February can present the whole gambit of conditions, from oily calm (usually accompanied by searing heat) to cyclonic, with everything in between. When Huey cooperates, there can be some great fishing this month but generally it’s a time to chalk up the brownie points, while watching for any opportunity to slip in a fishing trip.
Barra fever will be at dangerously high levels, especially early in the month, with many anglers having a crack, no matter what the conditions. Divers have told me there have been good numbers of barra along the headlands and beaches during the closed season, so here’s hoping they are still around and looking for a meal.
A big improvement in the amount of rainfall in January augurs well for a better barra season than it was looking like up until Christmas. Bait is starting to appear along the beaches and around the estuary mouths, so things are looking up.
The breakthrough creeks along the northern beaches opened up in early January and they are always worth a look for the land-based angler, while they remain open to the sea. A live bait out for a barra and dead baits of prawns, squid or pilchards for foragers will see you in with a chance of taking home a fish or two. Look for bird and surface activity around the entrances to give an indication of any likely action.
The estuaries will be a matter of suck it and see, as the prevailing weather will have a significant impact on fishability. If the streams are running fresh, then forget them, except around the mouth and further upstream where colour changes at small stream junctions will be worth a look for barra.
If streams have plenty of saltwater penetrating upstream, golden snapper, queenfish, jacks and grunter will be hunting for a feed. The rising tide across the flats, in the streams and out the front, will be the best time and place to target grunter, queenfish and GT. Fresh cut baits of mullet, squid, gar and sardines, peeled prawns and half a pilchard are all proven baits in these conditions. The falling tide, around heavy structure, is the best opportunity to tangle with a mangrove jack, using the same dead baits as mentioned for grunter, etc. Small live baits are also dynamite on jacks and will put you in the running to tangle with a barra or golden snapper.
There has been the odd monster golden snapper around of late but most have been smaller fish in the 40-50cm range. Live sardines, mud herring, mullet, gar, prawns and squid are all top baits. A dropper rig tends to work best and if you have a tendency to strike too soon, you are better off leaving your rod in the holder until it doubles over.
Jigging and casting soft plastics for golden snapper is getting quite a following around Cairns and is proving very productive and a real adrenalin rush. What often starts as a sharp tap, suddenly turns into a spooked brumby, tearing off at breakneck speed with no regard for the terrain it is bolting through. This calls for quality equipment, line and leader to handle any golden snapper over about 50cm in length. These awesome fish grow to over 10kg and 1m in length and can out-pull practically any fish in the ocean. They also fight dirty, so they offer a real challenge for the serious fisho.
Depending on how the wet season is progressing, prawns will start to show up along the beaches and near river mouths sometime this month or next. Word gets out pretty quick when they come on, so make sure you keep your cast net handy and your ear to the coconut wireless. The other crustacean worth chasing this month is mud crabs, especially if there has been plenty of rain. The heavier the rain the more they will get pushed out the front of creeks and rivers. In big floods it’s not unusual to find muddies along the beaches.
When conditions allow, the reef is worth a trip this month but be very wary of floating debris if there has been any flooding over previous weeks. Generally there isn’t any real runs of fish but more a sprinkling of this and that. Trout, red emperor, large mouth nannygai and spangled emperor will be the main menu, with plenty of trevally around as well. Sharks continue to be a real problem, especially at night. I haven’t talked to a reef fisho in recent months that has managed a shark free trip.
Spanish mackerel continue to be around but not in great numbers. The good old drifting or floating pillie has been doing the major damage. The macs have mostly been in the rat category but there should be a few monster Spaniards hanging around their favourite bommies this month. These monster macs have a particular liking for live fusilier but any well-presented live bait will see you in with a chance.
Giant trevally will be patrolling the drop-offs, if last year is any indication. GT up to 20kg were on patrol this time last year, chasing large bait schools. Mac tuna, scaly mackerel and Spaniards were also getting in on the action. If the bait schools return this year, sports fishos can expect similar action, from pelagics, around the reef edges.
Whatever the weather does there will be a few chances to wet a line, provided you are ready to take advantage of the opportunities when they arise.Reads: 631