Barra Providing Plenty of Action
  |  First Published: February 2010

Local fishers have had to deal with brutally hot conditions recently and fortunately there has been some good fishing action, especially inshore, to make the effort worthwhile.

Looking forward there should be some welcome cooler fishing days and as March is usually the wettest time of the year, so be prepared for the fishing conditions to change quickly. Offshore, the procession of calm days has provided plenty of bottom fishing opportunities and most anglers have succeeded in returning home with some quality coral trout and the usual by-catch of sweetlip, cod and a few reef jacks. The best fishing has been in the deeper water where temperatures have been a bit cooler and on the rubble bottom wide of the reefs there has been some good red emperor and large mouth nannygai. There continues to be some outstanding Spaniards taken by anglers targeting them by trolling and of course the bottom fishers who set up the floater out the back have not been disappointed. I would expect this month that the offshore fishing should pick up a notch.

Inshore and the main focus has been on the early run of new season barramundi. The barra have been on the chew in just about every local scenario. I have heard of good captures off the local headlands and hot bites up the rivers and also in the small saltwater feeder creeks. Most of the barra have been in the 50-70cm range and have been providing great fun as anglers use everything from live bait to hardbodies and soft plastics. Local barra specialist Col Upham had a hot bite going on the Russell one afternoon when he managed 13 fish up to 68cm. Col was luring with a Rapala Shad Rap SR9, which is a tried and tested lure around the Cairns area as it is well suited to the many steep banks on offer. This month is a great time to chase barra and there are plenty of options with the headlands and the many local creeks and rivers including the Cairns Inlet all on the hit list.

First Time barra

Last month we looked at fishing for a barra on foot but if you have a boat it is a whole new ball game. Making a barra capture is about applying some basic principles consistently and fishing regularly to build up your experience. Here are a few useful tips that may help you become successful in your first barra capture.

Best fishing time

This is usually an hour and a half either side of the low tide period, so when planning your trip this is when you need to be fishing in your chosen spot, not still collecting bait, travelling or rigging up. Barramundi will feed throughout a tide if conditions are right however more consistent results will be achieved working the low tide changeover. Dawn and dusk are also excellent times to fish.

If chasing barra on live bait use live prawns or mullet. I prefer the making tides leading up to the full and new moons and so I recommend planning to fish some structure such as a snag or creek mouths/drain on those tides. The technique here is to drift your live prawns in towards the structure or use a dropper rig depending on the conditions and depth. Quite often conditions will allow unweighted baits to be placed in a gentle current or in a shallow drain or gutter. This method works well. Barra often feed up against a bank or edge so placing a bait in such a position while fishing a nearby wider snag is also a good option. You should remember that barra holding on a deep snag that you have marked on your sounder are doing just that… residing. They are not actively out feeding and taking your presented bait is merely an opportunistic free meal for barra. Any time you mark fish on a deep snag then these fish are also worth targeting with a slow deep troll. At some stage of the tide though, these fish will be out from their home chasing food along the edges .

Luring. What works?

This is a subject that is ongoing since lure technology continues to be refined and new brands emerge. I have taken fish on dozens of different lures and I would suggest you discuss this with any of the excellent local tackle stores in the area.

Here are a few favourite casting lures. Shallow divers like gold Bombers, B52s and Leads Highjackers and Husky Jerks. Floating deep divers I recommend Rapala Shad Raps (SR5, SR8 and SR9), Tilsan Bass and Barra, and 3-4” Leads Lures.

I have a preference for small lures around the steep banks of Trinity Inlet and the local rivers as they definitely have a higher strike rate.

The many different prawn variations are also becoming popular for jigging and flick/jigging as well as using soft plastics. I am no expert on plastics so talk to your tackle shop if this interests you. Lure selection is important, however the way you work the lure is even more so.

How, where and when

Accurately placed lures right under the over hanging mangrove branches and up tight against the bank or any timber at the water’s edge is a good start. In short, get your lure as close to the cover as possible and keep it there as long as you can while working it in a slow twitching retrieve. This requires a lot of wrist action and I recommend braided lines for the extra control you get over the lure as well as the advantage you get from the line strength when wrestling the fish from the structure. It also helps when retrieving lures that inevitably get caught up in the branches.

A good starting plan is to cast lures to the up current side of any snags or fallen branches lying in the water. I can recommend using an electric motor to stealth along as you work a bank choosing to anchor up and flog the best looking structure with up to 20-30 casts. If you don’t have an electric motor, that is no problem as you can anchor up, but try to do it quietly without the chain rattle.

In Trinity Inlet there are hundreds of capture points. A good starting plan is to work a shallow mangrove bank away from the boating traffic and there are plenty of these. Choose a bank that is no deeper than 5-6 feet at that time of the tide. When your casting skills improve you can try working deeper lures on the steeper banks and snags. The eastern side of Admiralty Island on a neap tide or half way down on a making tide would be a good place to start.

Allow your boat to slowly drift the mangrove edges with wind and tide while you cast.

I prefer luring the neap tides say up to 3 or 4 days after the full and new moons in the Cairns Inlet but the bottom half of the run out and the first half of the run in tide of any making tides leading up to a full or new moon are also worth a try. It is important that the current is not moving too fast and again remember that noise and boat traffic will work against you. Try to choose a quiet area and it usually pays to get out extra early in summer and if possible be casting before daylight.

Till next month good luck with making your first barra capture of 2010.

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