Wet Season Run-off
  |  First Published: March 2003

Keen northern fisho Dave Powell will now be supplying QFM readers with a monthly report on the freshwater fishing around Cairns.

OUR local freshwater scene in the tropical north has been in dire straits due to the fact we've endured an extremely dry Winter after completely missing last year's wet season. We did have a casual eight inches of rain overnight prior to the opening of the barra season, which caused some minor flooding in the coastal rivers, but this soon receded.

The much anticipated follow-up rain seemed to have gone into tropical cyclone Benni, which made its way around the Pacific and ended up south. If your local area ended up receiving a good rainfall from this – enough to get your local cane drains, flood gates, rainforest creeks, tea-tree swamps and back water lagoons flowing – it will provide a great food source for predatory fish as it drains into the main river.

After you receive your first lot of solid rain, try to hold off for two to three days because the temperature drop in the river will be dramatic. Depending on how much rainfall you receive, a good time to start targeting fish around these colour changes is when the water drops down just enough to be level with the riverbank edge, giving your predatory fish time to adjust to this temperature change,. Some great fishing can be had working the clear run in water along the edge of the dirty main river water or visa versa, depending on how much rain you’ve had.


Tarpon will sit right at the mouth in the foaming water during flood time. Jungle perch will be there too, as they seem to love this cold water which is part of their preferred habitat. Sooties will hang in and around the flooded molasses and pannikin grass, waiting for all your stranded grasshoppers, black crickets and every other insect labelled on a Mortein can.

Barras, however, are a late afternoon/evening proposition and are usually situated somewhere just downstream from the colour change on a deep-water snag. Now, when it comes to barras, the tarpon that you caught on your new Bass Master soft plastic is probably better off with a 9/0 nailed through its back and floated off down that colour change to be traded for a proper model. You can also use mud cod, sleepy cod, freshwater mullet and big freshwater shrimps that live in the cane drains. You can catch all of these on small pieces of prawn or in collapsible bait traps.


If you want the low down on lure selection for working these colour changes, it's hard to go past the standard 8” Barra Bait for night time. Gold Bombers, pending water clarity and depth, and Prawnstars and Rios do the trick by casting wide, letting them sink to the bottom and that ever-so-slow jerk retrieve. There's nothing like getting absolutely flogged at your feet on a dead slow retrieve on a large Prawnstar in dirty water!

If ever you’re going to have success with soft plastics, now is a great time to restore your confidence in them. If you don't, jam them into the back of your tackle box and donate them to the GTs around the pylons in Weipa.

1) Laurie Powell with a 1.2-metre barra caught during a trip with the author.

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