The beginning of the year can be a tumultuous time for fisherman in the far north. Let’s look at what a typical day might bring in January.
The sun pierces through light cloud at some ridiculously early hour of the day. Everyone is up and into a coffee and some toast before scampering around, preparing for the day ahead.
Liberal amounts of sunscreen, an esky jam packed with cold drinks and more than enough water to last the day. A raincoat is a good idea unless the idea of cooling fresh water slapping your face at frequent intervals sounds appealing. Most of us don’t bother.
Anglers are often blessed with a few hours of dead calm on those still January mornings. The horizon can be a wavering mixture of sea and sky and the reflection so startling, the water is just a moving canvas.
It can get so hot and sticky by about 9am that anyone caught soaking bait or furiously casting lures in the upstream reaches is wishing they weren’t. It is basically an outdoor sauna and as many people know, a sauna is only good if you want to be in one.
Regardless the fish seem to love it and the old adage of sunrise and sunset being optimum times is paramount to January. With water temperatures constantly up around 30 degrees, there is no excuse for the fish not to be on the chew. It is simply a matter of finding them.
I recall an amazing day down at the Love River at the beginning of last year. The tide was pushing in all day and a late move was made to battle the south-westerly down the coast.
Upon arriving at the Love River, we did battle with some small barra around the mouth before pushing up into the lake in the hope of tackling some other species. In about 2ft of water, huge shoals of tiny sprats were rippling up the surface. All the usual suspects were present, tearing into the hapless bait.
After a few casts, a shallow diving Leads Hijacker got slammed by around 70cm of black jewfish. Not a huge fish but a fantastic capture in such shallow water. Threadfin salmon swirls could be easily discerned from the more boisterous barra boofs, however no strikes were forthcoming until the threadies were sighted.
Sight casting to threadfin salmon is jaw dropping stuff. You really need to gauge the mood these fish are in before beginning your retrieve. Sometimes a stop-start barra type retrieve will suffice. Other times you will have to leave the lure almost stationary to get a strike and still other times winding almost flat out will help negate those feeler whiskers and produce the better hook up.
I prefer a slightly looser drag while fighting threadies and soft hands are a must if you want to see them in the boat. Watch out as they zig zag around the boat at the last minute as plenty have been lost in these final few moments. With a diet of tiny prawns, the delicate white flesh of these fish should be treated with the highest regard and eaten fresh if possible.
Later that day as the tide dropped through its final stages, a current line of clean, green-tinged water edged against some dirtier water was sighted near a large shallow drain. We anchored out on the colour change and were pleasantly surprised to find some hungry fingermark ready to gulp down some soft plastics.
At a couple of kilos these fish were perfect keepers and fought well on light threadline outfits. The whole session was well rounded off by a couple of descent sized golden trevally which tore off with the tiny soft plastics embedded in their blubbery lips.
Like all fish fought in the tropics this time of year, the goldens gave a great account of themselves. Pretty much everything with fins will bite at some stage during January. It may be hot and it will definitely be sticky, there may even be the odd threat from cyclones and intense low pressure systems. However for those of us silly enough to be left holding the bag up in the far north this time of year, it is still better to be hot and fishing than jus plain hot!Reads: 640