During the winter months the sleepy fishing town of Cooktown turns into a Mecca for grey nomads looking to escape the miserable winters in the southern parts of Australia. At this time of year we usually see spectacular blue skies and great temperatures of around 27°C during the day and 14ºC overnight. Are you thinking all this sounds too good to be true? You’re right. There is one downside, and that’s the 20+ knot trade winds that usually blow for the next five months!
While the trade winds can limit the amount of suitable offshore fishing days, the rivers and headlands are now in full pelagic action with gin-clear water and baitfish holding on literally every bit of decent structure throughout the rivers and bays.
Winter fishing around the headlands off Cooktown is one of the most enjoyable types of fishing that I have done. The amount of species that frequent the Endeavour and Annan systems during the winter month is endless, and the fishing can be world class if you go about it properly. Light tackle under 10lb is the go during the cooler months as the water clarity is exceptional. Like pretty much every decent northern Australian waterway, you can run into freakish river-sized GTs of around 25kg so tourists tend to fish way over the top in regards to the size of their gear. The reality is that your hook-up rates (and ultimately your catch rates) will dramatically increase once you scale down your gear to a good quality 2000-3000 sized spin reel with 10lb braid and 20lb fluorocarbon leader and a nice 7’0” 4 kg rod.
A majority of the pelagic action can be found around the numerous creek mouths and flats. The first 2km of both the Endeavour and Annan rivers are a prime example of the aforementioned habitats that are suited to this style of fishing. While there are countless lure options that could be used, a good place to start would be: a handful of the smallest Zerek Prawns; a range of 70mm Squidgy Fish in killer tomato, drop bear and gold; a selection of thin profile poppers like the original timber Lively Lure 90mm popper and a selection of non-rattling hardbody lures around 50-75mm.
Countless species can be encountered, the most common of which are queenfish, GTs, golden trevally, giant herring, milkfish, diamond trevally and permit. Golden snapper (fingermark), flathead, grunter, jacks and of course barra make up a pleasant bycatch.
The month ahead will see some great barra action turning on in Lakefield National Park. The middle and top end of the National Park are fishing well with plenty of 700-850mm fish being taken. Kennedy Bend and the bottom of Leichardt Lagoon have been producing some good fish and often more than one good sized fish are coming off the one snag. Please only take what you need for a feed, and if the barra are brown or bronze coloured, let them live another day.
Those anglers who put the effort into Bathurst Heads can be rewarded with the chance to tangle with genuine 50lb wild barra from the rocks. However, only 1 fish in 10 is landed here. Be prepared to lose mega amounts of lures when fishing land-based.
Until next month stay safe on the water and be sure to check out the range of handmade timber barra lures I make. Check us out and hit the like button on Facebook by searching Twin River Lures.Reads: 637