I have just returned from an enjoyable trip to the west coast chasing my favourite fish: barramundi.
I knew it would be hard to top some of the large fish we captured on last year’s Gulf trip but the first couple of days were encouraging, with seven barra over a metre caught and released. We only fish with lures and release most fish, only keeping a small number for the trip home, and we release any barra over 85cm.
From day three onwards we had to contend with dirty tidal water whipped up by a strong southwester, which prevailed for the rest of the trip and made the conditions very trying. Only two other large barra over a metre were caught and released over the next six days by our group, which included three boats. We mostly slow troll for these barra and we’ve found that it’s important to have relatively clean water. Unfortunately this didn't happen, so the barra action was very slow at times.
But I’m not someone who measures the success of a trip by the fillets in the icebox and I had a great time. Some of the highlights for me included watching a couple of our party get personal bests on barra. My son Shaun managed two fish over a metre, including one beauty at 107cm he trolled up on a Kakadu Tiger Viper. Another fishing buddy, Peter Atwell had his crewman Peter Burke from Brisbane, trolled up a beautiful barramundi of 111cm. Darryl Schwilk managed the best barra of the trip: a beauty at 118cm. Both of these barra were taken on the chrome silver Viper, which was lure of the trip once again.
Inshore, there have been quite good catches of queenfish and school trevally in the local river mouths. There have been good numbers of pikey bream and flathead for the baitfishers and occasional jack, fingermark and blue salmon. Freshwater lurefishers have been getting some success late in the afternoon using small hard-bodied minnows like Shad Raps and gold Bombers for small barra, jungle perch and jacks. Lurefishing has been a bit of a challenge for those chasing barra and jacks in the salt.
Offshore, the strong southeasters continue to rule the fishing days and anglers need to have their boats fuelled up and ready to take any weather window of opportunity that emerges.
Bottom fishing has been generally productive, with large-mouth nannygai being the main target in the deeper water between the reefs. The shallower areas on the reef have been turning up a few quality coral trout. These kinds of catches should continue throughout August.
On the topwater there have been many schools of tuna around, with the best being northern blues up to 8kg taken on small metal slices. There continue to be plenty of Spanish mackerel around and these are being taken in all of the usual ways including trolled gar, wolf herring and floated pillies.
August is usually one of those harder to fish months for inshore estuarine anglers, who have to deal with less than ideal cooler water conditions. For those anglers tossing artificials around in the chilly clear water of our local rivers, take extra care to be quiet and avoid spooking fish, which may not be too keen to strike at this time of year anyway. It’s even more important to make sure you cast your artificials right into the strike zone.
When the water is so clear at this time of the year, look for the best cover possible that may hold fish, use as much stealth in your approach as possible and add in an extra dose of perseverance for the barra, as they are a little sluggish at this time of year. If you are hell bent on casting for a barra, my tip is to focus on times when the conditions should be at their warmest, like a low tide period in the middle of the day when the sun is directly overhead. Another good option is to seek out some deeper structure or snag, preferably in water around 4-7m deep. Try repeated slow trolling through the target zone with some deep running hard-bodied lures like Vipers or RMGs.
If you are still determined to boat a barra, your next best bet is to get hold of some live prawns or small baitfish like mullet, feather bream, mud herring or sardines and float these into some structure on a slow moving part of the tide.
In the past few issues I have reminded readers that this time of year is an ideal time to chase queenfish in all of the local rivers. Well, the queenies have been on and these fish provide superb action for any angler. Many of the queenies are over a metre long and provide excellent fun.
I recommend drifting through the river mouth on an incoming tide in the afternoon and casting surface poppers with a medium action spin outfit. The queenies will readily take a surface lure retrieved quickly. If you are unsure of which type of lure to use, just ask any local tackle store as there are many lures that work well. Just make sure the drag on your reel is in good order and the reel has plenty of line on it as a big queenie will put any tackle to the test. These fish are capable of long and sustained runs and are a very determined fish to beat.
Some people are happy to eat queenfish, but I recommend queenies as a sportfish rather than a tablefish.
Til next month, good fishing.
1) Peter Burke from Brisbane reckoned the long trek to up north was definitely worth it after he caught his PB barramundi of 111cm. This large barra was trolled up in a very small creek.
2) Shaun Mayes trolled up this 107cm barra on a Predatek Viper.Reads: 1989