Although the trade winds have well and truly started blowing up the east coast of northern Australia, Cooktown has been blessed with quite a few glass outs, which is unusual for this time of year.
In turn, many of the inshore reefs and headlands have been really producing for the anglers with smaller boats. There have been reports of bar cheek trout around the 6kg mark being taken by both line fishos and the local spearos. The inshore waters around Amos Bay and Archers Point have been the most productive.
As usual, some outstanding fingermark have also been taken in the same areas.
Please remember if you are diving, please be aware that encounters with a big tiger shark or a few XOS whaler sharks are not unheard of when diving and fishing around the Archers Point area.
A big bonus at this time of year in the ground off Cooktown is that the quality table fish like tout, saddle tailed sea perch and red emperor are dead easy to catch. There is no secret to catching a feed off Cooktown, but don’t be afraid to fish shallow during winter.
My personal best trout was caught off Cooktown from a shallow 5m southeasterly weather face trolling a 2m deep Halco Laser Pro 190 in king brown colour. At the Lure Shop, we constantly get asked questions and info about the reefs from southern tourists that tow big boats up to fish out of Cooktown for a few weeks over winter.
Although this is typically the roughest time of year to fish most far northern waters, the fishing can be outstanding if you do a bit of research beforehand. The reason why I highlighted the southern tourists in this instance is because they are so used to fishing 60m+ of water for their red fish, that they often struggle when they come up to Cooktown.
I can honestly say that after fishing most of the east coast of Queensland that Cooktown is by far the easiest place I have fished to find the desired red fish that people want to catch.
The fish that get lumped into the term reds in far north Queensland include red emperor, large-mouth nannygai, mangrove jacks and crimson snapper (formally small-mouth nannygai). The same principles apply when looking for the actual bottom that you find reds anywhere in QLD however the depth is the big factor that throws many people out.
Rubble bottoms with wire weed and bait balls on them is a perfect example of good red ground anywhere however off Cooktown if you find this kind of ground in less than 20m of water you can often find awesome red fishing. Over the cooler winter months I have pulled 5kg school sized saddle tailed sea perch one after another off a wreck in less than 12m of water just off the coast within 15 minutes of Cooktown’s public wharf.
The shallow water fishing is also at its best over winter for trout. You only need to watch the commercial live trout fisher fish out of Cooktown over winter and you will see most of them fish a weather face in less than 5m of water at one stage or another during the day.
A perfect July fishing trip for me is chasing trout on a calm cool winter’s morning. Ideally this would see me fishing the white water where the weather face meets a run out tide at about 10am. I would be anchored up in about 8m just out from a good bombie (around 3-5m below the surface), twitching barely weighted 5” Jerk Shads in pilchard or mango ripple colours through the water column. If this scenario does not produce half a dozen trout for you, something must be drastically wrong!
The rivers around Cooktown are running nice and clean for the first time in a while and have been producing some quality fish. Fishing the flats around Leprosy Creek in the Endeavour has yielded plenty of barra, trevally and mangrove jacks for the hardbodied lure fishos and also some good sized pikey bream, grunter and the odd flathead for the anglers using soft plastics.
Flathead are a species of fish that are rarely targeted in far northern waters however the Endeavour River holds some absolute monsters and I have seen a few fish caught that have pushed well over 90cm.
Most of the tourists (and locals) only target barra and jacks in the rivers that surround Cooktown and it surprises me that with the amount of diehard lure fishers that come to Cooktown from southeast QLD, that more flathead are not targeted.
When moving around the shallow flats around the lower Endeavour and Annan rivers, it is common to see half a dozen 75cm+ flatties waiting in ambush for passing prey. These are great sportfish at this size and with the cult following big flathead have in southern waters; it is a shame that very few people appreciate the potential these fish have for catch and release lure fishos.Reads: 2002