Dry Times, High Speed
  |  First Published: June 2011

Last month we traced areas holding fish up the East Coast of Cape York. Now settling in to the more consistent weather patterns of the dry season in June, let’s have a look down the West Coast in the Gulf.

After having spent the last month on the North West coast of the Cape, between Mapoon and the tip, it can be confirmed the barramundi are well and truly on the chew. Although these fish can be caught right throughout winter in the far north, June signals the last month before cool weather slows the bite.

July and August can be among the toughest for barra fishing, so it pays to take every opportunity in early June to get your fix of catching some prawn-gobbling, mullet-smashing, frog-munching barramundi before they get too lethargic. Water temperatures are the catalyst and often the first strong southerly winds to whistle up the Gulf can throw the fish off for a while.

With many of the rivers having had a good flush this year and the larger systems of the West Coast like the Jardine, Wenlock, Archer, Kendall, Holroyd and Mitchell rivers, should all be at a good level to fish in June. Many of these larger systems fish best when there is still some fresh coming down the system and not too clear. Time to get some lures seriously bumping down into snags!

June is also a fantastic month to catch the full range of pelagic and reef fish on the western side of Cape York. Even if it is howling wind on the East Coast, there is some protection with the offshore breezes making boating on the West Coast much more relaxing. Recently we have seen small schools of longtail and mac tuna smashing bait within a few hundred meters of shore.

Cloudless days in June will reveal huge patches of bait close to beaches and rock. All manner of speedsters will be on patrol for these bait balls and when things light up, great fun can be had on light tackle. Spanish mackerel, school, grey and sharky mackerel are all suckers for metal slices, poppers and quick trolled deep divers. High speed jigging is a fantastic way to get some of the smaller mackies on the chew.

Giant trevally, tealeaf trevally, golden trevally and bludger trevally will be amongst the most willing battlers around the bait schools this time of year. All are suckers for a full range of fishing techniques. Flinging poppers is one of the most appealing methods of extracting fish near bait schools, however throwing flies, metals slices, soft plastics and bucktail gigs will all do well if fished with long casts and fast, erratic retrieves.

Queenfish, blue salmon and giant herring are never too far away from hapless baitfish and all have huge appetites to go with their speedster lifestyles. They will all fall to the same tactics as trevally but sometimes you will need smaller slices, plastics, jigs and flies to entice the strike. Often fish will simply ‘follow’ a presentation unless you really speed up the retrieve. They hate missing out on an easy meal!

Fishing the mouths and shallow gutters of the huge array of creeks and rivers on the west coast is great fun on the neap tides of June. Early morning high tides should see sandy flats absolutely crawling with queenfish and blue salmon in particular. With giant herring and tarpon thrown in, I have lost count of the number of these fish lost on that first exciting leap for freedom.

There are other fish not mentioned here, like fingermark and cobia and plenty of others, which will be on the target list on the West Coast during June. As always, keep your options open and look for active patches of fish feeding to maximise your chances. Often a birdless, fishless horizon can change to a fish feeding bonanza if you keep your eyes peeled and the bale-arm of your spin rod open!

Queenfish are suckers for a fast-stripped fly around river mouths.

Golden trevally love jigs and lipless crankbaits fished over the sandy flats of the Cape’s west coast.

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