Midday on Sunday 1 February in Cairns and all through the tropical north brings a heightened activity level among many anglers; all geared towards pinning their first legal barramundi of the new season. There is usually some good-natured competition in my household to be the one to catch the first barra of the season. In years gone by this has even sometimes happened within the first hour of the season opening.
For anglers wishing to nail their first barra here are and a couple of basic tips to get you started.
Selecting the right time and place to fish is imperative. While barra can be caught all year round (outside the closed season) during February and the few months before the cooler weather sets they are an easy option around Cairns. The Cairns Inlet is quite a large and beautiful mangrove system, abundant with barramundi
Barra can be caught at different stages of the tide depending on the conditions at that time. But barra usually feed, working bait schools, about an hour and a half either side of the low tide changeover, so plan your fishing trip around this time period to increase your chances. Try fishing a creek or drain mouth as the tide changes and starts to flow in, the barramundi will return with the tide.
This year the opening day of the season is not really ideal for chasing barra in the Cairns Inlet as we will still be in neap tides after the new moon. Conditions should improve as we head towards the full moon on 10 February and then in the few days after.
If you are keen on fishing the first day of the new season I recommend working the last of the daylight, as the not-so-low tide of 1.35m at around 7.00pm should give you a window of opportunity. As the tide drops out of the mangroves and water drains off the flats barramundi will seek refuge around structures such as a snag or a deep water gutter. They will also spend time in water that is outside the hard running flow and may be just off the main flow in back eddies.
There are many creek mouths in and around Cairns to work for barra, but here are a few spots in the Cairns Inlet to get you started.
Red Bream Creek on the eastern side of Admiralty Island is idea. Using live prawns, this location usually produces barra on the first part of the making tide. There are many other similar creeks particularly higher up the inlet through the Redbank Creek arm of the system.
Just near Red Bream Creek closer to the city are the remains of some old barges, which are another good spot for barramundi. The barges are a popular bait fishing spot with live prawns but it is also a good casting area. This location is best fished on the slower moving tide after the moons.
Casting the bigger and deeper snags right up inside Two Mouth Creek at the bottom of Admiralty Island also produces barramundi. This spot can be worth working soon after the water starts dropping out of the mangroves. Also try the mangrove edges and drains between the mouth of Redbank Creek and right around to the entrance of Wrights Creek and Blackfellows Creek.
The old ramp of Swallows Landing, which is a munitions landing for the navy, is another productive spot to fish for barramundi. I recommend slow trolling some deep diving hardbody lures in and around the landing as well as casting to the rock wall edges.
The calm weather has continued to provide plenty of offshore fishing opportunities. Flat conditions have allowed anglers lots of success dropping pilchards down on the edges of the local reefs, pulling numerous coral trout from the bottom. Other by catch has included mangrove jacks, sweetlip and cod.
There are also good reports of reds being taken, along with spangled emperor, rosy Jobfish and sharks. Occasional big Spaniards, GT and cobia have been taken on trolled gar.
Inshore conditions at the moment are prime, but we are heading into the wettest time of the year. Be prepared for some overnight downpours and heavy falls, which can drastically change the fishing conditions.
February is usually an ideal time for fingermark. While reports have been quiet so far, these fish should pick up this month. There have been steady catches of mangrove jack, in the creeks and on the flats grunter and a few blue and king salmon have been caught. This should continue throughout February - weather permitting.
Till next month…good fishing!Reads: 1993