This year the barramundi have been, dare I say it, pretty easy to find.
A great wet season and a mild winter have probably helped and it’s great to see that right now, when only live prawns fished hard in the snags should be producing fish, lure fisherman are still having great success. Lures are picking up fish not only around the snags but also in the drains and flats on the incoming tides. The areas to focus on are the flats around the mouths and entrance of the creeks in Bowling Green Bay. The Haughton, Bomber and Sheep Station creeks are my personal favourites.
Three lures that I wouldn’t head out without are the Rapala X-Rap Slash Bait in the 10cm suspending model, gold B52 Junior and a chartreuse Smith Cherry Blood. All three of these lures have been accounting for 99% of the barra we have been catching out on the flats in recent weeks.
The Rapala X-Rap, regardless of colour, is excellent on the top of the tides in the mornings when the water may be a little colder. Being able to crank it down past some small mangrove or rocks on the flats and leave it sitting in the strike zone, occasionally shaking the rod tip to create a slight shiver in the lure, is a very effective technique for barramundi. As the sun rises the gold B52 Junior comes into its own. A stop-start retrieve creates a great roll and plenty of flash which the barramundi often find irresistible.
If the water is dirty, it’s time to pull out the Smith Cherry Blood, as it always seems to find the fish – although I do tend to find that the hooks on this Japanese bass lure do need to be beefed up.
This lure trio is what works for me but with plenty of time on the water, and with every additional fish you catch, you will come up with your own favourite lures to use in each situation.
During your lure sessions it’s a good idea to keep an eye on your sounder and in particular the temperature gauge (if fitted). We recently had a red hot session on just-legal barra luring a snaggy bank about 100m long, where the water temperature was one degree warmer than anywhere else in the creek. These subtle differences in temperature can make all the difference.
Some other areas worth testing your lure casting skills on will be Cattle Creek to the north and Crocodile Creek to the south of Townsville. There have been reports of good prawns in these areas, and this should see these creeks really fire over winter even if a cold snap eventuates.
If messing about in the mangroves is not your style, you’ll be pleased to hear that the beach fishing scene at present is also red hot! Take some time to scout out your location and head down at low tide and check out the size and number of flathead lies that are about. These ‘lies’ are depressions in the sand, usually made by flathead on the last incoming tide waiting to ambush bait. Obviously wherever you find good numbers of these lies you can bet the next incoming tide will have flatties in the same area.
Winter whiting numbers are also favourable, making them a species worth targeting. Again, a trip down at low tide is a good idea, giving you access to the yabby beds that the whiting frequent. You can choose to pump fresh yabbies from these areas for bait or buy frozen prawns from your local tackle store. Either way, you’ll want to fish the bait lightly weighted over the yabby beds as the tide rushes in.
If bream are your species of choice, the gutters that feed the beaches on the incoming tide are a good place to lay your baits. Some of the better beaches to try at present are Cungulla to the south or Saunders, Toolakea and Balgal beaches to the north.
For the bluewater fishos, winter has seen a good run of school (doggy) mackerel around the shipping pylons, Maggie Island and Burdekin Rock, with the odd surprise by-catch thrown in to provide variety to some lucky anglers. Other than the odd Spanish mackerel taking a floated pillie meant for a doggy mackerel, anglers have also found large grunter and even coral trout coming up from the bottom to feast on this humble baitfish.
If you are seriously chasing larger mackerel you’ll want to fish the Maggie Island Shoals, which have been continuing to live up to their reputation. While the mackerel out here are rarely over the 15kg mark, their sheer numbers more than make up for their smaller size. If you’re looking for something a little larger, 20kg+ fish are regularly falling to trolled wolf herring off the well-known hot spots around the bottom end of Palm Island.
Magnetic Island’s shoal areas also hold good numbers of big reds and cobia. By reds I mean red emperor and large-mouth nannygai. These bottom dwelling monsters love nothing more than large slab baits or live baits fished on dropper rigs just off the bottom. Finding these spots is easy, just look for all the boats! However, if you want your own little patch of paradise you’ll have to work for it. Head out about eight miles past the island, drop a few mackerel lures out and troll around for the day, keeping an eye on your sounder for little lumps and bumps that show life. Hopefully by the end of the day you will have a few mackerel in the esky and a handful of marks to try fishing for reds.
A very happy Logan Jones with his best barra to date, an 83cm specimen taken on a live mud herring.
Jasmine Jones with a bar-cheek trout that took a pillie meant for a doggie mackerel, but nobody’s complaining!Reads: 2100