February is a great month in Mackay, but much will depend on the weather and if we have moved into a ‘wet’ season.
Of course the big news for February is the opening of the barra season. All the locals have dusted off their barra gear unless they have continued to fish through the closed season at any of our local dams.
All indications are that saltwater barra will be really on the chew come opening day, as many anglers have reported accidental hook-ups on barra from Christmas and to mid January. The hot and humid weather hasn’t provided rain yet, but enough for several flushes through the creeks and estuaries.
The rain prompted a good run of prawns in all the creeks so barra won’t be far away. Some of the prawns are still small but a few throws with a cast net should find enough bait for a good session. Keeping prawns alive is easy as there are plenty of quality livebait buckets available at tackle shops. The old style of plywood box shaped almost like a punt seems to be on the way out and not as popular as they were. The advantage of these plywood boxes include the dark interior which does not stress out the bait, and they can be towed slowly behind or beside the boat.
You want to have your prawns kicking away on the hook as that’s the dinner gong for any nearby barra. I always put a couple of live prawns on at once to increase the ‘kickability’ factor and attract more attention from a barra or any other nearby predator.
Any small baitfish will catch a barra in the right place, but be careful of legal size limits.
Whiting, mullet and herring are the most popular barra baits. Remember creek gar are a top bait for barra but are more difficult to land with a cast net.
Live fish can be lip hooked or hooked through the back and I suggest fishing them on a long trace of up to 1.5m from the sinker. The sinker will hold the bait in the current, and the long trace lets it swim and attract attention.
I like to mostly use the wide gape circle hooks when bait fishing and find missed hook-ups are rare.
No matter how fresh your bait, it won’t score a barra if it’s not fished in the right place..
In the creeks barra will hang around a rock bar or near a rocky headland at the mouth of the creeks. In fact rocks anywhere attract barra. Remember rocks don’t have to be in deep water to hold good fish. Many of the barra I have caught in our local creeks have come from less than a metre of water but larger fish are often holed up in the deeper sections. If you catch a large barra in the salt, I urge you to release the fish as it will probably be a breeding female.
Barra also like to hang around isolated sticks or a single, small mangrove. Cruise around the creeks slowly at low tide and you will see plenty of these spots. As the tide makes the barra move up to these places and hold station there to ambush bait as it comes past on the tide.
Another hot spot to try is at any creek junction or even a little gutter running into the main creek. These spots are good on the making and run-out tide, and live baits should be fished back into the junction area to catch a barra.
Use your lures in the same spots where live bait works and you will also score. It’s never quite that easy but barra are usually caught in easily identifiable spots. Once you score a fish, look for other similar areas.
The list of lures is endless, but more and more anglers are using soft plastic shads or curly-tails like Tsunamis. These are great as they can be worked slowly and at almost any depth.
I think the newer resin style heads will be a big winner on barra in salt and freshwater. Make sure you get quality heads with a decent size hook.
PrawnStars are a great lure for barra and can be fished like a plastic. There are some new styles with a heavy inbuilt weight, but I haven’t tried them yet.
Hard-bodied lures are a favourite and will catch heaps of fish. Stick to brands like Reidys, DKs, Tropic Angler and other local types, and don’t forget a Rapala or two.
The action this year has been fantastic with lots of north/northeast winds with calm, hot mornings that build to storms in the afternoon. Classic mid-summer weather that brings classic fishing to Mackay.
There are still numbers of school mackerel about, but there are large numbers of good sized greys or broad bar Spanish mackerel in the area. These have been on the chew since early December and should be around for a few more weeks. They can be located anywhere near the harbour and in reach of a 4m tinnie on these calm mornings.
Flat and Round Top islands are throwing up heaps of golden trevally and some solid GTs as well. These goldens are good table fare and are terrific fun to catch.
Tuna are still here in reasonable numbers but they are dropping off. Cobia often go with the tuna and mackerel schools are also starting to thin out but a 20kg+ cobia will still be available right through Feb and March.
Good grunter and pinkies are also being caught around The Patch, but it can be hard to get a bait down to them without hooking a trevally or a shark.
Golden trevally are the best targets through February and can be found inside the creek mouths and well offshore. Prawns, stripbaits or even a bunch of yabbies will tempt them as well as a small live fish bait. They can be found over sand, low gravely beds or around rock formations and are often caught to 7kg. At that size they are great fighters and give a sweet fillet.
All of these fish will take a soft plastic, but most luring is done by trolling hard-bodied barra-style lures or high speed cranking with lead slugs.
Be careful in the creeks and offshore when fishing. Crocs have been active in many of our local creeks and ones to 4m have been seen. Sharks and stingers are also likely on the beaches so keep an eye out and stay safe.Reads: 1300