Last shot at barra
  |  First Published: October 2003

BY THE time you read this things should be mighty nice around Cairns! So let's move first to...


You have the last shot at them before the closure on the November 1. Key times to target a fish are on the 7th, 8th and 9th prior to the full moon. Fish any prominent snag just inside the river mouths as these fish will wait and hold here on the last hour of the run-up tide. As soon as the tide changes the fish will move and the current will be too strong.

After the full moon and back on the neaps are key times for trolling along the edges of exposed mud bars, particularly towards river mouths (but check for water clarity). If strong coastal winds dirty the water, plan other options; for some reason rough water puts barra off the 'chew' at river mouths. The same applies for luring around the rocks, but stick towards the bottom of the tide prior to your new moon which leads you to the 22nd, 23rd, and 24th of October.

The rocks are for fish that are already around the headlands ready to spawn, and sometimes it can be a long time between drinks. You have a great chance to crack one over a metre – and maybe even pull in a fingermark or bad breath (big gold-spot cod).

The beauty of October is you can catch barra during lunchtime on small Prawnstar lures in the warm sun on the weedbeds, and come 7pm through to midnight you can be targeting some metre-plus fish further downstream.


Grunter will show up in October – and I mean the proper models out on the front flats. The peak times are the big tides on the full and new moon periods. In the last hour of the run-up on the tidal flats, fish right up on the edge of the seagrass beds. On the bottom of the tide, fish the edge of the channel, just inside the deep water.

A good old box of Captains Catch squid is the trick with big baits, no. 3 bean sinkers, 30lb swivel, 2/0 bronze Eagle Claw hooks and big long traces of 45lb hard leader. Secure big baits to the small hooks with a half hitch on top. I see no reason to waste good gar on grunter bait, as catfish and black tips can be a problem this time of year.

Grunter are great fish – beautiful to look at, fight like a bag of cats, and you don't have to sit in the sandflies to catch them, as a nice morning wide on the flats allows you to take in some beautiful scenery.


October will see Tinaroo progressively get better. By now the night time bite should be brilliant, with surface strikes through the darkest of nights on surface and shallow running lures in shallow water, making for some memorable fishing. Dead slow is the trick, with lots of movement – and be prepared to get smashed at the rod tip.

The Tablelands receives some heavy dew during October, so rug up and wear something to keep the water off you. Being cold and wet is definitely not making the most of what this great fishery has to offer.

The annual Tinaroo Barra Bash is in November, on the 7th, 8th and 9th, so plan to be there if you can!


So there you have October – and I haven't yet mentioned mackerel at the Islands! Fingermark should also show up during Melbourne Cup week in November in the estuaries. Sooties will be on the night time surface lure chew, and you can still go for a swim and enjoy a cold beer on the beach during the day!

1) ‘Wozza’ Adams with a 950mm barra taken in the freshwater reaches of the Russell River.

2) A hungry cod tried to eat this fingermark while it was coming to the boat.

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