Supercharged food chain
  |  First Published: April 2014

April is a magic time to be exploring the wilds of Cape York and the only thing preventing this from being amongst the fishiest times to fish will be access. Rivers, particularly in the central and western Cape, have had some large rain events.

It might not be good for access, but consistent rain and flowing or flooding rivers translates loosely into prime fishing. Food webs become supercharged and the multitude of organisms breeding and feeding in the floodplains and backwaters will then support everything from upstream sooty grunter to speedy sailfish throughout the course of a year.

April is one of the best run-off months and accounts for lots of large barramundi along the west coast of Cape York, rivalled only by the large, barra-rich systems in the Northern Territory. All the way from the Jardine River in the north down the west coast to the Mitchell River in the south, huge tracts of swamp and floodplain pour nutrient-rich sediment back into the major river systems.

Tiny baitfish, prawns and other critters make their way out with receding floodwaters while the saltwater begins pushing baitfish schools further up the estuarine lakes and channels. Where salt and fresh water meet at this time of year, those fish which make a home in both can be found actively feeding. Tarpon, saratoga, queenfish, mangrove jack and barramundi feed equally well in fresh and salt water and will be working current lines and colour changes to ambush prey.

Of particular interest in April will be the various drains and run-offs which intersect with the major creeks and rivers of the west coast. I particularly enjoy the time of year when depth sounders and any time of electronic gadgetry do not prove the difference between one angler’s success and another’s. If you like the visual aspects of fishing – watching a tannin-stained colour change pushing into a tiny creek far upstream with bucket-mouthed barra boofing all around – April is the month for you.

Large barramundi can be targeted at junctions or the major systems, and patrolling the intersections of larger creek mouths. Try casting large lures out into open water where you see water back eddying or current lines converging. Trolling these same areas can be effective, and once you’ve located one fish try anchoring up and really concentrating your efforts in that area. These days anglers are using vibes, jigs and soft plastics to venture deeper into these spots and pull good fish that traditional bibbed lures either miss or spook.

The same goes for areas where structure such as sunken snags and rock bars occur adjacent to creeks and drains coming into the main system. Sometimes it may take 10 minutes of casting into this same structure before that first tell-tale strike comes. But once you start them off, barramundi can begin to congregate in the same spot where they hear and feel their mates boofing, jumping and carrying on.

April in Cape York will be the first month you can begin accessing some of those out-of-the-way places, fishing for large barramundi in clean, green water in lush, flourishing countryside. Almost all estuarine species will be on the bite at some stage and pelagic fish will be moving their way slowly back closer to shore. If the wet season has been quite mild, this is the month you need to concentrate your efforts.

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