There is just something about impoundment barra fishing that can really hook you!
The long drive and hours upon hours of casting and retrieving are quickly forgotten when you feel that sharp tap at the end of the line, you strike hard and come up solid on a fish that effortlessly strips 30 or 40m against 3kg of drag and then erupts out of the water. And just when you think you have the fish under control when you work it steadily back to the boat, it dives under the boat and tries to wrap you around the electric motor. The only thing to keep you going is the final buzz of adrenaline when that big fish comes onboard.
Every angler should experience the fight and power of a big barra at least once in their lifetime, and the best places to try your luck are the two most southern barra impoundments of Awoonga and Monduran.
Traditionally, early summer has been the best time to hit the southern barra impoundments. Caravan parks and boat ramps used to be full to overflowing with plenty of barra caught. However, many anglers, including droves of nomads, are now bypassing the barra dams as the fishing has become so much tougher. And the summer just gone has been the toughest ever. The boom is over…or is it?
Don’t give up hope and hang up the barra gear just yet – we are heading into a very good time of the year. Switched-on local anglers have been quietly going about racking up excellent numbers and bigger fish in winter and early spring using soft plastic techniques and plenty of stealth.
The era of trolling hardbodied lures out of a motorboat has all but passed as these highly pressured fish have become very wary of noisy lures and boats. To now catch a barra, stealth is paramount!
Winter conditions are generally calmer, water is clearer and the fish are as spooked as ever. Stealth is a key element to impoundment barra angling. Spending ten minutes to get quietly into key positions will save you at least half an hour in fishing time as it takes that long for the fish to come back on the bite if you have moved in under petrol power. Even electric motors must now be used sparingly and on low settings.
The anglers who are getting the best results are cutting their main motor about 200m out from their intended point or bay, then using their electric to move to within about 50m. The anchor (with no noisy chain) is then quietly deployed before using the wind to then drift into position. Once in position, fishing commences and so it’s important to minimise any onboard noise, such as dropping hatch lids. If you have done everything right to get to your spot quietly, there is no reason you shouldn’t get bites straight away.
Please stay well clear of other boats. There is a growing band of hardcore barra anglers who get very upset by those who don’t yet understand just how important the stealth factor is. If you see anglers fishing, please stay at least 100-200m clear.
Don’t motor up for a chat or drive past at full noise. It will pretty much wreck the fishing for at least half an hour. If you wave to an angler as you motor by and he doesn’t wave back, chances are it’s because you are too close and he’d rather throw snapper leads at you.
Winter and early spring in central Queensland sees cool nights and warm days with generally stable weather and little rain, which are perfect conditions. Why would you go in summer when it’s hot, humid, stormy and unpredictable!
Winter impoundment barra angling is mainly about trying to find warm water, because that is where the barra will be! Areas to target are shallow bays and points in water of 1-6ft. The time to target them is from about 9am when the sun starts having an effect on the water temps in the shallow bays, right through till just after dark, when the shallow water will start to cool again and the barra will shut down.
The prime bite time generally occurs from around 4-7pm. This bite is spurred on by a combination of low light and high water temps. The bites can continue through the night, however, stats have proven that the number of bites and the hook up rate drops off from 7pm.
A moonrise or moon above period can spark a bite period sometimes. In contrast to summer, early morning bites are far less common in winter.
The only time the fishing shuts down in winter is if there is a prolonged cold snap. Unfortunately there are fish kills in Monduran and Awoonga each winter, which occurs when the serious westerlies hit and last for more than a few days. Usually it happens in late July/early August, but last year it hit in late August.
The fishing definitely shuts down during these periods, but barra bite extremely well as water temps increase again.
Hardbodied lures still rack up a few fish, but soft plastic swim baits or shads in the 4-6” range are dominating barra catches.
The new Berkley Hollow Belly are outstanding barra lures, that really came to the fore last winter. Their wide action and body roll, combined with the softness of the bait, allow them to be retrieved at super slow speeds that barra just love in winter. Most swim baits simply stop working when you slow them right down. But as long as the lure is moving, the tail of the Hollow Belly will be working.
The Hollow Belly are, obviously, hollow and therefore need a specialised jig to suit them. The Nitro Backbone Jig fills that role, with relatively lightweight heads, big strong, sharp hooks and an aggressive keeper to hold the Hollow Belly on firmly.
This article is focussed on cast and retrieve techniques, but a lot of the information here can be applied to trolling, just remember stealth is paramount, and trolling under electric power or in a kayak with up to 100m line out is the way to go.
Once you have picked your bay and stealthily moved into position, fan the bay or point with casts. You should try to be within casting distance of a weed edge, this will allow you to fish the weed edge and a large area of the bay. The aim is to keep your lure just above the weed or bottom depending on which way you are casting.
Mix up your retrieves with hops, pauses and very slow rolling. There is no point making the same cast to the same spot over and over.
Remember to slow down the retrieve; the tail on the Hollow Belly will still work at super slow speed and the barra love this. If you hit weed on the retrieve, give your rod a couple of short, sharp rips to clear then continue.
If you find a warm bay with wind blowing into it, then persevere as the fish will be there. It’s just a matter of putting the lure in their face and getting them to bite. If you haven’t had a bite in over an hour, it’s probably time to move quietly to another spot and start again.
A 6’ baitcaster in the 8-12kg class loaded with 30lb braid and 60-80lb fluorocarbon leaders are considered the standard for impoundment barra. However, many anglers now prefer using 7’, 6-10kg spin sticks with 4000 sized threadline outfits as they can cast lighter lures greater distances.
When I hit the barra dams I like having one ABU Revo baitcast outfit for throwing a 6” Hollow Belly and a 7’ Berkley Dropshot 6-8kg rod with an ABU Soron STX40 for throwing a 5” Hollow Belly.
Bites can vary from barely detectable taps to rod wrenching underwater explosions. The mood of barra will change throughout a session, sometimes every bite is a hook up and other times you will get lots of taps, missed hits or dropped fish. You have to try to make the most of every bite.
Be prepared to strike. When retrieving, keep your rod tip pointed at the lure at all times so that you have the most direct contact and maximum striking distance. Often this change in the retrieve is enough to trigger a strike, but if you aren’t ready for it, most of the time the hooks won’t find their mark.
Adopt a striking position when fishing and concentrate on your lure at all times. Always be ready for a bite, how many times do you miss a bite because you stop to have a scratch or point out something to your mate in the boat?
Strike at everything. What might feel like the tiniest tap could be a 1m+ barra inhaling your lure and swimming towards you with it. Strike and wind fast! Once you have hooked up, strike a second and even third time on the first run to set the big hook. If you have your drag set right (about 3kg) hopefully the hook will set well and you’ll reduce the chances of the hook pulling later in the fight.
Once you’ve hooked your barra, try to keep calm, don’t go too hard on the fish unless you really have to. The harder you pull the more it will be inclined to jump, the more a barra jumps the more chance it has of throwing the hooks. If a fish is heading for the surface, ease up the pressure and quite often you can stop them from jumping.
If you are in the timber, sometimes free-spooling and chasing the fish on the electric is the only way you are going to un-knit it from the trees.
Gently does it on big fish. I like to back the drag off once it is under control and nearing the boat. It may take a little longer to get the fish to the boat, but the chances of pulling hooks at the boat are greatly reduced.
Make plans to tackle the impoundments from now to September. Winter is the time to fish the barra impoundments: Warm sunny days, with light breezes – perfect weather! It’s generally T-shirt temperature during the day, cooling down to tracksuit temps at night, if you need gloves and a beanie, then it’s probably too cold and time to go home. A great session is from 2pm to 9pm so there is no need to get up before sparrows, or fish hard all night.
There will also be plenty of room in the caravan park, and you’ll get a great park at the boat ramp. You won’t have to compete with as many boats for a prime spot. So get out there and enjoy some prime winter barra action!
I’d like to thank Trevor Burgess and Scott McCauley for sharing their knowledge and time on the water with me. These guys are Gladstone locals and have put in the hard yards on Awoonga, most of the info in this article can be attributed to what I have learnt from them.
Backbone Jig sizes for Berkley Hollow Belly
|Hollow Belly||Backbone Jig Sizes|
|6-inch||3/8oz and 1/2oz #8/0|
|5-inch||3/8oz and 1/2oz #7/0|
|4-inch||1/4oz and 3/8oz #6/0|