Use the windows of opportunity
  |  First Published: March 2016

Many anglers will be a bit distracted this month, as they make plans and preparations for an early Easter long weekend, at the end of March. Traditionally, it is quiet on the water in the weeks leading up to Easter, so it’s a good opportunity to make the most of it, weather permitting.

March, like most of the wet season, is a real lottery. It has the second highest annual rainfall month and it usually comes in big dumps, making fishing quite challenging. Your approach to fishing this month is very much dependent on the prevailing conditions.

There will most likely be times when the only anglers on the water are the fishing tragics. There may be a few windows of opportunity, when the clouds roll back and the seas are flat, hopefully Easter being one of them. Make the most of the chances that come your way

The barra season opened to a run of hot, light northerlies and keen anglers took advantage of the calm but hot conditions to try and open their barra bank account for the season. Some were successful, but most just made a time withdrawal. Still, being out there having a go is a positive in itself!

For those still trying to oget started, the headlands to the north and south of Cairns, Trinity Inlet and the mouths of any stream will be the places to start, if there hasn’t been any major rainfall. If the rivers are running red, try the mouths of any small creek or gutter, where it enters the main flow. There needs to be a colour change, usually with a clearer small stream flowing into a dirtier mainstream. Barra use the colour change to hide and ambush bait.

Live bait like prawns, mud cod, mullet, mud herring and sardines are ideal for these situations. Have them set up under a float, so they can be easily cast and drifted along the colour change. You need to be slow and gentle with your casting, so you don’t pull the hooks. Prawns and mud cod are the best baits for this approach, as they handle the rough and tumble of casting and retrieving a bit better.

Drifting the bait into the closest snag to the junction is another good strategy, as barra will often hole up on the first structure down current from the flow in stream and wait for the bait to cruise past.

If luring, try to position yourself in a boat or on the bank to work your lure parallel with the colour change. Cast either side or on the colour change and work all depths from the surface to the bottom, until you find where the barra are feeding.

Soft plastics, hardbodied lures with plenty of flash, and prawn style lures will all work on their day. When the rivers are up or on the way down, after floods, be very careful of submerged logs, trees and debris, as they can be very hard to spot in murky water.

Don’t forget that the two places around Cairns that can handle a lot of rain are Cairns Inlet and Tinaroo Dam. It takes a lot of rain to totally disrupt these locations when it comes to barra fishing, so when the skies open up they are a good option.

Mangrove jack will be on the prowl and respond well to baits of pilchard and cuttlefish in murky water. Small hardbodied lures with plenty of gold, silver, red and pink also take their fancy, while soft plastics in reds and pinks get plenty of attention.

Golden snapper will be biting in the Cairns Inlet, the deep holes in surrounding rivers and around the headlands, islands and inshore wrecks. Live squid will be the best bait, with sardines, mud herring, mullet and prawns a good alternative. Soft plastics, deep diving hardbodied lures and prawn style lures are the go for lure anglers.

The reef will be worth a visit when the seas are flat, especially if the water temperature is starting to come off the summer highs. The deep water will be the best option, with large mouth nannygai the main attraction. The numbers aren’t usually great this month but there are often a few trophy fish, in the 7kg+ range to put a smile on anglers’ dials. Trout will also be around, as will the odd red emperor. As the waters cool the red fishing will gradually improve.

Mackerel have continued to bite in reasonable numbers, with Spaniards roaming the reefs and school mackerel more prevalent close to shore. The doggies have been harassing the bait schools along the coast but are fairly scattered, so trolling has been a good way of locating a few fish. Look for birds diving on the bait schools or surface action to help locate feeding fish. Reef anglers will still pick up the odd Spanish mackerel if they have a pilchard or live bait under a float while bottom fishing. It is by far the easiest way to pick up a bonus fish or two while chasing reef species.

Pelagics will still be around wherever the bait schools are congregating, with giant trevally one of the main players. Anglers who like to target these brutes will work the reef edges, pressure points, pinnacles, current lines and bait schools retrieving high speed poppers and slices.

Prawns and crabs will also be available at the anglers’ buffet this month, if there has been enough rain. Have the cast net on hand and the crab pots correctly marked, with a load of fish fames in the freezer, so you are ready for action when the opportunity arises. Check the name and address tags on your pots haven’t faded off. You would rather come home with a feed of crabs than have your pots confiscated.

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