Barra break ground
  |  First Published: March 2009

The rainmaker has been playing havoc with Mackay anglers, but eventually there was some let up by late March.

On the freshwater scene, run off is continuing into all our dams but recent visits to Kinchant and Teemburra have shown that the water is fairly clean and fish are active. A recent trip to Teemburra showed just how popular this spot is becoming when over 30 trailers were in the parking area at the ramp. This is probably due to the muddy and fresh state that most of our coastal estuary systems are going through.

The barra are firing in the dams, although in Teemburra there seems to be an abundance of smaller fish, particularly in the shallow lake margins. These small barra, up to about 60cm, are very active and will smack lures readily, providing great fun and spectacle as most of the strikes are in clear shallow water.

There are a few larger fish in the shallows and I have seen and spooked a couple of free swimmers in amongst the weed beds that would be in the mid 80cm range.

The larger barra seem to be hanging out in deeper water and many have been caught trolling in water around 4-5m deep. Similarly, some good barra have been caught casting from bank side out into the lake. Best spots to look for are those with banks that gradually fall off into deeper water and with some weeds, rocks or lay down logs that extend out into the deeper water. These types of spots are located all around the main basin of the dam and a good sounder will soon pick up on the structure and show any fish in the area.

For anglers without a sounder, check out the banks above the water line and if they are sloping gradually down into the water then it’s a fairly safe bet this contour will continue out below the water. Most of these above water areas will show good growth of pasture grass and be fairly clear of trees as they had been pulled many years ago to make way for improved pastures.

A sounder is a great help in the dams and with the price of them nowadays, the basic units are well within financial reach and do a surprisingly good job. Technology can be a wonderful help to the angler.

On a recent rip to the dam, local Councillor Dave Perkins and I found barra in two small bays on the western side of the dam. Unfortunately, finding them did not quite equate to landing one and we managed to miss strikes and pull hooks with ease. Most of the barra were smaller although I missed one good fish on the fly rod. At one corner with some weed growth and two lay down logs, I had three small barra jostling each other while chasing the lure.

This took place in clear water within a couple of metres of the boat and was great fun to watch, although the fish seemed more intent on each other than actually nailing the lure. My estimate of these three fish was around 45cm, so they have plenty of growing to do yet. Still it is a good sign for the future.

We found heaps of small baitfish everywhere we went in the dam including up to the top of Teemburra Creek to the stockyard area. There are schools of bait in the shallows and out deeper, and we also spotted a number of bony bream up to about 150mm long, banded grunter and a couple of spangled perch, which I had not seen in the dam for ages. Small shrimps are everywhere in the shallows and I saw one red claw remains right against the bank. So there is plenty of food for the barra and sooties.

The sooties have been fairly active and Dave caught his first up near the stockyards. Teemburra now has ‘special spot’ classification for him as he has caught his first ever barra and now sooty there. The fish was not exceptional, but was in good nick and very feisty. He is now another confirmed sooty convert.

As the weather starts to cool off and possibly fine up, I expect the larger barra in the dam to start looking for warmer waters, and this is likely to force them to move into shallower water. This seems to be the pattern of previous years when the dam was near full, and if this happens the larger barra should be easier to find.

Down in the saltwater, barra are showing up in all sorts of weird places, possibly because of the amount of freshwater run off into the systems. Reports have come in of barra way out on the mud flats, right up in little side creeks and in some cases in the freshwater drains. I have heard of barra being caught on lures along table drains beside roads, being found in cane paddocks and in little causeways.

There has even been a barra almost a 1m long caught from a small pool of freshwater only about 10m by 6m. The fish spent plenty of time trying to get airborne apparently because there was no room to run far in the pool and there was shallow water streams at both ends of the pool.

Rod Meng who fishes the Seaforth area also tells me recently he caught a barra firmly meshed in a crab dilly and had to cut the mesh to release it. It just goes to show, barra are found in all sorts of places, and just when an angler reckons he has them sussed they surprise you.

Crabs and prawns have been on the menu for plenty of Mackay anglers, although the freshwater run-in has sent most of the crabs down towards the front of the estuary systems. Places like Sandy creek, Constant and Murray creek systems are producing well and should continue to do so through the autumn months.

One spot that has been fairly reliable during all the rain has been the flats near the mouth of the Pioneer River, and extending down along Town Beach. These flats have a lot of yabby beds and regularly produce good size golden trevally and, at this time of the year, snub nose dart known locally as oyster crackers. Both these species seem to be able to tolerate the dirty run off water and come mooching right up into the shallows looking for food.

Many anglers fish for snub nose with live whiting baits, but they also respond to lures and flies. Unfortunately being very exposed, the winds can be a major problem for the fly fisher.

So there you have a quick round up of the local scene, which moving through March into April will again be dominated by the wet season and the amount of rain will either limit our chances or, with some lateral thinking, open up new opportunities for anglers.

Remember it does not matter how bad the conditions may seem to us, fish still have to feed to maintain their metabolism, so the trick is to be able to locate the fish in poor conditions. But this won’t happen sitting at home and moping about the weather, so see you at the boat ramp!

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