As we look back over the course of 2014, there are a few categories that tell us it was a very productive year.
On the reef the largemouth nannygai had a very steady run across the board, while the Spanish mackerel fishing during the cooler months was definitely the best in many a year. The small black marlin spell from July to September was very handy, which ran into the best heavy tackle big black marlin season from October to early December since 2005.
Leading into this New Year period, the signs are still healthy that there is some quality fishing to be had until the wet season takes a grip on the tropical north.
The reef has had some patchy days for bottom fishing, but there have been some blowout sessions as well when the fish have fed at fever pitch. These days have seen all the prime species at full tilt, including red emperor, largemouth nannygai, and coral and bar cheek trout. Specific charters are coming back to the docks with an absolute swag of fish, something you would only expect to see during the cooler months.
The common factors which have contributed to these bursts of activity have included days leading into the full and new moon, wind and current running in the same direction, a change of tide around midday, and nice calm conditions. Keep this checklist in mind and plan your next trip based on these points that have produced the goods in the warmer months to date.
There’s been a few resident Spanish mackerel hunting around in packs, and now we are also starting to see those big loners who patrol the oceans as if they own it. The biggest from the area came aboard Reef Connections, which saw their client and local Port Douglas deckhand Ben Wykstra land a 44.2kg mega mack.
The heavy tackle scene has come to a close, with black marlin biting until mid December. It was a big season in all regards, with captures of big fish easily exceeding recent years. Operations are reporting good numbers of blue marlin wide of the continental shelf. Charters tend to follow the yellowfin tuna congregations, and in tow are the predatory blues. It is hard-core fishing and a lot of travelling is involved, up to 100 miles offshore at times.
Back on the reef edge, we’ve seen quite a few sailfish, there’s been patches of yellowfin tuna, and healthy numbers of mahimahi and wahoo. January usually dishes up some really nice calm days, so one would expect to see these species remain in the area for a little while to come.
The inshore fishing should also continue to provide solid action, with wrecks holding varieties of trevally and largemouth nannygai. Localised wonky holes will have the odd big, bruising gold spot cod and largemouth, and the beaches normally have a few nice queenfish and blue salmon cruising around, along with masses of small black tip reef sharks and shovelnose rays.
The rivers and creeks will be witness to plenty of mangrove jack activity this month, with sufficient run in the tide being a key factor. A lightly weighted pilchard thrown in under the shade of overhanging mangroves where there is a distinct pressure point will receive plenty of attention. It can be hot, hard work, but the results can be defining.
The fingermark in the deeper holes will be most active under the cover of darkness, with live squid being the superior bait. We’ll see mid sized trevally and queenfish make a move on those clean incoming tides, and some of our rainforest rivers will hold the bigger queenfish at the entrances.
January can be one of those hot, still months which still allows for ample fishing opportunities, or the heavens decide to open up and begin the start of the wet season. It can be a bit of a lucky dip, but with a lot of good surprises.
Now that’s a mackerel! Ben Wykstra with the 44.2kg Spanish he caught aboard Reef Connections.Reads: 549