December usually brings picture-perfect weather for most of the Cape region. During the Christmas break nearly every man and his dog in Cooktown will be out on the water making the most of the glassed-out seas summer brings.
This time of year usually brings some great billfish action to the inshore reefs. While these fish are usually on the small fry size compared to what Cooktown’s Ribbon Reefs are world renowned for, any billfish is worth targeting regardless of size.
Trolling skipping gar is probably the most sure-fire way to target these small marlin and sailfish, but be prepared for a few bite-offs from XOS Spaniards and barracuda. I have never seen a reef system with so many monstrous cuda living there. These fish seem to fight less and less the bigger they grow and are a real pain when it comes time to unhook them. Care needs to be taken when retrieving your favourite lure from the mouth of a 6ft cuda as they have a mouthful of razorblades ready to take a finger off.
While frozen gar catch plenty of fish, nothing beats fresh spotted gar and these can be caught in plague numbers from the flats around the Walker Bay headland.
With a bit of luck the rivers will still have clean water in them and as a result, anglers will see plenty of burnt thumbs and some red hot pelagic action. Queenfish, trevally and even the odd Spanish mack will turn up in all the usual haunts if the water is clean enough and small Trollcraft Poppers, Halco Twisties or shallow running lures will usually see a result.
If the rains come early, the mouth of both the Annan and Endeavour rivers will produce some big Spaniards. As always, look for signs of baitfish (mainly mullet) that are feeding where the discoloured water meets the cleaner sea water at the bottom of a run-out tide.
When live baiting around the river mouths, big sardine, gar, mullet and pike are an excellent choice. Species you can expect to be encountered, include queenfish, trevally, mackerel as well as mangrove jack and the odd grunter.
When fishing around the mouths and headlands at this time of year, chances are that you will catch a barra. Keep in mind that during the closed season you must release all barra as soon as possible and if practical, release without taking the fish from the water. With these fish spawning during the summer months, it really is in your own best interest to cause as little interference as possible to prevent any stress and risk of infection from poor handling as these breeders are the backbone of much of Northern Australia’s fisheries.
The month ahead will see the reef fishing fire however, just like every other year, the sharks will be out to take their share – much to many anglers disappointment! You will never get rid of the sharks so killing ever shark that is hooked is a waste of time and, although it may not seem like it, they are an incredibly important part of the diverse eco system.
If sharks are giving you a hard time, you are simply better off to up anchor and move away. You will never beat a 7ft hungry bronzy back to the boat, and the prized red that it will shred is better off not caught then wasted on a shark.
Until next month stay safe on the water and have a Merry XmasReads: 727