Summer action – worth waiting for
  |  First Published: December 2010

Finally local anglers have had something to smile about with the arrival of some classic calm summer weather providing some well-deserved fishing opportunities.

Cairns anglers have been anticipating the chance to get offshore and chase up some coral trout and recently many were out making the most of the ideal conditions before the real wet season arrives. Most fishing crews were not disappointed as some quality trout, sweetlip, red throat and spangled emperors graced the inside of ice boxes returning from a day bottom bouncing at the local reefs.

In amongst the species have been the occasional Spaniard and the usual varieties of trevally as well as plenty of stories of sharks smashing up the fishing. The stormy evenings have dissuaded most anglers from risking a night time session chasing reds, but those who have braved it have brought home some quality large-mouth nannygai and red emperor.


It can be pretty unpleasant amongst the mangroves when there is not much breeze about, but it will be worth it if you are after mangrove jacks. Lure casting has been fairly productive and has turned up some nice jacks and of course a few barramundi as a by-catch. The best approach is to beat the heat and get out before daybreak, and focus on working the bottom half of the tides.

A good option for a family half day outing this month is to head out along the esplanade flats or the northern beaches in the mornings. We should see some quality grunter and both blue and king salmon about, and putting in some time bait fishing will be a good chance to provide some tasty fillets. Fresh strip baits or live prawns will work well and fishing the making tide in the mornings will be best. Other places to try include the river mouths of the Daintree, Barren and Russell/Mulgrave rivers.

Tuna Chucking

One activity I enjoy at this time of the year is to get out and chase northern blue and mack tuna with small metal slices. January often presents days of calm weather to allow ample opportunities to chase the tuna in a small boat. These fish are fantastic fun, putting up a great fight and the northern blues are pretty tidy on the BBQ as well as excellent fresh sashimi.

A good graphite spin rod capable of casting small metal slices or soft plastics up to 40-50m is what you will need. The rod needs to be matched up with a quality spinning reel loaded with 20lb braid. See your local tackle store for more advice and there are of course plenty of brands to choose from which will be ideal.

In your tackle box you’ll want to have a number of sizes in the plastics and metal slices as the tuna can be very picky. Success usually only follows when you can closely ‘match the hatch’. The easiest way to do this is to get close to the bird action around the bait school and observe. Usually the predators below will circle and force the bait schools to the surface and of course attract the attention of the birds above. It does not take long to spot a dead baitfish which has fallen victim to the carnage in the water and then you can size up your offering as closely as you can.

Casting Range

Getting close enough to cast into the boiling frenzy is often the hard part as some days the fish can be very spooky and go down or disperse just when you get within range. Following the bird activity is obviously a critical factor and also having your rod ready to cast and in your hand is another one. You often do not have more than a second or two to get a cast away, so quick reactions are an advantage.

If the schools are moving consistently in one direction you can try to locate downwind silently and cast when they come into range. This can be very tedious and have you doing a lot of waiting.

Another method is to be aggressive and approach from downwind or current at speed, cut the motor and cast as soon as you get in range. Being able to cast a small slice or soft plastic around 50m is a real advantage as you can keep within range without spooking the fish. Casting the right size bait into the chopping water and then retrieved at speed usually results in an instant hook-up.

Northern blues are determined fighters and an average fish of 5kg hooked on a 6-8kg graphite rod will provide a real workout.

Vale Mick O’Brien

The recent passing of Mick O’Brien did not go unnoticed. Mick was a well known local charter fishing operator and, along with local anglers like Les Faithful and George White, was instrumental in the early days of developing the local inshore charter fishery in the Cairns Inlet in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Mick used to ply the Cairns Inlet, providing a quality fishing service to both locals and visitors in his 7m Cairns Custom Craft vessel Lizzy Lou.

Mick was known to spin a good fishing tale but he also was a damn fine fisherman and had an extensive knowledge of the local fishery. Our condolences go out to his family.

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