Barra Pigging Out
  |  First Published: March 2003

MARCH in the Gulf is a great time to catch a barramundi. By the time you all read this the water should hopefully be flooding the flats and wetlands around the place. Thousands of magpie geese arrive to nest in the swamps and floodplains, and the insects become just about unbearable. When the rivers have a good flush out, thousands of drains and feeder creeks pump water and food into the river. Billions of tiny fish and crustaceans wash in and provide the catalyst for some great lure-tossing sessions.

During March, predators like barra eat so much that they seem to get bigger and fatter then usual. Must be like Christmas for us humans! However, putting on extra weight is a matter of survival for the barra, rather than something to be avoided.


Up until the beginning of February the local wet situation was a bit of a write-off around Karumba again. A bit of an wet start saw the floodplains burst into life with plenty of bird life such as magpie geese and Pacific black and whistler ducks flocking to the place. After this, however, the rain stopped. That early January low that drowned places like the Wellesley Islands and Burketown seemed to sit just far enough to miss Karumba. Whilst Ray at Sweers Island was talking 17 inches halfway through, Karumba received around four inches.

We really need a good wet sooner rather than later, and hopefully the rest of February and March will be wetter than last year.


With the lack of a big rain so far the fishing has been reasonable, with a few grunter out in the channel on the smaller tides. As usual, they disappear as soon as the bigger tides arrive and dirty up the water.

There have been a few nice king salmon caught on the beach on the run-in tide. Live mullet have been necessary as bait, but this is a problem because they have all seem to have disappeared. This could be due to the lack of rain.

The barra have been a bit slow at the start of the season, but they really need a bit of fresh in the river to get them ticking over as well.


March sees the start of the pelagic run at Karumba. Queenfish turn up around the Sand Island and begin to circle the current lines and eddies and smash baitfish, making them a target for lure and fly fishers. The Queenies start small and end up (later in the season) being 10kg monsters, and their fired-up pack mentality makes them aggressive and eager to take most offerings.

Gold Bombers, B-52s and Spearheads all bring results, but for spectacular fishing you can’t go past poppers, such as Fat Rs, ripped across in front of the school. These lures bring immediate and often violent results! If you don’t have a popper at the time, just fish your Gold Bomber like a popper. Cast out long and hold the rod tip up high and crank like mad. Actually, crank the thing as quickly as you would if you were trying to get the lure away from the fish. Queenfish love this.

Trolling lures covers a greater area and can also produce good results. Try trolling a Gold Bomber and a popper. Keep a watch on the popper and don’t think it has to be a hundred miles away; 10 metres behind the boat is far enough. The odd Spaniard is also found following the schools of smaller queenfish around. so if you’re bait fishing in the deeper water it pays to float out a pilchard. Other large pelagics such as cobia and huge, grubby GTs also call in at this time of year.

Grunter should be around the place, but after their behaviour over the last 12 months there’s no way that I’m going to commit to a prediction! The grunter population is in decline around Karumba, and no matter what happens this year something must be done. Allowing fish to be caught when they’ve schooled up to breed just doesn’t help. We protect barramundi and Fraser Island tailor when they breed, but getting protection for a fish that lives in a place with few voters seems a little difficult.

Crabs are also worth a try, but their quality can be a bit dodgy at this time of year. Check each crab carefully because there are plenty of ‘empties’ in their midst.


If you visit Karumba this year, make sure you call in and visit our big new boating and tackle shop, Gulf Marine and Outdoors, situated on Karumba Point Road.

The new store is the brainchild of Rick Castino, owner manager of Tableland Marine and Outdoors in Tolga on the Atherton Tablelands. Gulf Marine is situated in the old Point Store building, providing a great place to renew those lost lures or purchase a new rod and reel.

Mangers Lenny (nickname ‘Con’) and Anthea Wood are at the helm, and anyone who knows them from the Sunset Caravan Park will know that they’ll bend over backwards to help with anything you need.

As well as fishing gear, Gulf Marine and Outdoors also sells camping and outdoor equipment, Honda and Tohatsu outboard motors, Bluefin boats, Honda generators, lawnmowers and whipper snippers, four-wheel-drive accessories and more. There’s also a large mechanical and repair workshop, and welding and fabrication.

To complete the show, the old Point Store is still selling all the groceries you need to complete your holiday in Karumba, catering for retail and bulk orders.


The Idiots Of The Month this time are all of us. That’s right – you and me! After having been to England for Christmas I realised that we are one very lucky country as far as our outdoor lifestyle and piscatorial pursuits go. We should all try a bit harder to keep it that way.

Even though some of us are still grubby littering types who plunder fisheries without a thought for tomorrow, I know that most people try to do the right thing. So if you see some rubbish in the water, please pick it up. Even on the street. Just put it in the bin. By all means whinge like anything, but do it! Think about releasing that big breeding fish, be it a barra or grunter, to breed again and sustain the fishery that gives us so much pleasure.

And if that image doesn’t do the trick, just picture yourself fishing in a little concrete canal with rubbish floating along.

Let’s keep our little patch of heaven just that!

Until next month, keep your rod in your hand.

1) Staff at the new Gulf Marine and Outdoors at Karumba are happy to help with any inquiries regarding boating and fishing.

2) Prawns just like this imitation will be on the menu at the mouths of drains and gutters in March.

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