May is often the most pleasant time of year to be in the far north. It also has the enviable reputation of being one of the best for fishing; it has possibly the best mix of estuarine and blue water species on the list. Although the pelagic fish may not have showed up in numbers, you can be sure plenty of fish will be pushing into bays and river mouths, chomping as they go.
Let’s look at some of the fish you might run into in May on an imaginary trip from Cooktown north to the tip along the east coast. As long as there are no extreme weather events…
All things being equal, it will be settling into dry season patterns with stable weather, water temperatures still warm enough to have most estuary species on the chew and clean green water flowing out of many river mouths.
Those lucky enough to be in Cooktown around May should still be finding good numbers of mangrove jack and other estuary species. Heading up past Cape Flattery and the many near-shore coral reefs, anyone getting out along the coast might use pockets of calm weather to spear fish for trout and crayfish.
Resident Spanish mackerel live among the plethora of reefs running from the Howick Island group, past Cape Melville, into Princess Charlotte Bay (PCB) and beyond. These fish are bound to be on the chew in the early hours of the morning, somewhere currents are carrying baitfish past bits of shallow reef, shoal and rock. Early bird catches the worm here, so don’t be surprised if they go off the chew by 10am.
Although sometimes hard to access this time of year, Lakefield National Park is a maze of waterways, snaking their way along the flat land into PCB. Rivers like the Bizzant, Kennedy and Normanby hold good numbers of fish due to the huge system of wetlands that feed them. Those carrying small boats and others prepared to walk can have a great time fishing for barra among the never ending array of fallen timber.
The coastline stretching up to Lockhart River has far too many tiny creeks and rivers to mention, each of them can have great fishing on their day. May is a beautiful time to fly over this stunning area with the dense green jungle-filled MacIllwrath Ranges and huge coral reef systems with endless lagoons.
There is some fantastic fishing to be had for fingermark, mangrove jack, small barramundi, cod trevally and queenfish at the mouths of many of these creeks in May. Try and concentrate your efforts on the last few hours of the outgoing tide and the first few hours of the incoming for best results. Chucking fizzers across a creek mouth right before dark is a sure fire way of catching barramundi and can be exhilarating fishing.
Longtail tuna may be showing up in patchy schools out wide of river mouths and adjacent to reef and current lines in this part of the Cape. The many bays extending from Cooktown to the tip will have longtail tuna making appearances, smashing and grabbing on the run north. Small sturdy spin outfits and metal slices coupled with high energy boat driving are your best chance.
North of Shelburne Bay these are a labyrinth of bays and islands begging to be explored on the way up to the tip. Towing baits and lures wide of these reef edges and where some current is pushing up can yield cobia, big trout, huge giant trevally and of course billfish as you head wider.
Around the tip of Cape York and out into the Torres Strait you will find people starting to get active in their travel again. After the huge downpours and strong winds of the wet season, there is now a predictability to the weather. And although that means persistent trade winds at least you know where they are coming from. Time to get fishing!Reads: 2007