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Pelagic Fun in Close
  |  First Published: December 2010



The wharf has been producing the odd mackerel with plenty of bait holding from the Powder Magazine to the Queen Steps section of the river.

There have been some monster trevally harassing these schools with a few young medical students from South East Queensland, Richard Leaver and Imran Kader, getting amongst the action landing quality fish over 50lbs, on 15lb spin gear. These large (for estuary) fish have been harassing the schools of hardiheads, herring and garfish and most anglers have been having good success with neutral coloured surface lures like the silver and black and red and cream River 2 Sea Tango Prop Fizzers. With all of the info that we read about the necessity of upgraded hardware needed to land big fish, it is good to see some decent fish being landed on lures that are used straight out of the box.

Let’s face it, for many of us, upgrading our lures with specific split rings and heavy duty trebles or single hooks has now become a prerequisite and in many cases is well worth it. However, over the last few months I have seen 15 GT over 20kg that have been caught on line classes less than 10kg. There is no doubt that in certain fishing environments that offer heavy structure (over shallow reef or bridge pylons) that top quality tackle and hardware are needed, however when fishing in rivers, estuaries and on open flats, it is amazing the size and quality of fish that can be caught and released on lighter tackle. The quality of reels available to the general public today have never been better with Daiwa and Shimano offering a variety of reels with smooth drags and decent drag pressures straight out of the box.

When targeting large pelagics over Cooktown’s numerous sand flats and around its inshore headlands there is no reason why you need to use an expensive and heavy spin reel. Most of the bottom around the flats and mouths of the Endeavour and Annan rivers are relatively snag free and can be confidently fished with a 4000 sized reel like Shimano Stradic or Saragosa. Both of these reels have good drags and ample line capacity when using 15lb braid.

Leader choice really depends on what you are actually targeting, which can often be tricky with the variety of pelagic species on offer. When targeting trevally, queenfish and cobia I will use 60lb Black Magic fluorocarbon leaders. These leaders offer good abrasion resistance, are easy to tie with good knot strength and are virtually invisible.

When the Spanish and big barracuda are smashing the garfish on the flats, a small 6” length of 69lb Mason single strand wire is more than sufficient. Spanish mackerel have been turning up around the flats over on the North Shore as they are chasing garfish that get pushed out of the gutters on an outgoing tide. Cooktown is one of the few places where people will actually target Spanish mackerel in the river and bay with regular catches of quality fish over 15kg being encountered on a weekly basis. When your by-catch includes cobia, trevally, queenfish, mangrove jack and barramundi, it is understandable why so many punters come to Cooktown to try their luck.

Cooktown is finally looking like it may get a few decent months of weather, which would be a nice change compared to the relentless trade winds that have blowing right through the wet season of the last few years. There have been a good numbers of Spanish and spotty mackerel holding around the inshore wrecks and reefs with the local Mud Wreck also holding quality cobia over the last few months. These inshore wrecks can hold excellent quantities of saddle-tailed sea perch and crimson snapper however they appear to be somewhat of a nursery as on most days you cannot get a bait or soft plastic to the sea bed without a rat sized Lutjanus stealing your offering.

The old early bird get the worm saying cannot ring truer when fishing these inshore wrecks. My favourite time to fish these marks is the first hour before dawn and you can often get your bag limit of 4-5kg fish before the sun rises. On these heavily fished grounds, live baits such as herring and mullet or well presented fresh cut baits are often needed to tempt these fish.

There has been a good run of mud crabs in both the Endeavour and Annan rivers so it is a worthwhile option to set a few pots over the weekend if you fancy a feed or crabs. The usual haunts are all holding crabs, however the flats around the mouth of the Annan are really firing with most people getting their 10 legal sized bucks without too much work with large mackerel frames being the best bait.

The crystal clean waters around the headlands have been producing quite well for local spear fishers with plenty of bar cheek trout, spangled emperor, fingermark and mangrove jack being speared from inshore bommies. Although the sparkling, gin clear water looks inviting, there are still numerous dangers. Obviously common sense will go a long way and diving with a buddy is an absolute must. There have already been a good number of box jellyfish sightings and a large tiger shark was caught and released off the wharf recently highlighting some of the dangers.

At this time of year the main animals to be wary of are crocodiles. There have been numerous sightings of an animal that is estimated at over 16 feet swimming around from the wharf and around the headland towards Finch Bay. Locals have seen this animal for the last four years around the same time of year. This particular animal has come up behind a few boats and appears to have no fear of humans and, with its almost black coloration, it has to be one of the most sinister looking creatures that I have ever seen. One local lad had a run in with this exact animal a few weeks ago when he speared a large spangled emperor only to find 16 feet of jet black crocodile moving in on him and his fish. His dive buddy was frantically trying to get his attention prior to the croc moving in and the young bloke shoved his Rob Allen rail gun towards the croc and swam like mad to the land some 15m away. A local dory was heading back from the reef and found the lads gun and float bent like a tooth pick and returned it to him later on in the week.

I am unsure what the croc was doing as it could have well and truly nailed the bloke if it wanted too. I think that Cooktown was lucky not to have another fatal crocodile attack on its hands.

If any questions that you may have before planning your trip, please do not hesitate to call The Lure Shop on (07) 4069 5396 or shoot us an email at --e-mail address hidden--

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