Winter is over. As the cold recedes the comfortable warmth of summer creeps in to welcome anglers far and wide. At least, it was like that back down in Hervey Bay. Up here in the Cape, winter temperatures are as high as the bay’s summer, and the summer up here is in a nutshell, hot – very hot. Nonetheless, warm water temperatures improve the fishing. Most predatory fish will feed constantly during warmer months.
The barra fishing can become insane when the water is warm, 25°C or higher. The drains along the banks of creeks and rivers can become the scenes of murder as big barra smash nervous mullet and garfish off the surface. In this situation, small to medium sized stickbaits and poppers will get a surface strike. Remember to keep it slow, barra are not pelagics and don’t often pursue fast moving prey in dirty water.
With stickbaits, a slow walk the dog is very successful and with poppers a couple of small bloops and a pause between them is the tactic that most pro barra anglers insist on. If the barra aren’t in the mood or feeding on the surface, try a lure that works lower in the water column, like minnows or light vibes. If you’re not getting bites, move on and cover more ground for better results.
The beaches and river mouths are a great place to test out light gear up here in the Cape. At times, huge bait balls of hardyheads and herring school up here and there’s literally thousands of predators gorging themselves on this protein-rich bounty. The most common of these ambassadors are queenfish, from 30-120cm. These high-speed killing machines are great fun, performing long runs and acrobatic jumps.
They’re given a bad name as a table fish, but if bled and iced straight away and eaten fresh, they’re beautiful. Queenfish taste similar to most well eating fish such as sweetlip and trout. They’re not alone, however. Many other species join the feast from cobia, trevally, mackerel, tuna, tarpon and even the odd barra. While many kinds of lures will work, the best are small pale coloured soft plastics and metal slugs.
The reef can go off at this time of year and landing monster fish is a common occurrence. Recently, my grandparents and uncle John have come up here for a holiday. They’ve had a great time dropping live whiting down onto the reef and pulling up big pelagics and bottom dwellers.
Grandad landed a 35lb cobia, a 70cm golden snapper and a handful of nice reefies. John, who always wanted to catch a golden snapper, got his dream fish plus a nice coral trout, a couple of big cobia and a 110cm queenie. They agreed the fishing here is sensational. There was only one problem – vicious bull sharks. The grey taxman of the ocean scoffed most of our catches before they had a chance to reach the boat, which is becoming a major problem everywhere.
So whether you’re barra fishing up the creeks, casting slugs into bait balls or dropping baits down onto offshore reefs. As the heat increases, so will the action. That’s a general rule in most tropical places around the world. Here in Weipa, it’s only going to get better. Good luck and never forget to think like a fish.
Fishing for golden snapper, the author’s grandfather took this nice cobia as a welcome by-catch.
The author’s uncle, John with a big queenfish caught bottom bashing for reefies.
A nice golden snapper at around 70cm – a first for Jackson’s grandfather.
When the bait balls are on, it’s a great opportunity to test out lighter gear. This neat little brassy trevally was taken on my new reel, the Okuma Ceymar.Reads: 1950