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Deeper Within the Realm by Johhny Mitchell

Distant sea eagles converse in harmony, relaxed in their distinguished province. Autumn is approaching. A faint afternoon sea breeze tickles the lake's surface camouflaging the periodic splashes from the sub surface fish activity; boney bream are on the hunt. Pelicans and cormorants clearly flock in droves on a sun warmed lake as mysterious clouds form above. Wading birds toil feverishly on the shores, nature is certainly alive today. Submersed and attentive, barra lay in sociable arrangement, those recharging and in need of energy eager to make the most of this golden weather opportunity. Food is on the minds of many.
Fading light and a setting sun highlight the striking end to a beautiful day and as night falls the land cools and amidst the ritual, a downward spiral in surface water temperature transpires.
A forth coming cool weather change kicks in by midnight with fresh and cold southerly winds biting their way across the state, destroying any positive feeling of warmth and kindness. Daylight emerges on a bitter lake, rough, wet and very uninviting. Birds huddle in numbers resting on the shoreline, many asleep, their heads tucked under their wings. The skies are a vibrant blue and the forever present cattle seem to have moved away to more favourable territory. Nature has fashioned an abrupt change.
My only constant digital updates on the depth sounder show a lake surface temperature well down from that of yesterday. Bait schools seem moderately packed, and they seem to be holding deeper within the core of the lake. At this moment, barra are no where to be seen. The weather has re-molded our lake system completely, it is back to the beginning once again. A new home for fishes has been designed.

Larger fish require greater volumes of energy to exist. Water temperature fluctuation will see the metabolism of barra rise and fall accordingly. Digestion processes are altered with these changes, and along with these changes comes variances with response to food intake/lure strikes. Eventually, individual fish will feel the urge to feed and act accordingly. All barra do not feed on the same day. Other fish may be satsified and lay idle for lengthy periods until once again the need for energy kicks in.
Click on image for larger version

Barramundi are forced to live in our freshwater landlocked environments. They have no choice; they need to make the most of the best opportunities that exist, to stay alive. Its do or die, it is as simple as that.
Nature has many ways of altering living circumstances for many animals, underwater is no exception. Seasonal weather changes and geological and biological changes within a lake system will dominate the living circumstances for those creatures within. The fact is that our barra lakes are constantly evolving fish homes, not only from a visual topographic aspect, but from a water quality perspective as well. No two days are ever the same in any waterway. Opportunities that existed briefly yesterday may no longer exist. Through the strive for survival, impoundment barramundi will seek and learn what occurs in their own home waters because of one major fixation, their nomadic and peripatetic ways. Salt or fresh, the barramundi is not the full time snag dweller that it is made out to be. Their natural body armour of large scales, sharp spikes and their tough, muscular general appearance and powerful tail expose them as an animal designed to take charge. They wander, move, search and discover options in life that a stationary individual would not be aware of. They are learners and willing participants in the game of life. In a perfect world, living creatures have optimum running temperatures, yet in lake systems with extremes of contrast, those optimum temperature levels may never or rarely be available. Humans, we can live in a t-shirt in the tropics or a t-shirt in the south of our country. We can tolerate circumstances less favourable, so too can landlocked barramundi. They operate in extremes, fine lines of extremes.

Barramundi will seek ideal circumstances within enclosed lake systems. This sounded image shows large numbers of maturing barra holding in an ideal water layer between 10ft and 20ft below the surface, (3-6 metres down). Water quality and testing equipment helps give an insight into why fish may congregate in such regions. Temperature stability is a main factor, oxygen levels and Ph alterations can also influence fish distribution. Data logging devices deployed and sumbmersed for a period of over 6 months at 3 different water depths show interesting results over time. At certain times of the year, late May and June especially, water temperatures can be almost equal (less than point one of a degree celsius) from the surface to the bottom of the lake in depths of up to 60ft,18 metres.
Click on image for larger version

Barramundi are assorted in distribution within lakes because barramundi do not all feed at the same time nor in the same place or on the same day. Fish vary in size, age, condition, health, and are always at varying stages of digestion. Dinner bells ring constantly in lakes and each fish has its turn to feed when the urge creeps in or when opportunity arises. Barra that you encounter today may well be in a 'sleep like' torpor tomorrow and those that rest will naturally come into hunger mode when time allows. Like shift workers, barra will work on a tag team system, including 3 activities such as hunting and wandering, resting, and recharging/digesting. So it is never fair to mention or generalize on what barra will be doing as not only are they constantly separated into groups via the digestion phase, but they are also categorized into size classes that all run on different energy requirements. Metre long barramundi require different water qualities and food volumes to exist than that of 70cm barramundi. From the 12 yr classes of barramundi released into Awoonga, I have noted strong separations in conduct and distribution that can easily allow them to be placed into another 7 distinct groups. So now, 7 distinctly dissimilar groups of fish all with divergent power systems that can all be in one of say 3 different levels of a digestion phase which ultimately will see them in assorted states of mentality and compliance. You could say that at least 21(7 x3) possible 'forms' of barra mode could exist in Awoonga at any given time. Metabolic rates adjusted by water temperature alterations also affect this dynamic, but does not affect every fish in the same way.
Try advancing a few extra thoughts into why and where barra are distributed in lakes and why such diverse fishing methods can be applied to catch the stocked species. Imagine the changes that occur to the water they live in from weather alterations and then think of changes in water temperature, metabolism, and therefore digestion processes and see if any of those combinations might help you to understand why this special fish of interest often mixes it up to test us all and to keep us on our toes.
Designed to keep the mind in forward gear!

Capture Methods
These two barra were hooked at the same time in the same area with two totally different techniques. One was hooked high in the water column on a weed edge near the surface, the other extracted from almost 20ft below on a deep diving lure, wide from the bank. Both fish were willing to strike. One was closing toward the metre mark, the other distinctly smaller. Two seperate classes of fish, both with different needs. Some days all classes bite together, other times individual fish classes can be targeted to maximise chances depending on weather variables and water qualities. Barra can be caught from the weedy shallows to over 40ft down, (12 metres below) on the same day. Different tactics for different fish in opposing zones and modes. It is common for a charter angler to diversify from deepwater casting tactics to shallow water skills in the blink of an eye.

Johhny Mitchell

Related Topics:
Applying Your Knowlege - Johhny Mitchell
Lake Awoonga Hotspots - Johhny Mitchell

Gearing up for Big Lake Barra - Jason Bird
Lake Awoonga - Information Page
Winter Barra - Shallow or Deep - Garry Fitzgerald
Solving the Barra Puzzle - Jason Bird
A Macro on Lake Barra - Johnny Mitchell


Copyright© 2007 Johnny Mitchell. Sweetwater Fishing Australia