Hot weather with fishing to match
  |  First Published: October 2015

October, in the Cairns area, is typified by hot weather and fishing to match. The first of the seriously warm weather usually descends upon us this month, in what is locally called the mango season. The arrival of the heat tends to send the community a little loopy, as it adjusts to the increase in temperature and humidity. Thankfully, the upside is the fishing responds in a positive manner, with October a great month for all things piscatorial.

The fishing, especially at the reef, has been awesome for many, with good catches of mackerel, coral trout, largemouth nannygai and red emperor, along with a good sprinkling of most other reef species, including reef red bream.

The reef fishing should continue to be hot this month, with hopefully a continuation of the extended periods of calm weather that appeared in early September. Don’t forget to work your reef trips around the first of two Coral Reef Fin Fish Closures, from 10-14 October. Unfortunately this period extends over an entire weekend but either side of the closure the coral trout should be on the chew.

Most of the trout action this month will be up shallow, as the fish will have moved up onto their spawning bommies. This has two effects; it concentrates fish on certain bommies that makes them hard to find in other areas. This will make it necessary to move around until you locate bommies holding fish. Don’t spend more than 30 minutes on a bommie without a trout bite. It is not uncommon for the trout to be a little quiet either side of spawning but once they start feeding again, they can be ravenous.

Quality largemouth nannygai and red emperor will be biting in the 40m+ water, with bag limit catches quite common this month. Largemouth in the 6-8kg range will be coming onboard, along with trophy red emperor in the 8kg+ range. Reef reds (mangrove jack) will also be appearing in some eskies and are quite readily distinguishable on a sounder. They often appear as bright blue dots in mid-water, and over good bommies in deep water. They will follow baits to the bottom and are often caught after being sighted on the sounder. On a recent reef trip, we spotted two reef reds at one stop and caught both, then a single bright blue mark at the next drop and landed another reef red.

Gold spot and golden trevally will be the pick of the trevally family available this month but there will be trevallies of all shapes and sizes muscling in on your reef baits, so be ready for a few hard fought battles.

Another slogger, in the form of cobia, will nail your reef rig from time to time. All up you can expect a good work out reef fishing during October.

Spanish mackerel have continued to be plentiful at the reef, with many taken using a floater out the back while bottom bashing. The good old drifting pilchard, on ganged hooks, with no wire trace, has accounted for plenty of fish, while live baits of fusilier and hussar have been heavily targeted.

For the more sports minded, there will be plenty of light tackle action from the inner reefs, to the Continental Shelf, with pelagics going into overdrive this month. Spanish mackerel will have plenty of competition from trevally of all types, cobia, yellowfin tuna, bluefin tuna, bonito, wahoo and small billfish. There have been quite a few reports of mackerel anglers hooking onto sailfish and small blacks over the past month. Most encounters have ended in disappointment but a few anglers have managed to get a photo of a once-in-a-lifetime capture.

The heavy tackle season will be in full swing, with the well healed getting amongst some seriously big black marlin, out wide. All anglers will have their eye on the prize of a grander (over 1000lb) marlin, of which there were plenty caught last season.

Estuary and inshore fishing will also be lighting up this month with barra, mangrove jack, golden snapper and grunter the most popular targets. Barra catches will improve with the warming water and they will be on the bite from the freshwater reaches, to the coastal headlands. Luring will take precedence over live baiting, as conditions warm and the fish become more active. The turn of the tide and dawn and dusk are peak times to tangle with a barra. The few days just after the new and full moons are favourite times to focus on barra fishing.

Mangrove jack will be responding to small lures and live baits, along with well-presented, fresh, dead baits. Fresh bait is crucial for jacks and if you use the approach of, ‘it’s fresh enough to eat’, then you can’t go wrong.

Golden snapper have been around in good numbers and size throughout winter and early spring, and should continue to be plentiful this month. These hard to catch fish are another level of challenge to mangrove jack and even barra. In this area, they can only be caught on live bait or lures and in my book are the pinnacle sportfish of inshore and estuary anglers. Pound for pound the only fish that comes near them, in fighting power, is the mangrove jack, with the difference being golden snapper grow to 1m and 10kg.

The esplanade flats and the flats around the creek and river mouths will be the places to focus your efforts for grunter, especially on the big new and full moon tides. The last half of the rising tide tends to be the best time to chase grunter. Once again, fresh baits are best, with a well presented flesh bait of mullet, gar, mud herring or sardine, on a 2/0 long shank hook, a good starting point. Squid and prawns are other great baits for grunter, while the bigger fish are partial to a small live baits like sardine, mud herring, mullet and prawn.

The northeasterlies, which have arrived early this year, will bring the salmon in along the beaches, although usually not in great numbers, as they have been decimated by gill netting over the last few decades. The removal of gill nets in a line from False Cape to Taylors Point, on 1 November, will have a positive impact on salmon numbers, along with barra and many other estuary species, starting this summer. This move will have a significant impact on fishing tourism in Cairns, as well as making it a lot easier for locals to catch a feed.

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