Look to the shrinking water
  |  First Published: September 2016

With any luck, the barra will be on the chew in September, from Cooktown in the east to Pormpuraaw in the west. Every angler keen on a trip to the tropics has dreamt of a long tree-lined pool full of snags and hungry barra.

Spring will bring plenty of fish on the bite and with a little luck, some warm and consistent weather with light winds. Offshore the fishing for mackerel, trevally and a host of reef species will be kicking into gear.

Many of the creeks and rivers of the west coast will have land-locked pools, lagoons and shrinking wetlands at this time of year. The fish remaining will be stacked up over a smaller area, making them easier to catch. But as all anglers know, fish in stagnant water don’t always feed the way we’d like them to.

One consistent factor in fishing these isolated reservoirs is that early morning and late afternoon will be the most productive times. Fishing in the middle of the day and when the temperature gets unbearably hot in the summer months can be a waste of time in these spots.

September is a great month to access remote spots that are cut off earlier in the year. Wetlands and black-soil plains can make travel treacherous following the wet season, however everything should be dry and on the verge of dusty by now.

Lakefield National Park, the Jardine, Wenlock and Archer rivers plus the entire West Coast below Aurukun are all brilliant late dry-season fisheries. Barramundi have a chance to swim vast distances upstream during periods of flood and become land-locked when things dry out.

These fish get hungry during the spring build-up months and during certain bite times, can produce champagne fishing with surface lures and shallow divers. Look for snags, fresh green trees that have fallen in and rocky spots that lie in strategic parts of the pool are my pick. Concentrate mainly on the head and tail and any spots where shallows drop away quickly.

Barra will move around a certain range within these captive pockets of water and settle in shadowy, structure-laden spots during the middle of the day and in the dead of night. Patrols will begin in periods of low light and make them susceptible to surface lures such as poppers, fizzers and walk-the-dog styles fished slowly.

Keep your eyes glued tight to your surface lure, so that adjustments can be made when a boil or swirl is registered underneath. Barramundi will often have a quick flurry at a lure before returning from underneath, eyes glued on their quarry. A little ‘twitch, twitch’ followed by a lengthy pause will be the undoing of many fish.

The final ‘boof’ on the surface is a sight to behold and keeps lure anglers coming back to their favourite lagoons year after year, chasing the thrill of chrome off the surface.

Besides the barra, there are some other iconic species waiting in these spots and ready to pounce on a huge range of lures. Sooty grunter, archerfish, mangrove jack, tarpon and saratoga are great competitors that love lures. Be crocodile weary when walking or boating in these places, and remember that freshwater a long way upstream can hold these dangerous critters throughout the Cape.

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