June should see what passes for winter in Cairns in full swing, with cool nights and warm days. The winter pattern of large high pressure systems marching across the Great Australian Bight and ridging up the north Queensland coast will be well established and anglers will be hanging out for the calm few days that intersperse the highs.
It’s important that fishos are geared up, have the Brownie Points in the bag, and can take advantage of any calm spell. It does however pay to take a bit more time assessing the weather before heading out wide at this time of year. It is often oily calm inshore but blowing 20+ knots out past Green Island.
The best approach is to check the Latest Coastal Weather Observations for Arlington Reef to see what is really happening. Look back over the past few days, as the weather pattern is fairly consistent in winter. If you note that in the past couple of days the winds have picked up during the morning then there is a fair chance the same will happen again.
It is fairly common to have lighter winds inshore early in June, so take advantage and head out to the inshore reefs, wrecks, islands and leads for a dawn raid for mackerel. A live bait tank full of sardines will put you in with a big chance of nailing a mackerel. Otherwise floating a pillie out or trolling a gar or lure will all see you in with a good chance of having mackerel on the barbecue that evening.
Keep your ear out for the coconut wireless, as word will quickly spread if the mackerel are on the wrecks and the leads. Also, check in with your local tackle store staff, as they are often the first to get word of recent catches.
Spanish mackerel will be congregating on the reefs and inshore islands and wrecks and the best way to locate them is by trolling a spread of bait and lures. A spread of a surface gar and a livie down a bit deeper and a deep diving lure will cover the preferred bait options and feeding depth.
Floating or trolling a live bait is usually the number one producer but takes a lot more time and effort in collecting the bait. I have consistently found the extra time and effort spent on collecting live bait more than compensates with results.
The lesser mackerel will be around the inshore reefs, islands, leads and wrecks, and are a great option, especially for the kids. When they are on the bite there is plenty of action for the young ones and it will give them a taste of sportfishing without pulling their arms off. Once again, live bait like sardines, mud herring and small mullet are the number one temptation, but the majority of doggies and spotties are caught on pillies and lures, probably due to far more fishos using this method than their effectiveness. Many a time I have seen school and spotted mackerel being pulled in one after the other on livies, while pillie fishos are just getting the odd fish.
The winter months are also prime red fishing time and surprisingly the reds are not always in deep water. It is not uncommon to get good reds in as little as 20m of water off Cairns in June. Listen to the word on the water and try various depths until you locate them.
Plenty of trout are also taken in June but generally there aren’t big numbers coming off a single bommie. More often it is just a few trout at each good drop.
With the howling sou’easters ruling the waves, much of the fishing will be restricted to the rivers and estuaries, with bream, grunter, sicklefish and whiting making up the majority of the catch, with the odd barra, jack and fingermark still around to keep things exciting.
Fish any man-made structure for bream, with peeled prawns, fresh slabs of mullet, sardine, gar or squid, which are all great baits.
Whiting are best targeted on the big tides as the water rises over the yabby beds. Pump your yabbies just as the tides start to rise, then fish where you pumped. This is one of the most productive whiting strategies.
Queenfish and GT should be congregating in the river mouths, provided the netters haven’t got word they are in and cleaned out the schools in one shot. Anglers usually keep the presence of queenfish very quiet for this reason, so the only way to find out if they are around is get out on the water towards the top of the high tide and try your luck.
Popper fishing for GT around the wrecks, islands and reefs is great fun and a real adrenalin rush. Look for pressure points where a strong current is hitting structure. If there is bait around as well, you are really on the money. Drift past or motor under electric to keep the noise down and work the current line with the popper at high speed.
Dropping the crab pots in on the way to fish, then pulling them out on the way home, can often add variety to the meal table. Leaving the pots in overnight is always a better option but not always practical with our fast pace lifestyle.
Fishing within sight of your pots also dramatically decreases the share farming but doesn’t necessarily eliminate it. I have watched in disbelief, in the Barron River, as a couple of brazen thieves pulled my pot into their punt and kept motoring!
Winter is a wonderful time to be on the water around Cairns, so make the most of the good weather, when it comes. Watching the sunrise over the water on a chilly, crystal clear dawn or sink into the dark green mountains as the sky transforms from brilliant blue to fire red, makes what comes over the side almost irrelevant.Reads: 1419