THE 2020 barramundi season opened at midday on February 1 and I was on the water ready for the abundance.
The season opening coincided with good tides and after only an hour, at 12.55pm, the abundance was clear – we had the first barramundi measuring a respectable 80cm. With the neap tides building towards the quarter moon, the fishing in estuaries around Mackay was off the charts. Only an hour and a half in with an incoming tide and it was the best fishing I had experienced in years. It was a day to remember.
Such was the abundance that thirteen fish were released, ranging in size from 68-92cm. Watching them swim off healthy is nearly as rewarding as catching them.
The continuous threat of thunderstorms and rain teamed with heat and humidity saw creek water temperatures through the roof, which had the barramundi chewing hard. When the water is hot the fight is crazy and unlike any other time.
They jump out of the water further, stronger and faster. It is hard to believe these spectacular fighters have another level. Take your photos quickly when releasing fish and give them plenty of swimming time beside the boat and a chance to recover.
Conditions and abundance remained the same for most of February, with temps in the mid-30C range and intense humidity and fishing. The following days were just as successful, with a good number of fish caught and released.
If the fish are on, anglers need to exercise some responsibility and take only what they need. When the fish are schooled up due to conditions or spawning events, it is important the older fish survive and continue to lead the schools to support the prosperity of our fisheries for the future.
The estuaries have been firing on all cylinders, with some of the by-catch stories equal to the barra action. Good catches of king threadfin salmon, fingermark and mangrove jack have been frequent occurrences when chasing barramundi. From most reports, these fish have been caught on live baits such as mullet, whiting, prawns and other bigger baits.
With the rain, estuaries are teeming with life – with an abundance of prawns, fingerlings and mullet schools everywhere. Run-off from the land after the regular afternoon thunderstorms has creeks looking dirty and this gives the larger predators including barramundi a great advantage when feeding.
They will sit and feed on the abundance of food, which can make them choosier once they start to fill up. It is important to get the biggest baits to tempt their interest over the many others they see and make it worth their effort to chase your presentation.
For five or six days every two weeks the neap tides in this area give way to the larger tides either side of the full and new moons and the barramundi become more challenging to catch in the creeks and rivers. With 6m of tide variation in six hours and shallow waterways it can be difficult to fish for barramundi. You will have a chance an hour or so either side of the turn of the tide and that’s it.
Grunter use the strong currents and high water levels to feed across the flats and in the creeks. Spend time in your estuary and learn where these fish move to build up your knowledge of where you have caught them before and on what tide and so on. This is the best way to put yourself in front of a school.
Grunter pull and fight as well as any fish. Their take is explosive, they are fantastic table fish and if you find a school the action is heart pumping. The crabbing in the area has also been very good as a result of recent conditions and is best when there is size in the tides.
Countless options exist for fishos in the estuaries and this transition period is truly a time of abundance in and around Mackay. March is looking promising for the good fishing to continue as long as the weather keeps playing the game with good rain, minor flooding and no cyclones.