of jelly prawns were all over our systems, and if there is one unfailing truth – where there is baitfish or prawns, there will surely be predators lining up for the feast.

Bust a Barra

Good numbers of healthy barra up to 1.1m in length have been caught both in the south around places like Rocky Dam Creek and Sarina Inlet and to the north with systems like Reliance, Constant, and Murray creeks. The Pioneer River has also had its share of good barra; in fact, it’s been difficult not to catch a barra!

Springsure visitor, John Groves, managed 21 good fish from 70cm+ in three days, most were released and three kept for the table. John uses a mixture of lures and live baits, with mullet proving the best on this occasion. Live baitfishers now have plenty of prawns to work with as well as herring, mullet and garfish. It pays to have a variety of baits as barra can sometimes be very picky even though they are largely opportunistic feeders. In other words if it is edible, close and they are in the mood, they will take the bait.

The same applies to lures and I always like to have a variety on hand. Big paddle-tails, some smaller plastics and plastic prawns like Prawnstars and Atomics are always in my boat. I also like to have a variety of hardbodies from poppers to deep divers – I suggest a chat to our local tackle shop staff to get the latest hot lure.

With the proliferation of prawns in the system, now is the ideal time to work the tide out in our creek systems. Barra hang on almost every small side gully and creek junction ready to knock off a feed as the prawns are drawn out of deep cover with the falling tide. Be there to meet them is my advice this month! Barra will also show up on mud and sand flats and any solo mangrove, snag or rock is always worth a work over. Work your baits or lure down the current, which is where the barra expect their feed to come from rather than up into the current.

Stocking success

More great news on the barra front concerns MAFSA activity in the dams. Just before the barra season opened, MAFSA stocked 4000 barra of mixed sizes up to 51cm in Teemburra Dam as part of the SIP allocation and from donations by Mackay Tournament Anglers. The larger fish will be legal sized by the end of March – a great boost to the dam, which has fished consistently well this summer.

The same weekend MAFSA members tipped another 2000 barra up to about 30cm long into Kinchant Dam to top up the numbers there. Again, these fish were bought from SIP funds and will ensure that Kinchant upholds its reputation as a great spot to land a big barra.

With the onset of good rain, the sooty grunter have started to roe up and by the time this is published, MAFSA members expect to have collected brood stock and be well on the way with this year’s breeding program. All things considered, the freshwater scene looks decidedly healthy going into March for the Mackay area. How lucky are we here? Three well stocked dams, and the Pioneer River and Cattle Creek stocked with 1000 tagged barra and plenty of sooties. Freshwater fishing doesn’t get much better anywhere!

Back in the salty stuff, big numbers of small prawns have been ringing the dinner bell for plenty of big threadies. Threadfin can at times become totally focused on jelly prawns to the exclusion of all other baits. I have just finished tying up some prawn flies with bodies about 20mm long and I am anxious to try them out.

The threadies have been caught right up almost to the freshwater, and apart from live prawns and plastics prawn imitations, good numbers are still caught on plastic vibes worked very slowly in a ‘yo-yo’ fashion with gentle lifts of 30cm or so. Most hits are on the drop, and a good size threadie will put up a good fight even on heavy tackle. They are much better fun though on 6-10kg tackle, so why not go a bit lighter and have more fun?

Other species

We are lucky to have plenty of other species around at the moment because of the quantities of bait that the fresh generates. Bream, grunter, flathead and jacks are all about in numbers. Whiting prefer the cleaner water and will feature more as the waters clear up. Unfortunately when the water is almost dirty enough to plough, we seem to get heaps of fork-tail catties and box head barra (also known as toadfish), which can be a real pest, especially to live bait anglers. Usually when they show in numbers you just have to keep moving. Lure fishos and fly anglers don’t have quite the same issue with them, but can still get frustrated at having their carefully presented barra offering snaffled by one of these instead.

The flushing rains have also stirred up the mud crab activity and the crabs are on the move. Muddies are caught even right out the front on the mudflats, where they are obviously looking for food and salty water. Watch your pots though and don’t leave them where they will be exposed in the middle of a mudflat at low tide, or you might find a ‘mud gecko’ has had a chew on your pot and catch.

While the heavy rains may have temporarily put a hold on the saltwater fishing, the dams are still stocked up and ready to be fished. The rains will also have a long-term benefit for our saltwater fisheries and can only be a good thing.

NFZ

The net free zone centred on Seaforth looks to be working, with most local anglers saying they are getting more and better-size fish since the nets have gone. I think it will take a couple of years to really see a huge difference, but I have already heard plenty of comment about good legal size grunter caught where the norm was undersize fish before, which indicates that the nets were catching most of the legal size ones. Grunter gather in schools and are vulnerable to nets.

As always, we have a tremendous variety of fishing opportunities here in paradise. See you at the ramp.

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