Finding Barramundi

Peter Price has spent many hours fishing tournaments on his local Queensland impoundments over the years, but recently tried his hand at the Club Marine Insurance Barra Nationals, on the Daly River, NT. His team ‘Reidy’s Lures’, took out Champion Mixed Interstate Team and finished 5th overall. In his latest Q&A, Peter divulges the differences in targeting barra in dam and river environments, and his thoughts on the new FishReveal software.

What are the differences in finding fish in a strong tidal river to a dam?

In the tidal rivers when the current flow is great the Barra will either do two things, move with the flow, or hold in some type of structure in the river that breaks the current flow.

To find moving fish just sound up the middle of the system. But sounding fish that hold in the flow is a bit more difficult due to the water turbulence and water flow speed.

Holding fish will stay in structure or on the bottom. The bottom holding fish will hold tight to the bottom and are difficult to find on the sounder. What you have to look for on the sounder are fish shadows. They look more like divots in the bottom makeup. The fish will hold in these bottom contours which allows the water to pass over them without use of too much energy. If you find divot like shadows and are not sure they are fish just revisit later and if the divot shadows are gone you will know next time what fish sitting tight to the bottom looks like on your sounder.

With Barra it’s about energy gained for energy used so finding any structure that breaks the water flow is a great place to start looking. A good trick that some people use is to face your boat into the current and utilise your electric motor to steer your boat and actually sound backwards this slows your boat down giving a great sounder picture.

Structure also gives the fish protection against predators and the current replenishes the bait. These structures are excellent feeding ambush locations. Just remember that Barra feeding patterns will change at different locations, different times of the day, and at different stages of the tide. Always recheck good looking locations at different times to locate active fish. <p< In dams/impoundments the difference is that the water movement is created by wind, water temperature and not the tide, even though the tide still has influence over the fish. The wind creates current which moves bait and creates different temperature pockets of oxygenated water into down current locations. If these locations have structure like weed, rock, or timber, the Barra will hold in these areas. In dams, Barra are easier to find due to greater numbers of bigger fish, and not having many predators makes the Barra more free swimming I believe. Plus less current and bigger target fish makes better sounding.

Differences in feeding habits and movements of river and dam Barramundi.

In the rivers, I believe in the first push of the incoming tide, structure Barra will stage on the pressure points of that structure they are held on. They feed on the bait fish that are washed into their structure. These are bait fish utilising the tide to move to safer locations.

Other Barra will move with the tide and bait and feed as they go. Once the tide turns the Barra will wash back with the tide feeding along rock bars, timber structure, and back eddies that hold bait. The structure Barra will stage at the other side of their structure and feed on the bait fish that are washed back into their structure on the outgoing tide. Barra also will move up onto the sand flats to feed and move up runoff feeder creeks looking for different bait food.

In the dams, it is all about the wind. If the wind is blowing, it creates current and that current positions the bait in certain isolated areas. Barra stage in these areas and feed in that current and after feeding utilise the current to move them back into their structure to digest food and to rest. So sounding downwind toward blown structure areas like weed bed points, timber lined creeks, and timber lay downs are great starting points. Like river fish, Barra will still be more active at different times of the day/night.

With any Barra fishing just remember, it’s all about learning how to read and decipher your sounder if there are no fish on your sounder, there are no fish there, so move until you find fish.

Why is Fish Reveal valuable for finding Barra amongst snag piles?

When searching for Barra, and covering large areas of a system for fish, the Fish Reveal feature makes fish found in structures stand out brightly. Alerting you quickly that there is a fish in that structure. The larger target fish are easily distinguished from the bait in the Fish Reveal feature. The Fish Reveal can capture more than the Down Scan because of the wider sonar scanning beam that the Fish Reveal utilises, hence it is the best of both worlds.

Best StructureScan settings for sounding Barra, preferred palette contrast etc

On my StructureScan settings I will change between about five palette colours from palette 1,4,5,8 and 9 and change from manual to auto contrast depending on water clarity.

When in manual contrast, I adjust my unit to between about 65% to 70% to get a clear picture as a general rule. When in auto contrast on palette 8, I may go as low as -14. On palette 5, I’m on default settings. The point I’m trying to make is, you have to adjust your contrast for every different colour palette and don’t be frightened to go into the negative side of the default setting.

The other thing I do is find structure I know and scan pass it at different speeds and settings until I find the perfect setting for that day and water clarity. I also pay attention to what speed I’m traveling at on my sounder and change my speed to get the best picture.

What improvements have you found apparent with the new software

One feature I like is that I can drop sonar off my unit screen and just use Fish Reveal on my Down screen with side scan and chart on the one page. The new colour palette is a big plus for getting the right colour for that system’s fishing day. Fish Reveal just helps so much in distinguishing fish in heavy structure.

Peter uses HDS Carbon and StructureScan 3D

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