The first of the northwesterly winds will soon be rolling into Karumba to signal the return of the warmer months. When the first of the morning fog hits this part of the world it means good fishing. The main target species will be the good old barra as it starts getting the ‘need-for-a-feed’ feeling.
While Barra can be caught all year round with patience and perseverance, the warmer months indicate the time to dust off the barra lures in anticipation for some great sport fishing action.
If you are planning to head to the Gulf to chase a few barra then remember the closure dates are from midday 4 October to midday 29 January with a minimum size limit of 60cm. The east coast is slightly different with the closure date ending on 1 February and a minimum size limit of 58cm.
The varying dates and sizes are in place because the Gulf experiences different tides, winds and seasons. The barra breeding cycle starts earlier than on the east coast and heavy penalties are put into place to protect them. It is important not to target the big females and if you do catch a barra accidentally, then be sure to put it back unharmed as fast as possible.
Scientific research tells us that barramundi congregate at the mouths of rivers in saltwater to breed over a certain period. Barramundi need very special conditions to spawn and these may only occur on several occasions in the entire closed season. The consequence of capturing a large breeding female during these times could result in her not spawning for the entire season. Despite careful handling and quick return to the water, the wild fish is not used to being handled and the stress may be too much for her.
For those of you lucky enough to be heading for a trip to the Gulf before the closure, then there are a few items that are essential to pack.
One of the biggest decisions a fisherman chasing barra has to make is the age-old question - what is the best lure for the job. From my experience there is no clear winner in the category for best barra lure. Different lures work better in different situations. You make a decision on lure choice given the present conditions and then fish confidently with it.
Some favourites that always produce on our trips are as follows; Barra Classics, Halco Scorpions, Tilsans and Spearheads and Prawnstars for casting. For the deeper trolling applications, try using Deep Diving Classics, Scorpions, Mann’s 20’s, Stump Jumpers and River Rats.
One great way of catching holed-up Barra in deeper water is to use soft plastics and other jigs. The fish on the sounder that seem too hard to target with conventional trolling lures can usually be bumped on the head with Prawnstar or lead head jig. If the fish are in the mood to sit and watch, I guarantee they won’t be able to resist a territorial smashing of a jig that gets in their face.
Live bait is by far the best bait, as a hungry barra will eat almost anything live that ventures past. Mullet, prawns and bony bream or herring are all good tempters. And even small catfish are found in the stomach contents of barramundi. Remember that bream and whiting both have a minimum size limit of 23cm. Barra have also been known to get caught on strip baits or frozen prawns.
High modulus 6ft baitcasting outfits with 30lb braided line are the weapon of choice for most lure casting and trolling. You can do all the same tricks with a quality threadline outfit. The new age threadlines that come with heaps of ball bearings and instant anti-reverse are accurate casting tools. They also offer instant and more natural action retrieve on big fish in the sticks.
According to the Gulf spies, the spotty mackerel have been out the front of Karumba giving all and sundry some good sport action. Many have filled their eskies with these smaller but sweet mackerel species.
They are easily targeted with pilchards or small mullet on gangs. Lure fishing is easy enough with a small gold or silver lure providing the illusion of a small baitfish. For impressive results with more strikes avoid using wire, just beware that the lure loses may increase a little.
You will know when the spotties are around as they will attack knots, swivels and hooks being retrieved. A limp line for no reason is a good indicator to tackle up for a mackerel attack. They are great for eating if bled quickly and iced down. For those that like their mackerel smoked, soak them in brine overnight and dry the fillet before smoking.
Some quality grunter have been taken up the Norman River near the powerlines but it has also been rather crowded in the area.
Barra, barra and then some more Barra. Get into them while you can as the closed season is around four months long.
If Barra aren’t your thing, then there are a host of other species to target. King salmon will begin to make an appearance with the odd good fish arriving at the cleaning tables. King salmon are great to eat but are very hard to clean with great big knobs of bone growing along their backbone. The best way to fillet is to use the tip of an extremely sharp knife to cut around the bone and then just tear the fillet away.
Spanish mackerel will still be around through September until the water warms. Black Jewfish also start to re-appear as they congregate to breed in the mouths of the rivers but are more a Melbourne Cup proposition.Reads: 1159