After a solid trouncing of rain in the tropics during the early stages of December last year, we got no significant rain until the middle stages of January, which suggests the best part of the wet season is still in front of us. For the most of the Christmas and New Year period it was a sweltering affair, offering plenty of calm days to hit the ocean but very hot under the collar.
In soaring temperatures many anglers opted to hit the blue highway for their fishing action. They found the fishing to be quite reasonable considering our hottest hours can be challenging. There was an array of reef species on the chew during January, including the old coral trout. They weren’t prolific at any stage but there’d always be a smattering of red flesh amongst a day’s catch.
The large-mouth nannygai (saddletail snapper) struck on a few occasions but for the most they remained elusive in big numbers which is typical for this time of year. There was the odd decent red emperor on the go but the vast majority have been juveniles. Charter operators reported catching and releasing undersized red emperor by the dozens. Annoying, but at least it indicates that the local stocks are healthy.
As per usual, anglers have been catching a plethora of sweetlip, moses perch and stripies. On days when the fishing is tough, these fish can be the saviour of a trip.
Over the last month or so there has been a surge in trevally species being caught, mostly gold-spot, tea-leaf and bludger trevally. The bludger are no good on the plate but the other two taste alright, and when they came on the bite the action was fast and furious.
Pelagic species have very much been on the agenda in recent times, with reasonable numbers of Spanish mackerel around reef pressure points. They have also been patrolling the very deep pinnacles in open ground where bait schools muster. Considering the time of year, this has definitely been a bonus for many anglers.
Across the vast open waters between the reefs there has been a sea of mac tuna at times, busily busting up the abundances of small bait fry. When in serious feeding mode these tuna have been partial to small skirted lures trolled at speed or metal slices cast and retrieved through the school. Although they are not considered a tablefish they have provided plenty of angling fun in recent times.
Across the top of the reefs we’ve seen a lot of bait pushed to the surface, followed by good numbers of giant trevally. The calm days at sea provided the perfect opportunity to sight these bait schools (mainly fusiliers) and to present a blooping popper amongst the action. The average size of these fish has been 10-15kg with the odd bruiser exceeding the 20kg mark.
On the shelf the light tackle fishing continued to fire beyond the New Year with several small black marlin registered, good numbers of Spanish mackerel and still quite a few yellowfin tuna and mahi mahi (dolphinfish) on offer. The action will diminish in this department as the wet season progresses.
Our rivers and creeks will receive a bit more attention this month, especially with the opening of the barramundi season. I suspect that a fair amount of breeding may have taken place in December when we received good lashings of rain and the process fully completed with a bit more rain during the latter stages of January. During the hot and dry spells it was tough going though, with the mangrove jack the most consistent fish caught amongst the mangrove snags.
There have been a few trevally and queenfish patrolling the main parts of the systems with really good numbers of tarpon working the deeper holes. Golden snapper (fingermark) have remained active in a couple of our bigger systems such as the Daintree.
With a bit more rain anticipated from this point, fish should be found throughout our creeks and estuaries. The small run-off creeks that enter the main water body will be the hot spots to target barra and mangrove jack. If we do receive decent dumpings of rain, searching for water clarity will be the key. Sometimes it may take a few days to recover but this is the time to strike when the water turns back to some normality.
From this point on we will be at the mercy of the weather gods as to when we’ll be able to wet a line. In between the potential deluge there will be some good fishing on offer but you’ll have to use all your angling nous to take advantage of the right conditions. There will be plenty of obstacles and challenges ahead in the next couple of months but there’s also the opportunity to source some classic fish.Reads: 631