The wet season of northern Australia is an incredible time to fish for impoundment barramundi. Often the dams are on the rise and the big mature fish fire up as they attempt to escape the freshwater dams with the flooding rains and push to the ocean. Thankfully most of our stocked barra impoundments trap the fish in regardless of the heavy rain and this makes for some great fishing. Water temperatures are still high after a hot spring/summer period and the fish are really on the bite. The only factor making it harder to fish is the torrential rain and wet season storms. It’s often quite a mission avoiding these intense tropical storms and there have been many times where I have had to bank the boat and wait for it to pass. Thankfully the intense eye of the storm usually passes quickly, and you can get back to the great fishing.
As the rains bring inflow to the freshwater dams, the water begins to rise over the freshly flooded areas and grassy banks. The baitfish love to feed in these shallow, freshly flooded areas as they eat insects and whatever else that has now been inundated. The big barra are never far away from the baitfish, so they also push into these shallow areas as they hunt. This can make for some exciting fishing as you fish for big angry barra in shallow water. The fish are often supercharged in the warm, fresh water and make every attempt to throw your lure as they charge out of the shallows and head for deeper water. Usually after heavy rains the water becomes discoloured, meaning the fish will hunt a little more during daylight hours instead of the middle of the night and it’s great to get some good daytime bites. Areas of inflow around the dams are also great hotspots during the wet season sessions. This is where the feeder creeks, drains and rivers flow into the dams. These areas of inflow often attract large numbers of fish as they congregate at the edge of the flow. On some dams you can only find this just after heavy rains, while on others the river arms are a great option all wet season.
The wet season is typically January to March in the Queensland impoundments but it does vary slightly each year. If you do manage to strike a dry period during these months it’s not a bad sign by any means – the fish are still biting due to the warm water and a clear week with no rain can still produce awesome fishing. Some of my best sessions on the dams have come during these months, rain or no rain. The rain does tend to scare a lot of anglers away and can be hard work at times. But with the decreased angling pressure and persistence to keep fishing in wet weather, I’m sure you will be rewarded. By April the water starts to cool off and I find the fishing begins to slow down, particularly if there are a few cold nights.
The dam barra are still bite time-specific during the wet season. Moon set/moonrise, first light/last light and tide changes are the prime bite periods. People often ask me, tide change? You’re in a freshwater dam so how does tide play a part? The truth is I do not fully understand it either, but you can bet your bottom dollar that if you get the tide times for the closest section of coast to the dam, the fish will often bite consistently within the hour around these tide change periods. The bite period is often only short – maybe 30 minutes or an hour if you’re lucky – so you want to make sure you are fishing hard during these periods.
During the wet season the water is warm and this speeds up the barramundi’s metabolism –they are eating big baitfish or food items and therefore big lures. Big soft plastics, big swimbaits and big hard-bodies are my favourites to throw. Something in the 6 to 9in range is usually good, with my all-time favourites being paddle-tail soft plastics. Rig them on a heavy gauge jig head with a belly stinger if fishing in open water, or on a weedless worm hook if fishing in flooded grass, debris or weed. Bigger soft vibes are also great if you find fish sitting deeper on the sounder, where you can drop right on top of them. I use a light swimbait combo to cast these big lures. A rod around 7½ to 8ft long with a 2000-size baitcaster reel. I prefer to fish a baitcaster outfit (but if you prefer to fish a spin combo this is also a great option) teamed with 50lb braid as a main line down to an 80lb fluorocarbon leader attached by an FG knot. I’ll often have a couple combos ready to go in case I break something during a bite time, so I can get back casting quick. If fishing for big fish in heavy cover or a very flooded edge, you may want to up your leader to 100lb to avoid getting broken off in the debris.
Finding fish in the wet season is much the same as normal, with a keen eye on the sounder being your best bet. Sure, the areas of inflow are major hot spots when the inflow is running, but if not it’s time to revert to the standard techniques. Target wind-blown points and flooded edges during low light periods and creek beds or areas of submerged timber during the day. Use your sounder to side scan through these areas searching for fish and once you find good numbers, pull up and start casting. Use your electric motor to hold on top of the fish and keep casting – sometimes you can cast on top of fish for an hour or two before you hit a bite time and start catching fish. As long as I’ve got a fish or two moving past on the sounder every minute or two I’ll stay, but if the fish move away and you don’t have any showing on the sounder it’s time to move on. The dam wall is also worth a sound during the wet season as sometimes the fish will school up at the dam wall as they attempt to move downstream. As with all barramundi fishing, a good modern sounder is essential for finding fish. All brands now produce quality side scanning units and transducers. I am currently running a Lowrance HDS Live head unit with a 3 in 1 down and side scanning transducer.
A good set of wet weather clothes are essential if you want to give it a good crack over the wet season and something totally waterproof is ideal. Make sure your bilge pump in your boat is working as there’s a fair chance you’ll be needing to pump some rainwater out during the fishing day. I try to avoid fishing in the big tropical lows and stronger storms. Although you are in a freshwater dam, the eyes of these storms can still have some incredibly strong winds that will produce large waves. Just before or just after these bigger storms have passed are great times to fish. In particular, just after is the best chance of finding some fish stacked up where the inflowing freshwater is running into the lake.
There aren’t a massive number of fishing options during the wet season in north Queensland as the storms make it hard to fish offshore and the saltwater barra closed season is in play for the first bit of the wet season – but thankfully the stocked dams are a great option. There is no closed season for barra in the impoundments as the barramundi do not spawn in these dams and rely on stockings of small fish funded by your Queensland stocked impoundment permit, which is required to fish most freshwater dams in Queensland so have a google before you fish.
Lake Tinaroo and Lake Proserpine are a couple of my favourite dams to fish for wet season barra but all the stocked barramundi dams are awesome options.
The more southern dams of Awoonga and Lake Monduran are now again producing some incredible fishing for barra, with fish around the 1m mark common. These two dams will only get better over the next couple of seasons. Kinchant Dam and Teemburra Dam are also great options and consistent producers of big barra each year. The barra in the Queensland dams do have an amazing average size with fish around the magic 1m mark often caught. This is a major drawcard for the dams and the wet season is a great time to visit.