Rain on the barra opening parade
  |  First Published: February 2017

I suppose you might call what we’ve had recently ‘rain.’ It’s nowhere near what we need this month. Going by our long term forecast, I was hoping we’d be able to say that it’s so wet we’ve all got webbed feet and are taking the boat to work. So far there’s more dust in the air than rain.

With the opening of barra season upon us, it’s not just the quality of barra fishing that is going to suffer, but also the spawning and natural recruitment of juveniles to maintain future stock levels. One of the advantages up here is that there is other stuff to go for apart from barra and those species have been keeping fishers happy in recent times.

The last set of big tides saw a lot of big grunter schooling up around the deeper river mouths and shoals, and live herring have been working well on them. If your live baits die, try a butterfly filleted herring, as this has been the bait of choice for the guys chasing bigger fish in the 70cm class. As is often the case at this time of year, there are barra mixed in with the them, particularly the schools near headlands and rivers, so you could get more than you bargain for. The top of the tide and the initial run out have been the best times.

Casting the snags for jacks has been a good way to find some action. Apart from a couple of unstoppables that we have hit just recently, the average size is down a bit at the moment. Tilsan Barras twitched over the top of the laying down horizontal timber are a good way to tease them out. This can be exciting, as a lot of the strikes are in clear view.

Skipping prawn imitations is my preferred way to chase these toothy buggers when the tide’s a bit higher. Jacks chase the bait way back in amongst the roots and tiny drains though, and the bite often happens as soon as the lure stops. Be ready to keep their head pointing at you when the bite comes. Atomic Prongs and Madeye Paddle Prawns are my choice due to the success I’ve had on them. Rigged on a Gamakatsu hook, the bite to fight ratio is quite good at the moment.

We had a bit of a road trip down south for the break, so I haven’t heard much about the mackerel fishing in the last couple of weeks. There were a few doggie mackerel at the channel marker when I went out the other day, so it could be worth a shot on the ledges in close with slugs. Trolling smaller hardbodies around 3-4m depth is an accepted technique for the doggies and a range of lures work.

The favourite lure for doggies has long been the Flatz Ratz. There are other lures that draw the bite as well, depending on the depth they’re sitting in. The 4m diving 90mm Scorpion and the Poltergeist are a couple that we use when we decide to have a bit of fun with them. To be honest, doggie fishing isn’t that popular here, and we usually just end up catching a couple casting the 5” Paddle Madeyes at them.

Trolling is a very effective technique on a range of species. Recently I wanted to scan an area to see what was about close to the bottom. It was in 8m of water and there were fish on the sounder. The tide was ripping and the wind had whipped the water to a choppy mess, so casting softies and keeping in contact with the lure was near impossible. I tied on a 150 Scorpion with the Crazy Deep 8m bib and within a short time had a couple of choppers around the 68-70cm mark on board, before it got to rough and I bailed.

Trolling is also a great way to get familiar with new water. If you have side scan capabilities then the zigzagging pattern at around 3 knots can get you amongst the fish. As you make a zig or zag, you’ll find your lure slows down a little then speeds back up again as you straighten up. This adds a little bit of variation into the pattern of the lure.

The ambition is to scan an area, marking any obvious features and ledges, while still having a lure in to prospect along the way. It’s amazing how many times this form of exploring turns up the goods. In 5-7m of water, I do the same scanning thing on the Lowrance HDS looking for any fish, bottom change and contours. With a touch screen, it’s a two second job to save the mark.

Hopefully we should get some decent rain in the next few weeks and this should get the barra on the chew as they head upstream to gorge on the previously land-locked tarpon heading for open water. This is the time of year that barra fishers sweat on, and hopefully numbers will be high enough to make it a back-aching opening.

Over the last few months there has been an increase on croc incidents and you would do well to keep this in mind, as they’re nowhere near as shy as they once were. I hope you all had a great New Years and Chrissy period, and Santa brought you a heap of shiny new lures to go and throw at the big large-mouthed, pink-eyed leaping perch that should be on the go this month.

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