Fishing Port Hedland for Barramundi

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Dated: 22nd June 2005
Location: Australia/Western Australia /Pilbara Region/Port Hedland
From our Port Hedland Fishing Correspondent Shane Baker
Fishing Port Hedland for BarramundiFishing Port Hedland for Barramundi
Fishing in Port Hedland without a boat can be a little hit and miss but recently I visited a spot that everyone can get to easily and achieve some excellent results.

Port Hedland is a small mining town located approximately 1800kms north of Perth on the west coast and is home to some of the best fishing in WA. If you are new to Hedland it may seem difficult to find good fishing spots but with a bit of research and a lot of bribing of the locals (slab of beer will usually do the trick) it is possible to hook into some awesome action that will leave your heart pounding and your tongue wagging.

I had been told of a spot known as ‘Broken Bottle’ and roughly how to get there (mud map drawn on the side of a dusty conveyor chute at work) also of the wonderful things that had happened there. It sounded easy but going by some of the spots I had already tried I was sceptical. In spite of this I was new to Hedland myself so I decided to give it a go. 4 am seems such an impractical time of day, but for us chosen few smitten with the disease of fishing hysteria, it seems perfectly normal to get up this early with the sole intention of catching fish. But its not just catching fish is it? Us fisho’s know it’s more like a matter of life or death. Surrounded by darkness and willed on by the prospect of a new spot to explore I left my cosy bed and headed off into the wee hours. My fishing buddy Kurt (also new to town) was eagerly waiting for me to pick him up when I arrived at his house and within minutes we were on our way to Broken Bottle. Would this famed destination produce as we had been promised or would we go home empty handed, broken hearted and wondering why we didn’t listen to the call of our cosy beds to stay a little longer. Broken Bottle had been described as a small saltwater creek accessed from Finucane road. (The road to Finucane Island). My instructions were to follow the road down until I came to a set of stairs that crossed the conveyor on the left. Turn right at the track and follow it until you come to the creek. How easy is that. What they didn’t tell me was that when there has been a 6 metre plus tide the track can be a bit soggy. Too late to stop and lock in the hubs when you are already half way through. So I did what any red blooded rev head would do. I floored it. Mud streamed from my back tyres like rooster tails and the back end of my Ute drifted sideways. I could feel that sinking feeling you get just before becoming stuck in the kind of stuff that looks like it belongs in a sewer, when I felt the one thing that would save me. Traction!. We were through. No problem. Just as I was thinking how lucky that was I spotted the creek. It was literally no more that 500mts from the turn off. I had timed it so we arrived an hour before low tide giving us plenty of time to catch some live bait and prepare for the turn of the tide. What greeted us was a steep sandy bank covered in broken glass (thus the name) leading to a very shallow sandy creek with only just enough water to hold some choice size mullet and garfish. Looking to the right HBI (Port Hedlands BHP briquette plant) shimmering in the distance still lit by hundreds of orange lights and to the left a perfect sunrise. No time for reflection or photos I had to catch bait. A few casts with my throw net yielded a hand full of choice mullet and some perfect bait size garfish which were whisked into my live bait bucket (a small bucket with holes in the side and lid). Finding and catching live bait when fishing in a creek like this is almost essential. Most species that move through these areas wont even look at a bait unless it is fresh, live and local. The tide had stopped and started to back up so I tied a simple rig consisting of 60lb trace tied directly to 25lb mono mainline with an ‘Albright’. A size 5/0 chemically sharpened hook seemed the obvious choice for the sort of fish I may encounter and coupled up to a Abu Garcia 7000, Silstar clear tip combo I felt confident. There is a lot to be said for being first to wet a line and on this occasion the results were almost instant. A Queenie had noticed the erratic activity of the mullet attached to the end of my line and inhaled it. What followed was a flurry of “Kurt get the camera” and “grab the landing net” followed by “hey Shano, what do you think your doing?, I haven’t even put a bait on yet” and “that has to be a cat fish!”. This was no slimy spiky Catfish though, made obvious by the flash of silver and sleek action. A generous sized Queenie burst into a display of mind blowing aerobatics as it tried to free itself from the sting of my 5/0 chemically sharpened hook. To my surprise Kurt did get that camera but was unable to capture a good shot of Queenie vs. Pilbara air. A few minutes of this sort of carry on and an impressive fish lay beaten and bemused on the cool sand (and broken glass) of the now swelling creek. Kurt, now quite determined, launched a fresh kicking mullet into the murky waters sure of tasting a piece of the action he had just witnessed. I casually placed my catch in the esky and proceeded to rig up my other rod, a 5’5” Silstar clear tip with an Abu 6500 running 6kg Fireline, figuring a bit of similar action might be fun on lighter gear. This time I chose a delicious looking garfish as my next offering and placed him in almost exactly the same spot. What can I say it just wasn’t Kurt’s day. A few minutes after setting the 6500 the little bugger started screaming something which could be translated, “Hey there’s a real decent fish hacking away at your garfish so you had better get over here!”. Actually it said Greeeeeeeeeee!!! as they do, but it just sounded like the former to me. Another decent Queenie launched into a display of aerial tactics hell bent on escape, which was enough to make Kurt give me that look. Ok so I wont ask for the camera this time but I can assure the fight was awesome. After this I let Kurt use my Other rod as well while I continued using my 6500. I had two more mind blowing runs, the kind that meter plus Barra would inflict, while Kurt watched from the corner of his eye pretending not to notice. Both fish were big enough to strip my 6500 of at least half of its line but to my dismay both managed to escape to fight another day. You can imagine by this stage my buddy was not feeling too enthusiastic and the daggers were really starting to fly. The water was quite high now and there was no more action so I started to pack up when finally , at last, my 7000 screamed as an unknown predator tore off claiming Kurt’s mullet as his own. Kurt launched into a frenzy of panic as he grabbed the rod and fought like a man possessed. The mystery fish didn’t jump or even break the surface and the action was one I had seen before. It had to be a catfish. There is nothing wrong with Catfish, they taste alright, they fight like champions and some people actually target them as a preferred species but up here in the Pilbara they are commonly held in the same esteem as that white stuff that gathers in the corner of your mouth. We call them ‘minus fish’. I let Kurt enjoy his few minutes of ecstasy but as he dragged the slimy bandit up the sand bank storm clouds suddenly appeared above his head and the forecast was bleak. Some how I managed to convince him to let me get some evidence (photos) of his only catch for the day and on that note we packed up and headed home. I have to say I was suitably impressed with Broken Bottle after my first visit but to develop a better idea of the possibilities I needed to have another go. Two weeks had passed and armed with a day off and some new lures I set off to try my luck, this time targeting Barramundi and perhaps a Salmon. I wasn’t able to convince Kurt to join me on this occasion but when I caught up with him the next day and told him what happened he wished he had of. My first order of business was to try out my new Prawn Star in the shallow water around the snags up and down the creek. I was rewarded with a small Mangrove Jack which was fun but not what I was there for. With an hour to go until low tide I stealthily walked the steep banks of the creek armed with a throw net hoping to sneak up on an unsuspecting school of mullet. I had the distinct advantage of a pair of polarising sunglasses which gave me x-ray vision so within a few throws I had a dozen or so perfect bait size mullet swimming helplessly in my live bait bucket. Sometimes I kind of feel sorry for the little buggers, doomed to a fate of having a size 6/0 chemically sharpened hook pierced through their backs and lobbed into water that only the most foolhardy bait fish dare to wander. No wonder they swim like mad flat out towards the nearest structure or shallow bank hoping to escape notice. But alas, the ever vigilant angler notices the vain attempts to find a secure hiding place and promptly casts that little real life lure right back into the feeding ground of mister barramundi. The direction of flow had changed from out to in, the creek had started to swell and Ralph ( a pet name for live bait I picked up from a mate in the NT) was frantically swimming in circles on the surface like the end of the world was at hand. Ironically that wasn’t far from the truth for him because with an almighty splash and the unmistakable bucket mouth bang of a barramundi, Ralph disappeared into the darkness of the gullet of one very hungry fish. To actually see a barra launch out of the water seconds after gorging itself on an unsuspecting mullet, shaking its head side to side desperately trying to free itself from the sting of a Gamakatsu 6/0 is one of life’s little pleasures and rates very high on the must do scale. An 80cm barra will give even the most seasoned angler a run for his money performing such feats as reverse somersaults, mid air upside down body shakes, sideways tail walks and ball tearing all or nothing runs. This sort of carry on will usually last for about ten minutes and if fortune smiles upon you, and sometimes by absolute uncanny providence, you will have 8 to 10 kilos of silver sportfish perfection laying in the shallow water at your feet. As was the case with me on this very fateful day. Why fateful you say? I was quite confident that after such a carry on, this fish was well and truly hooked, so I took a few steps back to grab my camera and get a pic or two of this magnificent fish in the water. ‘Click‘, perfect. One more for good measure…. I don’t think so. The second I pushed that little button on my trusty digital fishing buddy my not so spent barra gave one final tail flick which successfully dislodged the hook from its top lip and calmly swam away. Its times like these you need someone who can operate a camera nearby to capture the action allow you to fully concentrate on the task at hand. As luck would have it, the photo turned out perfect and even though that clever and rather jammy barramundi is still out there, I have proof that Broken Bottle can and does produce some very fine sportfish action for those who choose to give it a go. All in all I was impressed with this spot and will definitely be back to have another stab, perhaps lucky enough to hook into a nice Salmon, all very possible around here at the right time of year. Kurt however thinks I owe him now and has made me promise to take him to my number one secret spot where I guarantee anyone will catch fish. That’s another day and another article. If you decide to visit broken bottle my advice would be to make sure you can use a cast net, or take the freshest bait you can lay your hands on (try fresh king prawns), watch out for that soggy mud hole and wear shoes....Shane Baker