PACKED boat ramps and abandoned workplaces mark the arrival of the 2004 Barra season at midday on Sunday, February 1. Good luck to those hitting the water this month, and by the time you read this there will hopefully have been enough rain to kick-off another sensational Barra season.
Townsville and nearby estuarine systems will receive an absolute hammering this month now that barra are back on the hit list. With the opening day falling on a weekend and six days before the full moon, conditions will be perfect for those anglers wishing to open their 2004 barra accounts. Time to devise a cunning plan!
Getting quality live bait is the first challenge. Simply be on the water by 10am on the Sunday morning and make use of the receding tide to ambush prawns as they drain from the gutters, mullet as they leave the safety of the shallow sand bars, and greenback herring as they aggregate alongside partially-submerged branches. The early bird gets the best bait, so do your best to beat the rush as it will get harder to find bait as more and more boats turn the water to foam. A great tip is to get your bait the day before and use aerators to keep them live overnight. Being this prepared will make for a far more relaxing and enjoyable day on the water. After all, who wants to spend all day chasing bait?
With a low tide of 1.49m bottoming out at 2.01pm there should be plenty of time to get bait and locate some prime fishing spots before midday. Ideally it would be good to have 20 or more quality live baits in the tank, and by 11.30am be sitting at anchor ready to fish the last two hours of the run-out tide. Check rigs, sharpen hooks and resist the temptation to test fate by hanging a bait over the side before noon! Fish as many rods as you are able and alternate different bait types (prawn, mullet, herring) and rigs (bottom, mid-water, surface) to determine what will work for you on the day.
At around 2pm the tidal flow will slow and this is the time to move and re-anchor ready for the change in tidal direction and speed. With only 0.85m of run on the afternoon tide, use as little lead as possible and concentrate you efforts along rock bars, the edges of deep holes and narrow deep channels flanked by shallow exposed sand bars. At this time of the year barra are extremely mobile and actively feed as they move in and out with the tide. You must therefore place your baits along these ‘highways’ if you want to increase your chances.
If you fish traditional season openers such as the Ross, Haughton, Morriseys and Bohle rivers you’ll probably encounter more boats than at the Sydney Boat Show, but these waterways are still the most reliable (particularly after rain). As each day passes conditions get even better, right up to the full moon on the 6th when an optimal run of 1.3m coincides with an evening high tide and should result in plenty of activity.
One of the great things about Townsville is the number of land-based options for people chasing barra. In fact, your chance of catching a barra in February is probably higher if you leave the boat at home and concentrate your efforts on fishing some of the local waterways around town.
The arrival of the monsoon rains, high humidity and soaring temperatures should see the weirs come to life. Blacks and Gleesons are easy to fish on foot and regularly produce barra up to the magic metre. Poppers, Bill’s Bugs fizzers, Gold Bombers, Rapala Husky Jerks and an assortment of soft plastics are sure winners when fished early in the morning and late in the afternoon. If we get heaps of rain the place to be is Aplins Weir, which separates the salt and fresh sections of the Ross River. When in flood there are endless pools, ledges and back eddies teeming with barra. Be early though, as this area is very popular and it’s not uncommon to see hundreds of anglers working the prime spots. Soft plastics and live tarpon often yield the best results.
Another fantastic spot is the Lakes Stage 1 in the middle of town. The trick to fishing this area is to fish around the pipe running under Woolcock Street, connecting Stage 1 to Stage 2. This pipe supplies saltwater to the Lakes Stage 1 and fishes best on the larger tides. A large hole has been scoured near the pipe and provides the perfect ambush site for big barra. With the exception of a dozen or so shopping trolleys scattered around the Lakes, the area is virtually snag-free, making it very popular with light line enthusiasts.
Trick number 2 is to fish unweighted baits of peeled prawn or live greenback herring. Oddly enough, the humble peeled prawn seems to outfish everything else, with mega Barra over 15kg not uncommon. Lures seem to produce only when there is runoff entering the system after heavy rains.
The inshore scene continues to surprise the locals with consistent quality catches of grey mackerel, nannygai and coral trout rolling on into another month. A recent trip to Magnetic Island’s West Point by Darren Haycock and his family proves yet again the magnificent fishing Townsvillians have within a few miles of the city heart. Live squid fished during the evening found large-mouth nannygai to 5kg, Gold-spot cod to 8kg and fingermark to 5kg willing to play the game. I can’t help mentioning the 1m-plus fingermark that Darren’s wife skilfully outplayed, only to have Darren pull the hook while trying to lift it into the boat. I am told it was a very quiet trip home!
Happy barra hunting!
1) Aplin’s Weir in flood. This is a brilliant land-based option for targeting barra.
2) Shane Bradley with a popper-smashing barra caught at night – a spectacular way to fish!
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