Dust off the bombers, clean out the tinnies, check the cast net for holes and sort out some time off – barra season is finally here!
Last year we had a fantastic wet season with the Ross River weirs flowing for many weeks, which provided great fishing on all three weirs. I believe even Cleveland Bay fished better because of the rain.
If the creeks and rivers are flowing with fresh water you can still find good fishing by changing your tactics and heading outside the creek mouths. During the wet, and well into the mild run-off period, you will find that almost all of the common creek species will still be feeding you just need to venture a little further outside into the salty water.
My wife and I have just returned from a couple of hot sessions on mangrove jacks. Admittedly we were fishing some of our favourite barra snags only to find schools of big jacks have moved in. There was nothing over the magic 50cm mark but we did get close.
Our lure of choice was any 5”jerk shad in a silver blue pattern. You can expect similar success if you find a snag with clean saltwater off in one of the side arms of a major system. Places like Cockle and Bolger bays also hold big schools of barra, jacks, grunter and many different pelagic species. The rocks at West point are also a favourite big barra hang out, as is the Pallarenda quarantine jetty for the land-based fisher. The bigger tides are the key to catching fish, even if there is monsoonal rain.
Inside Cleveland Bay itself, you’ll find Ross River and a large number of smaller creeks pushing freshwater into the bay that will force the fish out to the cape, with trophy fish found regularly during the floods and the bigger summer tides.
My favourite way to target these fish is using lures on top of the incoming tide, and the bigger the better! Try using dark or black poppers in low light conditions and then as the sun gets up change to shallow divers with a nice loud rattle.
Fish are not the only species to leave the creeks looking for salinity during floods; crabs and prawns also find their way into the bay. The flats from the mouth of Ross River to Cape Cleveland will crab very well during the flood and schools of prawn can also be found outside in the saltwater.
If by some force of nature the flooding rains have not found our shore, the crabs may still hold up deep in the mangroves and the prawns will be found around the gutter mouths on low tide. They will still run on the moons and can be found on the right tides down around the creek mouths. The best spot is the mouth of Gordon Creek on the landside of the pipe, just look for the other boats and they will show you how far up the prawns are. Beware that you may need to extend the rope on your cast net as some of these areas are deep.
Offshore, the fishing has been hit and miss through most of the summer. There have still been Spanish mackerel on the northern reefs but bottom fish have been tough. Those boats big enough to fish the furthest reefs have fared quite well on bottom dwellers but on the closer reefs you may need to work hard and move along the reef often to snare a good feed. Davis, Centipede and Broadhurst have been the best according to local fishing reports.
Like most anglers I am quite willing to accept smaller bag limits for fingermark as well as increased minimum sizes to improve the quality of our catches, but what’s the point if these fish are only going to end up at the fish markets and not still out there breeding for the future?
We must take action! Send the Minister for Fisheries an email or a letter, tell your mates to do the same, doing nothing will only get you nothing. These slow breeding fish will take far too long to recover from wholesale slaughter of spawning aggregations. Have your say now! One letter can make the difference; you can help, so stop flapping your gums and take action.
We need to start fighting for our sport!Reads: 1404