One of the most deeply engrained myths surrounding the barramundi fishing scene is the perception that these fish will not bite in the cooler months. Of course, this is simply untrue, as barramundi can be caught every single day of the year. It’s interesting to consider that as far as temperatures are concerned, our local area experiences some of the mildest winters country wide. Further south, around Central Queensland for example, water temperatures dip well below 20° throughout the winter months, yet large barramundi are caught daily. Temperatures in our local creeks are regularly >23° throughout this same time period. While temperatures do drop as expected through winter, barramundi still move around and feed throughout this period, even in the coldest water. Of course, with such significant changes that occur during the winter period (not just temperature), barramundi behaviour does change, just like it does for most living organisms. Thanks to this change in “typical” fish behavioural patterns, myths around their activity (or lack thereof) tend to arise. Fisherman tend to catch less on the same techniques they’ve been using throughout the warmer months and often attribute this to fish being sluggish or inactive. While different conditions, it pays to fish different techniques to get the most out of your sessions. With this in mind, there are plenty of great barra sessions to be had throughout our winter months.
Over the show long weekend last month, Darryl and I joined the endless convoy of grey nomads and headed north in search of a couple fish. Early on the first day, we found a few barramundi holding out of the current amongst rocks. In the typically windy FNQ winter conditions, it was initially hard to find a cast angle at these fish as the Minn Kota’s spot lock struggled to hold us in place. We ended up resorting to the old school spot lock (plough anchor) and found a position we were happy with. It often pays to take your time when approaching fish that you have located. Barra can be easily spooked and you may not get many chances to convert a fish, so it’s important to not rush casts! Generally, we will sit and let the anchor or GPS spot lock settle, giving us a chance to think about what lures to first present fish in the given scenario. A few casts in, I drew a bite from a nice fish around the 80cm mark on the Molix shad 100, which we quickly landed and released. 2 more slightly smaller fish hit the deck in quick succession, falling victim to the same lure. After this early flurry of action, the bite on the Molix shad 100 died down, though Darryl was able to draw a number of hits on a 100mm Pointer from Lucky Craft, landing 2 fish in the 70s. We soon left these fish to see if we could pick up a few crabs for dinner. Exploring a small mangrove flat, we managed to find plenty of bucks sitting in shallow muddy depressions exposed by the receding tide. Inactive until disturbed, they quickly become less than cooperative and very keen to bite. After putting 6 nice bucks in the boat, we headed back to the area we back to the morning’s barra spot.
With the sun starting to dip over the horizon, we managed to draw a couple more bites from the same patch of fish, putting two more fish in the 60s on deck. We decided to take one of these primo specimens back to camp for a feed. As we made our way back to the night’s camp spot, we scanned past an isolated piece of structure we had found earlier. Amongst the heavy cover we could easily make out the shapes of fish on the side scan, which we assumed to be fingermark along with other species. A quick spot lock and a cast with a vibe confirmed this for us, as Darryl put an awesome shallow water fingermark around 55cm on deck, which we also kept. He followed this up with another of similar size, and a cracker 65cm fish which was an absolute handful in 2.8m of water on barra gear! It was well and truly dark by this point, so we left the spot and finally made it back to camp. We made a quick meal from our seafood basket of an esky and packed it in for the night.
Day 2 started with some slow scanning of likely spots as we searched for a couple more barra. We found some large fish in a loose school around a deep timber, though we felt present conditions weren’t ideal to fish them. Nevertheless, we gave them a good hour of casting before leaving in search of greener pastures. We soon found a shallow, mid-river timber which again appeared loaded with fingermark. We had instant responses to our lures and pulled 10 fingermark from this snag in as many minutes, up to 50cm. After we couldn’t find any barramundi worth fishing, we moved on to a new area, and quickly found some slightly more active fish. We sat on these fish for a while and tried a range of lures for no results. Eventually, Darryl drew an aggressive bite on a 7.5’’ soft plastic and put an 80cm fish on deck. Since this was the only lure we had got a hit on in 2 hours, I was quick to copy his selection. We landed 3 fish in the 80s in 10 minutes on this technique before they slowed down. We couldn’t seem to get away from the fingermark as I even had one take the larger profiled plastic which was fairly surprising! As the bite dwindled into the afternoon, we retired to an isolated patch of beach to cook up the rest of our seafood, before heading back home. Overall, it was a successful trip, with plenty of fish caught and plenty more learnt. If you are lucky enough to get out month, try a few different techniques and areas to make the most of those winter fish.
by Dylan Case