How many times have you gone out and had an average day after imagining it completely different,only to come home and see social media pages flooded with trophy sized fish and asked yourself what have I done wrong?
We don’t believe there is a true right and wrong with fishing, just right place right time! We also have had these trips that have left us wondering why can’t it be us with the big barra? Big fish don’t come by fluke, they take a lot of time, patience and effort and anyone that catches these on a regular basis would tell you this.
Not too long back we decided to live by this saying "if nothing changes, nothing changes," in regards to our fishing and that was one of the best decisions we have ever made; with multiple good fish hitting our decks on a regular basis.
When we’re talking changes, we aren’t meaning small changes; just like downsizing your leader to get the bite, we are referring to big changes like systems, tides, lures, moon phases, etc. When something is not working, it’s simply not working. After our recent successful trip - you would have read about in the previous Fish and Boat edition "The Unknown" - we decided the change was exactly what we needed.
As any keen barra fisho could tell you, planning a trip away to explore new country leaves you with many sleepless nights. This was us just recently. We had made a plan to get away on a "boys trip" to explore another new estuary system in the local Mackay region. The dates and tides were picked along with a crew of 4 anglers and 2 boats. Talk about keen. The month leading up to this trip had us itching and watching the weather maps daily, hoping for that break we were clearly all dreaming about.
Now when we talk changes, we mean getting away from the same old estuaries that see boat ramps flooded on a Saturday and Sunday and get out to the places less accessible. This may mean carrying extra fuel or waiting on a weather window to get there, but there isn’t a more refreshing feeling than cruising into a new system and having the whole place to yourselves for 2 days.
It all started with pulling up at the ramp at midnight and after rearranging all the gear we had loaded for our camping trip, we set off into the darkness, guided by just our GPS on the Lowrance. I swear we had enough gear to last a month on the water. With the moon glowing across the water and the cool wind hitting our faces, all signs of fatigue were now long gone, with around an hour run behind us, the boats were brought back to an idle as we entered the system.
The original plan was to just get our way into the system and find a nice place to camp for the remainder of the night so we could fish the morning bite period… but who were we kidding?
There was no chance we would be getting any sleep. A quick look on google earth and a run along the bank with the side scan saw a good snag laden bank discovered; Minn Kota deployed and it was game time.
With the moon being in full glow, the bank could be clearly identified without the use of any artificial light to spook the fish. A few ideas were thrown back and forth between myself and Mark as to lure selection and being night time, we decided to play it safe and stick to shallow diving minnows.
A couple of casts later and the lure was crunched. Nothing beats seeing a barra take to the air with moon light reflecting off his scales. Who would have thought a lure with a depth of .5m would catch a barra in 5m of water.
This was the beginning of something special, with 8 barra hitting the deck in under an hour, with the best being 960mm. Never did we think it would be possible to see 2 barra contest for the one lure, they were fired up with the fish being quite aggressive and taking to the air regularly.
This just proves the theory wrong that barra need 25 degrees to bite. The water temp was sitting around 20 degrees, with an ambient temperature of 13 degrees. We have found barra will feed in all conditions, but finding the optimal bite period is key and will only last short periods such as this one only lasting around an hour.
As the run picked up, it was time to unroll the swags and get a bit of shut eye to prepare for the next day’s activities. It wasn’t hard to fall asleep knowing we already had the monkey off our back and the decision we made to explore was well worth it.
Boy didn’t the lads in the other boat hear about it as soon as they awakened, going to sleep and missing out on such a hot bite, but I guess some of us do need our beauty sleep. With the sun just breaking the horizon and the smell of bacon and eggs cooking on the BBQ, we knew we were in for a good day. It’s hard to say no to the breakfast beer when in barradise.
With the tide well and truly into the run out, it was the perfect time to head up the system and explore. No better time to bash the snags than as the tide’s reaching the low point. The shallow diving minnows were left on after last nights’ efforts.
First cast into a snag resulted in a good fingermark, well there’s lunch sorted for the crew. Over the next few hours, plenty of fish were plucked from the snags with a mixed bag of barra, salmon and grunter.
As the run pushed in it was starting to become impossible for the electric motor to hold so we decided to go for an explore on the shallow flats towards the headlands. The flats are a much better option with the bigger tides as the water movement is significantly smaller than in the channels. This move bagged us a hand full of school barra in the 700mm range along with some good blue salmon. Don’t they fight well for a little fish!
High tide was met with the groans of our bellies so off to a small beach to cook up lunch on the BBQ and knock back a frothy one. Whilst lunch was sizzling away, I thought why not and threw a vibe out, a couple of hops off the bottom and the drag was singing on the Stella.
Up from the depths came a good size flathead. This had the boys fired up and within seconds there were lures hitting the water everywhere. In a period of 10mins we hooked close to 10 flat head on an assortment of plastics.
Whilst sitting back and reflecting on the crazy fishing we had discovered, it came to head that all our fish action was coming on the slack water, either bottom of tide or top of tide.
After the lunch was washed down, we set off again to work a series of rock bars, before we had to make the move to exit the system with enough water to head south for home. First cast was thrown in a back eddie and it was met with a big boil, the heart skipped a beat. A couple more violent twitches and bam, she was back with a good barra taking to the air and giving us all a wave.
It’s always hard to make the call to leave the fish biting but with the tides, it was now or never. All gear was secured and the two boats were pointed for home with some very tired anglers.
Close to 80 fish were captured for the trip between two boats, this comprised of barra, salmon, fingermark, flathead and grunter.
Only 3 fish were kept to take home to feed the families and the rest of the fish were tagged,released and data logged with Infofish. We are firm believers in a sustainable fishing future and love to see the research and data that is collated by the tagging bodies in Australia.
There’s not many times in an angler’s life when everything lines up and it goes to plan like it was meant to.
However making changes, either small or large, can make drastic changes to your catch rates and before long, you yourself can be one of those people with trophy catches flooding social media.
Tight Lines – Brendan, Casting Cowboys