April usually marks the end of the wet season and the weather can vary from fantastic, to abysmal. This impacts the fish in a similar manner to the people. When the weather is glorious the fishing is hot and when it’s not, neither is the fishing.
The barra have been making the most of the mild wet season and have been particularly active along the headlands to the north and south of Cairns. Golden snapper and jacks have also been in on the action and, while the warm weather lasts, so should the action.
While April is traditionally the start of the transition to winter species, in recent times the change-over seems to be getting later, not that most anglers are complaining.
Golden trevally, grunter, queenfish and the odd mackerel will also be around, so there should be variety in the catch. While there will be enough of the tropical trophy trio of barra, jacks and golden snapper about for the purists, anglers will generally do better to head out with a broad brush approach. Go with a variety of techniques and targets in mind and work your way through them until you come up trumps.
If you are predominantly a bait soaker, go with quality dead and live baits on board. Select a location where you can fish livies in the heavy country and strip baits or prawns on the rubble, shale bottom or weed beds, out wide. You can then focus your efforts on whatever brings on the action. This can be up against a mangrove bank, a rock bank or wall, an inshore reef edge or a rock headland. All of these locations can give you a variety of bottom structure either side of the boat, if you anchor correctly.
It is always better to anchor using a two anchor system when bait fishing, except at the reef, as it keeps the boat still and baits aren’t dragged around the bottom getting snagged up all the time. You can also position the boat with much more precision.
Lure nuts will do best to try a few different techniques and locations to see what gets results. If flicking the snags and rocks for barra and jacks isn’t coming up trumps, try deeper for golden snapper. Sometimes the barra and jacks are also sitting deep on structure. This is when trolling deep divers can bring on the action, especially if the tides are neap and fish are not moving much.
Golden snapper have been pretty consistent, especially around the headlands and inshore reefs, over the wet season, so they are definitely worth targeting with live bait or lures. Getting to the headlands just before dawn will give you the best chance of scoring. Dusk is also good but it’s often too rough for comfortable fishing. You don’t need a boat, just an old pair of runners, long pants and a long sleeve shirt. This is to protect you from marine stingers and oyster cuts. Get out onto the rocks furthest out by wading. The bit of extra effort can make a big difference to your success.
This approach works best when luring, as it’s less gear to cart with you. Soft plastics, prawn imitations, like Prawnstars and deep diving lures are the best options. Work the bottom, especially around isolated pinnacles and ledges.
If flicking is unproductive, switch to poppers and sub surface lures. There have been plenty of metre-plus queenfish around lately and they will still be around the headlands and inshore islands, if the water doesn’t have too much fresh in it. Sessions where you can switch and change between bait fishing and luring can give you an even better chance of bring home the bacon.
Prawns and crabs can also be around in April, especially if there is a downpour to get them moving. Always be on the lookout and keep an ear out for word on the coconut wireless. Prawns often come and go before most people hear about them, so keep your ear to the ground or, better still, keep a cast net in the boot and go for a few casts before or after work.
The reef fishing is pretty much like the inshore and estuary fishing in April, with no big runs of any particular species. It’s more a bit of this and that, with trout being the most constant. Coral trout, large mouth nannygai, small mouth nannygai, red emperor spangled emperor, jobfish, reef mangrove jack, Moses perch, cobia, sweetlip, slatey bream, cod, golden trevally, tea-leaf trevally and the odd Spanish mackerel can colour the catch at this time of year, rather than an esky full of reds or trout.
While there won’t be big runs of fish there will still be the odd quality red emperor and big mouth in the deep water, and trout up shallower. Once again, be prepared to move around from shallow to deep water and keep moving every half hour or so until you find some action. Sharks can be a real issue at times, so if they come on the scene, go for a long fast move to try and shake them. A slow move half a kilometre away will often see them re-join you in no time.
It’s still a bit early for big numbers of pelagics but there’s always the odd silver bullet about for those that love the thrill of the chase. The odd Spanish mackerel is taken year round and there can be a few schools of northern blue fin tuna harassing the bait schools. As always, look for the tell-tale signs of birds working to point you toward the action.
If the birds are quiet, try down deeper on the current lines and pressure points. Sometimes the humble pilchard drifted out under a float or in the current can be more effective that fancy live baits and expensive lures, so always have a small bag of quality pillies on board, especially when bottom fishing. It’s amazing how often a quality Spaniard comes aboard if you always have a pillie out the back when bottom bashing.