Lake Tinaroo is built across the Barron River Gorge in the Atherton Tablelands; about two hours’ drive from Cairns via Gordonvale and Yungaburra. The lake was the first of Queensland’s impoundments stocked with barramundi.
In 1989, barramundi fingerlings bred from brood barramundi captured near Cairns and grown out at the Department of Primary Industries research station at nearby Walkamin were released into the lake. These liberated fish demonstrated a remarkably fast growth rate due to the amount of feed available. The growth pills were bony bream that had been seeded into the water years before the barramundi release. Subsequently, the lake has produced world-record barramundi topping 39.9 kg. Local fisheries officers claim to have electro-fished even bigger ones.
The best fishing happens around dusk and through the night, if the barra are cooperating. For some reason the fish can shut down and stop feeding for days on end. These mood swings have been put down to altitude and the cooler water temperatures.
There is ample accommodation, with caravan parks at Yungaburra and at Tinaroo. Both parks are near boat-launching facilities, and the latter has been refurbished and offers more facilities. Don’t forget to pack a coat. It can get very cold in the Tablelands; don’t be fooled by the coastal weather forecasts.
Trolling, lure casting and fly-fishing are all common here, but bait fishing’s popularity has waned due to the successes achieved with lures.
Most anglers fish with lures and use baitcaster outfits and, to a lesser extent, threadline outfits. The lines are mainly 15–24 kg breaking strain braids.
Leaders are essential because of the heavy terrain that the barramundi like to hide in, and their gill cutters. The minimum size is a 24 kg hardwearing monofilament about a metre long, although anglers with bigger fish in their sights often opt for heavier, 37 kg leader material.
Bony bream are about the only available bait, and these should be fished live under a float with a 6/0 Suicide hook set about 3 mm deep in front of the first dorsal spine.
Top-water trolling from the surface to about 4 m down is the preferred method for most anglers except near the dam wall where deeper running lures are preferred. Barramundi are ambush predators and they hang in structure waiting for their meals to swim past. To that end, lures need to be worked near timber and rock for the best results. Lure casters and fly-fishers tend to work many of the same areas, casting their lures or flies into the snags. One angler I met had done well fly-fishing along the shallow shore areas to the west of the boat ramp at Yungaburra.
Most standard barra lures are employed. Some of the more popular types include Halco Scorpions, Halco Lazer Pros, Predatek Vipers, Barra Classics and B-52s.