Offshore Options Open
  |  First Published: November 2010

The heat and humidity that Cape York is well known for has started to make a well felt presence.

Cooktown has had one of the wettest and windiest years in a long time, with very few breaks long enough for the trailer boat brigade to do extended trips. With a bit of luck November and December will see those wonderful 5-10 knot winds last for at least a week at a time, so a few serious extended fishing trips can be made by anglers with smaller crafts.

Although Cooktown is famous for its numerous inshore reefs that can be fished within 20 minutes of leaving the ramp, the amount of first-class fishing ground that is available for the more adventurous boaties is amazing with plenty of untouched country waiting to be explored.

Over the summer months, good spells in the weather will become more common. In previous years a week of glass-out conditions from Cardwell to Portland roads was the norm. These sporadic breaks in the weather provide opportunities for anglers to enjoy their days spearing trout and crayfish and then head to their favourite red grounds on dusk to fish into the night.

Suitable reefs for this style of fishing and diving include the lagoon on Osterlund Reef and the south eastern sides of Swinger and Forrester reefs. These ideal locations consist of endless crayfish ledges in less than 5m of water and some very good trout and mackerel fishing around the 10-15m mark.

These three reefs are less then 20 miles from Cooktown ramp and are fantastic areas to spend the day with the young family; they offer good protection from the weather to spend a sheltered night’s fishing the 25m line for red emperor and saddle-tail sea perch after dark.

The warm nutrient rich waters surrounding the Ribbon reefs have seen the pelagic action fire with the water temperature really heating up around the 30ºC mark. Frequent reports of giant black marlin have well and truly begun to flow with numerous fish tagged and released over 800lb.

The world famous Ribbon reefs between Cooktown and Lizard Island are home to some of the largest blacks in the world and are less then 30nm from the safe harbour anchorage on the Endeavour River. During the summer months, these waters are full of pelagics, including dog-tooth tuna, mahi mahi, wahoo, yellowfin tuna, Spanish mackerel and the ever reliable giant trevally. Some of these species can be found at their maximum size with GT regularly sighted over 50kg and Spanish mackerel over 40kg not uncommon. I believe that no one can appreciate the true size and tenacity of 50kg GT until you have seen these hoodlums devour 20-30kg Spanish mackerel boat side in a matter of seconds.

Freshen up

With the clean water finally pushing into the middle reaches of the Endeavour and Annan rivers, the schools of herring, yellowfin pike, hardiheads and anchovies have never been thicker. Following the bait into the rivers have been big queenfish, giant and golden trevally and the odd mackerel.

On a recent trip flicking lures up the Endeavour, I hooked a fish on a Gold Richo Extractor 11. After a short but fast paced battle on the Cronarch/Reddington combo, I was pleasantly surprised when a 91cm Spanish mackerel appeared boat side. The increased pelagic action and the abundance of bait is usually the best way to judge how clean the waters of the Endeavour and Annan systems are.

The barra have really begun to come on the chew with numerous fish being caught land-based each day. Suitable land-based options include live baiting off the public wharf, and flicking large soft plastics around the stretch of water from the Bowls Club to the rock wall around the Powder Magazine. When fishing out of a boat, the most productive areas have been around the mouth of Leprosy Creek and along the fallen trees that can be found on the left hand side of the Mad Mile.

While barra are not the trickiest of fish to tempt on lures when they are actively feeding, in harder fished areas of the river I have found the range from Koolabung and Richo hard to go past. When it comes to tempting fish that are not feeding strongly, I have experienced better success rates by using timber lures without a rattle.

For punters that can not find a reliable supply of Richo or Koolabung, the readily available Tilson Barra in jaffa and tiger colours are a very good substitute. These lures are strong enough to target meter-plus barra and will swim perfectly with no tuning straight from the shop shelf.

Another good option for the smaller boat brigade over the summer months is to target the fish-rich mangrove fringes and coastal rock bars between Cape Bedford and Elim Beach. This part of the world is usually off limits due to weather for most of the year when arriving by sea. However, during calm spells, these waters can be accessed within 45 minutes by heading 20 miles north of the Endeavour River mouth. There are not too many places in Australia where you can catch big bar cheek trout, barramundi, mangrove jack, fingermark, threadfin salmon, northern bluefin tuna and queenfish on lures, from the same stretch of water.

Most small boats that have been designed for fishing the remote (and sometimes long) Cape York and the Gulf. And they are more then capable of fishing the headlands that can be found up to 30nm north of Cooktown. There are some massive barra that use these waters to spawn in so please remember to limit your catch and take note of the closed seasons for barramundi and coral fin fish. These waters do get targeted by commercial gill netters and the barra have a hard enough time as it is, so take a feed but don’t slaughter it for future generations to come.

Until next month, stay safe on the water and please feel free to call The Lure Shop on (07) 4069 5396 with any questions that you may have regarding the local area and carry a full range of fishing and hunting supplies.

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