Welcome to Cooktown!
  |  First Published: October 2015

As my first article in QFM, a quick introduction is in order. Like most people who read this magazine, I simply love to explore and fish. Sportfishing is my favourite style of fishing, however I am adaptable under the circumstances of the given day. Currently, I reside in Cooktown which is the envy of many keen anglers – and for good reason. People plan for years to visit this part of our beautiful country. So my goal is to ensure you find fish and enjoy your experiences while you’re up here!

At this time of the year, the annual ‘Cooktown Breeze’ is beginning to back off. More opportunities will arise each week to sneak out to the reefs in small boats. Blackbird Patches, Dawson and Cowlishaw reefs are only a few km’s from the Endeavour River boat ramp and if the winds spring up, it’s only a short trip home. Always check the latest weather reports before your departure and someone know where you are going. Also make sure you adhere to the current reef and fish management strategies put in place by the Great Barrier Reef Management Park Area (GBRMPA). Zoning map 4 is Cooktown’s region. Coral reef fin closures also apply October 10th to 14th and again in November 9th to 13th.

My current plan of attack is trolling a couple of hardbody lures around the reef fringes for pelagics while reading the sounder for structure on the bottom that could hold fish. Qantas and blue pilchard colours are my first choice for trolling. Once I have a couple of mackerel, I go back over the spots I had previously plotted and bottomfish. Using a paternoster rig or running sinker straight to the hook is best while bottom fishing. Squid and pilchards are the favourite choice among fisho’s but you may want to change this up with some fresh flesh bait too. I also have success using big soft plastics coated in a scent while fishing the bottom.

The water is currently crystal clear around the river headlands and in the estuaries. Queenfish have been chasing the bait right up into the estuaries and 1m specimens are being caught. Trevally can be caught in prolific numbers using the same method as chasing Queenies. Down towards the mouth of the Annan River is a well-known spot to find these sporty crusaders. Another good spot to fish for Queenies and mackerel is at Cooktown’s wharf. Using metallic coloured poppers is one of my favourite methods and really gets the adrenalin pumping when you see them smashing at the poppers behind the boat. Metal slugs with a high speed retrieve is also effective.

The water has warmed up for the barramundi and mangrove jacks too. Some quality catches have been from the wharf in Cooktown recently. Simply send down a live bait around the pylons and wait. Landing them can be an issue because there are many obstacles. If you have a boat, then head up the Endeavour River and work the snags with either lures, soft plastics or live baits. We are now in our last month of catching barramundi before the season closes at midday on the 1st of November, so get amongst it while you can. If your run is a bit late, you can continue to chase some mangrove jack, mudcrabs and other estuary species up both the Annan and Endeavour rivers or around the wharf.

If you’re visiting Cooktown in October, you might like to try your luck by entering the Sovereign Hotel Barramundi Fishing Competition. The comp is on from the 30th-31st of October with $3500 worth of prizes on offer. Check out their website for further details.

Lizard Island is back up and running after copping a couple of years of cyclones and is holding its 29th Black Marlin Classic from the 17th-24th of October. The anchorage inside the Endeavour River fills with beautiful big game boats that come into resupply before heading up to Lizard Island. Catching big marlin is a dream for some anglers and can easily happen from a small boat too, right here off Cooktown.

If you would like current information while you’re visiting the Cooktown region or more information about a particular place in the neighbourhood then go over to my FaceBook page titled “Stacky's Fishing Adventures" and send me a message.

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