The fishing has really started to pick up over the last couple of weeks. Even though the weather has been lumpy for smaller boats, it’s been good enough for more regular outings. The offshore fishing has produced great sessions on trout and reds, and the redthroat have really kicked into gear now. Cuttlefish have been the number one bait – this thicker and tougher flesh is great for when the pickers are around. The smaller models are a great bait for big reds whole, and two hooked rigs are the best option here. When tides are at a lesser run, drifting is a good option, but anchoring or spot locking is the best bet when the tidal run is more substantial. Depending on the zone you’re fishing in, leaving a floating pillie or gar out the back is turning up some nice Spaniards and the shark mackerel are also in reasonable numbers. Ross from Ultimate Sportfishing Charters has been cleaning up trolling lures out the back while shifting from spot to spot. The Laser Pro 190 in the shallower 2.5m bib has been the lucky lure. Colour wise, gold with a black back has been the best producer. The big Halco Trembler is pulling plenty of action also – it’s the gun yellowfin lure on most occasions. Golden snapper have been the talk of the town. Good numbers have been taken from areas as shallow as 4m, but are also showing up in 30m on the shoals. Obviously, live squid are producing well, and if you can get just a few of these tasty buggers, you’re in with a great chance. Live gar aren’t too far behind them. Possibly the hardest species to crack on the lures consistently are the choppers. They’re a very highly regarded amongst sportsfishers. Lure choice for these things is an open debate and each angler has their own opinion, but I have to say, the 7” Paddle Prawn from Halco has made its mark on a variety of fish species, including the golden snapper. The action on the drop and slower speeds get the attention of bottom ooglies, which honestly wasn't a real surprise. Sadly for me, bloody mackerel love the things too. Without wire added into the rig, plenty will go missing either in the depths or on the way back to the boat. I lost twelve rigs the other day to the macs, With no wire on board, it was either keep going and accept the losses or go home. Everywhere we went macs were present. They’ll no doubt hang around for a while yet, so don't forget the wire. Jigheads are an important link in the chain of being successful on golden snapper. Apart from using a hook that can take the pressure, getting that all-important head weight right for the depth you’re in is probably your biggest consideration. Remember, all those active bits that kick into life under water pressure and momentum require a heavier head to stay down where the fish are. I’ve pretty much changed all of my heads now to the bigger heads, and mounted on a Gamakatsu hook. Quality is needed to land big fish in tough country. As a bit of a rough guideline on head weight sizes, in depths of 4-6m, you should be able to get away with 3/4oz head with 7/0 hook. A depth of 6-12m will call for a heavier head around 1-1.5oz. For the more extreme stuff of 20m+, 2oz would be better. Obviously tidal flow has a huge impact on this, and when the run is substantial you may need to increase these estimates by a 1/2oz or so. On the nearing tides, less is best. I generally go by the format of using the least weight possible to reach and effectively work the bottom. More streamlined and less active styled plastics like stick and flickbaits won't require the same head weights to reach and hold at the same depths. A little experimentation is the best bet to find a combination that suits the depth you’re targeting. Another tactical adjustment you can make yourself is to downsize your lure if fish are present but not responding. This is when I tend to go down to a smaller profile with easily activated moving parts for attracting a big predator. Colours that work vary greatly and depend water clarity and light penetration. I use the brighter colours in the murk and naturals in the clearer situations. Rigs are preferential, but on the shoally type stuff, 20-30lb braid is heavy enough and 30-40lb leader is as heavy as you need to play out a golden snapper. I use a Samurai Kestrel with a StradicCi4 mounted on it, spooled with 20lb braid for the average shallow locations. It’s crisp enough in the tip to work my lures properly and get them to come to life. On the other hand, around any structure, I have an ‘elephant gun’ outfit which consists of a 20-30lb Samurai Elevate rod and a Shimano Rarenium 4000 spooled with 40-50lb braid. Yes I know, the rod is not rated for that line breaking strain, but at low angles while under load, I can impart huge amounts of pressure to stop big fish. I get busted up every now and then, but some fish are just unstoppable on conventional lure casting tackle. The thing is, with this outfit I can cast and retrieve all day with no fatigue, and I get a great action from the lure effortlessly. It all comes down to angler comfort and practicality. Jacks are starting up properly too. The outlined rigs for barra are very effective on them. With a reasonable wet forecast for this summer, it could be that they’re flushed out of the systems initially and onto the flats nearby. It may take a bit of work to find them in the coming weeks. As far as weather predictors go, I’ll leave it to the experts, but all is apparently shaping up well for the near future. For most barra fishers, it’s ‘bring it on in bucket loads.’ Apart from the barra fishery suffering from lack of rain in recent years, local systems are in need of a big flush. Some of the big sand bars that have grown through lack of rain over the last few years are ridiculous now and a real hazard for newcomers to the waterways. It goes without saying that the sooty and JP breeding potential are reliant on a bit of drought relief as well.
The last few weeks of barra season have been awesome. Quite a few fish were moving around on the top of the tide along the flats around the Townsville area. Weedless rigged plastics have been the best bet for the thick mangrove roots that line the high tide mark, and once practiced a little, anyone can skip a plastic way up into otherwise unreachable holes and structure. If you have trouble getting a weedless hook with enough weight on the bend of the hook to sink them to reach the deeper pockets, a small sinker added into the loop knot will help. Lures that work for this style of fishing are paddle-tail shads and prawn imitations. Bigger 7” prawn imitations are like a barra lollie, but the smaller 5” models rigged on a skipping hook are great for keeping things in line during the skipping procedure. To ensure the alignment, some lures work better if you cut a shallow slot lengthwise along the underside to allow the Z bend in the shank to hold the plastic in place. Recently I was travelling to do some presentations at Lucinda. As usual, I fished my way there bit by bit to see what I could catch and to break the trip a little. Some of these awesome little spots are easily within reach of fishers, but these swampy, freshwater locations hold nasty big crocs as well, so keep well back from the water, especially when landing your fish. Playing around with weights and rigs, it became apparent that the 7” Paddle Prawn is buoyant enough to float an unweighted 7/0-8/0 hook. Once it floats back to the surface, a slight twitch will cause the tail to pop before heading a few inches down and then floating again. This technique works well, and can be fished in the shallowest of water. The freshwater reaches of the Ross hold some big fish, thanks to the Townsville Fish Stocking Group, and just recently has come under the guidelines of the SIPS or Stocked Impoundment scheme. Hopefully this will remove some pressure from the hard working volunteers who have worked tirelessly for years to provide a fish rich playground, which is enjoyed by myself and many others. Just remember during closed season, you can’t lift your fish from the water for a ‘grab and grin’ picture. You should only remove the barra from the water to unhook it if there’s a potential threat to yourself to hold it in the water. We all know that we’ll hook barra during the closed season while targeting other species, but just jump on the DPI website to refresh the rules in your mind. Good luck for the hot months ahead. Reads: 326
Barra end of season