Cross over month
  |  First Published: September 2013

September is cross over month and one of the best times for fishing in the Cairns area. You generally get magic weather coupled with dynamite fishing.

The winter species are on the way out and the summer species are starting to become active, offering a wide range of target species and opportunities to wet a line. Last September saw extended periods of idyllic weather, with great fishing to match, so let’s hope for a repeat this year.

The warm, calm, conditions will bring on reef fever. Anyone who owns a boat big enough, and in some cases not big enough, will head to the reef to chase trout, sweetlip, red emperor and large mouth nannygai, with the odd reef mangrove jack and cobia adding flavour to the esky.

Coral trout should become more aggressive late in the month in the lead up to the new moon in early October. The new moon on 5 September will probably be too early for spawning, unless there is a sudden rise in water temperature. Nonetheless, trout will be the target of choice for most anglers heading east from Cairns, with fish in the 3-5kg range on offer. If the weather allows, focus your efforts on the lead up to the new and full moons to take advantage of the increase in tidal run.

Big mouth nannygai and red emperor will be on the chew in the deep water, with last year producing some excellent quality reds. September is a great month for over-nighting at the reef, as it’s a bit warmer and the likelihood of storms is low. Look for rubble patches and isolated bommies in 40-60m of water, especially if they are holding bait schools. Sharks were an issue last year, especially in the deep water, so be prepared to move if they show up.

There should still be plenty of mackerel around early in the month, with the big tides around the new moon ideal to chase these silver bullets. Spaniards will be the main prize but there should be plenty of schoolies, spotties and even the odd grey mackerel around the islands and inshore reefs to the north and south of Cairns. There was some quality Spaniards taken by the small boat brigade last year, late in the season, so let’s hope for a repeat set this year.

The light tackle sports fishos will be hoping for a rerun of last year’s small black marlin season, which was rated as the best in a very long time. Early signs are good, so fingers-crossed. There will also be wahoo, Spanish mackerel and yellowfin tuna out on the Continental Shelf for the blue water anglers.

Late September will hopefully herald the arrival of the big blacks and signal the start of the heavy tackle season. The seasonal heavy tackle game boats will be heading north and will start appearing in the area. Hopefully the drop in the Australian dollar will see an increase in overseas visitors arriving to fish for the majestic grander.

The increasing air temperatures will result in an increase in water temperature, which in turn will trigger our more tropical species into action.

Barramundi will be the main prize on anglers’ minds, although mangrove jack and golden snapper will also be on the chew. The lead up to the full moon, on the 19 of this month and the few days after, will be prime barra time, as the temperatures should be well on the way up by then.

Luring is a very popular mode of attack at this time of year, as it allows extra mobility in the attempts to locate feeding fish. Soft plastics seem to be all the go of late but don’t discount prawn imitations and hardbodied lures, as there are still plenty of fish nailed using these types of lures. If you are fortunate enough to land a barra on a lure, especially one sporting trebles, be very careful about how you handle the fish and remove the hooks.

Always use long nose pliers or a multi-tool to remove the hooks and don’t hold a fish up by the lure, as local sporting icon, Jo Butland found out the hard way on a recent camping trip to Lakefield National Park. Jo had picked the barra up by the lure, for a picture, when the fish flicked, leaving a treble lodged in her finger with the barra still hanging off the other treble. Fortunately her father had brought a quality pair of wire cutters with him and was able to cut the treble off the lure and then the barb off the treble and remove it without the need for a trip to hospital. The message here is that while beaky nose pliers and multi-tools are great for removing lures, make sure you have a serious pair of wire/bolt cutters on hand just in case.

Golden snapper have been biting steadily through winter and should ramp up their activity with the warming water, along with mangrove jack. Any warm, still, period this month will really bring on the action, so if you don’t have the means to head to the reef, there will still be plenty on offer inshore.

Trevally and queenfish will be patrolling the channels, in all the systems, while barra, jacks and golden snapper will be working the snags, mangrove edges and rocky outcrops. I can’t wait for the action to start!

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