Anglers Look Offshore to Escape Rain
  |  First Published: December 2011

The dawn of every new year is a time of extreme weather in Cape York and the far north. Even your average year will see torrential rain and cracking thunder storms somewhere over the Cape and anglers have to be patient and wait for the conditions to swing their way.

A predicted cyclone season similar to the one that yielded Cyclone Yasi in 2011 is back on the cards so who knows what might happen. Remote communities dotted around the Cape can be easily confused with ghost towns in January as locals simply ‘go to ground’ during the intense part of the wet season.

There are fishing opportunities aplenty with most people escaping the influence of wet season rains for the cleaner green and blue waters lying offshore. With the monsoon trough hanging somewhere over the top end of Australia, January will usually produce variable wind conditions, typified by calm mornings, the occasional squall and a switch to the north in the afternoons.

All the tiny creeks and river systems of Cape York begin flowing if they haven’t already, which this triggers the food chain into action and numerous fresh water species begin moving to wet-season refuges and feeding haunts.

For sooty grunter and jungle perch, this will mean swimming up-river into pools, lagoons and marshy areas looking for easy food being funnelled into the system. Many local Cape York residents will drive to their favourite causeway and handline for black bream in spots that were bone dry a month ago.

In the rainforest streams of the east coast, jungle perch are doing something similar and the extra river and creek water levels over the coming months will give these critters the chance to climb small waterfalls and rapids to reach further upstream. Both natural and man-made barriers provide great opportunities for anglers to simplify their fishing efforts during this squelchy period.

Barramundi and saratoga will be transfixed by the amount of fresh water entering the system and will spread themselves far and wide. Both species will use these months from January though to the end of the wet season to feed actively in areas where food is being flushed out into the main systems. Any rat, snake, frog, gecko, lizard or spider that finds itself taking an unintended dip in a swollen creek this time of year may be in trouble. The upturned eyes of a saratoga and that cavernous mouth might make reaching the far side a cautionary tale for the little critters besieged by floodwaters.

Food chains that begin with the spawning cycles of many crustaceans, molluscs and bait fish during the annual flooding season will be sparked into action. Thousands of tiny crabs, prawns, sardines and other tasty morsels will be flushed out of swollen rivers into areas such as Princess Charlotte Bay and the Gulf of Carpentaria.

The pain of rain this time of year will be well and truly worthwhile in the months that follow. Unless habitats are severely altered due to cyclone activity, it’s often said bigger wet seasons mean better fishing for the remainder of the year and those to follow.

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