The author with a nice fish from Big Boys Pond.

Bli Bli Barra Fishing Park in winter

Big barra on light tackle will really test your angling ability!
Josh with a fantastic 91.5cm fish landed on 8lb leader.
The author and Warwick from the Barra Fishing Park with the results of a double hook-up.
Huge bream frequent the waters of the park.
Make sure you present the hook nice and flat against the pellet.
Look for areas around mangroves for concentrates of fish in Barra Creek.
Hook-up!
The excitement of watching a fish sussing out your bait.

IT’S been a tough time for a lot of businesses, and the Barra Fishing Park at Bli Bli was one of those closed for a few months due to COVID-19. So, it was great that my son Josh and I were invited for a ‘pre-fish’ before the official re-opening on June 11.

The Barra Fishing Park is a fantastic option for a few hours of fishing with some friends, a family outing during school holidays or for a winter fishing break. From June 11 to August 31 the park will be open for pre-bookings – you can’t just turn up –with two sessions per day, Thursday to Sunday 11am to 1.50pm and 2pm to 4.50pm. Don’t muck around though, book in early because it’s going to be popular – especially if our results on the pre-fish weekend were anything to go by. Bli Bli Barra Park winter

Location

The Bli Bli Watersports complex is situated at 367 David Low Way, Bli Bli – just off the Sunshine Motorway. The Barra Fishing Park has been in operation for 30 years now and is catch and release only. While barramundi are the main fishing species stocked, you might also catch big bad old bream, mangrove jack, cod and numerous other species. The park caters for all fishers, from beginners and families to the experienced angler. Bli Bli Barra Park winter

Winter fishing

With the park closed for a few months due to COVID-19, my suspicion was that the fish might have lost a bit of their caution, at least initially. This certainly turned out to be the case in our pre-fish, but we had all the right gear and a plan, thanks to our growing number of trips to the park and listening to Dave’s advice. As per many forms of fishing, local knowledge can be critical.

If people turn up to the park thinking they’ve done a lot of fishing and don’t need to listen to anyone at the park, think again. I am always trying to learn more about fish and tactics no matter where I fish and am open to changing my tactics when things aren’t going to plan. Bli Bli Barra Park winter

By listening to Dave about a few missed strikes my son Josh had and a few lost fish in the jumps I had, we fine-tuned the techniques that might have worked elsewhere but didn’t for these barra, and soon the rate of fish we landed compared to the ones we lost improved.

Tackle and tactics

While the park has its own rods and reels available, I prefer to take our own. You then have no excuses if you’re ill prepared. When I go with my sons, I always take two rods each – one for fishing actively with pellets or lures and the other as a set rod with pilchard on it. Bli Bli Barra Park winter

Set rod set-up

For the set rod, I put it in a rod holder with a bell and have pilchard bait set out only 1.5m or so from the shore on a steep bank. For this rod you don’t need anything too fancy – it can be an old fibreglass bait rod or brand-new graphite rod. However, it should be strong enough to handle fish to a metre or more but not so stiff in the tip that it has no give when the fish picks the pilchard and runs.

So, leave the heavy-duty reef rods at home. I use medium-action rods in the 5-10kg category, and they fit the bill perfectly. In terms of reel, I use a 4000-size or the new Alvey Orbitor SR100 filled with quality 15-20lb Platypus P8 braid and connect a 3m-long leader of the new Platypus Stealth fluorocarbon in 20lb. Bli Bli Barra Park winter

This is incredibly thin leader for its strength and holds up well to abrasion. At the business end I use size 3/0 Mustad wide gap hooks, which based on Dave’s advice for best hook-up, we hook through near the tail of pilchard with the point exposed.

Set rod tactics

  • Bring your own rod holders and set your rod back from the edge so it doesn’t throw a shadow on the water.
  • Lie your rod horizontal in the holder allowing the fish to feel less resistance when it picks up the bait and runs.
  • Choose a deep bank close to shore at Big Boys Pond for your chance to catch bigger fish that patrol the warmer water close to shore.
  • Do not cast your bait out more than 1.5m from shore or you will end up with more bream and other assorted fish.

Casting rod set up

There’s an old saying in the fishing fraternity that elephants still eat peanuts. The principle is that big fish will still take small lures and even small baits at times, and this is the case at the Barra Fishing Park. The pellets provided might be small but it’s stock diet so the fish will gulp them down. However, present these pellets on the hook poorly, with thick whipper-snipper like line or a floating leader and forget it.

These fish are smart even though they haven’t seen humans in months. It is so cool to watch them with Polaroid glasses on – they will swim up and under your pellet, examine it, even nudge it and swim away. Better still watch their mouth open, close around your pellet, then dive under, your line go tight and you’re on. Magic! Bli Bli Barra Park winter

But once again, tackle choice is critical to success. We have been using 6lb Platypus P8 quality braid with a 3m trace of superfine 8lb Platypus Stealth leader. When you hook an 80cm fish on this stuff though you really need to play them carefully and occasionally chase them holding your rod up over the mangroves.

Tight drags with this sized leader will just result in bust-offs. For less experienced anglers and for more insurance on landing fish, you can go up to 10lb. Again, use a quality fluorocarbon leader, and avoid mono leader as it is easier to see and tends to float much more and thus is easier to see on the surface. In terms of rods, we have been using 4-7kg rods and reels about 2000-size, and the Alvey Orbitor 60.

My son recently took over using my Orbitor, while I quickly re-rigged his leader after a bust-off, and he loved the smoothness of the drag and control the oversized power knob gave him so much that he didn’t want to give it back. Not that I could blame him. Hooks are supplied at the shop and are tiny size 10 Mustad bronze French hooks. Bli Bli Barra Park winter

Casting rod tactics

  • Ensure your hook is sitting flush against the flat base of the size 10 brown hook.
  • If the bronze paint starts to wear on your hook, replace it as it needs to be camouflaged.
  • Choose areas around mangrove trees and toss some pellets in and around leaves in the water.
  • When you spot a fish, toss 2-3 pellets in and try to land your pellet with your well-presented hook among them.
  • Try and choose a spot with a bit of ripple on the water to make it harder for the fish to spot your hook and line to your pellet.
  • Don’t wear bright-coloured clothing, try and wear colours that will be more camouflaged with the background.
  • Don’t stand right on the edge of the ponds, stand back a bit to avoid spooking the fish.
  • For your best chance of more numbers, fish Barra Creek which has more fish up to an average of about 70-80cm.
  • It’s a good option to have a set rod in Big Boys Pond.
  • If you catch a couple of smaller fish, try switching to Big Boys Pond.

So, there you go. These practices and tackle certainly helped my son and I each land a handful of nice fish recently and we can’t wait to go again. Remember though, listen to the likes of Dave, James and Warwick and you’ll catch more fish. The park will make a great place to go fishing with a friend or family these school holidays and winter. Don’t forget to book in advance under the new COVID-19 rules. Bli Bli Barra Park winter

Cheers, and until next time I hope to hear from you on my Ontour Fishing Australia Facebook and Instagram pages.

About Sean Thompson

Sean Thompson
Sean caught the fishing bug bad one very cold Canberra day 20 years ago when he was bored and picked up and read Angler's Almanac by the fireplace. Since then he has filled his mind with knowledge from fishing magazines, books, the internet, TAFE fishing courses, guiding fishing charters (estuaries, beach, bay and mountain lakes) and of course 'on water' experience. He and a group of mates formed a social fishing club and soon started to share what they learnt and caught online. Sean is the admin for Ontour Fishing Australia on Facebook, which is a page that shares information, reports and sponsor giveaways and welcomes all to the site. He plans to move into blogging on his new website when time allows.

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