Mission Bridge isn’t such a mission to fish at night
  |  First Published: March 2017

Night time is when many predatory species of fish such as barra and salmon become much more active. While fish might hug the structure and ignore lures and baits during the day, once darkness falls they will begin to become active. Certain tactics that during the day seem to be quite useless often prove very effective by night. Knowing your tides and barometer can also help when chasing species such as barra and black jewfish.

The mighty Mission River is the biggest of all of the tributaries that drain into Albatross Bay. Near the mouth of this great river there is a large artificial bridge, the Mission Bridge, which is crossed when heading north from Weipa. This bridge is the largest one lane bridge in Australia and is around 1km in length. It is held up by dozens of sets of concrete pylons and is one of the best fishing destinations in the area.

Actually fishing off the Mission Bridge is illegal, for safety purposes. Under that bridge there are some of the biggest concentrations of bull sharks, groupers and massive 15ft+ crocodiles, so it really isn’t a place to fall in.

This bridge is where my mates and I often go night fishing whether in a tinny fishing under the bridge or simply flicking lures off the bank beside it. While many species can be caught here during the day, such as smaller queenfish, golden trevally and bream, night time is when it really kicks off. During hours of darkness, barra, threadies, trevally, black jewies, golden snapper, mangrove jack and many more aggressive predatory species begin to feed.

The main channel is around 50ft deep and this is where the current roars far too strong to fish during the running tides. It’s only possible on a slack to accurately drift a lure or bait into position. The rest of the river is only around 6ft deep. The massive bright lamps that line the structure are as good as the pylons themselves at attracting fish. Small baitfish such as hardiheads, mullet and prawns swarm around the lights and therefore schools of large blue salmon and queenfish, with the odd tarpon thrown in, race to the surface and smash balls of bait.

These species can be easily caught using small metals, plastics or the favourite lure for local anglers – vibes. My favourite lure for fishing around the bridge would have to be soft vibes. The salmon and queenies can be easily sight-fished, as they hang just under the surface in sometimes ridiculous numbers waiting for a feed. The tarpon tend to hang a little deeper in the water column. To catch one you must sink your lure down near the bottom and work it back up.

For barra and threadies, while the odd rat will hang on the surface amongst the salmon and queenies, most of them will be down near the bottom and hanging off the pylons a little. Again, don’t attempt to catch them without the correct gear, because they will dust you off real quick here. Vibes or heavy plastics seem to be the most effective methods for chasing these fish.

On the bottom itself, black jewfish are waiting amongst the pylons, but don’t even try to catch one unless you have at least 50lb braid on a heavy combo, because these fish are only inches away from freedom and sometimes before you have even realized you have a bite they are already buried into the oyster covered maze. If you are lucky you might pick up a little golden snapper when fishing the bottom. While the bridge can and does hold black jewfish well over a metre, most of the golden snapper you will catch will barely exceed 45cm.

Most barra up here are encountered around 50-70cm and although there are definitely larger ones around, for every big barra you land, you will most likely land a dozen rats beforehand. The threadies up here are of a similar size. Remember to limit your kill with species such as barra, especially in a river system where their numbers don’t replenish easily.

Darkness is the key to fishing the mighty Mission River Bridge and vibes are a key lure. Good luck and always think like a fish.

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