Christmas Seafood
  |  First Published: December 2011

The fishing around Cairns in December is a reflection of the weather. It can be powering or dead as, while the weather can be howling, or calm as.

Generally speaking, if the weather is fired up, so is the fishing. Periods of hot, still, weather has the same effect on fish as it does on humans. It’s just too hot to bother!

The secret is to work around the weather conditions, not only for comport but also to give you the best chance of having seafood on the table in the festive season.

Sultry, oven-baked conditions basking our coastline provide great boating conditions but makes fishing a tough prospect. The best approach in these circumstances is to fish dawn and dusk, or overnight, focusing your effort on the tide changes, when fish are more likely to be activated by the slight variation in conditions.

Strong southeasters, storms and even cyclones bring the howling conditions and working around these can be very productive. Either side of a storm is one of the most productive times in December, but be careful. Staying too long in the build-up to a storm can have dire consequences!

Getting on the water immediately after a storm has passed is much safer and very rewarding at times. The same strategy applies to southeasterlies. Get on the water just before it hits, or as it fades, for the best results.

Cyclones are no different, though the stakes can be a bit higher.

Some of the best fishing I have ever had has been around storms and cyclones, and while the experiences may have been heightened by the weather conditions, they are burned into my harddrive in the Best Ever Fishing Trips file.


There will be ample opportunities to get out wide in December, with predominately calm conditions coinciding with the holidays, so take the chance based on weather rather than tides. Waiting for the moon, tides, weather and free time to all align can be a frustrating exercise, so grab the calm weather and free time when they combine.

A few strategies will help to get the best out of the trip. Find, on the sounder, bommies or structure holding a good supply of bait. Try drifting over the top with baits or lures (soft plastics and jigs are ideal) and see if the fish are prepared to bite.

If there is some action, do another few drifts across the same country or try anchoring up. If a couple of drifts fail to bring a return, go looking for new country. Drifting makes this process easier, though it can be heavy on the tackle box. If you are efficient with using the buoy system to pull anchor, then continually moving until you find fish is another way to go. It can be a long wait at this time of year, sitting on good country hoping the fish will turn it on! This drifting method, employed in deeper water can produce quality nannygai and red emperor, along with a mixed bag of trevally, cobia, mackerel and the odd reef jack.

Putting the time and effort into finding wrecks and isolated pinnacles can also produce impressive catches of large and small mouth nannygai, trevally, coral trout and cobia. Using large, live, sardines as bait can be the key to success on wrecks and pinnacles, especially if they are heavily fished locations. Well educated fish will ignore a standard reef rig but a flashing sardine is just too big a temptation. The turn of the tide in the lead up to new and full moons will generally produce the better results. The occasional monster homer Spanish mackerel can also be caught on floating live baits, such as a fusilier.

Try to minimize your time in the sun, as it can be treacherous on hot still days. Stay cool and drink plenty of water. Soft drinks and particularly alcohol are not the way to re-hydrate in extreme heat. Stick to cool/cold water.


Chasing pelagics in December is a bit like cruising the night club scene - Look for the birds and you’ll find the action! Fantastic light tackle opportunities can be had out on the Continental Shelf, at Opal Ridge and the top of Linden Bank. Ocean speedsters such as dolphin fish, yellowfin tuna and Spanish mackerel can provide excellent sport using 10-15kg outfits. Look for the bird activity and they'll point you in the right direction.

Depending on the year, there can still be some marlin action out wide, with 2008 still producing fish around the 600lb mark. There were boats recording 2-3 strikes per day on billies and yellowfin tuna and good Spanish mackerel being taken on the troll. On the outer edge there can be a few encounters with sailfish and now is a good time to target these amazing fish.


With fresh water levels fluctuating, the fishing in December can be hard to predict, with river conditions literally changing overnight. The better results are generally closer to the entrances where the salt content is highest. There's usually a variety of fish prepared to jump on the end of your line at various times. Vermin can be annoying at times but there is often a few good fish amongst the trash. The incoming tides see the best action, especially when they coincide with the low light periods.

Live mullet, sardines and prawns will get the best results. The systems are often full of juvenile sardines in black clouds. A bunch of these on a hook is a top bait when they are around. Finding large sardines at this time of year can be a real challenge at times, as they disappear to spawn. The juvenile bait fish are often accompanied by schools of small trevally, which make great sport.

There can be good runs of quality mangrove jack with many snags producing two or three quality fish. Add to the bag the odd bream, cod, and fingermark and it can be a good catch. The river and estuary mouths, on the first of the incoming tides, can also produce grunter and queenfish. Around the inshore islands and reefs there can also be a run of doggie mackerel, along with trevally, feeding up on the sprats.


Fishing the flats using fresh dead prawns or mullet, sardine or gar strips can be worthwhile for grunter, especially on the rising tide, with the odd quality fish in the 50cm + range on offer Expect to pick up a few sharks, stingrays, catfish and barracuda when targeting these species. Hopefully there will also be the odd blue and king salmon and trevally to add variety to the catch.


The sweetwater can be well worth a visit in December. If you are well away from crocodile country, a cooling dip after working a hole with lures, for sooties and jungle perch, can be a refreshing end to the day, when things get really steamy.

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