Barra season takes off
  |  First Published: March 2004

MARCH usually means mackerel and mud crabs in Yeppoon. This year is already proving to be a reasonable year fishing-wise; at the time of writing there was a string of days you could have gone almost anywhere in a reasonable boat. Some catches at present look like catches made in the early eighties (allowing for limits) – even a few of the old diehards are seeing the uplift in local fishing. The closer places such as Barron, Humpy, Outer, Man and Wife, Rita Mada, Pelican, Wedge, Divide, Conical, Liza Jane Shoals and The Keppels have all had a show of either Spanish mackerel or an early show of doggies. There’s an abundance of baitfish in our area during March, and sometimes Spaniards will grab small Flashas and feathers over gar, bonito and ribbonies. This is not always the case, depending on what’s where at any given time. The island spots work OK on slower tides and when the run picks up the shoaly, pinnacle areas hold the attention of the big fellas.

During March we generally score the odd doggie at the wider close spots and as the month progresses into April they move into the bay. Often on calm days they get nailed at some of the shore-based grounds. In next month’s edition I’ll discuss some of the better methods to use when doggie hunting.

A couple of weeks ago one of my offsiders nailed a huge rainbow runner while fishing for Spanish at Flat. Until then I had never seen a rainbow runner bigger than 1kg, and for this area that’s pretty big. On that day we saw schools of them going ape on small whitebait and we thought they were yellowtail king until we landed one. The schools of them that come through must be mistaken at times for yellowtail kings, as they look the same from 20m or more. Unfortunately, I hadn’t looked them up in the Grants Bible before and we used him as bait, not knowing that a fish of that size is a good tablefish. The style of fishing he suggests to catch yellowtail kings works well on rainbow runners, although small Trollheads do the trick. Future trips will include a fast jig at the numerous schools crossing our paths.

Cobia have slackened off. After what seemed a great burst early in the season they never fulfilled their promise.

Coral trout have been taken at spots unheard of in recent years. On recent dive trips (not spearing) we have seen trout everywhere around the islands. Bigger than usual trout are in numbers at the quieter spots that would surprise many of Yeppoon’s fishers. They’ve been caught on poppers, shallow divers and deep divers, and troll baits on downriggers have accounted for their share.

All the regular reefies are prowling the shallow waters and feeding well. The late afternoons are proving to be the right time and the tides don’t make a lot of difference – just find a spot in less current if it’s running too quick. Another fish making a good impression on the scene is red jew (also called large-mouth nannygai and scarlet seaperch). These fish are mainly on the small side compared to those caught in the deeper redfern country, but a 3-4kg fish is tastier than the big ones anyway. They like the rubble type bottoms in the 20-30m range just out the back of the main island group out from Yeppoon.

A funny thing happened to a pair of local lads this week. They had just finished fishing at one of our northern grunter hotspots and the anchor became stuck. They pulled and pulled until the anchor came loose... almost. They had hooked a piece of don’t-know-what and they couldn’t lift enough to unattach the pick. The boys decided to head in to the nearest beach and remove the object at hand. On closer inspection they realised it was a big piece of The Rama, a wreck that’s up the coast from Yeppoon. When they learned what they had, Mare and Gus towed the piece back out again. Since then, several other guys reckon they’ve had trouble locating the wreck. I can’t believe they moved a ship with a tinny!

Muddies have filled up once again and the season is going well. The River is average and it takes time to locate where the crabs are working. The other crabbing areas are much easier to cover and the crabs are coming much easier. Though the catches aren’t huge, the crabs are full and there are plenty of bucks when compared to previous months when females dominated the captures. Prawn sizes have been up and the catches lately have been just right. The dirty lower tides have been a bonanza for those who made the effort. Coming home with a feed of top prawns always scores a brownie point or two towards the next fishing outing. Sitting on the beach chewing on prawns and crabs watching the storms over the bay is hard to take, and who cares whether you get a barra?

Barramundi season took off with a bang and there were a few very nice captures in the Capricorn region. The spots were varied and on opening Sunday the barra didn’t cooperate with any enthusiasm. Monday and the tables had turned. Barramundi were taken in all the favourite creeks from Port Alma, Coorooman Creek, The Causeway Lake, Ross Creek and Corio Bay\Waterpark Creek. Rain and the fresh flows have been keeping the majority of quality barra downstream at all the above. Prawns, poddy mullet, greenback herring, whiting, bony bream and hardiheads are the choice of baits in the creeks, while lures are doing the job in the dirty waters of the Fitzroy.

The other species that have taken backseat for the last month persist to keep anglers happy. Fingermark and mangrove jack probably taste better than a lot of other fish and make a welcome addition to the creel. There’s no problem getting bait in any of the estuaries except for The Fitzroy, and that will come good when the gates at the barrage close.

Capricorn Sunfish has been researching the barra lifecycle for a number of years, particularly looking at annual spawning and recruitment into the nursery areas in our region. Sunfish monitors baby barra by catching them and recording the details, indicating how successful spawning has been and how many fish go into critical areas. The last few years have been very very poor, but the storm rains from last year are showing some success – monitoring has show a few turning up already in critical areas. There’s a need for the broader fishing community to keep a lookout, and you can help by measuring barramundi, caught in castnets or by line fishing, from 60-120mm long. Please call Infofish Services on 1800 077 001 to pass on the information.

1) It’s barra season again and the world’s a happy place!

2) Pete Sutton with his oversized rainbow runner.

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