TO THE discerning lure fishermen and women, September in this part of the world only means one thing – our favourite fish, the barramundi, should be waking from its winter slumber.
The first of the north-easterly winds should be rolling into Karumba every other afternoon, signalling that the return of the truly warmer months is not far away. Warmer months mean it’s time to dust off the barra lures in anticipation for some good fishing action.
Here’s a quick overview of what you should bring if you’re up here chasing barra in the Gulf.
Different lures work better in different situations – there’s no ‘best lure’ for barra – so make a decision given the present conditions and then fish confidently with it. Favourites of mine that always produce are: Gold Halco Scorpions, Tilsans, Spearheads and Prawnstars for casting; and Deep Diving Scorpions, Mann’s 20s and River Rats for deeper trolling applications.
One great way to catch holed up barra in deeper water is to use soft plastics and other jigs. Those fish you see on the sounder in the deeper holes that can’t be targeted with conventional trolling lures can certainly be bumped on the head with a Prawnstar or Lead Head Jig. If the fish are in the mood to sit and watch, I guarantee they won’t be able to resist a territorial smashing of a jig that gets in their face! Prawnstar lures work very well. You can catch barra in water as cold as 18 degrees with these things as long as they are in the strike zone.
Barra sometimes get caught on strip baits and frozen prawns, but live bait is by far the best bait. A hungry barra will eat almost anything live that ventures past, and if he decides he doesn’t like it he just spits it out. You can take your pick of mullet, prawns, bony bream or herring. Even small catfish are found in the stomach contents of barramundi. Remember that bream and whiting have a minimum size limit of 23cm.
High modulus six-foot baitcasting outfits with 30lb braided line are the weapon of choice of most for lure casting and trolling You can do all the same tricks with a quality threadline outfit. The new age threadlines that come with heaps of ball bearings and instant anti-reverse are great and accurate casting tools. I use Wilson Live Fibre Rods, both the Classic model and the XX7, which have been great tools and have caught everything from barra to 30kg Spanish mackerel.
As far as reels go, Shimano Calcuttas (100 and 200) are a benchmark in barra fishing with the 400 being good enough to load up with heaps of line and target big Spaniards and cobia. A new kid on the block that we’re trying out is the Daiwa Millionaire CVX 205. With a great deal of precision engineering this reel is a great casting tool, and it should be interesting to see how it handles all the jobs dished out to the Calcutta 100. I’ll report on that in a later issue.
The closed season dates on barramundi are again different this year, and are also different from the east coast closed season. The Gulf closed season this year starts at midday on October 3 and will continue until midday on January 28, 2004. On the east coast the dates remain at November 1 to February 1. The Gulf dates are different because scientific data shows that Gulf barra react to the need to breed on an earlier moon phase than their east coast cousins. This is why the dates are different every year.
In the Gulf the minimum size limit is 60cm and the maximum is 120cm. All the bigger fish from around 85cm and up are females, so it’s wise to release them to ensure future stocks.
This year has been a funny year at Karumba and for some reason the big female barra have schooled up early. The vultures are there in force – up to 25 boats at a time trolling into the current and then screaming back to quickly get another crack at whatever fish are left. It’s as if it’s a race – they have to catch that big fish before someone else does! It’s pathetic to watch.
There was no wet season last year or the year before, so there has been little fish recruitment over the last two years. The future looks grim unless these people stop plundering the big female barra.
There is still a smattering of Spanish mackerel left, with the occasional one coming to the cleaning tables. Doggie mackerel are also still around but most only just make the 50cm legal mark.
Blue salmon have been part of the catch as they congregate on the flats to breed. They will become more prevalent in the catches of the flats fishermen as the water warms and October draws near. Threadfin salmon should start to school up around Karumba as the water temp rises. In past years they have arrived around September but were a little later last year. There’s been no great grunter run this year, due in part to high fishing pressure.
This month’s award goes to the couple staying in a caravan at the Sunset Caravan Park who knocked on the door of a group of visiting New Zealand anglers, all of whom were involved in the tackle industry and the charter fishing industry on the North Island, and presented them with a plastic grocery bag full of small pikey bream because they had “caught heaps more and didn’t need them”. Now there is a surprise! Thanks to those fools for giving some overseas visiting anglers a real look at the state of the fishery here in Karumba and the attitude of some fishers!
Until next month, keep your rod in your hand.
1) Prawnstars are excellent for jigging deep snags.
2) The end of winter means it’s time to pull out the barra lures!Reads: 2006