FIRST and foremost I would like to wish everyone out there in reader land a wonderful happy New Year.
It feels like 2019 has come around fast. It only seemed like yesterday we were thinking about Christmas and suddenly the new year is upon us. The good news about January is there’s only one month to go for the saltwater barra closed season. I don’t know about you but I’ve had mad withdrawals for the past two months. I even got desperate and snuck out to one of the impoundments and jumped on board with a local mate. We were a bit behind the eight ball though because we had limited time (about four hours in the afternoon) and both of us had almost zero impoundment barra fishing experience.
We were very lucky and were able to locate barra fairly easily but finding them and getting them to bite are two different things. We emptied our tackle boxes trying to get a nibble but unfortunately had to pull the boat out defeated. Are we done with trying to catch a freshwater barra? Absolutely not. It’s part of the fun and learning curve trying something new and we will be back… just watch this space.
Speaking of impoundments, has anyone been out to Lake Awoonga of late? That little lake just outside Gladstone has been holding some hot fishing action. I was chatting to Gregg Chapman from The Secret Spot Bait & Tackle about his latest adventure out that way and he was grinning ear to ear after the roastings they got in the thick timber. He said the fights were brutal and more lost than won. His exact words were: “For their size they would pull a salty backwards.” That’s a big statement and I’m keen to get down there one day to sample the action.
Trevor Burgess who is the magician behind Happy Rock Softies is another Awoonga guru who has been doing well of late. He tells me the 6” and 8” Willies and 6” Max rigged weedless have been doing the most damage. Some food for thought if you’re thinking about heading that way.
So what’s been happening around our local estuaries? I guess the most sought-after species in the barra closed season would have to be king threadfin salmon. I know I have written about them a fair bit but you really need to bring your side-imaging sounder to the Fitzroy River to check out the numbers available. The best part is you can chase bulk threadies for days and only use 10 litres of fuel. They can be super frustrating though. Just because you can locate schools doesn’t mean you will get a bite out of them. Keeping lures in front of them during peak bite times will help.
Going and getting a few live baits and attacking them with both lures and baits will only increase your chances. I recently ran into a good mate I worked with in the past while doing a bit of shopping with the family. It just so happened he had a few spare days handy and jumped at the chance of accompanying the old man and I on a Fitzroy thready hunt. The tides were perfect and the wind was looking kind. We were on the water before the sparrows were even thinking about farting to give us the best chance at having a red-hot day. The tide was high when we began our quest.
We shot down to a well-known rock bar to see if anything was available. We sounded up a few small patches to warm up our casting arms. It didn’t take long for my reel to sing some sweet tunes and I turned to the gallery to claim triumph at the first thready of the day. My words were broken, confidence shattered and world turned upside down when there on the surface looking back at me was a bull shark with my Berkley Gulp Shrimp lodged firmly in its pectoral fin. The boys almost fell out of the boat laughing and for some reason, no one gave me a hand to get my jig head back. Well, from there it was on to greener pastures.
Our next spot was a mark I had found a few months prior when scoping the river for barra spots before the Rocky Barra Bounty. It was a couple of bits of timber washed up on a flat. One of those sneaky spots in the middle of nowhere. I was back in the driver’s seat boating a thready around 90cm, but that didn’t stop the bull shark comments getting flung in my direction. The fish were thick but the bites tough, so we moved on.
A couple of spots had been holding big numbers of metre-plus threadies and I was keen to scope them out. The age-old saying “here today, gone tomorrow” is very true. I would have driven past those schools a dozen times when I had the barra blinkers on but the day you want to get serious, they do the Harold Holt. By this time, the tide was slowing towards the low. We grabbed the cast net and netted a few live prawns and yorkies.
Then we went up into the town reaches and sounded up decent numbers of school size threadies with the Humminbird Helix. We positioned ourselves out at 90 degrees so everyone on board could get a good shot at them. The next two hours were absolute madness throwing lures and live baits, with whiskered speedsters heading in all directions. A couple of double hook-ups sure made for exciting action.
My dad cracked his PB with a 94cm model and Ruggy (Aaron Lewis) also managed a PB at 98cm. A few of these fish were taken for the table because Dad was getting low on fish stocks and was keen for a fresh feed. We also managed two recaptures on this day and the information we got back is they were tagged in the same spot. Make sure to keep an eye out for weed on the fish’s back, as this is a dead giveaway that there’s a tag hiding underneath.
Another fantastic option during the barra closed season is mangrove jack. I had my first trip targeting jacks not long ago and I will put its lack of success down to learning. A small barra and bream was all I could manage before some gear failure had a jack swimming free. I’ll be back though because I’m keen to crack the code. Luke Hannah is one of the central Queensland jack specialists and makes it all look really easy. Luke ticked off over 100 jacks in 2018 by November. That is a monster effort seeing as he only started counting from May.
Mangrove jack around these parts are a very tight-lipped subject, as I would call them not overly common due to our estuary make-up. If you compare, say, Baffle Creek around Bundaberg to the Fitzroy up here, you will see why. The Fitzroy is a big river that is dirty a lot of the time, with a large tidal run. The Baffle is a lot shallower and has more sand than mud, making it prime jack territory.
Pockets of jack country are around the Capricorn Coast and like most of the anglers who have cracked the code, it takes persistence to figure it out. From the guys I have talked to, it’s small hard-body lures like the Reidy’s Little Lucifer and 3-4” paddle tails such as Z-Mans that have done the most damage. Soaking small live mullet on likely snags has been another great option.
Offshore fishing has been a bit slow of late, with reports scattered at best. I had one mate who headed to Douglas Shoal overnight and his report wasn’t overly great. They had one small bite window for about an hour when they put around 10 redthroat emperor in the Esky. The next morning they bagged a couple of mackerel and that was it.
Elliott Bradshaw is one of the mad jiggers from around this area – it’s what he loves doing. He’s been working hard and getting the rewards with red emperor and large-mouth nannygai. Check out his massive red that came in on a slow-pitch jig. That’s an impressive animal on light jigging gear. I’m well overdue for an offshore trip, so let’s just hope the weather and my days off line up soon.
Once again, a very happy New Year to all the Bush ‘n Beach fans out there and I wish you all another fantastic year ahead.