Wanna catch more barra, jacks & salmon? Warm water tactics revealed here!

There is little doubt that the best time to target popular estuarine predators such as jacks and barra is during the months of spring and summer. A time of warm water temperatures and high levels of humidity, this is seen as the perfect catalyst for getting these fish to feed ferociously. Mangrove Jacks in particular really come on the bite hard during these months and it is during this time these fish put on the majority of their bulk. It’s also a time anglers should take full advantage of these ideal circumstances with the majority of red hot fishing sessions bound to occur.  It is important to remember though that even with ideal conditions it’s still called ‘fishing’ and far from ‘catching’. It’s vital that anglers think about and adopt some fundamental rules during these summer months to make the most of optimum fishing conditions. Funnily enough many of these rules are based around the very factor which drives these fish to feed so hard – the heat. Hot water and hot air temperatures can be friend and foe in the creeks. Understanding how you can make the heat work for you will go a long way to fishing success. Being ignorant to this factor can not only see high expectations dashed on the rocks but also some very tough sessions melting in the summer sun!
Big impoundment barra are best targeted under darkness in the warmer months. Having your lure smashed by a monster fish like this in the pitch dark is an exhilarating experience.

Big impoundment barra are best targeted under darkness in the warmer months. Having your lure smashed by a monster fish like this in the pitch dark is an exhilarating experience.

Fish feel the heat too

First of all it’s important to understand that fish feel the heat in similar ways to humans. In fact they have a lower tolerance to heat with sudden variances often creating fatal outcomes in some circumstances. To cope with this fish will often move around in creeks to find the water temperatures where they will feel the most comfortable. This could be as little as a degree or half or degree but in some cases its can make a big difference when trying to locate fish. This could mean moving to deeper, cooler water or at times when sourcing warmer water moving to shallow water. Time of day plays a big role in this. During the early mornings and late afternoons, when the water is at its daytime coolest, fish like jacks are more inclined to seek out the warmer waters. Shallow snags or banks in full sun are likely spots where jacks will often hang or feed. Jacks will also move and feed higher in the water column during these times of low light and this could be attributed to their level of water temperature comfort as well. This is an ideal time to take advantage of these conditions and chase them on surface lures like poppers and walkers as this is when they are more prone to be in these areas. Shallow running lures are also a very good option during these times to compensate for this as there is little need to get deep into snags when the fish are hunting high in the water column.
One of my favourite barra caught. Snared on a sandy flat as it was looking for the warmer water during the early hours of the morning.

One of my favourite barra caught. Snared on a sandy flat as it was looking for the warmer water during the early hours of the morning.

Casting at shadows

Once the sun is high in the sky the situation can become a very different scenario as the water gets very hot from the prolonged exposure to the summer sun. Jacks will particularly begin to seek out parts of snags or areas where the suns punishing rays are blocked. This is where the angler must target the realm of the shadows. Fishing the shadows is an incredibly effective technique, especially during the middle of day during the summer months. Shadows become much more obvious and greater in number when the sun is high in the sky as overhanging branches, mangroves and banks deflect the sun’s rays. These shadows often no larger than a dinner plate on some occasions can often be a little cooler than more exposed waters. During the middle of the day fish especially mangrove jacks will seek out this shade to find relief from the heat and this is where anglers need to be targeting their lures. This is where knowing your creek and its prominent snags can be vitally important. Being aware they will be in full sun or alternatively in shadow can play a big part in success, especially when you consider tide times and water heights. When chasing jacks, fishing the top of the tide can be tough as water levels often push over the bank or deep into mangroves. This makes it impossible to get lures into the strike zone. Low tide is often seen as a better time to chase jacks as the lack of water condenses them and also exposes the snags and banks. If low water falls during the early morning or late afternoon, fishing the more sun exposed banks is a better option. However if the low tide occurs during the middle of the day then fishing the shadows will often be more productive. As a consequence knowing where to fish to cater for this is vitally important. It’s also important to transition your fishing to cater for the heat as the day progresses. This way you can chase the optimum water temps which will help you chase the fish.
Night time warm water fishing brings out the big fish and jacks like this one over 50cm are what is on offer over these warm months.

Night time warm water fishing brings out the big fish and jacks like this one over 50cm are what is on offer over these warm months.

Full moon fishing: Escaping the heat of the day

To completely escape the negatives of overly warm water during the summer months, one of the best techniques is to fish at night. Jacks in particular love to feed at night and while lure fishing at night seems a tad stupid it can in fact be feasible under the right conditions. The biggest obstacle when lure fishing at night is pretty obvious, the ability to see. It’s always best to plan these trips over the full moon as this will provide enough natural light make out snags and banks. It’s important to understand that fish especially jacks are far more willing to move away from snags under the cover of night so casts and lure placements don’t have to be as accurate or in tight as during the daylight hours. This means close enough is often good enough to entice a fish especially if you fish lures very slowly. It’s always best to fish into the dark of night as this will allow you to gauge your casting length and to get a feel of when you should thumb your spool, particularly if you think you’re about to send your lure into the trees. I’ve found being conservative when lure fishing at night is the safest option. Picking out more lure friendly locations like mud banks and drains can also be a very good idea. To enhance your vision using the light of the moon, make sure you eliminate all sources of other light. This will severely restrict your night vision. Even the smallest elimination from your electric motor or sounder can hinder vision this so it’s best to go as dark as possible. Another benefit of flicking over a full moon is that predatory fish such as jacks and barra feed at night. Both fish are sight predators and really love feeding under the cover of darkness during the full moon. This allows them to see silhouettes of bait fish very easily from underneath using the moon as a back light.
Lure fishing for jacks at night during the warmer months is a great way to escape the heat and it’s also a time when the feed the hardest.

Lure fishing for jacks at night during the warmer months is a great way to escape the heat and it’s also a time when the feed the hardest.

It’s for this reason impoundment anglers love to target barramundi over the full moon period. Lure fishing at night is absolutely awesome for this very reason as the bigger fish are always on the prowl. Night time lure fishing can include a variety of luring techniques from surface walkers right through to deep diving lures and even trolling. I prefer to fish surface walkers over poppers at night as the large popping action can often be a little aggressive during this quieter period. Walkers provide a good wake action and can be fished a little slower. They also allow the fish to track the lure better through the water. Surface fishing at night is always dictated by the bait. If there is evidence of bait flicking on the surface or even better getting boofed, then surface fish away. However if there is little in the way of surface commotion the best advice is to go deeper. Slow rolling, shallow running minnows or soft plastics are one of my favourite overall methods for lure fishing at night. Jacks and barra love to feed from below so having a lure which swims a metre or two under the surface plays right into their feeding behaviour. Lures that roll from side to side and provide plenty of action on a dead slow retrieve also help in this situation. A slower retrieve will often bring best results, it can often be a surprising experience when your lure gets smashed. Lure fishing at night really gets the heart pumping as senses such as sight are taken out of play. This heightens other senses, especially feel, which means when a fish takes your lure it is so much more exhilarating. If you’re not so keen on moonlit lure fishing moonlight you can always chose an artificially lit location. Built up areas such as bridges and jetties often have plenty of light which help you cast more accurately. Unnatural light won’t just help you see,it can also be helpful in attracting bait fish which are often drawn in. These congregations of baitfish provide the perfect smorgasbord for predatory fish such as jacks, tarpon and barra. Fishing the summer months is a great time to capitalise on a hot estuary bite however anglers do need to think about how conditions will affect the outcome of the session. Working around the sun’s extreme heat not only makes the job a little more comfortable it also allows the angler to tap into where the fish will be. Understanding these seasonal factors and changing your tactics accordingly will go a long way in boosting your overall catch.
Dan Kaggelis

About Dan Kaggelis

Born in Tully, North Queensland, Dan cut his fishing teeth in the region’s freshwater rivers chasing the tropical triumvirate of sooty grunter, jungle perch and barramundi. With fishing running thick in the Kaggelis family, Dan was fortunate to experience many extended trips to the Western Cape and Gulf of Carpentaria from a young age. This instilled a deep affection for the sport. Living so close to Great Barrier Reef, offshore fishing was also very much included in recreational activities as was free diving and spearfishing.

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