Barramundi bring it on
  |  First Published: June 2012

With a late kick to the wet season in many parts of Cape York, June will be a fantastic month to be travelling around in far north Queensland, the rivers will settle and bays will fill with baitfish.

Some species will push further into estuaries and others will disperse out of them. As long as water temperatures remain warm enough, June can turn on some champagne fishing in the Cape and Torres Strait. Captures of all the iconic species will be an option with speedsters and estuarine lure-munchers all on the list.

After spending the past week on charter up around Aurukun, it was clear that as the rivers slowed a bit and fish had a chance to congregate, things might really fire up. The fishing wasn’t red hot the whole time by any means, but during any single day an opportunity at a hot bite on barramundi presented itself. There were periods where the fish would suddenly switch on and chew their heads off!

On one particular occasion, we had gone pretty fishless after lunchtime, trying plenty of drains and promising looking timber on our way upriver. It wasn’t until the run in the outgoing tide slowed that we were able to fish a patch of submerged trees scattered throughout the river.

The mayhem that unfolded over the next hour as fish congregated at the end of a long pool was unbelievable. Fish around 90cm were snapping repeatedly at lures right under the rod tip. The sounds of their swim bladder as they struck and turned was unmistakable, as was the boil left on the surface as these orange-eyed monsters sank back down into the pool below. It was knee-knocking stuff!

Fighting barramundi getting up near that meter mark in tight snags with a bit of current running past requires all an angler’s skills and attention. Anything can and often does go wrong on these bigger fish and it was nice to get a few around the 95cm mark boat side before release. The day before a little further upstream a big girl had been lost after it made three long surging runs without even jumping.

Two others at the heart of sportfishing up in Cape York are Spanish mackerel and queenfish. These two come in a variety of sizes and both can be veracious feeders at this time year. Casting poppers and metal slices will work well for both species but each will also take a variety of dead, live and rigged baits.

Spanish mackerel are an excellent quality eating fish if killed, bled and chilled correctly. Queenfish are not so highly esteemed but very edible and great for Numus.

June will be the first time in many places where more remote country can be accessed due to marine swamps and black-soil country finally drying out. Rock-bars, pools and lagoons far upriver become a little easier to access and fish, so adventurous campers might enjoy this month more than any other. Freshwater should still be plentiful near most camping areas but will generally begin to taper out as the dry season runs its course.

Temperatures will drop early in the morning somewhere in June. Some spots in the Cape get genuinely cold for those of us with warm blood! Because of this, the estuaries might be a bit quiet early morning, but heading offshore in these conditions can prove fruitful for pelagic species.

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