Fishing in the Big wet
  |  First Published: February 2009

The big tropical wet arrived in the north courtesy of cyclone Ellie and just in time for the opening of the barra season.

In early February, the immediate fishing outlook looks pretty grim with the prospect of another cyclone descending upon us. At this time of the year the unpredictable weather makes it difficult to forecast realistic fishing options.

Prior to the heavy rains we had some ideal weather that allowed every man and his dog to get out to the local reefs in small tinnies and take advantage of the coral trout. There was also some good mackerel around as a bonus. Bottom bouncers stocked up iceboxes with sweetlip, nannygai, reef jacks, spangled emperors, gold spot cod, rosy jobfish and a few others.

The recent calm weather we had often coincided with afternoon and evening storms, making night trips for reds a pretty risky proposition. But those who did make it out were rewarded with some quality large mouth nannygai and red emperors.

March is usually a top fishing month if we are not dealing with flooding. Assuming that the flood run-off subsides, the barra fishing should be firing.

Heavy flushing in the rivers and estuaries indicates a lot of barra will be found out along the local headlands. Good spots to try are the headlands north of Cairns and on the eastern side of Trinity Inlet, accessed along the Yarrabah Road. Rocky outcrops such as Yorkeys, Trinity Beach, Taylors Point, just before Ellis Beach and onwards towards Port Douglas are easy to access on foot. But take the time to prepare a backpack of essentials for a couple of hours before driving up there – simple preparation makes for a very different fishing outing.

March is an ideal time to try a rock hopping adventure. Rock hopping is a very enjoyable outing without the extra hassle of worrying about a boat. A basic list of necessities should include lures, spare leader, pliers, scissors, knife, sunnies, hat, sunscreen, water, snacks, camera, hand gaff or lipgrip, measuring tape and of course your rod. A good comfortable pair of non-slip shoes is essential and I would encourage you to travel lightly.

As the wet starts to slow, the creek drains and creek mouths in the Cairns inlet and the local rivers should produce barra. Boating anglers should look for new snags on the water, which will be prevalent after all the rain and strong winds we have been experiencing. To spot a new snag look for the green leafed mangrove bushes, branches and trees that have recently fallen over in the wet and obviously the bigger the better. These new snags will often hold fish and are a must to cast your hardbodies or soft plastics at. Again, look for bait holding at these points and you will probably be in luck.

When chasing barra, sometimes anglers try to work their lures too far out when often the fish are right under foot. Plastics in the form of Squidqy Slick Rigs do the trick on big barra. But remember there are also many lures alternatives to soft plastics, including shallow diving hardbodies like B52's and the ever reliable gold bomber.

The most productive times coincide with sunrise and sunset and the tide changeover periods. Work the lures slowly, look for bait movement and be persistent. It is also important to move around and look for back eddies that are created behind the rocks as the water moves past.

Just remember the huge barra that you catch will be a big breeding female about to have a late spawning run. Please handle these big beauties with care and consider releasing them to do what nature intended.

Looking ahead for March and April, the barra are a far better proposition on falling creek levels as the water clears than they are when the water levels are rising. If the rains continue then I recommend using the time to catch up on a few of those jobs you need to do, like the trailer wheel bearings or the nav lights.

Till next month happy wet season fishing.

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