Never a week goes by where I don’t think about the prospect of heading to central Queensland to target Barramundi in the various stocked impoundments within that region. The thought of spending quality time with great mates, sharing a few laughs, spilling a cold ale and cooking on the coals of a camp fire is what sometimes gets myself and many of us through the daily grind. The fishing is just a catalyst that bonds this mateship. We had planned to fish Lake Kinchant and Teemburra Dam near Mackay and although the fishing was somewhat tough at times, we certainly caught our fair share of quality Barramundi. Mainly equipped with kayaks, we also took a few boats along for the journey for support.
No matter how many times you visit these lakes, every time you first launch there is a feeling oftrepidation and uncertainty as to how your time on the water will unfold. One thing that I have learnt over the years fishing these land locked environments is that there is never two days the same. Preparation is the key to success for these fishing trips and prior to the event, I spend my time observing water levels and the weather leading up to our departure. Lures are selected carefully, reels are wound with new line and knots are tied with utmost precision. The outfit I prefer is Silstar’s 6’6” Crystal Power Tip rod matched with Okuma’s RTX Pro 40 reels spooled with 30lb Platypus Platinum Plus braid and a short length of 60lb Platypus Game leader. The soft plastic lures I have most confidence in using are Z-Man’s 6” SwimmerZ in the colours of Golden Boy, Red Shad, Houdini and especially Smoky Shad which represents the baitfish I have witnessed swimming amongst the weedy structure in daylight hours. The Z-Mans are made from 10x Tough Elaztechand can sure take their fair share of abuse, catching copious amounts of fish before they require changing. Rigged weedless on the award winning TT Lures SnakelockZ in an 8/0 hook weighted at 1/4oz. also gives me confidence in staying connected to these aggressive fish throughout each session.
I personally had unfinished business to attend to after losing several fish in excess of 120cm during my last north bound trip back in December 2014. Some I even estimated to be in excess of 130cm. I was hoping to impart some vengeance on these fish and regain some self-pride. I had set myself a personal goal, to land one of these fish of that magnitude. Launching the Safari H2O ‘The Murray’ kayak I was feeling very positive with optimistic thoughts generating constructive and encouraging actions.
It wasn’t long after I had launched when I caught my first Barramundi for the trip, which measured 103cm. Soon after a pattern emerged as I observed and analysed how, when and where would be the best options to target these fish throughout the week ahead. Fishing at night amongst and above the luscious submerged weed beds in a depth of 2 metres or less resulted in me catching approximately forty fish throughout our short stay. Prime time saw me being on the water at night prior to the moon setting.
My goal of catching that significant fish of 130cm plus wasn’t going to happen easily. Motivated to succeed I persisted with determination running on about three hours sleep per day. When time allowed, I rested during the day re-fuelling my body for every paddle stroke I needed to take at night. All of my senses told me it was my time to achieve something that I have only dreamed about. During the first two days of the trip we experienced some inclement weather. Not deterred by the rain, I persisted in the hope to land a few more fish yakside and expose a pattern of bite periods that would be most productive. Sitting in my kayak with my feet either side of the vessel embedded in a weed bed to hold me in position as the rain pelted down, I began to ask the question, “What in the hell am I doing out here?” Arms crossed with my head tilted forward, my Akubra wore the brunt of the continual precipitation. The wind was also strong and relentless making conditions even worse and sure made me think I should definitely be rolled up in my warm swag back at camp. Enough to blow a dog off a chain! I stayed strong and sat out the short storms that continued to come and go. Between the squalls I witnessed active Barramundi feeding close to the surface between the weed beds with reflections of their red eyes radiating in the dark from my head lamp. This was enough to keep me very enthusiastic in persevering and as a result a few more healthy fish were caught and released.
The next morning the conditions changed for the better. Launching at 3am I landed four fish in quick succession while waiting for the sun to rise and warm my essence. Glancing at my watch I considered it was very close to the first tinge of light appearing on the horizon. I began to troll my lure stealthily and closely behind my kayak between two large weed beds in a lesser body of water no more than 10 metres wide. Approaching some submerged shallow weed mid-stream in this stretch of water, I had a strong gut feeling that there was a fish on the other side poised and waiting in ambush mode. I took three strong strokes of the paddle and glided stealthily over the weed. Cruising slowly I waited in anticipation; shoulders bunched waiting for my lure to reach that strike zone. On cue, my rod tip loaded up alerting me to a striking fish as the line on my reel was stripped from its spool. I immediately took another three aggressive paddle strokes to set the hooks prior to lifting the rod from the rod holder. Distinctly hearing the fish jump I was instantly confident it was a good fish,especially noticing the size of the splash it made on re-entry. Knowing I had to keep this aggressive fish on a short lead before I could get my first real look at this beast of a fish, my kayak uncontrollably veered towards it. The fish jumped profusely while I fought it, concentrating on keeping very low rod angles. Turning its head every time it approached the edges of this narrow corridor of water and the thick weed beds I remarkably stayed mentally solid, keeping more composed and collected than with any other fish I had fought of this magnitude. Steering the fish through the water with the use of my paddle, switching the rod in either hand once I thought I had enough line back on the reel to control it more comfortably, I soon saw signs of this colossal fish wearing and tiring.
With every pass of the fish adjacent to my kayak I got glimpses of it from a distance as my head lamp reflected the silver shine of its presence near the surface. It launched again now within close proximity and I finally got my first true glance at its size. The enormity of this particular fish was not lost on me as it breached the surface on a couple more occasions as it tried to evade capture. Its gigantic caudal fin displaced large volumes of water as it swam beneath the kayak time and time again. There was little I could do but hang on and steer the kayak as best I could, back paddling when time allowed to give me the upper hand on this belligerent fish. On several occasions I witnessed my bent rod wrapping tightly around the extremities of my kayak with every guide thumping the side of the vessel. With the line stretched tightly I was hoping it wouldn’t fray on any of the kayak’s attachments. My emotions were escalated with anxiety and for a while I was feeling completely helpless and in the hands of the Fishing Gods. In addition to the main line rubbing on the kayak, my thoughts also turned to the 60lb Platypus Game leader rubbing through on the Barra’s raspy, armoured plated jaw line. Knowing the lure was embedded deep within the fishes mouth I was confident, yet still nervous, my line would just hold up for a few more passes yakside prior to subduing the fish and claiming victory over this spirited Barramundi. A shot of adrenalin found its way through my body when the lip grips firmly clasped the fish and reality kicked in. Hands now shaking profusely, I couldn’t believe what I had actually just accomplished in the cover of darkness.“I actually bloody did it,” I thought to myself as I looked at this incredible fish in total awe.
My thoughts quickly turned to the well-being for this fish and I immediately alerted two mates Aaran Denschel and Dean Mathers who were fishing in their boat nearby, hopeful that they would be able to assist me in swimming the fish for a healthy release. They also were able to support me to quickly measure this beast on a brag mate within the water and take a few photos to capture this memorable occasion. Elated to witness this incredible Barramundi swim away strongly and to share this moment with two mates who also got to witness such a fish was a fantastic experience. Retying a new leader, I sat there on my kayak as the sun rose over the horizon still living the moment. The water was now like a mirror and I just stared at the calmness of its surface for almost an hour, absolutely bewildered, yet reflecting and believing that dreams do come true…..