Back on the barra bandwagon – By Josh Behrendorff
Go barra fishing they say, it’ll be easy they say, or so it seems.
5-6 years ago, my family and I spent a lot of time targeting barramundi and we were able to have regular success. This all changed when I took on a more demanding job, sold the smaller boat to upsize and began targeting more blue water fish. Since that point barra was a fish I used to target, that was until a young bloke from work somehow inspired me to head back up the sandfly infested creeks to jump back onto the barramundi band wagon. To be perfectly honest, it hasn’t been easy trying to get back into the groove and hone in on their feeding locations, but 2023 had to be the year for me to finally boat a legal barra in my not so new boat.
When I head out for a fish, I love to have a plan in mind and for my first serious barra fishing trip of the year, this trip we were going to keep it simple, take the whole family (wife and two teenaged children), fill the bait tank with livies and anchor up where I used to catch fish to watch what is going on. It was comforting to realise that my bait locations hadn’t changed and after 3 casts there were enough live gar and mullet in the tank to keep us going for a few hours. Tragedy soon followed when I feel for the old just one more and I threw the net over a likely looking spot only to know that something sharp and snaggy was lying below the murky waters. A gentle pull on my net begun to shred my partially rotten mono net to the point where it had been rendered useless.
By default, we decided we had enough bait and headed down towards our fishing spot. Idling into location with my eyes peeled on the sounder, it was evident that there was some sizeable fish passing through the area. With the water clarity being fairly low, my Garmin sounder seemed to struggle to show too much detail with the GT54UHD transducer. However, we were able to find a submerged log with about 8 barra holding right in the timber, this was the location we decided to anchor in front of and minutes within dropping our first gar fish in the water we were hooked up. The line came straight up towards the surface and I was prematurely excited and called it for our target species only for disappointment to set in when a Queenfish started acrobatically jumping all over the back of the boat. I had planned to set up 4 rods with livies, but I just couldn’t. The hungry Queenfish kept the family entertained while I found myself rebaiting lines and unhooking Queenfish one after another. This went on for almost an hour without a break.
Eventually the Queenfish moved on which gave our livies a chance to sit in the zone for the schooled barramundi. We caught grunter and fingermark but failed to hook up to any of the barra. The closest we got was a scaled bait from a barramundi mouthing the livey, a clear sign that they weren’t really in a feeding mood. At that point we headed for home to regroup and replan for the next trip.
In between the first trip and the second trip I found out that Garmin had released a new GT56UHD transducer that showed more clarity in shallow murky water and the cost of a cast net had almost doubled since I last had to buy one. Regardless, we purchased a new net and installed the new transducer in preparation for a second attempt.
The second trip was just my son and I heading out for a couple of hours, not really setting any expectations this time, just eager to see if there was any improvement in the quality of picture from the new transducer. Heading north to our destination, Ethan and I were pleasantly surprised from the image our Garmin sounder displayed, showing every ripple in the sand, twig in the mud, but more excitingly, every barramundi that was holding in this area.
We stumbled over this hole with easily 200+ fish across a 150m area. Now all we needed to do was convert what we saw on the sounder into a fish in the esky.
We dropped the electric motor in and proceeded to throw soft plastics into the school of fish and very quickly started hooking up on small trevally. I was convinced there were bigger fish in the area so we persisted through the small fish for (in hindsight) too long. The turning point came when Ethan’s lure got annihilated by a silver torpedo that tore drag off his small spinning reel and danced all over the surface. Ethan landed the biggest tarpon that I had ever seen in person. After a brief happy snap, we decided to change things up a little as our soft plastics weren’t enticing the target species.
Trolling has always been my favourite technique to target fish, especially when our children were younger, there was no reliance on casting accuracy, no danger of flying trebles, great hook-up and landing rate, plus it was relaxing. Ethan and I tied on our favourite bibbed minnow and we begun trolling through the school of barra. I was in disbelief at how many fish were congregating in this area and it was only a matter of minutes before we were hooked up solid on the first barra for the morning. As any father would, I tried to hand the rod over to my son, Ethan quickly headed in the opposite direction (I don’t think he wanted to be responsible for dropping our first barra of the year). With the Motorguide remote in one hand, rod in the other Ethan proceeded to hand me the landing net while the fish was spending more time jumping in the air trying to throw the hooks rather than swimming in the water. After a couple of tense minutes and some spectacular jumps, I managed to get the fish under control, the boat ‘spot locked’ and the landing net in a position that we could readily grab when the fish bellied up beside the boat. The energy this little barra had reminded me exactly what all the fuss was about and how fun they could be to catch. Ethan successfully netted the barra for me and it was high fives all around, surprisingly this was my first saltwater barra in this boat (in 5 years). Before I could call my wife and tell her we were having barra burgers for tea we laid it out on the brag mat, at 59cm, I would usually throw it back, however considering the circumstances, this fish was destined for a sashimi entrée and panko crumbed barra burger for main.
Ethan and I set up for another pass with the exact same result, by this time you couldn’t have wiped the smile from our faces. Ethan kept calm and coaxed his yellow tailed, chrome slab to the waiting net. This fish was a different class, at around 65cm, it had definitely filled out a lot more around the shoulders. It was a good healthy fish. We proceeded to troll (and catch) for the next half hour until curiosity got the better of us. We desperately wanted to get one on a cast lure, so we anchored up in the middle of this large school and proceeded to throw every single lure from my tackle storage at the school. It didn’t matter if it was the same bibbed minnow that was catching, gulp, vibe paddle tail or jerkshad, we just couldn’t entice the bite despite trying every retrieve known to man. The closest we got was several follow ups that turned away from our lure beside the boat. We decided to troll one more pass through the school to see if the fish were still feeding and instantly hooked up again. This really proved a point that sometimes it really is about the technique to entice a bite. This was a great reminder for me that creek fishing can be a lot of fun when you can align the bite time with the correct technique, it has also given my son and I the barra bug, something that I haven’t had for a very long time. Until next time, stay safe and God bless.