Chasing cool water barramundi with Jarrod Day and Darwin's Barra Base in the Mary River and Corroboree Billabong
A sudden drop in water temperature can shut tropical fish down like nothing else.
Jarrod Day found a way around the problem on a recent trip chasing the mighty barramundi.
Whenever you venture to any northern state you automatically expect hot conditions where every breath is filled with moisture so thick you can almost chew it. Even so, where there's warm air, there's warm water, and where there's warm water, there are plenty of hungry fish.
On a recent Top End trip this was not meant to be. Rather, it was the opposite, with two of Darwin's coldest days on record deciding to blow in along with a bone-chilling wind. Although I'd just flown half way round the country, it felt like I'd hopped off the plane where I got on in Melbourne. The only people not wearing jeans and jumpers were my fellow passengers!
In the north where the average mercury level hovers around the 30C mark,a sudden cold snap will make the fish go into a state of hibernation. Even so, working hard for quality fish is something I always look forward to. You just can't have it easy all the time, can you?
We finally recieved a break in the weather and were on our way in search of the iconic barramundi. The early morning greeted us with a fine display pinks, oranges,blues and yellows rising up from the horizon as we cut our way through the maze of plants that engulf the Cooroboree Billabong.
The annual wet-season rainfall had almost finished draining into the ocean and the fish had to find a safe and warm place to call home.. By now the water's surface temperature ranged between 20C and 22C and most fish were either in the deepest sections of the river, high in the shallows or next to warm rockbars. This gave us a direction to concentrate our efforts.
We'd been trolling for some time with a few small fish landed but none to write home about.
A rethink of the lure spread had a few of us switch to smaller lures.
Allan pulled out his old faithful, a bright green Little Lucifer that had been torn apart from the multitude of barra that had eaten it over past seasons. I'd never seen so many scratches on one lure before.
With that in mind, I tied on one of my favourite lures, a green Yo-Zuri Tobimaru. When the fish are suffering from lockjaw, a smaller lure can often entice a strike , so this was our new plan.
We trolled the edge of the weed line where the water could only be described as coffee coloured. A dirty water line met with the clean water just in front of a small creek entrance. I free spooled the reel and dropped the lure about 35m from the boat and began to work it in an erratic motion. A solid whack resulted and a sizeable barra burst from the water twisting and turning as if the water had just been electrified.
What was to be my first ever barra put on a typically showy display, until disaster struck and like a rocket the little lure was hurled from the barra's mouth, almost taking my eye's out. Disappointing, but that's barra fishing.
The search Continues
Cooler temperatures mean barra go in search of warmer water, but in large river systems the warmer area's can be difficult for anglers to locate. Under these circumstances, it is most useful to have a good depth sounder with a water temperature gauge on board. This allows you to find temperature changes in the water column, as well as see the solid arches in the water where the fish are holding.
On other occasins you may notice plenty of splashes and bow waves from fish that are holding close into the bank. The water is often warmer in these shallow locations, but fish are easily spooked when you come too close.
|The water's surface temperature ranged between 20 and 220C. and most fish were either in the deepest sections of the river, high in the shallows or hiding next to warm rockbars.|
I have found that one of the most productive techniques in this situation is to repeatedly cast and retrieve lures into the shallows well ahead of the boat. Experienced anglers would already be in the know about this 'stalking' type procedure and it usually pays dividends in this situation.Alternative methods of finding quivering barra are usually centred on underwater rockbars. When the water warms these underwater rockbars trap heat and the surrounding water is kept warm by the heated rock, a little like a sauna. Searching for your prized catch within these types of locations is mandatory if you want success.
When you recieve a bump from a barra, it is not always the lightnig strike to which most anglers are accustomed. Quite often you'll feel a bump through the rod before the lure continues to rattle along as if nothing happened. this "bump" is either one of two things, it could have just gone through a section of weed, which you'll notice from the rod tip not pulsating away, or it was in fact a barra sucking in the lure and spitting it out again. At any bump felt, you should strike immediately to set the hook, regardless if it is weed or not.
The challenge of the coolwater conditions made it all the more satisfying, and I know that, hot water or cold water, I'll be back to chase these fish again.
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