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BARRA IN THE DRAINS

Wayne Harvey

It was the week leading up to the 1st of February; very hot, humid and a fair bit of fresh still in the waterways. I only had one thing on my mind... saltwater barra!!! A week prior to this, I received a phone call from my sister who told me she was coming to town and wanted to go barra fishing. I had planned a trip on opening day with my partner in crime Jo and had a few ideas in mind. Because we had a lot of rain in the area just before the season opened, I thought it was a good idea to have more than one strategy in place. I had two main plans, freshwater runoff and shallow water salt banks. As it turned out my sister was arriving in town the day after barra season opened, so this gave me a perfect opportunity to pre-fish an area where I thought I would find big barra. This wasn't to be as the conditions were windy and uncomfortable, and after two hours of sounding, looking and fishing, we had only managed one fish at 80cm. This didn't bother me too much, although it was now in the back of my head that plan B could be on the cards. The next day saw a completely different weather pattern arrive, with clear blue skies and hardly any wind around, which had me a tad excited!

By now my sister and her husband had arrived and it was time to head off. The four of us jumped into my 16' centre console and set off again in the search of quality barramundi. I started working the same area as the day before, mainly channels and gutters. We were fishing for about an hour without an enquiry when I noticed that most of the bait, mainly prawns, herring and small mullet, were holding in the mouths of small drains up in the shallows. I doubled back and started our run again, this time fishing in about 1-1.5 metres of water and focusing mainly on the mouths of drains.

We would have only been fishing for about 10 minutes when I put a cast right up into the shallows and on the retrieve had a definite 'bump' from a quality fish, as the lure made its way back into deeper water. My sister, not knowing it at the time, also had a really good 'bump'. It was then that I knew the barra were holding right up in the shallows, in about a metre of water. I held the boat in position for another three casts when all of a sudden... Boom, a metre barra exploded out of the water! After a good fight a 100.5cm barra was boated, not a bad start for the second day of the season. After a couple of happy snaps with the Sis, the healthy barra was released. Now with one quality fish under my belt it was time to focus on giving everybody else in the boat a good chance of landing a quality fish.

We worked the same area for another ten minutes without result. I decided to keep moving, so we slowly motored up to the next drain which was showing all the signs of big fish. We worked our lures in and around the drain for ten minutes without even a tap, before I noticed a small junction coming off the main arm about forty metres away was being hammered by predatory fish. I motored up to the junction and positioned the boat so we could fire two lures into the mouth and one toward the point of the junction.

In the meantime I was casting back out into the main gutter in the hope that something travelling through would eat my lure. The silence was suddenly broken when my brother in law's reel started screaming! I knew this was a big fish as the drag was set pretty tight and the fish just kept on running! After a couple of good runs and a great aerial display another good fish, measuring 104cm, was landed. By now there were a couple of high fives being thrown about, along with a few cheers as we had two metre fish in the boat after about 1 ½ hours of fishing.

A couple of quick photos before the fish's release and it was all systems go again, casting back into and around the mouth of the junction, leaving no point untouched. I continued to work the main gutter behind us, where it was deeper and suddenly my line came up tight. It wasn't a huge fish but it fought hard and deep. Calling it for a foul hooked mid-sized barra, I noticed an orange sheen come up under the boat before diving quickly back down to the bottom. I knew then that it wasn't a barra, but a fairly decent fingermark. Once again a few pics were taken and it was back to business.

We worked this area for another twenty minutes, only to move back to the shallow drain that we had previously fished. There was something about this drain that had my attention, even though I wasn't sure what it was... I just had to fish it! The same technique was applied, with all three crew members casting their lures into and around the drain and twitching, hopping and slow rolling them back out again, as I kept the boat in position.

The wind was starting to pick up by now and the tide was nearly done. I was just about to call last drinks when bang! The Mrs was on and again it was another good barra! The fish whistled off at lightning speed along the bank, before heading into her comfort zone of deeper water. This fish was hooked solid and didn't jump once, instead slugging it out and fighting down deep with hard, intense runs. After a few tail boils and a head shake, the fish was landed and measured 101cm. What a day! Three metery's and a fingermark in under 2 ½ hours! A couple more quick photos and a release to follow made the whole crews day. After a few more high fives and a bit more cheering, it was time to head for home. The day couldn't have been scripted any better for such a short window of fishing, with every crew member on board stoked, including myself.

The gear of choice on the day was 20lb spin tackle. This makes life easy for newcomers to the game and takes the hassle out of 'bird nesting' and 'over runs, allowing more time for your lures to be in the water. Lures of choice on the day were soft plastic paddle tails and curl tails rigged on the TT Lures HeadlockZ HD 6/0 jigheads. The hooks these are built on are outstanding! The slim profile on these heavy duty hooks means that not only do you get less water resistance, for a smooth action, but you are also getting the strength you need when fighting big fish. I will be sure that I have enough HeadlockZ HD jigheads in my tackle box for my next trip as they have proven themselves as tough and that's a must when chasing big fish like metre plus saltwater barramundi.

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FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 22, 2017