With 1 November truly behind us we farewell another barramundi open season. I'll be the first to admit that not having the option of targeting old bucket mouth is a bit of a downer, but it doesn't mean you have to put the rod in the rack as there are plenty of other options available that can help you scratch that itch until 1 February.
The best part about the barramundi closed season is the time of year it takes place. The months of summer across Queensland are some of the best for estuarine, river and coastal fishers, as a combination of warm water and air temperatures and climatic events like storms and monsoonal rain can really fire up a number of target species.
One species that responds to these events with unmatched vigor is the mangrove jack. Whether you live on the Gold Coast or in Weipa, summer is prime time for chasing jacks. A combination of warm water and hot sticky days triggers these fish to feed ferociously, making them easy to catch. It's no secret that this time of year elusive trophy-sized mangrove jack becomes just that much easier to catch and for that reason they should be the number one target on your list.
While targeting jacks is a sensible option in summer, it's important to think about how you will go about catching them. Sure, you can target them on hardbodies and soft plastics, but if you really want to capitalise on the strong jack bite then targeting them on surface is a must. There is no better time of year to target jacks on surface than over the barra closed season and watching a big red devil cream a surface offering will get your blood pumping.
Traditional poppers and stickbaits are always fun, especially around open exposed areas early in the morning or late afternoon. A better option is getting your hands on some soft plastic frogs or weedless plastic stickbaits and skip casting right into the back of snags and structure. Summer brings big tides and being able to get your surface frogs right up the back behind mangroves and snags to where the fish are is really heart-in-your-mouth fishing.
Skip casting is not that difficult, just aim to flick your lure sideways on a 30° angle. Your frog or stickbait should skim like a stone, putting you deep under the mangroves. The next step is to hold the rod tip up as high as you can without taking the lure out of the water and begin a slow steady wind until your frog's feet begin bubbling away or your plastic stickbait begins to swim. I prefer to use spin gear for frogging and plastic stickbaiting, as overheads can easily bird nest up if you get the cast wrong or hit a branch. Just be ready for that strike, as being so close to structure means you will need to persuade them to the boat. For this reason, I prefer to opt for a bit stronger braid and leader. Leader in particular is vital and you will need to use something that can take a beating. I prefer to use either Sunline FC100 or FC Rock when playing in this country as it is abrasion resistant and has saved me plenty of times when trying to extract a big surface-snared jack.
While targeting jacks on surface is a top priority this time of year, there are still some other worthwhile options if you want something a little less aggressive. Summer can bring some big tides that make for some awesome flats fishing. Flats are a top place to visit over the closed season as the hold plenty of desirable species that are hard on the chew this time of year, particularly if the water is dirty thanks to monsoonal rain.
Flats are pretty basic to fish and are best fished as the tide begins to drain off them. The bigger the tide means more water on the flat, which equals more fish. More tide means a bigger run-off and that makes for some short, sharp, action-packed sessions. Fishing the flats allows you to scale down your line class and have a bit of fun due to the lack of structure.
When fishing the flats, the two other desirable species you will encounter are grunter and threadfin. Grunter are a top table fish and are certainly worth targeting during the barra off season. The schools can be targeted on side imaging sounders and, contrary to opinion, they are suckers for a well-fished prawn plastic or vibe. Threadfin and blue salmon are also flats dwellers, especially after heavy rain and the jelly prawn populations are pushed out into these areas. While threadies are probably better eating, blue salmon would have to be one of the most underrated sportfish going around as they battle hard at the boat, love a lure and jump just as good as barramundi.