Super barra story!
  |  First Published: May 2003

IT’S TAKEN me a while to get back into the routine since returning from overseas, and in these uncertain times I felt like kissing the tarmac when I stepped off the plane. There’s no place like home, and when home is a tropical paradise like Cairns it makes you realise the necessity to never take things for granted.


I’ll start this report by recalling a remarkable fishing story that involves a couple of fishing buddies of mine. I’m not allowed to reveal the river where the action recently took place, but I can say that it’s within two hours’ drive of Cairns.

The story begins with two local anglers, Peter Atwell and Col Upham, venturing off for an afternoon’s fishing in Peter's 13ft tinnie. We’re talking serious fishing here, in the form of deepwater trolling for barra. Tidal conditions for the afternoon/evening were a late afternoon high tide change. Every dog has his day, and Col certainly had his on the last trip to Kowanyama, so on this occasion Peter was destined to wear the king’s crown for a while.

The boys arrive at the chosen spot and lures are set out for the first trolling run in the final minutes before the top of the tide. Peter feels a bump on his deep diving Leads lure before realising he’s on and thoroughly locked into what he thinks is a nice fingermark. What a surprise when he gently lifts 99cm of glistening barramundi into the boat! After a photo and release, it was back to the fishing.

Fish 1 to Atwell. Upham turns slight shade of green.

Into the second run and the sun is fading fast. Col gets a bump on his lure but no hookup. They continue on a bit further and Atwell is on again, with another solid battle unfolding on the light baitcasting tackle. The Leads lure sure is sure working, and the fish seem to be on the chew. Barramundi number two was gently lifted aboard and stretched the tape out to 95cm before another happy photo and release.

Fish 2 to Atwell. Colin a stronger shade of green.

The boys get ready for another trolling run, with darkness is setting in quickly. Col’s luck is sure to change! Atwell gets another bump and suddenly he’s hooked up and it is an even better fish. Things are getting more difficult now, fighting a large barra in the darkness in this snag-ridden river bend. In one of those ‘can’t do a thing wrong’ sessions, Atwell captures another beauty. This time the big barra measures 106cm. Yes – he tops the magic metre! More pics and then a successful release.

Fish 3 to Atwell. Colin now very green.

“It is pretty dark Col,” Atwell says at this point. “Do you want to have another run before we go home?”

“Home?” Col says. “Who said anything about home?”

So the fishing continues. It’s dark, but the boys know exactly where to place their lures (or should I say Atwell does?).

Atwell feels another strike and yes, he’s on again. This time a huge barra breaks the surface, but by now he’s well practiced on the rod and so is the boat driver. The barra is eventually brought safely aboard, and what a prize it is: a whopping 112cm! Happy pics were taken, and another successful release.

Fish 4 to Atwell. Colin searching the bottom of the boat for razor blades. Both decide to call it a night.

One would have thought the law of averages would have gotten Col one barra, but no! The final tally was five bumps and four good barra to Atwell. In terms of quality and strike per catch ratio it’s a great result. Well done Peter!


May is usually when local waterways start to cool off a bit. Look for your barra in the deeper gutters and banks of our estuaries and rivers targeting slow tidal periods. Of course, dawn and dusk are prime times. You also have a good chance of picking up some quality fingermark.

Use lures which swim down in the five-metre plus range, and of course troll very slowly. Keep changing lures, and naturally a good sign is if your lure is touching bottom cover or bouncing off branches of any deep sunken snags you pick up on your sounder. Also try casting for smaller barra in the shallow weed beds of the upper reaches of the rivers.

Till next month, see you on the water!

1) Peter Atwell from Babinda shows barra number one (99cm) of the four beauties he caught recently.

2) Atwell displaying barra number three (106cm) of his remarkable barra haul.

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