Wet season drought
  |  First Published: April 2013

The big question that has been on everyone’s lips, is the wet season going to occur?

We have only seen a flicker of what we normally would expect over the previous months and it is having an effect on the local fishing scene in the Far North. The wet season rains have an impact on what will transpire throughout the year and also have a bearing on the following year as well.

We’ll start with the reef scene, which has seen the longest, warmest and calm stretch of weather in many people’s memory. For many that work on the water for a living it has been a case of Ground Hog Day with not much changing from one day to the next.

Since early December the water temperature has remained a constant 30ºC, which is basically like soup. The reef species have been less active and rather lethargic at times making it difficult to record a good day’s catch by reef standards. Anglers have had to fish as deep a possible to find the more decent sized fish and even then they haven’t turned up what we would call solid numbers.

The upside is that there have been a variety of species recorded with no particular fish dominating catches. There’s been a real mixed bag of fish in recent times from coral trout, bar cheek trout, large-mouth nannygai, cobia, reef mangrove jack, spangled emperor, sweetlip, Moses perch, stripeys, cod species and gold spot trevally.

The gold spot trevally and smaller large-mouth nannygai have been two of the better performing fish regularly turning up in the esky.

You may have noticed that there’s been no mention of Spanish mackerel, and that’s because they have been very few and far between for quite some time. The only pelagic activity of note has been the reasonable numbers of mac tuna in the area with the odd northern bluefin tuna school patrolling as well. There has been the odd productive day’s fishing on the blue water but generally speaking it has been a challenge for most. The biggest positive is that there’s been no excuse not to head out to the reef for the day as the weather has remained mostly calm.

The coastal, river and creek scenes have had their moments but once again the severe lack of wet season rain has made fishing efforts mostly challenging. If we’ve had any rainfall the piscatorial activity immediately picks up a notch but then a dry spell has normally occurred so it has been a bit of a stop-start scenario. When the fish have come on the bite for short periods there’s been a bit of variety as well including the barramundi, mangrove jack, golden snapper, queenfish, juvenile GT, tarpon and estuary cod.

There’s also been decent schools of king threadfin salmon working the coastal beaches and have been witnessed about the size of a basketball court. They’ve been feeding on the batches of jelly prawns and those using tiny soft plastics on light spinning gear have had extremely good success on these fish.

It’s not often you hear about king threadfin salmon as they are not so common in our region. But as it often happens they were there for a couple of days then disappeared the next.

Another interesting observation is that the barra catches were exceedingly better on the neap tides in recent times, which indicates it hasn’t been a normal wet season.

On a different note, one of the more encouraging signs of late has been a mini explosion of live baits in our estuary and river systems, which have included hardiheads and sardines. This in turn has encouraged a few more fish to turn up, namely queenfish and trevally schools, and the more rain we get the bigger the bait supply will become. Then the fish will follow is the theory.

Prior to this new life, the rivers and creeks were devoid of any such activity making life rather difficult on the water. I hope for a big improvement during April for both our inshore and offshore waters.

All this can change in a heart beat in the tropics with a good dousing of rain for an extended period. It may well have occurred by the time you read this but up until the point of putting pen to paper it has been one hot and testing summer.

Some are hoping for belated wet season which could see April and possibly May our wettest months for the year. As a holiday destination with school holidays upon us, such potential inclement weather is also not an ideal situation. I’m hoping for a wetter March period and then the weather can return to picture postcard material. If this pans out then April should be quite productive on the fishing scene, as it traditionally is each year.

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