March is traditionally the wettest month of the year in Cairns and the late start to the wet season doesn’t look great for fishing this month, but, when the chances come to wet a line this month, make the most of them.
The skies finally opened up at the end of the first week in February with some serious rainfall totals, which is great for the overall fishery but frustrating in the short term. The fishing was pretty good up until the serious rain arrived, with plenty of golden snapper on the chew along the coast and surprisingly quite a few mackerel, both doggies and Spaniards being caught around the inshore wrecks.
The reef has been hot and cold, with some anglers returning to port empty handed, while others have done quite well. Trout, largemouth nannygai and the odd red emperor have been the best of the reef fish, with quality outstripping quantity by a fair margin.
The barra season opened with spectacular weather and plenty of anglers were out giving it a go. There were early reports of scattered success but no cricket scores have come to light so far. Luring the headlands, up until the skies opened up, was very popular but not overly productive.
Live baiting for barra will be a more consistent plan of attack until the water settles down again. Live mullet, sardines, mud herring and prawns are all proven barra baits and generally speaking big baits equate to big fish. Getting your hands on large livies can be a bit of a challenge at times, so a good fall-back position is to put a number of small baits on the same hook. Try and place them on the hook so they face different directions, as this causes them to be more vigorous as they fight against each other to stay upright. If you put them on the hook all facing the same direction they tend to be fairly passive and won’t attract a barra’s attention as readily. Generally, the bigger fish will be down around the mouths of systems and along the headlands, with smaller barra way upstream.
Mangrove jack is one species that revels the dirty weather, so if the streams are running high and the water dirty then they are one fish that will still be feeding actively. The good old half a pilchard is one of the top baits for jacks in really dirty water, as it puts out a strong scent and jacks just love them. It is also worth having a small live bait out as well, as this will not only attract jacks but keep you in with a chance of nailing a barra.
Any areas of heavy cover, with rocks or timber, are a great place to find jacks. Just as the current eases off or starts up after a slack period of the tide are when they tend to go into overdrive, so plan your trip around a change of tide. If you are struggling to latch onto a jack while bait fishing, then up anchor and go flicking the heavy county with small soft plastics, imitation prawns and hardbodied lures until you find a nest of them. Jacks are seldom solo and tend to congregate in small schools, so one fish will often mean a few.
Bait soakers will also find the odd grunter, bream, trevally and estuary cod once the water starts to clean up again. They tend to disappear when the water is too fresh but once the clean water pushes back into the systems they will be on the bite. The best approach is to fish near the mouth in the last half of the rising tide, as the fish will come in with the clean water.
Cairns Inlet is a good place to fish when everywhere else is flooded, as it can take a lot more rain than the surrounding rivers. One of the annoying aspects of wet season fishing is the dominance of vermin over quality fish. Small sharks, rays and catfish can be a pest at times but if you preserver the odd good table fish will be among the rubbish.
The beach creeks reopened in early February and let’s hope they stay open a bit longer than they did over the festive season. Deep Creek at Kewarra Beach re-opened in spectacular fashion, cutting a new mouth well north of the old one and pushing a pile of trees and mangroves out to sea. The very deep entrance created should make for some top fishing, if it keeps its depth and so will the trees washed out from the mouth.
Crabs and prawns should be on the move with all the rain, so don’t forget to factor these delicious morsels into your plan of attack whenever there is a patch of fine weather.
Last March saw some impressive reef catches of trout, largemouth nannygai and red emperor but that is a bit outside the norm for this time of year. Reef fishing will be worth a go if the weather gods allow but be very careful when moving about, as there will be plenty of logs floating after the flush out. Usually this month sees quality fish ahead of quantity but the big catches won’t be far off, as the waters begin to cool. Coral trout and largemouth nannygai will be the main players with a sprinkling of red emperor, spangled emperor, reef jacks and cod to colour up the esky.
Giant trevally have been around in large schools with some real monsters over the 50kg mark amongst the packs. Anglers looking for a serious workout should do well working the reef edges and wrecks with poppers and slices retrieved at high speed. Out further there should be a few monster yellowfin tuna on the rampage with northern blue fin tuna closer inshore.
The best plan of attack this month is to have the flexibility to take advantage of any patch of good weather, as they will be few and far between. Be prepared to get on the water at short notice but have a few other plans up your sleeve for your free time, as fishing will often have to play second fiddle to the weather.Reads: 537