The opening of the barra season on February 1 this year was good in comparison to other years.
After a nice early start to the wet season with some good rain in December and January, there was a bit of activity to be had. Combined with small tides for the first time in a while, the result was a few barra around the place for those anglers who braved the heat and humidity.
March in the Gulf is traditionally the time to catch a barramundi. Go and find some drains and feeder creeks pumping water and food into the river, and look for clear water running into dirty water, or vice versa. Anything to make an ambush area.
If there are a couple of egrets or herons perched on the mud next to the drain mouth, that means food is coming out. Even the sight of a small crocodile near the drain mouth is a good indication that there is a food chain happening. Of course, the unforgettable sound of boofing barra or popping king salmon is the best indication.
With the lack of a big deluge so far, the fishing has been best on the smaller tides when the clearer water has made it up the river. There have been a few grunter out in the channel on the smaller tides, and a few nice king salmon have been caught on the beach on the run -in tide.
Walkers Creek flooded in late January and cut the road for a few days. It sent some fresh into the Norman but only enough to influence on the run-out tide. Brannigans Creek up the coast has been pumping freshwater into the Gulf and it should fish well for a while.
The early part of the year, from January to March, is a great time to chase barra and king salmon on fly. This time of year can see barra at their most plentiful, and they are easy to locate at the mouths of the drains as the clearer water rushes off the floodplains to meet the river proper. If the conditions are right, barra may also be targeted off the beach for those anglers lucky enough to find them.
March also sees the queenfish school up around the Sand Island at the front of Karumba, and there’s also a chance of hooking a big fingermark or golden trevally on fly if you can locate a school in the deeper water. Once you’ve located the fish, present a big sinking fly. Be careful though; big, thuggish GTs also roam these parts.
A 9wt or 10wt rod with a selection of lines is all that’s required. Shooting heads are great for pelagic fishing as they can be presented quickly when you sight the fish.
A good quality reel is a must; it’s not uncommon for the big queenies to take plenty of backing on that first run. Barra need a bit of stick early to prevent them making back to a snag, and big GTs need a boat to chase them all over the ocean for a couple of hours.
At present there are several ‘fish trawlers’ working the Gulf, ripping the guts out of the offshore grounds with big trawl nets. Big cod and coral trout, plenty of breeding mangrove jack and fingermark – anything is fair game, even big GTs and batfish.
The best part is that after being caught with undersized fish in Weipa there was a permit issued four days later and then backdated four days, permitting the boats to keep undersized coral trout, mangrove jacks and other fish. Yes, that’s right – if you own a fish trawler you can keep undersized fish in a Queensland fishery. The permit was issued by the Queensland Fisheries Service, the same Government organisation that decides the penalty you face if you keep an undersized fish. When you hear something like this it’s hard to comprehend who lets it happen and how it can happen.
What’s next - a 60-foot trawler running some gear on the flats for grunter and salmon and up the river for a few barra?
1) Saltwater barra on Pink Thing fished on an 8wt.Reads: 463