FOR many years, my impression of the Bli Bli Barra Park, based simply on some false assumptions, was it was another ‘fish farm’ where the fish would just jump on the hooks.
Where was the challenge and fun in that, I thought. I’d heard that about a barra farm up north where you can keep the fish you catch, so why should the Bli Bli Barra Park be any different, right?
It wasn’t until some persistent pleading from my 13-year-old mad-keen fishing son Josh this year, and even more so after his mate caught his first barramundi from the park at the start of the September school holidays, that I finally gave in. I am very pleased I did. After jumping onto the website and Facebook page and reading more about the place, my opinion started to change. ‘Maybe these fish aren’t so easy to catch after all’, I thought.
I soon decided to get on the phone and have a chat to one of the experienced employees to find out about the park in more detail. I also wanted to know whether it was warm enough for the fish to be ‘on’, now I knew the place was a more challenging catch and release fishery. After the chat with Dave at the park, I lined up for my sons and I to give the place a try during both a day and a night session to get a good feel for the place and be able to report on it properly for you our readers.
The Bli Bli Barra Park is located at 367 David Low Way, Bli Bli. It is easily accessed just off the Sunshine Motorway to the north of the Maroochydore River bridge. It is also co-located with the Bli Bli Watersports Complex.
Given the proximity to each other, a good option for a day out with family or mates could be a morning session at the aqua park followed by lunch and then an afternoon session at the Barra Park. Or even an afternoon at the aqua park and a night session on the barra. For families, the barra park also has a little kids’ playground and plenty of shelters for young kids and those just coming along to watch.
Barra and other species
Apart from barramundi, the park also has a few other fish that turn up in catches such as huge bream, the occasional whiting, flathead, mangrove jack and even mud crabs. There is even a resident mulloway and a monstrous mysterious cod.
All fish in the park are catch and release. In terms of the barra, they are not fed by the staff and rely on pellets and bait from anglers and natural bait and fish in the water to sustain them. The park will restock up to a couple of times a year if the fishing and numbers start to fall off.
According to Dave, the ‘best’ fishing days at the park are overcast humid days with a bit of wind chop, or dark moonless nights. October through to about the end of April can see the most action, coinciding with the hottest months, but that said, the fishing improves in September and is good through to the end of May.
For this reason, the park sometimes offers a great winter deal where you can fish as much as you want through winter for a cracking price. People still catch fish during this time, it is just a matter of working out where and when.
For current prices, jump on the website (blibliwatersports.com.au), but at the time of writing a three-hour adult session was $36, $49 for all day or $39 for an awesome three-hour Friday or Saturday night session. Private sessions with up to 10 people are also available and kids’ prices are lower. When you compare those prices to the fuel southeast Queenslanders would buy to chase them in any numbers further north, that is damn good value.
The fishing and gear
Given the size of the fish on offer in Bli Bli Barra Park (with a handful of magic metre-plus fish in the lake), it is pretty amazing they will take such a tiny pellet and are generally able to be landed on a tiny hook. However, there are some essentials to learn first.
You have the choice of bringing your own rods and tackle or using those supplied. The rods supplied are light 2-4kg outfits filled with 6lb line and they do catch fish. However, I chose to bring our own specialist outfits after checking with Dave on recommended line strength. Dave recommended two different outfits depending on your bait (or lure) choice. We stuck with baits for these first couple of sessions to get us all on the board with our first and/or biggest barra for my two sons and I.
For light line fishing with pellets, we brought along light 7’ graphite rods in the 2-4kg range. We used 2000-size reels and I was eager to give my soon-to-be publicly released Alvey Orbitor SR-60 a workout on the barra. Our lines were spooled with Platypus P8 braid in 6lb and we used a slightly longer than usual 3m 8lb fluorocarbon trace to help ensure the fish didn’t see the brightly coloured braid.
Braid is a great option to watch your line on the water and to control the fish with less stretch. At the business end of the line, we stuck with what works at the park and that is no sinker and tiny size 10 Mustad Bronze French hook. As it was explained to us, the hook colour is very important during the day to disguise it against the colour of the dark brown pellet.
We also brought along two heavier outfits that we set in rod holders to target bigger fish in the ‘Big Boys Pond’. These were baited with 1/0 suicide hooks through the tail of a whole pilchard. We used slightly heavier graphite rod outfits (4-7kg) and 2500-3000 size reels spooled with 15lb Platypus P8 braid and 20lb fluorocarbon leader.
Once again, I chose the slightly bigger new Alvey Orbitor SR-80 rated to 8kg. I used fluorocarbon leader because unlike mono it sinks and has the same refractive index as water, which means it is near invisible under the water. Mono leader on the other hand floats and can reflect sun, making it more visible to the wised-up fish.
Tips and tricks
First things first. Be sure to stop and listen very closely to the advice handed out by the likes of Dave at reception. There are no guarantees of fish, but if you listen and follow the tips, you are in with a very good chance. The park is divided into three main areas.
Barra Creek, which has about 1500 barra of a smaller average size (50-70cm, though we caught fish up to 86cm). Big Boys Pond, which has about 100 bigger fish from 70cm to over the metre mark in it. And Middle Lake, which is a more exposed part of the park just past the no-fishing zone and connected to the waters of the Aqua Park.
During our day session, James gave my boys and I some great tips and this was followed up by excellent advice on a night session with Dave and his son Warrick, who both know the lake and creek like the back of their hands. From their advice and experience, these were a few of the things we gleaned from our sessions. Presentation of the pellet on the hook is critical.
As you will be shown by the staff at reception, you want to ensure the shank of your hook is flush along the flat part of the pellet, with the eye of the hook inserted in the pellet. You do this by lining up the shank of the hook to the flat base and use thumb pressure to slide the hook carefully into the pellet. If the eye of the hook and line stick out at angles to the pellet, forget it. These fish are smart and they will rise to your pellet but swim away, choosing other pellets without the obvious line and hook.
Wind and location
As mentioned earlier, having a bit of wind chop on the water during the day can definitely be an advantage. The reason is you want to bring the fish to the surface to feed by throwing a few pellets on the water. When fish start taking the pellets, it excites other fish and makes for the perfect time to throw your pellet where the fish have hit the surface.
On bright sunny days with not much wind (as we experienced on our first day session), this can make it tougher to fool the fish. In such situations, choose more exposed locations with any sort of chop on the water and also fish towards the bank where the wind is pushing bait (and the pellet). Likewise, choosing shady spots under the mangroves or overhanging trees can be a good option with the sun overhead.
When the park first opens of a day, late in the afternoon and at night the fish can be found very close to shore in the shallower and slightly warmer water. Choose some spots near the mangroves and toss pellets to get the fish rising no more than 1-2m from shore. Likewise at night, it can pay to throw your set baits very close to shore, but be sure to check them from time to time due to sneaky bait-stealing muddies!
Well I must say, my boys and I absolutely loved our sessions at Bli Bli Barra Park, with all three of us achieving our first and/or PB barra. We concentrated on Barra Creek during the day and Big Boys Pond at night.
I’d recommend those chasing their first barra or taking kids to concentrate in Barra Creek due to the bigger numbers of fish in there. If you have a great day and get a few, or are making a return trip, you can try your luck on the bigger fish, albeit in fewer numbers, in Big Boys Pond.
While we might have liked to have caught a few more fish (we did get smoked on 8lb line in the creek a few times), we were ecstatic to land fish to 7.5-8kg and well into the 80cm range. The challenge of losing a few and wanting to land more will see us back at this awesome park. I was also pleased to put my new Alvey Orbitor spinning reels to the test on these hard-fighting fish and I am pleased to report that even the smaller SR-60 model (rated to 6kg drag) handled three 7-8kg fish without missing a beat.
These are beautiful high-quality reel and in my humble opinion will match the legendary Alvey brand name perfectly. So if you want to organise a special birthday or Christmas present for yourself or family, practice your lures or techniques for wild barra further north, enjoy a special day out with your kids or parent, or even a mates’ day out, do yourself a favour and get along to Bli Bli Barra Park.
For more tips and reports, be sure to check out my Ontour Fishing Australia Facebook and Instagram pages, and listen in to ‘Sunday with Tee’ where I talk fishing of a Sunday morning sometime between 9am and 11.30am.