Clear Rivers, Great Fishing
  |  First Published: June 2011

The Annan River has finally cleared and providing that Cooktown does not receive any more downpours, it should stay this way leading into the winter months.

The barra fishing in both the Annan and Endeavour rivers has been exceptional over the last few weeks. Cooktown has come out of one of the wettest 12 months in many years and the rivers are reaping the rewards. There is an unbelievable amount of bait holding throughout both systems, making the barra and jack fishing on par with any far north Queensland area at the moment.

A few local anglers have been landing up to 40 barra in a session with some absolute standout fish mixed in with plenty of small rat sized barra.

The upper reaches of the Annan River has seen some trophy sized fish being landed with a mate of mine catching and releasing his best Cooktown barra at 96cm, taken on a slowly twitched Leads Hijacker from a submerged snag.

There have been plenty of jack, queenfish and trevally harassing the schools of baby herring and hardiheads throughout the local rivers and bays. Small, slim profile natural coloured lures have been getting thumped when worked through the mangroves and as usual, soft plastics are also accounting for their fair share of fish.

While locals will catch decent barra from the waterways surrounding Cooktown all year round, the area does not share the same reputation as the ‘Barra Mecca’ areas further north around Princess Charlotte Bay and Lakefield National Park. But the barra fishing that has taken place over the last few months around Cooktown tends to dispel reports of over fished waterways and small barra stocks.

If travelling anglers who aren’t familiar with the area can produce fish from other heavily fished (and great barra) systems like the Russell, Mulgrave and Barron; they will be able to regularly catch barra from the Endeavour and Annan rivers. Anglers that do the extra miles and research the system that they plan on fishing will usually catch fish consistently regardless of where they are fishing.

If you have not fished Cooktown’s local systems before or have not had much success, call into The Lure Shop and quiz the staff for some info and it will pay off. Once you have managed to find good-sized barra in Cooktown on a regular basis, be prepared for plenty of red hot future trips.


Trade Winds that make Cooktown world famous are well and truly back in action doing what they do best, blowing from the southeast at 20 knots! Fortunately, the offshore fishing for the hard pulling and great eating reef species really begins to shine from here on in right through until October.

Usually during the cooler months, the plagues of annoying sharks will once again thin out and anglers will have a far better chance of getting their prized catch into their esky in one piece.

During the next few months, red emperor and saddle tailed sea perch will begin to show up in good numbers in the warmer, shallower grounds. Although Cooktown has a distinct lack of deep water inside the Ribbons (fishing 35m for reds is considered deep in Cooktown), don’t be surprised to see quality reds around 9-10kg regularly be pulled out of water less than 18m deep during June and July.

Big Chinamen fish, spangleds, trout, saddle tailed sea perch, fingermark and cod all inhabit these shallow water rubble patches so it can be a lucky dip when fishing these productive grounds during winter. Sometimes you need to sort through the less desirable species like spangleds, cobia and crimson sea perch before you will find the red emperor however the rewards are usually worth the wait.

For the anglers that tow boats big enough to be able to fish these waters comfortably during winter, Cooktown offers some of the best offshore fishing in Australia. During the last few weeks, anglers that have been making the 30nm run out to the Ribbon Reefs have been getting into some red hot pelagic action. Yellowfin tuna to 40kg+, wahoo, mahi mahi, sailfish and monster Spanish mackerel have been making themselves well known to anglers.

When fishing the deep water drop-off’s on the eastern side of the Ribbons, be prepared to get smoked by some unstoppable fish and bring a few spare combos as gear failure is inevitable when playing with GT that can exceed 50km.

The next few months should see the fishing action around the wharf really heat up. Once the pike and sardine schools move in under the wharf seeking shelter, be prepared for some line burning runs from big Spaniards and trevally. A live pike fished unweighted on an out going tide is a good way to get connected to one of these speed trains and don’t be surprised if you hook up to a good sized barra, as live pike are at the top of their menus!

With the hordes of grey nomads and tourists that flock to Cooktown each winter, a cool attitude will keep things ticking along. Public places like the Endeavour Wharf can be rather chaotic at times during winter so a little tolerance is required to keep things running smoothly.

Please make sure to keep the place clean as I have seen too many good fishing spots be closed due to the grubs that leave their rubbish behind. There is a fish filleting board and various rubbish bins on the wharf so do your bit and pick up any rubbish even if it is not yours. A clean and tidy wharf will ensure that you can continue to enjoy some red hot, land-based fishing for future years.

Before planning a trip to Cooktown and its surrounding areas why not give us a call at The Lure Shop and let us fill you in on what is biting and where the action is. The Lure Shop is located at 142 Charlotte Street, Cooktown and we can be contacted on (07) 4069 5396 or via email on --e-mail address hidden-- or --e-mail address hidden--

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