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Ripe for the picking
  |  First Published: April 2014



The wet season thus far in tropical North Qld has been what locals would call a ‘normal’ one, or what the Bureau of Meteorology calls a ‘neutral season’. It hasn’t been dry, but we haven’t been inundated with excessive rains or floods either. We’ve seen a season that has seen a healthy supply of rain which in turn will have benefits for our fisheries for the coming year.

The month of April is a cornerstone period on the calendar which sees a first rate blend of fish on the move. The rivers are still active with prime species such as barra, fingermark and mangrove jack, but you should start to see an improvement on trevally, queenfish and grunter as well.

Much the same can be said for the beaches, flats and headlands, which will be holding a good supply of fresh bait. This will see trevally, queenfish as well as blue salmon and barra take advantage of the food on offer.

Offshore the water temperatures will have dropped considerably, which is more conducive to reef and pelagic species. At some point, whether it be this month or the next, the current will turn and run from the south, delivering nice cool water which can ignite the coastal and offshore fishing into third or fourth gear. April is a crossroad period which gets the juices flowing from an angler’s point of view, and when the weather is ripe there are numerous options available.

Up until this point we’ve had some turbulent times and but also some moments of triumph, and that’s typical of fishing the tropics during the wet. When it comes to reef fishing the numbers haven’t been huge but there’s been some pure quality there for the taking. The red emperor that have been around have been super impressive in size, and the large-mouth nannygai (saddletail snapper) have also been very respectable although not in vast numbers. The coral trout have had their moments as well, coming on the bite nicely at certain times. There’s been a smattering of other species as well including spangled emperor (yellow sweetlip), tea-leaf trevally and moses perch. The Spanish mackerel have been very thin but we’ll start to see them in better numbers in the coming month.

BEACHES

The beaches in our region have often held the spotlight during the calm spells, with jelly prawn hatches in the shallows offering a platter of coastal caviar which every predatory fish loves. Tarpon, queenfish, trevally, dart, blue salmon, flathead, barra and permit have all been caught during the hatches, and those anglers achieving the most success have been the flyfishers. They have been able to replicate the ‘rice like’ creatures about 5-15mm long out of fur and feather and presented these amongst the boiling pot of activity.

When the jelly prawns are on the go the predators are purely focused on these and will ignore all other presentations. Just to give you a snapshot of how explosive this fishing can be, our local Four Mile Beach (6km in length) was half engulfed at the southern end by thousands of fish smashing into the jelly prawns along the shallows on several days. The days that seem to trigger this food chain are those that follow a good dose of rain followed up by some super calm weather. The rising tide also sees the best action occur as the ‘jellies’ are pushed up the foreshore into pockets of water and have nowhere to hide. I’m picking we’ll see some more of this incredible action occur in the coming month with rain still expected to be around.

RIVERS AND CREEKS

The rivers and creeks have had their tough times and their bright times. Outside of the heavier rains there’s been quite a few barra caught on lure in the upper reaches of systems, and the rains have cleared a lot of excess debris and the fishing is a bit more condensed around the long  term landmarks and features.

The mangrove jacks have remained consistently busy amongst the snags, snaffling the old pilchard. They do like a bit of run in the water, whether it be an incoming our outgoing tide.

There have been a few times when the waters have cleared when the queenfish and trevally have pushed through the main channels on a rising tide. They have been partial to live baits, but getting livies has been a challenge at times.

Across the shallower flats and sand bars there have been quite a few grunter caught using fresh dead baits but there have been shovel-nose rays and stingrays to contend with. The catfish have been rather dominant throughout some of our river systems and there have been numbers of sharks coming and going as well.

Looking ahead though, the fishing will settle a bit more in the coming month and those calm windows of opportunity will deliver a plethora of action inshore, coastally and offshore.

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