Big Barra Time
  |  First Published: April 2008

What a great time to be in Karumba. The area has finally had a full wet season, the first one in ten years, and if this continues the fishing is going to be awesome.

March has seen the barra spread out on the floodplains and making them difficult to find. Prawns working their way out the river systems have allowed everyone up here to stock up on bait and have some great prawn BBQs. The black jew have gone off the bite (some big fish over 1.2m were caught off the beach) but we have plenty of fingermark, barramundi, king salmon and grunter to target in April.

Barramundi can be caught at the mouth of rivers up here with lures (when the water goes clear) and live bait. The choice of colour and type of lure always creates discussion but any colour as long as its gold will work. The Halco Scorpions, Classics, Barra Baits and my favourite the Taylor Made King Predator all work. Make sure you have the lure touching the bottom and give it some further action by twitching the rod tip.

Using live bait can bring good results if you place it near the mangroves at the mouth of the river. Fingermark can be caught near the channel markers and further out on the rubble patches. A good bait to use is fresh prawns. These needs to be placed right beside the channel markers with a heavy drag to help you keep them away from going around the poles and cutting you off. Big grunter should turn up on the sand flats in front of the airport and squid is a good bait to use.

Magic Meter Barramundi

With a full wet up here the big barramundi will be a viable option in April .The holy grail for a barra fisher is the meter plus specimen and most people go their whole lives without catching one this big. Some very big names in the industry always sneak up here to target these monsters including Rob Erskine, Haydon Bell and Jenny Mondora (her other half comes too). Karumba is the place to go for this opportunity.

Trolling around the mouths and on the flats in front of the systems when the water clears is the way to go and this happens on the smaller tides. Keep your speed as slow as you can and get your lure to work. You need to target the outside on the bends in the river until you find some submerged snags to work over.

Always troll both ways and make sure your lure bumps into the snag and hang on – this is when all hell could break loose. Once you hook up you need to head the boat out to deeper water to try and coax the fish away from trouble. A big fish will usually stay down and take some large amounts of line off you so be patient and always back the drag off (not on) when you get the fish near the boat. Please handle the fish with care for your photos, never putting your arm under the belly of the fish and never hold the fish up by its gills as this will kill the fish. Always let the fish go so that she can breed up some more for you to catch.

Your tackle needs to be good quality, as you don’t want to lose the fish of a lifetime. The rod needs to have a soft tip and plenty of grunt to help control these large fish; my favourite is the G Loomis Crankbait 756. The reel needs to hold at least 100m of 30lb braid and the Daiwa Millionaire CVZ 253 or equivalent is the go . I always use a 2m length of wind-on leader that has 55lb Schneider mono leader attached to the 30lb braid by a bimini twist. You can tie your lures on with a loop knot or use a speed clip or snap. Don’t be afraid to try lures from different makers because sometimes you can discover one that works. Taylor Made make a King Predator in gold and sunset colours that can be awesome on these large fish.

April 5/6 is the date this year for the Karumba Community Anglers Classic and it is looking to be even better then last year. There is over $25,000 in prizes including a boat supplied by XXXX, a Engel portable fridge and return tickets to Cairns from Skytrains as major draw prizes. You just need to be there on Sunday night after nominating to win.

The teas event, won last year by Erskine’s Marauders, will be bigger and better this year so get some mates together and nominate. It is a tag and release only effort with total length deciding the winners. Some ladies have got together to form a team and thrown down the gauntlet to the boys. Kerry has stated that they will beat last year’s winners and show that girls are better!

Something to be aware of is if you take all the livebait and freeze it then there will be no bait alive to help you catch those awesome barra.


Meanwhile, over on Sweers Island, 80 nautical miles northwest of Karumba and 20 nautical miles off the Burketown coast, the fishing season is about to start in earnest.

After the wet, the mainland rivers flush fresh water out to sea, sometimes carrying a layer of fresh 20 miles out to the islands. This might explain the barramundi that are often caught at this time of year.

Saltwater barra is a treat to eat and a delight to catch, leaping in the air and putting on probably the best display you are likely to see as a fisho. The favourite spot is about half a kilometre from the resort, near the old town jetty, and the best time is on high tide when the water is right in to the rocks. This gives you the option of fishing from the shore, or, if you’ve been out in the boat reef fishing, you can pull up on the way home and cast towards land. Favoured lures include poppers, soft plastics and shallow diving minnows.

But Sweers is known mainly for its reef fishing and in April you can just about take your pick of the Gulf species, including cod, coral trout, fingermark, blue salmon, Venus tuskfish, the various ‘reddies’ (sea perch and red emperor) and of course the plentiful sweetlip.

The tides are still running pretty big at this time of year, so you’ll have to pick your times for fishing the 20m deep jew hole – there really is no point in loading up with so many sinkers to get your bait through the current to the bottom that you can’t ‘feel’ when a fish decides to have a bite!

Remember there is only one tide a day in the Gulf, and that’s a lot of water to have to pour in and out of what is a pretty shallow container!

With plenty of reefs around the island to choose from, you can easily plan your day to incorporate a dawn fish off the barra rocks, some serious offshore reef fishing, and maybe finish up at the jew hole before the 5 minute trip back across the channel to the resort at sunset.

Tex and Mick at the resort give all guests a comprehensive briefing and well-marked maps are also provided to make it as easy as possible to get amongst the fish.

For more information on the fishing hot spots around Sweers Island and the Gulf, check the new ABC Guide to the Best Fishing in Australia, available from most good bookstores for $27.95.

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