NSW may not have much to squawk about on dry land, but they’ve got bragging rights over the Maroons in the barra stakes.
There are thousands of stories of the big one that got away, but a fish caught locally this week may have been too big to get away.
At Lake Awoonga Dam, in the dying hours of Monday, Glenn Smith was about to enter the annals of fishing history.
Fishing for most of the day with Barra Madness tour operator Jason Wilhelm, Mr Smith and his son Shannon had their lines hit several times, but were yet to be blessed with staring a barra in the eyes.
“I got onto one and lost and then another and lost it,” Mr Smith said.
“When the barra hit it was obviously much, much bigger than the others.
“I was really nervous I was going to lose it, but it was well and truly hooked.”
With line being pulled off the reel at considerable speed, the keen angler knew he had an impressive catch.
“The barra was moving a lot of water, and then we saw it as it came near the surface,” Mr Smith said.
“It was very wide across the back.”
Wilhelm, no stranger to hefty-sized barra after eight years fishing the dam, uttered some pretty simple words: “This looks really big.”
Within twenty minutes, the barra was in the boat, to the amazement of the three men. In fact, they were gobsmacked.
“It took two of us to get it in and only half of it fit in the net,” Smith said.
“I was absolutely stunned; it didn’t sink in for a while.”
When measured, the barra measured 132cm and weighed 36.56kgs; however, the most startling aspect was the 100cm girth.
“Most people fish their whole lives to get into the one-metre barra club, and this guy did it with the girth. With his first barra,” Wilhelm said.
A Gladstone Area Water Board Fish Hatchery recorded the measurements for posterity.
The record barra was caught in Tinaroo over a decade ago, and weighed in at 37kg.
“This was just under a kilo off the record,” Wilhelm said.
“It’s the biggest fish I’ve seen here.”
Smith, who hails from north Sydney, has been fishing all his life, and never dreamed he would catch a fish close to a world record.
“It’s the first time I’ve fished up this way,” he said.
Reflecting later that night, the magnitude of what he had achieved finally struck home. At the time of the catch, Smith said, he had no comprehension of the feat.
“I thought perhaps I should just give up trying to catch another one,” he said.
For Smith, Lake Awoonga was the ideal spot to dip his toe in barra fishing for the first time.
“I’d researched different places in the NT and the Gulf, and the chances of catching a metre-long barra there are slim,” he said.
“I’d seen Jason and Barra Madness on TV a couple of times and thought this was the best option.”
Having landed the second-biggest barra on record, Smith stressed that the catch wouldn’t have happened without Wilhelm’s expertise.
“There’s no way I would have caught the fish without Jason; I couldn’t give him any more credit, he works real hard to put clients on fish,” Smith said.
“It’s a much different fishing technique than I am used to, and he seems to know the lake incredibly well. I wouldn’t have got a bite.”
The secret: a soft plastic lure, the right conditions and a boatload of luck.
Unfortunately, by the time the monster fish was on board, though, it had expired.
“When they get over 120cm long, apparently they get a build-up of lactic acid, and the fish could have died from that,” Wilhelm said, adding the fish was well over 10 years old.
“I was amazed at the good condition it was in, and it was sad we weren’t able to get it to kick off.”
During their four-day fishing expedition, the Smiths caught four other fish, three well over a metre, including Shannon’s barra on Tuesday, which measured 111cm. .
Every major fishing magazine has called the tour operator about featuring the fish on the front page, and Smith is set to become a cult hero or envy of anglers.
“For me, this has been a fantastic experience,” he said.
The Dam Barra Facts
- Don’t use bait, use soft plastic, easy-to-cast lures
- Use a sturdy rod and reel
- Pick a period of stable weather
- Barra aren’t like wildfish, their behaviour differs
- Be persistent, be patient