I recently took a few of our Australian mates up on an offer to come over and sample fishing OZ style.
We worked with the good people at Destination Queensland to visit Tropical North Queensland and it’s fair to say this was one the most impressive itineraries we’ve ever had put in front of us. The Queensland Tourism office sent us a professional, well thought out proposal and we were pretty much hooked from the first email.
So off we jetted to get amongst barra, saratoga, bass, Spanish mackerel, GT and heaps of fish that we don’t get in New Zealand. Accompanying me and the crew were the final three from Matt’s Fishing Apprentice, so we were expecting plenty of drama and action to keep the cameramen happy.
Our first stop was Lake Tinaroo where we met up with local guide Mark Privett. The Lake is well known for big barra and I was really excited to get connected to a fish that I’d heard so much about but had so little experience with – when I say ‘little experience’ I actually mean I have never caught one.
What we didn’t know until it was too late was that the day prior to our arrival the lake had about 150 of the best barra fishers in Australia descend on it; so it’s fair to say the barra were a little gun shy.
While I’ve done some hard yards in my time for all sorts of fish, throwing every conceivable lure, hundreds and hundreds of times for no return was a little disheartening. We put in a whole day, in less than ideal conditions for no result. We were stoked to be there but we weren’t off to the best start.
Departing Tinaroo we headed for Port Douglas to catch up with the Doreen II and head for the Ribbon Reefs. Another mythical place that I’d hankered to get back to. I’ve done plenty of time outside the reef heavy tackle fishing, but aside from baitfishing, I’ve done none amidst the countless coral reefs.
Before we departed Port Douglas, we thought we’d have a go at catching some mud crabs – which was a new experience for me and the crew. We were really keen to get them as a couple of years ago I chartered with Barry and his chef prepared the most amazing chili crab I’ve ever eaten!
After a belly full of crab and a good night’s sleep, we steamed out to the reefs overnight and arrived to a grey and windy seascape; but a little rain has never put me off. We got to work and were quickly rewarded with coral trout, scaly mackerel, a wicked take from a GT and more.
The most notable difference to fishing in New Zealand is the proliferation of species that you enjoy in Australia. We got sharked a lot but still managed to get plenty of good fish for the camera and the dinner table.
Barry and the Doreen II are a couple of old classics, they’re like an old married couple, although the Doreen is maintained a lot better then Barry. Each of the trips I’ve done with the Doreen have been memorable, for more than the excellent fishing, but the company and good humour of Barry and his crew.
We headed back to Port Douglas for a big trip north to Cooktown and a chance to sample some of the river and billabong fishing we’d heard so much about. I’ve visited Cooktown a few times when competing in the Lizard Island comp and it’s a town that never fails to deliver something worthy of a good yarn. I’ve seen things in Cooktown that I’ve never seen anywhere else in Australia, or the world for that matter.
We teamed back up with Mark and headed for Lakefield National Park before moving on to Endeavour Inlet. Both spots have got a history of solid fish and we were looking forward to sampling them. However, even though Lakefield produced some good fish we didn't get that trophy fish we were going for.
Endeavour Inlet though was a different story. We finally managed to get into some barra up the river. The fish were small by Australian standards but it gave me and the crew a sample of the pulling power that they possess – enough to whet the appetite and get me back for another go.
From the inlet we went out into the ocean and fished a couple of reefs/wrecks and had an awesome day on the sharks, coral trout and some very decent golden trevally. Suffice to say we got the fish, which rounded out our trip for the long drive back to Cairns and the flight home.
We ended up with a lifetime of new experiences, new locations to pine over, a massive amount of new ideas to try back home and a bit of new kit as well.
River/estuary fishing is something hardly any Kiwi’s do, there’s been a few proponents of it in recent years but it’s not taken off yet. It’s definitely on my radar back in NZ and if I get some results I’ll be sure to let you know.
Keep ‘em tight, Matt!Reads: 2020