Ribbon Reefs rundown
  |  First Published: May 2012

I have had a few people email me lately regarding offshore fishing around the Ribbon Reefs off Cooktown. So here is a basic rundown on what species are on offer in the area and how to target them.

There are a wide variety of sports fish that call the Ribbon Reefs home and you would be doing well if the only fish you landed was your target species. Trolling deep running hardbodies along the outer side of the reef faces could see anything from green jobfish to mahi mahi attack your offering, along with the ever-present 10kg GT and monster barracuda to keep you busy.

Trolling skirted lures will see a good number of strikes from yellowfin tuna, mahi mahi, wahoo, sailfish and black marlin, however if the razor gangs (wahoo, Spaniards and cuda) move in it can be a costly exercise. For this reason, use any of the cheaper smaller skirts, like the Tropic Angler range, as you will get attached to plenty of fish without losing sleep over a $15 skirt that has been chewed to bits.

Try deeper running lures, like X-Rap, for some decent table fish. There are some big blue spot trout that do not need a written invitation to woof down a deep running lure. However keep in mind there is a 80cm maximum size limit for these dinosaurs.

Fluoro green, red head whites or purples are all top colours on the Ribbons for pelagics and reef species alike. After a session on yellowfin tuna, around 30-40kg, you will be happy to give your mate the next strike!

Halco Laser Pro 190 DD 2m divers in red head gold body, pilchard, red head/white and the fusilier colour will see plenty of Spanish, mahi mahi and wahoo come aboard if the water is clean. Unfortunately massive barracuda over 40kg are also partial to these lures and on some days you will think they are the only species found off Cooktown.

Wolf herring trolled at about 2-3 knots will see some serious Spanish over 25kg get hooked. To catch your bag (10 per person) of wolf herring, go to Cherry Tree Bay at about 4pm and troll small lures in gold or silver (Tilson Bass or Tilson Barra’s are good lures) between the rock wall and Cherry Tree Bay and you should get your bag.

The other reliable spot to catch wolfies is off the wharf by casting small Celta spinners or Gold Wonder Wobblers. Just remember that when you freeze them make sure you lay them dead straight and if you have a bait freezer, pre rigging before freezing is the way to go during a hot session on Spaniards.

Another species that tourists like is the famous (infamous to the local commercial trout fishers) king of the Caranx genus, the giant trevally aka GT. While you will catch GT on basically any method, there is no doubt that poppers are the most spectacular. Any popper will work, although some brands have better reputations, the price of a well-known popper brand is often in excess of $70 unrigged. I have no problems spending top dollar on quality fishing tackle, but I can tell you that with the plague numbers of 25kg+ GT off the Ribbons, you will be hundreds of dollars behind if you are using the top brand names. If you arm yourself with a variety of sizes and colours you will most certainly be rewarded with plenty of big GT.

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