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Action close to home
  |  First Published: March 2013



It was a very late start to the wet season in the tropics with no significant rain received until the end of January. This precipitation was well received and it certainly rejuvenated the local rivers and estuaries, which are the lifeline for many fish species. We can expect to see more rainfalls during March and, even though it may be a bit frustrating as an angler, it is a necessary part of the life cycle in the north.

Prior to any decent rains the fishing became very lethargic, whether it was on the reef or up the river. But with the first good dumping came a new landscape with the rivers and creeks adjusting furniture around in the form of new snags and fallen trees, and loads of fresh bait was distributed along the coastline. Small break through creeks that laid dormant for months crashed through sand dunes and became small tributaries offering new food sources. It was the green light for new life and the opportunity for fish to replenish their stores.

As soon as the water clarity returned to normal the fishing was on the go, particularly along the coastline itself including the beaches, river mouths and headlands. Some of the more common catches included barramundi, blue salmon, queenfish, trevally, tarpon and an explosion of small blacktip reef sharks.

The most effective method was sourcing the abundance of fresh live bait readily available, including prawns, mullet, garfish and sardines with the incoming and the top of the tide providing some healthy returns.

Further up the local rivers the golden snapper were quite active on the top of the tide in the deeper sections using live bait. The mangrove jack swung into full flight along banks and mangrove walls with hardbody lures doing the most damage.

Not far from the mainland, several miles out to sea, there were some handy catches on the inshore patches and wonky holes with big gold spot cod, a variety of trevally and large mouth nannygai on the chew. In between the really heavy periods of rain these coastal marks fish quite well when the waters clear and there’s plenty of salinity back in the water.

There’s also been some really big rogue Spanish mackerel up to 55kg caught at these locations holding a good supply of bait and a ganged pilchard or live bait suspended in a berley trail has attracted the razor gang.

If trolling is more your preference anglers along the headlands and inshore patches have been sourcing pockets of grey mackerel, longtail and mac tuna and some bigger talang queenfish using spoons. The obvious tell-tale sign is to find where the birds are working the surface on small bait schools.

Further offshore the fishing has simply been tougher in the warmer months and generally speaking March can be one of those times. However if you are prepared to move around and concentrate on the turns of the tide you should be able to muster up a feed of fish.

Recent catches in our region have mostly been a mixed bag of reef species. A smattering of coral trout, a few large and small mouth nannygai, the odd red emperor, stripeys, sweetlip, Moses perch and the occasional Spanish mackerel caught on the float, have been a stock standard return for many of the local charters of late.

Some days, to value-add, the gold spot and bludger trevally have been really dominant on the deeper rubbly patches and have delivered some punishment for the anglers. They’ve come on the bite at various times in big numbers ranging up to the 6kg mark and can go like the clappers. If it’s sport you are after these fish certainly fit the bill.

For the moment just keep toughing it out on the reef, enjoy your time out there as some days may just be prosperous. Looking forward though, traditionally the fishing on the reef does turn the corner in April and catches become quite more substantial.

For the most action during the coming month I’d be inclined to stick closer to home if the water clarity remain fine as there will be some handy fishing whether it be up the local river, fishing off the beach or exploring the local headlands and inshore patches in a boat.

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