Anglers, meet Rockhampton: Australia’s next Barra Capital
It may be called Australia’s beef capital, but with some clever changes to the rules, Rockhampton is set to become Australia’s barramundi (aka ‘barra’) capital.
When it comes down to it, Rockhampton must have been designed by an angler. The vast, grassy floodplains that sustain the livestock also hold hidden gems in the billabongs and lagoons that sparkle like jewels as you fly into town.
Barramundi. Tens of thousands of them. Australia’s iconic sport fish.
Whenever the mighty Fitzroy River floods, the barra depart these hidden backwaters and enter the river proper to complete their life cycle.
In November 2015, commercial netting was removed from the Fitzroy River and adjoining Keppel Bay and already, thousands of barramundi remain in the river and are helping build the barra populations back to levels that haven’t been seen for decades.
Not surprisingly, the results for recreational anglers have been virtually instantaneous.
YOU CAN CATCH ‘EM IN THE MIDDLE OF TOWN
Steve “Pilly” Pill runs the aptly named Barra Jacks tackle store in Rockhampton and is already excited by the numbers of big barra turning up in the river and in particular, right in the middle of town.
“We’ve seen over 60 barra bigger than a metre caught in the town reaches this year alone, it’s amazing,” Pill says. “One of our customers hadn’t caught a barra before and he landed two fish – one over a metre – right between the two bridges in the middle of town.”
Indeed, Rockhampton’s city reaches are set up as if they were designed a barramundi angler. Bound by the Fitzroy River Barrage upstream, spanned by several bridges and littered with rocky reefs, it’s a mix of a barrier to upstream migration, and prime barramundi habitat.
OR BYO BOAT
If you’re bringing your own boat to Rockhampton, you’ll be happy to know there are multi-lane boat ramps with pontoons and toilets right next to the prime fishing areas.
We enlisted the help of gun angler, Dan Powell, to show us the ropes.
Dan’s tagged (for research) over 5,000 barramundi in Central Queensland and reinforced the fact that Rocky was, indeed, a barra bottleneck.
Pointing out the purpose-built fishing platforms and more natural rocky structure, we asked his advice for first timers.
KNOW YOU CAN DO IT!
“Whatever your strengths are at home, do that here and you’ll catch barra and kings,” he says.
King (or threadfin) salmon are a big, golden, saltwater fish with distinctive whiskers. They bite, fight and taste every bit as good as the barramundi that share their habitat.
Dan reckons that the diminutive Gulp! 3” Shrimp catches as many barra as anything else in his tackle box. This metre-plus fish came from the middle of town.
“If you’re good at bait fishing for snapper, lay out an unweighted dead bait or live bait and the barra will eat it,” he says. “If you’re a bream angler from down south, just upscale your gear and use the same techniques. That’s the beauty of this fishery – you can use the boat you normally use and the techniques you normally use and you’ll catch fish.”
The way Rockhampton is setting up, it’s only a matter of time before the Big Bull may need a Big Barra next to it.
Just make sure that you talk with the local tackle stores in town to get the latest information on what’s biting when you turn up.
Three must-have lures for Rockhampton
1. A 20 to 30gram soft-vibe
2. A deep diving 12 to 15cm minnow
3. Some 3” Gulp! Shrimp and jigheads