Anglers are catching barramundi thick and fast around Townsville and it seems that the most effective techniques could be best described as ‘the usual suspects’.
Shallow diving lures cast around shallow rocks and headlands towards the top of the tide are doing well, especially in areas such as Cape Cleveland, Cockle Bay, Cape Pallaranda, Kissing Point and local rock walls.
For those keen on trolling, deeper creeks with snaggy bottoms hold the key to success. Use lures that troll at a depth that allows them to bounce or bump slowly over the structure, enticing barra to bite. The better rivers and creeks for this type of angling have been Morrissey’s, Crocodile, Alligator and the Bohle.
Livebaiting has always been the most effective way of targeting big barra and the Bohle River, just north of Townsville, has a reputation as the number one hot spot. The sandbars located out the front of the system and the upper reaches hold a terrific supply of extra large (8-12 inches) mullet and whiting, which act as exceptional baits.
The rock bars at the mouth, snags and shale pads in the first kilometre of the river are always hard to get a position on as they regularly hold the best fish.
I won’t bore readers with more detailed explanations of techniques; instead let’s touch on a species of fish that would pull a barra inside out, is better eating than mangrove jack and prettier than coral trout. They are regularly brought in at 10kg and over, however at this size they live only in heavy structure such as wrecks, bommies and headlands. As a result, more are lost than landed. Perhaps you have guessed it by now – I’m talking about the fingermark.
April is the last of the recognised months to catch not only big specimens but also large numbers of these monster lutjanids. Anglers are always asking for tips on improving their catch rates so let’s see if we can shed some light on some of the common misconceptions.
Fingermark can be caught up to 15 miles offshore always near, around or in structure. Depths of up to 70 feet are not an uncommon hiding place for this species.
The most commonly used bait is squid, especially live squid, but this is by no means the only type of bait to use – mullet and large greenback herring can also be very effective.
When I take clients out on a charter I prefer to rig them up with 50lb braid and slow taper rods. I find that the heavier line helps to subdue the fish faster and the softer rod makes allowance for some inadequacies for those inexperienced in fishing with this method due to its high shock absorbing ability.
All of this may seem a little over-gunned, but because I’m paid to put clients onto fish I need to be careful that we don’t lose fish to poor quality gear. Regular fishers may find 10kg mono more than adequate on most occasions, as long as you have attached a 50lb monofilament leader, which offers greater protection against bust-offs when line comes in contact with structure.
Hook size and styles can vary according to personal preference, bait size and current trends. I have always found 7/0 Tru-Turn in either bronze or Permasteel to be a top quality hook for the job. Paternoster or dropper rigs set at about 50cm off the bottom will reduce the likelihood of your livebait snagging on the bottom, and will also cause the bait to stand out, even at night. This is because you’ve given the bait nowhere to hide and they are easily seen by predators.
On rare occasions fingermark become finicky feeders, but you can overcome this by letting them have a little bit of line before striking. It’s also worth noting that if your strike resembles a golf swing (hard and fast), try stopping yourself around the 10 o’clock mark, perpendicular to your stance. This should improve your hook-up rate.
Lastly, fingermark are schooling fish, which means on some tides it is common to reach your bag limit. Try to resist taking a full bag as fingermark are extremely slow growing. Fish over 80cm are easily 30 years old. This makes the populations hard to replenish, as fingermark don’t spawn until they reach around 70cm and the majority are caught in the creeks well before they reach this size.
We have only just scratched the surface in regards to landing a big fingermark, so keep an eye out for a more in-depth look at this species in this year’s Fishing Queensland annual. Until then, get out there and try a few new things for yourself.
1. Dom Purcell with a lovely fingermark taken on a twilight charter with One More Cast Fishing Adventures.
2. Townsville local Zane Gurtner with a barra taken in the Ross River.
3. Aiden Gaynee with a fingermark taken on the twilight fishing charter.Reads: 1996