As usual during August Cooktown’s southerlies are in full swing however so are the fast running Spaniards.
Most of the east coast of Cape York gets a fantastic run of big Spanish macks each winter and fish over 50lb have already been caught this season.
Although there are real secret methods when it comes to catching these speedsters in the nutrient rich tropical waters off Cooktown, there are a few techniques that will almost guarantee anglers get onto them if they are around.
Spaniards are like any other pelagic fish and can be caught just about anywhere. The best places to start looking are pressure points and southeasterly weather faces where a shallow reef edge meets water around 60ft deep. There will almost always be endless schools of fusiliers milling around feeding in the current line.
Once you have found these pressure points, fusiliers are easy to catch to use as live baits simply by a small berley trail of beach sand, soggy bread and tuna oil. On any reef face throwing over a few handfuls of this mix and dropping a Sabaki bail jig down will see half a dozen of these long lasting baitfish come aboard on every drop.
If the mackerel are being flighty due to crystal clear water conditions and glass out days, which don’t happen very often this time of year off Cooktown, small 20mm cubes of pilchard drifted down into the berley trail will usually see Spaniards swimming around at the back of the boat in minutes.
Although live baits usually see best results, large fresh pilchards ganged with two 8/0 tru-turns on a short 30cm length of 69lb brown Mason single strand wire will also be productive. When fishing the large live baits over 30cm long, I prefer to use a 10/0 Mustad Big Red pinned through the nose with a 8/0 Mustad Hoodlum as a stinger hook.
This method is almost nearly deadly when targeting big Spaniards with 500g baits. One of my other favourite baits for live bait fishing are 40cm tea leaf trevally.
When using baits of these sizes, there are a lot of pickers like spangled emperor and pesky crimson sea perch, which somehow manage to eat a 20cm fusilier. Big Spaniards will nearly always come through and take the tail off live baits first so if fishing without a stinger hook, you have to let the fish come back and take the rest.
If lure fishing is more your forte, trolling X-Raps, Halco 190DD Laser Pros and Bluewater classics F18s in pilchard colours is a sure fire way to be connected to these hard running pelagics.
One of the most visually spectacular methods of chasing 20kg+ Spanish mackerel is by working large poppers across the shallow reef edges and out into the deeper reef drop-offs. Target the same current lines, bait schools and drop-offs that you would when using live baits, but by working the poppers and stick baits over the 2ft deep water over the reef your by-catch will be increased with tasty species like coral trout and green jobfish.
The Endeavour River has been firing well and reports of good barra, jacks and fingermark have been coming through thick and fast from happy customers that have fished with Cooktown Barra Charters. Reports from the Annan River are still keeping anglers going back for more with many locals saying that this season is the best that the river has fished in many years.
Quality barra around the magic meter mark are still showing their heads, keeping tourists and locals very keen. The upper reaches of both the Endeavour and Annan rivers have been fishing the best with some great barra and jacks. For the light tackle junkies, the brackish upper reaches of these systems hold some great soft plastic action on 6lb spin gear as the system holds some great tarpon, smaller barra and good jacks, which are both suckers for small plastics like 2” Gulp Swimming Mullets and 5cm Squidgy Fish.
The Lure Shop now stocks a full range of bow and pig dog hunting supplies stocking breast plates, sticking knives and dog first aid kits and also have the largest range of archery Supplies anywhere on the Cape. For many Anglers that come to Cape York, fishing and hunting go hand in hand and as such, Cooktown now has a new hunting and fishing guide, Cooktown Adventure Camping, who is available to take clients on private charter to target barra, sooty grunter, boars and scrub bulls.Reads: 1449