Fishing areas and techniques
There are many productive fishing areas throughout the river. However, surprisingly to some, one of the most productive areas is the city reach, down to Devils Elbow. This part of the river has plenty or rock structure located right in the city limits (hence the name Rockhampton) that hold barramundi all year round, while the threadfin move there whenever the conditions are suitable.
The Fitzroy Delta accessible by Port Alma is also popular, with Balaclava Island, Raglan Creek, Inkerman Creek, Casuarina Creek and Connor Creek all fishing well at times. This area is a little harder to fish, due to more limited structure. However, with modern fish finders (sounders), there’s really no place for the fish to hide!
Here are some helpful tips and techniques for a more successful fishing trip in the Rockhampton region.
Generally speaking, the best tides for lure and fly fishing for barra are the last half of the run-out and the first part of the run-in, especially two or three days after a neap tide (smallest tidal movements) and as the tidal range starts to build towards the spring tides.
Barramundi tend not to feed as hard during the actual neap tides, because of the lack of run and movement in the water. These still conditions make it harder for predators such as barra to ambush their prey. After the neaps, the fish are usually hungry and more active as the flow returns.
The other big advantage is the fact that water clarity is usually at its best at this time, giving the fish you are targeting a much better chance to see your fly or lure.
The most important thing to consider when fishing deeper holes and rock bars for barramundi is finding the fish in the first place. There’s simply no point fishing in barren, unproductive water. A quality fish finder/depth sounder is the most efficient way of locating fish. Once the fish have been marked on the screen, it’s a case of getting your lure down in front of them. This can be acheived by either trolling a deep-diving, hard-bodied lure that reaches a running depth at the level where the fish are holding (often between five and eight metres), or by positioning your boat with an electric motor or anchor and casting or dropping soft plastics, vibes or weighted prawn imitations down to the fish. (You can change the weight of the prawns or plastics with a ball sinker and loop knot.)
The trick is to make sure your lure gets down to the depth where the fish are holding. A range of 20 to 30 gram vibes for instance, and or ball sinkers and jig heads for the prawns and plastics will cover this, depending on the conditions.
The use of a fish finder (depth sounder) cuts down immensely on the time needed to locate barra and other fish on “structure” such as rock bars or submerged timber. However, it’s always worth trolling or casting to any structure, even if you haven’t seen a “show” of fish on the sounder screen.
Trolling hard-bodied diving lures around or close to structure is a very effective way of catching barra, with the advantage of being able to spend time having a close look at the sounder while you’re trolling.
Many anglers prefer to cast suspending lures around structure and employ a stop/start twitching retrieve. This is an extremely exciting way to target barra, and can often raise a bite even when the fish are shut down and inactive.
Did you know that all small barramundi are males and all the large fish are females? Barra become sexually mature as males at about three to four years of age. Males change into females once they’re about five or six years of age and around 80 cm in length, although they require access to saltwater in order for this sex change to occur and reproduction to take place.
The barramundi’s lifecycle includes freshwater, estuarine and marine phases. Sexually mature adults migrate from freshwater rivers and waterholes to coastal estuaries and deltas from around October to December each year to spawn, and for this reason there’s a closed season from November to January to protect spawning fish. Spawning generally occurs around the times of the full and new moon phases and these remarkable fish can spawn a number of times over several months. Spawning occurs around the mouth of the Fitzroy and along adjacent foreshore areas.
Barramundi are a fast growing fish and commonly reach legal size in just three years. They can attain trophy sizes of a metre and more in as little as six or seven years, and may survive well into their teens.
The legal size (slot limit) range for barramundi in this region is 580 to 1200 mm (58 to 120 cm), with a daily possession limit of five fish per angler. However, the Rockhampton Regional Council is promoting a Rockhampton Recreational Fishing Voluntary Code of Practice (VCOP) for the river suggesting the retention of just two fish per day between 580 and 1000 mm (58 and 100 cm). There’s already strong local support for this VCOP, and visiting fishers are also encouraged to sign up to the voluntary code.
The VCOP also encourages fishers to refrain from fishing during the closed season in specified areas to avoid disrupting barramundi spawning.
King Threadfin Forecast
The king threadfin has a minimum legal size of 600 mm (60 cm), no maximum size limit, and a bag limit of five per angler, per day. However, the VCOP recommends that fishers limit their take to two threadfin between 600 and 1000 mm (60 and 100 cm) in length.
King threadfin spawn at the mouth of the river at roughly the same times as barramundi, so their spawning aggregations are also protected if anglers refrain from fishing in these areas at those times.
King threadfin are also fast growing fish, and typically reach legal size in around three years, just like barra.
While barramundi and king threadfin are the major draw cards on offer, the Fitzroy River also offers a wide range of other species including blue threadfin (blue salmon), javelin fish (grunter), golden snapper (fingermark), flathead, bream, estuary cod and many more varieties.
As well as no nets, the Fitzroy boasts another massive advantage by offering the science-based Crystal Bowl monitoring and forecasting system.
Each season, the Crystal Bowl forecasts what to expect for barramundi and king threadfin in terms of the size range of fish, catch rates, stock trends and recruitment. This level of detail is not available anywhere else in Australia and gives local and visiting fishers a good idea of what to expect.
Also the Crystal Bowl forecasts shows where anglers have caught either Barramundi or King Threadfin over the last three years, use the links below.
King Threadfin Forecast