Great news! The rain has stopped. As much as we all look forward to the wet season and realise it is a vital part of the health of our environment, it is a pleasant change to be drying out and not having mould growing everywhere.
The last couple of days have seen the weather change to a stable light wind, with daytime temps up around 30ºC and the garden sprinklers in use. This weather will herald in a change in the fishing seasons and species, from freshwater to saltwater.
In the dams, barra are still on the to-catch list, although once the temperature drops another 5-6ºC they will become much harder to catch. Locating barra in the dams will not be impossible, but convincing them to take a lure can be difficult. When this drop in climate happens, it pays to be persistent if you want to snare a barra in the dams.
Look for bays and points that have slightly higher water temps than surrounding areas; even 1ºC can make a difference. The barra tend to move into the shallower sections looking for that warmer water.
During the cooler months I find that the barra seem to bite more freely in the late afternoon and this is probably due to the sun warming the water surface during the day.
If you can locate a shallow bay with a sandy or decomposed granite bottom and some weeds on a day with raised water temperatures then you are most likely to find barra in the area. The sand and granite bottom will help to absorb heat and retain it late into the afternoon and early evening.
In the cooler weather barra don’t seem to feed so actively and for the most part are reluctant to smash surface lures, which is unfortunate as that is my favourite way of catching them. The odd fish will take a well presented Tango Dancer or popper just on dark, but there can be a lot of casts between fish. This time of the year, in my view is the time to break out the old favourites in hardbodies, like Reidy’s B52s, Gold Bombers, Tropic Anglers, all in highly reflective finishes and all shallow diving lures.
These can be worked along the front of weed beds or around the weed islands in the warmer bays. Give the lure plenty of rips and twitches with lots of time between when the lure either suspends or floats slowly to the surface. As the lure breaks the surface give it a few nudges to just get it to dip below the surface and then give it another decent rip.
As the fish are in pretty shallow water, usually around 1-2m deep, keep the boat well off and make long casts. As well as not spooking fish with the boat, this allows the lure more time in the water and more chance of attracting a barra as it rattles, swirls and dips during the retrieve all the time flashing light off the reflective sides.
Plastics are also a good bet for nabbing a barra at this time of the year. Fish the plastics in the same places as described and if two anglers are working a spot it is a good idea to have one using hardbodies and the other fishing plastics, to try to work out what the fish prefer on the particular day. Remember though just because the barra prefer a hardbody one day, the next day may be a plastics day, even when fishing in the same spot! It pays to be versatile and have a range of options open if you want to keep catching barra into the cooler months.
There are literally dozens of plastic lures on the market, but I generally stick to a couple of types, both in paddle and curly tails. Some of the pre-rigged lures are excellent, like the Tsunami, Squidgey and Storm range and they have quality hooks. Daniel Grech recently introduced me to Hollow Bodies and these things have an unreal (or should that be realistic?) swimming action that will see them cast from my rods plenty of the time.
Unrigged bodies can be found by the dozen in any tackle shop, and while I am as much of a lure “accumulator” as anyone, I generally again stick to a few brands. I like Berkeley Jerk Baits for fishing in very shallow water, often with only a worm hook for weight and also use Squidgies the same way particularly with the curly tail. The Tropic Angler plastics with the scalloped tail wrist also provide heaps of action at low speeds, which in my opinion is one of the keys to success. Obviously there are plenty of other plastics that will bag a barra in the dams but these types and brands are good starting points.
Still in the freshwater, the cooler months will find Mr Consistency, the old sooty, still on the prowl and ready to hammer any lure that comes close enough. Over the last couple of months the sooties have saved many a trip for me and provided heaps of fun when the barra were not on the bite or I could not convince them to get on the job.
On one memorable trip, we found sooties way up in the top of a creek in water less than 30cm deep. The fish were intent on making lots of little sooties and for the second time in my life I had the opportunity to walk in among wild fish in a stream and have them swimming around my ankles. Great stuff! And yes, I saw some sooties well over 50cm long but could not hook one. Still just being there in the clean, clear shallows with the fish was a real buzz for all of us.
These sooties were smashing the odd lure, but were not really on the chew. I estimate between three of us we caught around 30 to 40 sooties in a couple of hours, all on very small lures and some on surface poppers. Great fun in the shallow rapids and holes we were fishing.
During the cooler months the sooties stay on the bite right through our freshwater river systems as well as in the dams. Look for sooties around heavy cover, along rock banks and under overhanging trees in the creeks and rivers. These fish are absolutely top sport fish and in the beautiful spots where they live, fishing for them is good for the soul.
On the saltwater scene, the barra are still around and will be for a few more weeks. The clearing up of the water and the plentiful supply of prawns and other bait will mean plenty of action for the saltwater barra angler. Live baiting with prawns or mullet is the most productive way to catch barra in the salt, which can be found near snags, rock bars, small run-off gutters and any creek junction. One problem with using prawns is that everything else in the creek will have a crack at them. That’s not so bad if it’s a decent cod, fingermark, jack or grunter, but plenty of times it will be a small Moses perch, or undersize bream or cod.
Estuary cod will be one of the regular species in the creek anglers catch over the next few months as well as pikey bream and salmon. Recent reports indicate that there are plenty of kings and blue salmon in Murray, Constant and Reliance creeks with both live and dead baits or strip baits proving successful.
Trevally, queenies and snub-nosed dart are around, particularly near the creek mouths and along adjacent beaches and flats. If looking for them on flats like those near the mouth of the Pioneer River or out from Seaforth, one way to locate them is to troll a popper, 40-50m behind the boat. This is a good way to productively spend your time when moving about, and much as I am not a fan of trolling, it has to be said that it gets results. Having said that I remain an angler whose preference is casting at snags!
Whiting will become a much sought after species over autumn and winter, but one of the traditional hot spots is now off limits in the Pioneer river. The main city bridge, The Forgan Smith bridge, is being duplicated, and this is now a no go zone from downstream of the bridge so boats cannot move under the bridge and up onto the productive sand flats just upstream. The no go area is marked by buoys so there is no excuse for being caught boating through the area.
While this will be a bit of a pain for winter whiting fishing, the end result will be more structure in the river which will attract bream, jacks, barra and more. The bit of inconvenience now will be offset by the extra fish attraction that the new bridge will provide. Not to mention the easing of traffic congestion when crossing the river!
So as you can see we are now in transition period into the cooler months. There are multiple options open for the angler and now the rain has stopped, the lawns don’t need to be mowed weekly and we can all spend more time on the water, doing what we love in the healthy outdoors.
See you at the ramp.Reads: 965