Bring out the barra lures!
  |  First Published: September 2004

THE FIRST of the northwesterly winds will roll into Karumba one afternoon in the near future, signalling the return of the warmer months. This means good fishing, and it also means that the main target species of the time, the good old barra, is starting to get that Friday night feeling. He is heading towards the bar looking for Miss Mundi. Warmer months mean it’s time to dust off the barra lures in anticipation for some good fishing action.

Barra Closed Season Dates

If you’re coming up to the Gulf to chase a few barra before the closure, the starting date this year is October 7 at midday. This is, of course, different from the East Coast start date, which is always February 1. Also different is the minimum size limit of 60cm in the Gulf.

The different dates and sizes are in place because the Gulf is a different place; the tides are different, the winds and the seasons are different. Because of local conditions in the Gulf, the barra here breed earlier than they do on the East Coast, and the closed season is in place to protect these breeding stocks. If you do happen to catch a big barra during the closed season, be sure to release it unharmed as fast as possible.

Scientific research tells us that barramundi congregate at the mouths of rivers in saltwater to breed over a certain period. Barra need special conditions to spawn and these may only occur on several occasions during the entire closed season.

For example, let’s say some barra were congregating at the mouth of a river, and a large breeding female happened to be captured from the group just before the prime spawning time. Wild barra aren’t used to being handled so the stress of being captured – no matter how well the fish was handled and returned to the water – may mean the barra won’t recover in time to breed that season. That’s a big loss for future barra stocks.

What’s happening

Even without the barra there are plenty of other species to take their place over the next couple of months. Without all the foreshore set nets that seem to litter the coastline these days from Karumba North and South, the kingfish will begin to appear, with the odd good fish arriving at the cleaning tables. King salmon are great to eat but are hard to clean as they have great big knobs of bone growing along their backbone. By using a very sharp knife and making sure the tip end is very very sharp, you can cut around the bone and then just tear the fillet away from the rest.

As usual, it’s not possible for me to tell you about all the grunter at Karumba because they just aren’t common any more. Five years ago it was possible to target a grunter in the afternoon for dinner but they are few and far between these days, with the odd larger specimen showing up around the place. They seem to be more prevalent in the deeper areas.

At the time of writing, the blue salmon have yet to make their annual appearance. Normally the middle of August marks the time for the breeding congregation, which can coincide with a large number of tourists being on the water. The end result is ute loads of roed-up frames at the dump, so hopefully the salmon will arrive just after the ‘freezer fillers’ have left town!

There are still a few tuna offshore when the weather permits a trip. Gold Halco Twisties in the 40g range have been the best fish taker.

What to expect for September

Barra, barra and more barra! Get into them while you can as the closed season is around four months long (you get less time than that for belting someone with a stick).

The water should start to warm this month and the barra should start to re-appear in numbers. They’re hungry from their slumber, so September usually makes for some good lure fishing, especially on the bottom with soft plastics.

Last year in September the grunter made a small, late appearance after a no-show for most of the year. Perhaps this year will be the same. I heard a report from a professional fisherman that the odd grunter is being captured in foreshore nets further up the coast, so they are around – but not in Karumba just yet.

Spanish mackerel may still be around. I can recall catching them in September but they certainly won’t be in great numbers, and they will become more patchy as the water warms. Black jewfish also start to re-appear as they congregate to breed in the mouths of the rivers, but they are more a Melbourne Cup proposition.

Strange Sight

The other day we were 20 miles offshore chasing a few tuna for a bit of sashimi, and what a sight met our eyes! A massive turtle, the size of your dining room table, with a crested tern perched on top of it like a cattle egret on a grazing steer. At first we thought the turtle may have been injured and unable to dive, but it soon happily disappeared into the depths to leave the poor old tern to hover again over the scattered schools of northern longtails. This might be a common occurrence elsewhere, but not to any of us on the boat.

Idiot of the month

The other day I was returning from out wide chasing a few tuna as the weather had been unseasonably magnificent with a morning glass-out. On approaching the back end of the sand bar there was the usual stack of boats targeting mackerel. A little closer and once again there was floating Styrofoam everywhere that had been used for floats and broken up during the first run of a fish. I managed to pick up six pieces over a small area.

On getting to the sand bar there were birds everywhere and heaps of little queenies and spotty mackerel belting up plenty of schools of bait. All the pilchard soakers were sitting in their boats, up to five rods apiece from every boat. We opted to head on the inside of the boats and cast some lures. On boating our first good spotty a bloke called out from a boat and questioned how close we were to him. He had no lines in our direction and when I questioned this he reckoned a fish might run over towards us. Well, I haven’t seen too many spotties that could pull 20lb of drag on 50lb line, and when I saw that he was using Styrofoam pieces for his floats it took all my will not to let fly at him. I left Zane Grey to his gamefishing and moved on with the birds.

Until next month.


1) It’s time to dust of the barra lures! This fish came from Sweers Island.

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