Wonderful boating and angling weather
  |  First Published: November 2011

It doesn’t matter what side of Cape York you visit this month, you are in for some wonderful boating and angling weather.

On the east coast, those resilient trade winds following the high pressure systems up the coast may finally abate. There will often be an afternoon northeasterly blowing in as the land heats up, but mornings can be sensational.

Similarly around the Tip, one of the windiest joints around, there may actually be a few weeks strung together where the water takes on its natural blue lustre and the mackerel can be seen jumping clear of silky smooth water.

A recent trip from Townsville to the tip and then down the west coast revealed some splendid weather and the opportunity to roam far and wide. A few highlights included a couple of sailfish caught in about 14m of water in the Gulf and some blistering mackerel fishing on the outer reef east of Lockhart River.

Both sessions came mid-morning when there was not a puff of wind on the water. When it dies out, baitfish balled up near the surface and birds working can be seen from a long, long way away. Skirting around nervous bait is a great way to entice hungry speedsters such as mackerel and sailfish.

Down into the Gulf and the barramundi will hopefully be having a good shot at spawning around the many estuary mouths and coastline. Both sides of the Cape are now closed season for both recreational and commercial fishing. The lack of nets around estuary mouths during this time has been crucial in re-building decimated barramundi stocks.

Unfortunately the many off-shore species that also use this period to spawn are not shown the same courtesy. Fish such as Spanish mackerel, sharks and marlin are all vulnerable to what is the disturbing use of drift nets in the Gulf of Carpentaria. The number of boats plummeting these precious resources has increased and mackerel line-anglers report huge falls in their average catches as a result.

It seems amazing that this type of long drift-netting is still allowed in Queensland waters. When will our state realise the costs to endangered wildlife, the indiscriminate mode with which these nets kill and the undeniable social and economic cost associated with slowly choking out recreational fishing and tourism.

Slow growing and hugely important spawning sized fish such as big fingermark are taken out in tonnes by a couple of large trawl-net ships working between Queensland the Northern Territory. Surely it isn’t hard for readers to imagine the extent of wasted by-catch with such operations. Nor is it hard to imagine where most of our precious breeding fish go once they are scraped up; straight overseas!

It’s about time the government began looking at the cumulative benefits of healthy fisheries that arise from certain elements of protection. When such rigid rules are placed on recreational anglers at every convenience by government, they are more than happy for factory ships to purchase licences to destroy habitats and fisheries right in front of our eyes.

But saying all this, the last few wet seasons have brought the local fisheries to life and from barramundi right through to marlin, the positive impact of healthy waterways and food chains is apparent. November is hot up in the Cape, but well worth the effort.

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