I recently returned from a DIY fishing trip to Lake Awoonga and Lake Monduran. It was a family holiday with a good mate of mine, our wives and two babies. Nathan had never caught a barra before and although he was somewhat lacking in experience in the fishing side of things he was super keen to learn.
He had never fished on a boat at night and was a bit apprehensive at first but after the second night he was fishing with more confidence and adhering to a few basic safety guidelines. I use the term safety guidelines loosely as it was not only for our safety but also for the safety of the gear being used. Although we did have two little mishaps regarding rods and hatch lids everything went smoothly with no injuries to either of us and we traversed the dam under the cover of darkness without incident.
As our trip progressed from Monduran to Awoonga we had the night fishing worked out really well and had managed to land 101 barra in nine and a half days, with Nathan evolving as a fisho on a daily basis. He actually nailed the 100th fish, and didn’t mind letting me know that he had either.
The night fishing was the key and little things done on the boat at night made all the difference. Here are some of the practises we put into place.
This is by far the most important aspect of night fishing. If you are not used to fishing under the cover of darkness you will be amazed how disorientating it can be. Relying on the moon to illuminate the lake for you can also be disastrous as we found out on our first night out. Thick cloud cover rolled in just as we were making our way through the timber at Monduran shrouding us in complete darkness.
A quality GPS or Plotter is worth its weight in gold in these situations. The trick is to head out in daylight hours and scout the area you want to fish. Once you are confident that you have marked the areas that you will be positioning your boat at on the GPS\Plotter then start making your way back to the boat ramp. Mark the channel or safe travel route you need to take, every 50-100m. In open areas with no obstructions you can lengthen the distance between marks considerably. You may end up with 400 marks to get back to the boat ramp, but you will very grateful for these if you cannot see 10m in front of the boat.
Always try to keep your speed to minimum when travelling at night. Accidents can happen in the blink of an eye in the day when we can see hundreds of metres ahead so imagine how dangerous it can be when you are struggling to see 50m ahead.
Remember that boats don’t have breaks and cannot be stopped immediately. They take a while to get off the plane and when they do the wake that you were pushing tends to propel the boat forward a few more metres. Evading some standing timber or, even worse, a bank you didn’t think was there, could be near impossible.
The night that the moon became covered in clouds at Monduran, we took an hour and a half to get back to the ramp, even though I had the route clearly marked on the GPS\Plotter. It was early in our trip and an accident could have ended it prematurely.
Try to be aware of other boats on the lake. When you arrive at the boat ramp make a mental note of how many trailers are parked there. Obviously there could be more than one ramp but it does give you a general overview.
As you travel down or up the dam, try to see where the other boats are fishing so that if you hear the noise of a boat under power it will help you to place it.
Ensure that your vessel is in a satisfactory and maintained condition because if you break down you will be placing someone else in jeopardy to come and fetch you, and they may not be prepared enough to travel around the lake at night.
Always display your navigation lights when travelling, and when at anchor turn your anchor light on. Some fishos prefer to fish with no lights displayed and this was the case up at the dams while we there, but as soon as a boat started his main engine then lights would be illuminated on the other boats in his proximity. This would then alert the travelling vessel to the other boats whereabouts.
You also need to be aware that a boat coming up directly behind another vessel can often not see his running lights unless the vessel in front has his all round white light on. So just be aware of what’s coming up from behind when travelling.
Headlamps on the boat are great but they just need to be used sparingly as they affect your night vision every time you use one. We only used ours when a fish was deeply hooked or we needed to retie a lure. In saying this we only used lures with a single hook on at night so hook removal was not a dangerous affair.
A good quality spotlight can also be a handy tool when travelling under the cover of darkness. Keeping the lens of the spotty below the level of the gunnels helps to stop your eyes copping the glare.
All our tackle maintenance was done back at the cabins in the daylight hours. Lures were modified and hooks sharpened. Leaders were checked for excessive wear and tear and if they looked dodgy were re-tied. A spare rod was stowed in the rod locker for both anglers with a lure on ready to fish.
After our little incident with the hatch lid shortening a few rods, it was decided to keep excess rods off the deck altogether and keep the spares stowed in the rod locker. That way any chance of another accident was erased.
We stuck to using plastics with large single hooks that made hook removal a lot safer. Try to stay away from lures with multiple treble hooks as they are fairly difficult to extricate from barra in the daylight hours, let alone in the dark of the night. If you have to use them then exercise caution and make use of long nose pliers.
Long nose pliers and a lip gripper were placed on the side of the boat for easy access, as well as a brag mat.
The brag mat was wet with dam water and then rolled up and placed on the side of the boat. When a fish was hooked and eventually netted, the brag mat would be unrolled for the fish to be placed on. The fish would then be removed from the net with the lip grippers and the hook removed.
After a few quick photos the fish would then be released and all the tools stowed out of harms way, the most important being the brag mat. When these plastic mats get some barra slime on them they are an accident waiting to happen. If you haven’t stood on a wet one yet then you better watch out when you do!
One last point to add, when casting exercise caution, especially with more than two blokes in the boat. A cursory backwards glance before making the big heave is a must. All you need is for one of your mates to kneel down behind you and he could be wearing a lure in the cheek. I have seen it happen and all were experienced anglers on board at the time. We had no such problems on this trip and everything went smoothly, and the fish even played the game for once.
Fishing the dams at night may sometimes be the only way to tempt the fickle dam barra into biting, but just remember that it only takes a few minutes of extra preparation or caution to ensure your night fishing experience can be a pleasant one.Reads: 2302