Lucky for me work and travels have me situated in the Torres Strait for a few months, travelling between many of the fantastic islands and coral cays of this unique part of northern Australia.
The granting of native title over most of this area and the recent buy-back of all the non-indigenous commercial fishing licenses means that most of the remote places in the Torres Strait receive very little fishing pressure.
Stretching north of Cape York Peninsula and ending literally kilometres from the coastline of Papua New Guinea, the Torres Strait is a brilliant mix of highly fishable islands and coral cays which can roughly be divided into four zones.
The inner islands include Possession Island and Thursday Island which is the administrative centre for the Strait and houses nearly 40 different government and related services.
Above this are the central western islands and above them the north western islands that include Boigu, Saibai and Duane Islands from which the coast of West Papua is within clear sight. You can almost feel the mud crabs and barramundi from the shore – they are very prolific in the area.
South-east of here are the central islands of the Torres Strait which include Yam (Iama), Yorke (Masig), Warraber (Sue) and Coconut (Poruma), which are mostly low-lying coral cays with a mixture of continental islands nearby. All the islands are known by both a colonial and traditional name, highlighted well by the Eastern Islands which are called Stephen (Ugar), Darnley (Erub) and Murray (Mer). These are volcanic islands and are spectacular glints of hilly green amidst a sea and sparkling blue sea and turquoise reef.
The commercial crayfish industry is a big deal up this way and represents a proud culture of divers, many of whom operate out of 6m tenders in some seriously remote locations. Armed with local knowledge and childhoods hearing about rocks, reefs and seasons, some divers make small fortunes in the space of a few days when receiving upwards of $50/kg for live crays!
There is a low key fin-fish and a mackerel fishery which basically leads to crayfish, coral trout and Spanish mackerel being the most targeted species in the area. The mackerel migrate north throughout the dry season and prolific catches can be had later in the year up around the eastern islands and northern cays, however resident fish can be caught all year round in the Torres Strait.
Giant trevally, queenfish, tuskfish, nannygai, sweetlip and a multitude of other reef species make up the catches for recreational anglers plying the reefs, rocks and current edges around the islands. Tides and wind conditions are major factors up this way and the trade winds tend to blow with a fair amount of gusto from Easter right through to November. April will usually be the transition month and although a little patchy wind wise, the neap tides and improved water clarity can make it a great time to be fishing and spearing.Reads: 4139