The barra season begins on the 1st of February and it’s one of the most anticipated dates on any tropical angler's calendar.
Unless it is bucketing down with rain, one would expect the local boat ramps to be filled with tinnies by the dozens ready to hit the water. To be able to snare a big barra on opening day is high on many agendas. Many see it as a testimony of how good one is at angling, to be able land a barra just after the bell.
From what I've seen and heard recently, it appears the signs are very positive with barra numbers on the increase. Reduced netting and some green zoning along the coast will undoubtedly be having a good effect. Local guides agree, however, that the accidental barra catches over the closed season were higher than normal.
As we enter one of the wettest months of the year, gutter run-offs and creek entrances into main systems should be holding barra. They will be sitting there waiting for an easy feed to come their way. Live baiting and luring these hot spots will surely reward those that persist. If we have a decent drop of rain you'll generally find it may take a day or two afterwards for these spots to fire. The first half of the incoming and the bottom run-out tides are optimum times to fish.
Two other quality fish that will hit their straps in our rivers and creeks are the mangrove jack and fingermark. You'll probably find the bigger jacks will be more aggressive and will thrive in the wet months ahead. There is likely to be an influx of fresh water this month, so you'll need to consider fishing deeper with lures and presenting baits down in the saltier water columns, particularly when fishing the deeper snags where they prefer to lurk. The freshwater will be on top and shallow and surface lures will not be as effective. Often the water clarity may be muddy so quality fresh dead and strip baits are an option and just as effective. This way the fish will sniff out its next feed rather than having to look for it in the murky conditions.
Grunter, another prized fish of the tropics, also don't mind a bit of fresh bait and you'll generally source the bigger ones along the coastal mud flats on an incoming tide. Strip baits and quality fresh prawns used on a light running sinker rig can offer some brilliant fishing especially if you get amongst the 50-60cm variety. These bigger ones will also take a live sardine and the bonus of presenting one of these is you always have the chance of picking up a barra, blue salmon, queenfish or trevally. All you need is a couple of feet of water across the flats and the fish will be there feeding, particularly during low light periods.
If the beaches receive spells of calm weather, they should also fire with jelly prawn hatches popping up all over the place. In recent times we have seen this occur in patches and the fishing has been red hot for tarpon, queenfish and barra. One would expect a lot of food to be washed out of our local systems and spread along our foreshores this coming month. Be extremely careful if entering the water in pursuit of fish as the box jellyfish will be thick and they arrived in huge numbers already earlier this season. The beach scene should be conducive to fly fishermen and for those presenting live baits caught at the location. Hotspots will be southern Four Mile Beach, Cooya Beach and Wonga Beach where prawn runs can also occur if we receive substantial rain.
Hitting the reef this month will be simply a case of watching the weather and being very careful when you choose to go. It doesn't take much for a storm to whip up from nowhere and get you in trouble. Many boat owners will be watching carefully for any cyclone activity building up and February and March are notorious times of the year for this to occur. Cyclone Ingrid put everyone on very serious notice last year.
Fish that should be on the chew are coral trout, bar cheeked trout, spangled emperor, gold spot trevally and the odd spanish mackerel. February is probably not prime time for reef fishing, but no hard rule applies as to what may be on the go. Working the fish into the new and full moon periods will put you in good stead if the weather allows.
The gamefishing fleet are now winding down from their heavy tackle season and their tactics will change. They'll change their rigs to pursue sailfish as well as the usual suspects such as tuna, dolphin fish and Spanish mackerel. Add in some popper fishing for giant trevally and a really good day can be had on charters. For the real gamefishers, travelling for miles wide of the shelf may produce the odd blue marlin as well. They run much harder than a black marlin and are well worth the effort. Weather will obviously dictate how much fishing these guys will get in this coming month.
All the best for opening of the barra season and if you do land a big one, let it go as there's every chance there is more spawning to go.Reads: 1118