Monster macks ‘n’ barra!
  |  First Published: September 2004

THE FISHING recently has really lived up to predictions with August turning out to be a top month, and now here we are in September – traditionally one of the best months on the tropical fishing calendar.

There have been many reports of big Spanish mackerel over the last few weeks and there should be plenty more by the end of this month. Kerry Bailey from Cairns has been getting a few and putting some anglers onto top quality fish. Recently he took local boys TJ and Tony from Coastal Marine in Cairns out to try their luck, and the boys weren’t disappointed. TJ and Tony chased nannygai and trout on the bottom, and according to Kerry the southeasters were really blowing that day and TJ was having trouble coping with the swell... something about the food he ate for breakfast (yeah, right!).

Anyway, the boys had stopped at one of Kerry's spots and the floater line was despatched. While coffees were organised the floater went off and TJ, who was a little green around the gills, latched onto something big. The hefty Spaniard peeled off about a 150m on its first run and then TJ settled in for quite a battle in the rolling swell. Another 100m of line blistered off in the second run by the big creature before TJ really started to make some headway and get the fish near the boat. Kerry was getting pretty concerned at the colour of TJ, but the green boat salesman managed to hold it together long enough for Kerry to gaff the mack and bring the huge fish onboard.

The next thing Kerry and Tony saw was TJ hanging onto the side of the boat, leaning over and yelling out to some friend of his called ‘Raaalph’! TJ, who still maintains he was just setting up a berley trail for the next mack, was stoked to have boated his best ever mackerel. On 15kg mono the 30kg Spaniard was a pearler!

Bottom fishing

The bottom fishing has been very good when the winds have abated, with most anglers getting coral trout and nannygai (both large- and small-mouth) as well as a variety of mackerel from spotties to Spaniards. This should continue throughout the month, probably tapering off heading into October.


Inshore anglers have been nailing quality queenfish in the river mouths of the Russell/Mulgrave and Daintree rivers.

The slower tides have produced a few fingermark in the deep water of the Cairns Inlet, and jack activity is picking up with more captures. September is usually a good month for fingermark on livebait, and it’s also worth trolling deep running lures at any of the close reefs and headlands for these fish. Fingermark catches will increase as the warmer weather sets in.


Garry Smith compiled last month’s Cairns area report for me as I was on a 10-day fishing extravaganza to the Pormpuraaw area on the Gulf side of Cape York Peninsula. What a trip this turned out to be! I have regularly fished that part of Cape York since 1979, and this year’s trip was one of our best ever in terms of quality fish and numbers of big barra.

These days the only way we fish for barra is with lure and fly. On this trip we concentrated on trolling deep-diving lures like Vipers and 4-5m Scorpions through the abundance of barra structure that exists in these Gulf rivers. In our party of eight anglers there was only one fisher who did not make a metre barra capture on the trip, and the largest barra was a 132cm horse which I caught (and released) on Priscilla coloured Viper. On one magical session David Mayes caught three barra over a metre. Dave also was pleased with a barra of 94cm taken while casting a snag. Col Upham and Peter Atwell also showed just how good they are as anglers with a bunch of quality barra up to 122cm.

Barra Lengths and Bag Limits

It’s time for Qld Fisheries to review its laws in relation to barra bag limits and legal lengths. In our fishing group we have a policy to release any barra under 62cm and over 85cm, and it would be good if more anglers and fishery managers took this on board. I have seen anglers from another fishing party killing every barra they caught over a metre, which they are legally entitled to do, but I found this practice distressing to observe – and I can vouch for the poor eating qualities of those magnificent large barra who are far more valuable to any fishery as breeders. Such greedy fishing practices are surely, in 2004, viewed by most forward-thinking fishos as nothing more than outdated red-necked ignorance.

Till next month, good fishing!


1) TJ and Tony from Coastal Marine in Cairns hold up TJ's monster Spaniard taken using a pillie on a floater line while fishing with Kerry Bailey.

2) David Mayes was more than happy with his best ever saltwater barra. This fish stretched the tape out to 110cm on a recent trip to the Gulf, and was released after the photo.

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