Barra Back On
  |  First Published: February 2009

As with just about every northern region many of the local anglers here have a fixation for barramundi. These prized monsters can be all through the waterways from the freshwater lagoons and creeks feeding the top end of the Fitzroy River, right down to the salt and out to the nearest islands.

The myths and legends surrounding this iconic sports fish make it hard to resist trying to catch at least one in your fishing career. Many visitors to Rockhampton ask where they can go a get a barramundi and when we tell them that some of the best fish are caught between the bridges in the middle of town they look at us with disbelief. We recommend that you try both fresh and saltwater barramundi fishing and get the best of both worlds.

The fresh end of the Fitzroy has a fish ladder at the barrage (which stops salt water reaching the fresh) and local stocking groups release fingerlings into the system to grow and fatten before moving down to the salt. This means that just about anytime you can catch barras if you try the right spots.

One of the better places is Hedlow Creek and Lake Mary. Starting down towards the coast, the water flows from Limestone Creek into Lake Mary and Hedlow, then into Alligator creek and finally into the Fitzroy River. Hedlow itself is a beautiful spot with picturesque swimming holes. The abundant structure and small baitfish make it ideal for the smaller barra to grow out without too many predators to get them first. This area is accessible from the road and you don’t need a boat to get amongst the barra.

Because of the average size of the fish and the size of the baitfish they feed on we find small lures work the best. Richoes Minnows and Reidy’s Little Lucifers work very well. There are quite a number of huge logs running from the bank out into the deeper water, where the small barra hide. The logs also make a fine platform to stand and cast. One technique that works is to cast out to the end of the logs and bounce the lure off wood kicking up bits of weed and mud. This switches the barras on and sometimes you see three or four fish chasing the lure at the same time. It is not unusual to land half a dozen fish between 35cm-70cm on the one log.

The retrieve rate used for these fish needs to be a bit faster than retrieves used when targeting saltwater barra, and you still need to give the lure a few jigs on the way in. I have never taken any fish home from Hedlow for a couple of reasons: one, freshwater fish don’t eat as well as saltwater specimens; and two, these fish haven’t had a chance to breed yet.

There is easy access to Lake Mary and Hedlow from the Yeppoon-Rockhampton Road. There is also a few farm stays situated along the watercourse where you can stay and fish to you hearts content. Anyone considering staying or fishing there can get maps and details from The Capricorn Coast tourist information centre in Yeppoon or RBTI in Rockhampton.

As far as catching a saltwater barra goes it can be as simple as finding a comfortable spot along the Fitzroy banks right in the middle of town, near the bridges. Lures or live bait both work well, teamed with a bit of persistence. Upstream the River always fishes better after the flood flows have slowed, while downstream is pretty well an all year fishery.

February is right in the middle of our usual wet season, and all indications show that we should get a wetter than average season this year. The main players of the season, barramundi and salmon, are the first to start feeding. Compared to other species, these fish are hardly affected by fresh in the system. Whenever there is a fresh flow these guys hang anywhere there is a colour change, like the point where small creeks enter the bigger watercourses.

Being primarily ambush feeders, hiding along the edges gives barra great cover from baitfish and prawns. Right through the barramundi fishing closures there were quite a number of barras reported by the guys chasing fingermark and jack down the bottom end of the River. Port Alma, Casuarina, Connors Creek and down towards Rundles have all been fishing well for fingermark and jack.

Most of the guys that fish here do a fair bit of trolling to cover the area. Fingermark will readily smash nearly any size lure and we are having success with the local made Richoes and some of the deeper imported stuff like Manns+20. Plastics require a little bit more work but the results speak for themselves. The bigger the plastic, the better the chance of scoring a bragging size fingermark.

We are finding that the fish type plastics are getting the majority of captures over the other styles. Also after much success fishing frog styles at Awoonga, we wanted to test them in the salt. The results are pleasing with queenies, barra, salmon and trevally so far, but no fingermark yet.

There is a whole lot of very fishy looking country along The Narrows and Curtis Island being explored that was relatively left unfished except by the pro crabbers. With the influx of bigger, better, faster estuary craft many anglers now have the opportunity to fish the more remote parts of the region.

The increased fisheries presence and the new legislation restricting netting by different groups in The Fitzroy has gone a long way to ensure a fishing future in our area. In January there was a couple of big nets found in the major barra aggregation spots, and at least one group got nailed with 120m net and we are hoping that the courts follow through with harsh penalties to deter these environmental exploiters.

Spanish mackerel are the flavour of the month as far as pelagics go at present. The bigger tides seem to be the best time to fish, with the islands and headlands working most of the time too. There is a fair amount of small bait in the bay at the moment so smaller Chromies have been getting a good share of the action. Pilchards have also had a good trot. Manifold, Flat, Perforated, Conical, Barren, Man and Wife, Outer and Liza Jane are the pick of the mackerel locations. When the water calms down and the bay is clean they come into Rita Mada, Ironpot and Findlay’s.

Most reefies, including reds, sweeties and trout, have been chewing in close and have all been taken around the islands in the last week or two. Estuary or reef the options are there as a back up plan (weather pending) to the abundant barra.

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