Gulf Barra Trip

Posted by Jane McNeil on

Gulf Barra Trip: Part One

As August rolled around, we found ourselves preparing for another barramundi mission, this time to the western side of the state. Sorting out gear for these 10 days trips can be a daunting task at times, as it can be tough to gauge exactly how much of everything two people will go through over the course of the trip. Obviously, it is preferable to bring too many lures than too few! 95% of our barra fishing is done using lures that fall into the following categories: prawn imitations, paddle tail plastics, jerk shad plastics, hard bodies, vibes and “big baits”. We packed plenty of these, along with heaps of heavy leader, and jigheads to match every soft plastic in our tacklebox.

With our gear finally sorted, we left late after work to knock off some of the kilometres through the night before setting up camp around 100km from our spot. We arrived at our base for the next 10 days early the following morning, and quickly prepped the boat and gear and hit the water to start covering some ground. This was our second trip to this particular system so we had some idea where we would find fish, but we wanted to explore even more of the area to try and pinpoint some of those harder to find spots. It didn’t take us long to fish a couple fish, as we scanned a few average specimens in a spot we had previously had success. We left them initially, as we wanted the tide to get a little lower, knowing it would activate the spot and likely draw in more fish. Patience and timing can be key for a spot like this, so we continued further along the river with the intention of returning to this spot in an hour or so. After finding a few more fish, and putting a couple smaller models in the boat, we went back to the spot we saw most of the fish earlier. As expected, the spot, which we will refer to as “the gutter”, was much livelier than earlier in the day, and we could see a few larger models in amongst the fish that were probably averaging 75-85cm. Darryl positioned the boat downstream as we spot locked well away from the bulk of the fish. Casting prawn imitations, I boated a fish in the 80s first cast, and proceeded to put another 3 smaller models on deck in the next 30 odd minutes. The unmistakeable rod-rattling thump of a proper specimen on my lure quickly cut through the light-hearted excitement of boating a few rats. We could tell it was going to right around that metre mark as soon as it hit the air. A quick net job and the monkey was off the back for the trip! Definitely takes the pressure off to land this thick-set fish of 101cm early in the piece! This seemed to put the wind up Darryl and he quickly jammed hooks into his first barra of the day. Once again, we knew it was a proper fish and readied the net immediately. This fish looked as if it was cast from the same mould as the one I had just landed, and again measured 101cm. Another pristine fish! We boated a couple more fish from this school up to 90cm, before calling it a day.

Gulf Barra Trip: Part Two

Day 2 started with a plan in mind, and we decided to give a spot we knew housed a lot of large fish a run. The first pass with the sidescan confirmed our suspicions as we marked a few fish, including some of the giants we came here for. We could tell this spot was going to take up a lot of our time over the next week! We had a few casts but knew to not waste too much time, as you don’t tend to fluke these giant fish. We will call this spot “big fish”, and we would be back. After wasting away most of the day searching for spots, we returned to big fish for an arvo session. Again, we sounded plenty of bigger fish, and set up to spend the rest of the day casting. We cycled through a whole range of lures before we found a couple that seemed to match the scenario well. A couple hours went by when Darryl’s big bait got absolutely crunched. A few moments of panic in structure, but we managed to manoeuvre the large fish away, with a combination of heavy swimbait gear and boat driving. As the fish, which was over 110cm neared the surface, it appeared to be hooked well and we were reasonably confident taking our time with it in open water. As it was coming up towards the boat, it rolled over and we could now see the hook was hanging on by a tiny piece of lip. One last kick with its tail and the hook pulled clean. There are a lot of things you can control in barra fishing, but this was just one of those things you can’t. It’s definitely a tough thing to come back from, but we kept fishing and got 2 more bites from relative “rats” at 85 and 92cm. It seems a bit greedy to refer to this class of fish at rats, but when you’re fishing on a school of metre plus fish, with a few real monsters thrown in, it’s almost disappointing when a 90 breaks the surface. A few more casts after these smaller fish and we decided to head back for the night. There was no question where our plans lay for day 3, as we revisited the scene of the crime from yesterday afternoon. At least now we knew it was possible to get a bite from these fish, so we picked a time and sat on them. Both throwing big paddle tail plastics, Darryl got another bite from a giant and cranked a big hookset into it. The fish hit the air straight away and we could tell it was probably over 115cm. Darryl was undoubtedly sweating on this fish after the one we put down the day prior, but he did well and pulled it away from structure and into the waiting net. This fish was an absolute brick and went 116cm on the brag mat which was a PB for Darryl. We were both beyond stoked to put a fish of this calibre on board and soaked it in as we watched it swim away. It’s hard to back it up after a fish like that but we cast the afternoon out nonetheless.

Gulf Barra Trip: Part Three

The following days seemed to pass by fast, with hour after hour spend prospecting different areas for fresh ground. We still made time every day to fish big fish daily, but they seemed less responsive to our various techniques and approaches. Of course, we filled in the quiet times with a few rat sessions and caught a couple in the 80-90 class every day. Around day 7, a tiny bit disheartened by the relatively unsuccessful big fish sessions over the previous days, we gave in to the pressure and chased some rats along an active stretch to pass the time. With current ripping along a shallow stretch of snags, small barra were stacked thick. We pulled around 80 fish from a couple of patches, almost a fish a cast at times. They were mostly small, to around 75cm, but heaps of fun in clear, shallow water! Leaving these rats, we stumbled across an isolated timber on the bottom in open water. It had a fair few fish stacked around, and we pulled 4 fish in 4 casts before they dispersed, including a 94 and 95. We also found a few fish sitting along a snaggy bank, where we had fished for but not caught them in the past. We must’ve pretty much nailed the timing for these normally tough fish, because we got bites straight away, and landed a couple decent models to 93cm.

On the morning of the last day, we explored a small creek away from the main system and found fish early on. Unfortunately, only the smaller models seemed keen to bite, and I reckon I put about 20 in the boat before Darryl had even woken up. Of course, after I knocked down all the rats, Darryl got the only worthwhile bite of the morning, boating a 95cm fish from heavy structure. Moving back to the main system, we ran a couple of the spots we’d be doing well on for the previous few days. Again, rats were the story of the day and the bigger fish were actually becoming quite hard to come across in numbers. Nevertheless, we made the most out of our last afternoon and gave it a good crack. Just as the sun was dipping, we headed to the gutter for one last crack. We could see the odd decent fish hanging around, which was a positive sign! Casting a prawn imitation, I got about half a handle turn in before getting nailed by what was clearly at least a reasonable fish. As it got aerial in the afternoon sun we could see that it was probably a high 90 model, maybe a touch bigger. We netted it and chucked it on the mat. To our surprise it actually just snuck in as 100cm flat! A nice way to top off the trip! We didn’t really hang around very long after that fish, as the rest quickly dispersed. Since our supplies were running a touch low, we stopped over at a notorious rat spot on the way back to base camp to get our dinner for the night. 2 casts were made, and 2 fish were landed. We picked the smallest, a prime eating size fish of 65cm and headed off to camp to recount days past around the campfire. Overall, a great trip with 4 fish over the metre mark landed, and around 8 90s as well. We will be back soon for that 120.   



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