Big wet big fish
  |  First Published: April 2008

The big wet in the tropics continues and conditions have not been ideal with most streams and rivers in full flood mode. Gazing into my crystal ball however, reveals that in April the local rivers and creeks should be dropping and allowing some more favourable conditions for nailing a few barramundi.

There should be quite a lot of smaller barra on the move after the big wet and many will be starting to head upstream in search of a home for the next few months.

When chasing barra look for water that is clean but without being too clear. Barra like to have some colour in the water to give them cover for ambush but they won’t often be found in heavily silted water. The entrances to small feeder creeks and drains are ideal places to cast some hardbody lures or plastics, especially if there is a colour change line and preferably when the water levels are dropping.

The next time you are on the water look out for any new snags that have been washed over. These snags will be prime new spots to try for barramundi and if you find any that are still laden with green leaves in new condition they are likely to hold bait, which will be a major attractor for the fish.

Prior to all the heavy rain, there were some good reports of big king salmon and fingermark along the beaches and Cairns inlet. So once water levels start returning to normal there will hopefully be a few salmon and fingermark about to target again.

Elsewhere inshore, fishing has been extremely difficult. Estuary and river anglers are having to contend with massive amounts of fresh and heavily silted water, making it very tough to find fish.

If you are after your favourite saltwater species and the conditions are in flood, then you will increase your chances if you look for fish outside of the river mouths on the flats and around the headlands. This is where lots of fish will be until salinity levels become more favourable for them back inside. You will very often see an actual fresh water line created by the tidal movement and quite easy to spot with the water colour change.

Remember that just because the water appears fresh it may only be on the top. Once the swollen water levels drop and allow the tide to infuse again, the lighter fresh water can hide a large band of saltwater underneath. This allows many saltwater target species to return back into the river and estuary systems.

Local charter operator, Kerry Bailey, reports there have also been plenty of big queenfish cruising the headlands outside of the rivers away from all the fresh. These fish have been spotted working underneath the birds and feeding on very small anchovies. They can be readily caught on poppers and plastics as well as live baits if you want some fun.

When targeting these fish in open water it is best to keep your equipment reasonably light and you will be amazed at how these powerful fish perform. When I was chartering a number of years ago, well before the abundance of braided lines, we used to fish for big queenies with 4-6kg mono line on medium spin outfits holding around 200m of line. The queenies were a ton of fun and I believe the lighter lines encouraged the acrobatics that these fish are so famous for. A large queenie (over 10kg) can easily strip off a couple of 100m and, in most cases, the captures are straightforward. Unlike estuarine demersal fish, they do not, as a rule, seek out structure to bust you off.

I would recommend a large landing net for queenies as they are not the easiest fish to release and stress very quickly. They do not like gaffs and often go berserk in the boat, so if possible release them in the water. A final word of warning, queenies can be quite dangerous with their razor sharp spines on top and on their underbelly, which will slice unwary fingers open while posing for photographs.

Offshore there have been the usual captures for bottom fishers, including some quality coral trout, big reef jacks, and spangled emperors, from the shallow reefs. Large mouth nannygai and red emperor can be found in the deeper water on the rubble patches.

Last month I suggested there would be some good Spaniards about and Kerry reports there have been plenty coming aboard his boat, including many around the 9-10kg mark and a few massive ones over 20kg.

Kerry has also been putting his clients on to plenty of fun with the soft plastics, catching heaps of cobia and some massive GT’s. He has been very impressed with the durability and fish producing qualities of the SnapBack range of plastics.

In amongst all the offshore action, there have also been lots of large barracudas creating a bit of havoc with their exciting range of ultra sharp teeth.

One tip I would like to leave all boaties with this month is to watch out for all the logs and floating debris, which will be everywhere after the big wet. The abundance of flotsam makes for some dangerous boating conditions, particularly if travelling at night.

Till next month, good fishing and safe boating.

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