Luring shallow reefs – spectacular fishing!
  |  First Published: March 2016

Even though the fishing has been good over the last few months, it’s been the barra open season that has gotten anglers excited in more recent times. Anyone who has been in the creeks and rivers knows how active these fish have been. Here’s hoping they keep up that attitude because from 1 February some big fish have been moving around, and these are the important ones to leave in the systems.

In our boat, we have a self-imposed size limit of 80cm, and only one of them if we haven’t kept a smaller fish. There is a lot of flesh on a barra that size, and if treated well, chromed up with a yellow tail, they’re a hard table fish to beat. I mean, what’s the worst that can happen if you don’t keep a metre barra? You run out of fish in the freezer? That just means you have to go fishing again, oh damn! The most recent scientific data suggests that the transformation from male to female, which had been thought to take place at around 98cm, may actually be more like 85cm. If you release one female breeding-sized barra, and she gets a chance to spawn just once before she runs into a net, gets bit by a shark or croc, or gets taken by an angler, you are personally responsible for putting tens of millions of fingerlings back in the system simply by releasing her that one time, giving her the opportunity to repopulate the estuaries.

Although the majority of passionate barra enthusiasts frown upon keeping big barra, it’s not illegal until they’re over 120cm. I can’t condemn anyone bragging about killing 1m+ fish when the law says they can. Still, killing your limit amounts to a lot of fish for one trip. No-one I fish with would even consider keeping their bag limit of barra, but each to their own I suppose!

Other species

In recent weeks many anglers have chased the good old grunter. Some people have been lucky enough to find consistent patches of fish, but size and numbers change with the tides, so if you’ve got a productive spot I recommend keeping it to yourself. These are one of the most widely sought after species in the north, with every angler searching for good spots. Bigger baits such is whole gar fillets or bigger squid are a way to target the bigger specimens but, depending on what zoning you’re in, I’d be throwing a small 3” Atomic Prong or similar around on the lighter lure casting stuff, and see which catches the most. Obviously, anchoring makes it harder to do the lure thing, as you want to cast your lure far upcurrent and hop it back with the tide run to be in with the best chance, unless the tidal run is minimal.

Some thumping big golden snapper (fingermark) have shown up as well, and in the deeper waters the QuickCatch 150 soft vibes have been braining them. The fish chase the lure a fair distance before committing to the attack in the deeper spots. I recommend a sequence of around three or four long, stroking lifts of the rod to get the vibe working, and winding in the slack quickly between lifts. This gets the reaction bites, and you should hang onto your rod pretty tightly as you do this, because the bite can be brutal.

Shallow Reefs

There’s been a resurgence in the pursuit of shallow water reef luring, where many of the bites that occur are within sight of the angler. This is super spectacular fishing for anyone who wants the rush of the bite and fight. Some cracking red-throat emperor are getting involved, and on 30lb luring tackle you can expect a few bust-ups.

Trout have also been on the go in the shallower reefs, and this is obviously a really popular pursuit. Some people reason that the lures are too expensive to throw at the reefs, but have you seen the price of bait lately? We sell heaps of pillies, squid, cuttlefish and so on in at Akwa Pro Tackle for those chasing reef species, and if you do the numbers, lures can actually be cheaper on some days if you don’t get busted up too much. If you want to build your confidence in the catch rate of artificials, take a packet of jigheads and plastics along with you next time. If you’re not sure what lure size and head weight to use, call in and we’ll run through it with you, as this is the most important aspect of success. Soft plastic types that work include prawn imitations like the Atomic Prong 4”, paddle-tail shads, creature baits like the Keitech Crazy Flapper, Gulp Squidvicious, and flick baits.

Colour doesn’t seem to be of crucial importance; it’s more of a personal choice. When the water is clear I like to use more natural colours, and for the low-light periods or when it’s a bit murky I use brighter colours. The addition of a glow bead incorporated into the loop knot is also handy when light is at a minimum down deep.

Mackerel have still been chewing well, and the majority of the fish have been taken by anglers trolling lures en route to bottom fishing locations. The 190 and 160 Laser Pros are the pick of the bunch. Gold has been an effective colour, along with the slimy mackerel colour scheme.

There are a few big cobia out wide as well. When anglers have found the cobes they’ve been the first bite, beating everything else to the bait.

Sharks aren’t as bad as they were a few months ago out wide, but their numbers have certainly increased in inshore waters. In shallow waters we have seen some monsters and lost a few fish to them, so land fish as quickly as possible.

I’m not sure why, but the less common species have shown up a bit more. We have seen a few tripletails in our travels in recent weeks, and they can also be found holding on the channel markers every now and then. These things sure are a surprise package when you hook them, and they jump as high as any barra or tarpon when they feel the sting.

There seem to be more rock barra around, that’s for sure, and from what I understand they are even better eating than the run-of-the-mill flatty species. We let these fellas go, mainly because they normally aren’t that common.

The possibility for the monsoon trough to reform is very real and being an optimist, I’m sweating on it delivering a bit of late season rain that we so badly need around Townsville. Our water storage is devastated at 22% as I write this.

Anyway, I hope you all get to bend a rod as often as possible in the coming month!

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