Time for something else
  |  First Published: November 2003

IF YOU’RE fishing in the Gulf, barramundi are off the shopping list from October 3 until January 28. East Coasters are also in the midst of our annual barra drought. It’s a bit puzzling as to why the closed season would be two weeks longer then last year. Four months is a long time in fishing and this closed season leaves a big gap in what’s available to target in the southern Gulf.


Even with the barra off the list the menu of available species is still good, with plenty of options in and around the southern Gulf to keep us merry as we come up to the Christmas period.

King salmon

For king salmon try the mouths of creeks that are running in a bit of a colour change on the last of the run-out tide. As the tide starts to run in, fish any shallow bends on the corners near the mouth of the river. King salmon are shallow water feeders on the start of the run-in and can sometimes be seen foraging around the banks after prawns. On smaller tides with clean water, fish deeper holes with mullet fillets. At any other time, live mullet and prawns are the shot. Strangely enough, trolling big deep-diving lures on the neap tides in deep water is also a great way to get XOS king salmon. Don’t be surprised if they nail the lure on the turn.

Blue salmon

Pretty much the same king salmon techniques apply to blue salmon, except that live bait isn’t essential. Half a pilchard is also good bait for blueys, as is nice, fresh squid strip.

Black jew

A mainstay of the barramundi closed season, the black jew is an admirable opponent on any gear. The more you pull the more they pull. Use fresh as possible bait in the deeper holes on the bottom of the slack tides. Black jew like to hunt the edges of holes, and even a fresh catfish fillet is a good bait. In Karumba, black jew can also be targeted from the beach at Karumba Point.


Quality fingermark move into and up the river systems at this time of year. Any live or fresh bait is a good start, and these fish inhabit the same territory as the black jew.

General tips

All of these species can be targeted in the river at this time of year. This is good because, with the continuous northerlies of this time of year, fishing the flats in front of Karumba is a real problem. If you happen to catch a barra, make sure that you handle it carefully to ensure its survival. Some tips for successful release are as follows:

• Really big fish should, if possible, be unhooked in the water. If this is not possible place the fish on a wet surface and cover with a wet towel. This can be done with all fish, as it protects the slime coat and helps keep the fish calm. A good trick is to have the deck wash (if you have one) running water into the mouth of the fish and over the gills. This keeps the fish in good condition.

• Support the weight of big fish and be quick. Fish can be swum boat side in between shots.

• Don’t release the fish until you’re sure it’s right to go. Barra in particular will bite your thumb when they are ready. Once they do, hang on for a while longer until they start throwing their head and then they should be right. Keep an eye on the surface for a while to make sure the fish isn’t in trouble.

• The new Environets are the way to go as they remove little of that protective coating. A comfort lift of small fish is also good. Any net is better than a gaff.


In a year where there’s been so much bad news coming from my keyboard about many people taking breeding barra and overfishing in Karumba, it’s refreshing to be able to report on a good idea coming from part of the commercial sector.

Keith and Joey Dellow, former shark and mackerel commercial fishermen, have created a new business – La Landii Chews – which produces pet food snacks made from 100% shark cartilage. These snacks are produced from the backbones of sharks, a product that would normally be thrown overboard.

The benefits of shark cartilage have been known for some time in the treatment of joint inflammation and in cancer treatment and prevention, and now those benefits are available for the humble family pet. The snacks are a great source of protein, calcium, vitamins and minerals, and they’re also low in fat. The early results on a couple of local dogs that are a bit long in the tooth have shown an increase in mobility and a reduction in the effects of arthritis.

For more information you can contact Keith and Joey on (07) 4745 9091 or at


After reporting the damage done to our fishery by so many irresponsible fishers this year, it’s great to fish with a decent person who’s content to fish for all the right reasons.

John from Brisbane joined me in early October for a trip up the coast but it had to be cancelled due to the weather. John’s expectations were simple enough – he wanted to catch one fish and get one mud crab for dinner. He told me that the day on the water, away from the rat race of Brisbane, would be reward enough. I proposed a trip up the river for the day to compensate for the cancelled overnight trip, and John’s goal of one fish and one crab seemed achievable given the time of year.

Well, he got his first, second and third barra in the first half hour and then a nice king salmon. We managed his crab and John was a happy man. The rest of the day saw plenty or crocs, jabirus and other sight-seeing up the river.

John was so pleased he booked again for the next morning. Half an hour into the trip he hooked and eventually landed a massive barramundi of 116cm, and it was that fat it would have been at home in Tinaroo. This was John’s second legal sized barra and he was thrilled. It was caught on a 20+ River Rat in the Parramatta colours (it’s John’s league team and the lure is now known as Brett Kenny), and the fish was released in good condition to hopefully breed up for years to come. John’s expectations for the morning’s fishing? He only wanted to catch one fish.

Until next month, keep up the good fight.

1) They can't all be gems, but this day was for John.

2) Keith and Joey processing shark cartilage.

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