December in Cooktown marks very long hot days and hot sleepless nights (if you live without modern comforts like air conditioning). Because of this, some people go a little ‘troppo’ or suffer from ‘mango madness’. The heat at this time of year is enough to make new residents pack up and head back down south. All of a sudden, Tropical North Queensland is not such a glorious place to live! At least, not if you haven’t conditioned yourself to the extremes in weather as it builds up for the big wet. At least, we hope it will be a big wet.
On the other hand, our seasoned locals who manage the heat, with plenty of drinking water and shade, know that December and January are when the winds taper down and sometimes even come to a hot, deathly stillness. “Sounds awful” you might say, but not on the fishing front. The seas turn smooth like a sheet of glass, all the way out to the Ribbons. Boaties manage to travel greater distances, and people can fish places that rarely receive any fishing pressure. These places, located a little further out, deliver fish that stick in your memory for a lifetime. At other times, people lose that dream fish that may scar their memory for years. Make sure your boat and gear are all up to scratch before you head out on your long-awaited trip to avoid any catastrophes.
When the waters are still out on the reefs, you might like to fish a little deeper in the water column as the fish may spook easily from boat noise in shallower waters. Fishing in 20m or more will increase your chances of success. Find some fish-holding structure or bommies at this depth, which won’t take long if you’re trolling around for mackerel. Once you have marked some good spots or catch enough mackerel, go back to the spots previously plotted and use bottom rigs. Shortly afterwards, you should start pulling in a quality catch of reefies like spangled emperor, coral trout, nannygai, reef jacks or cod. If you’re outside a yellow zone while bottom fishing, try floating a livebait out the back for cobia and Spaniards, too. Anglers have been getting some quality cobia while anchored up off the reef edges lately.
The estuaries in the Cooktown region have some great mangrove jack fishing at the moment, and this will only get better through December and January. The best ways to chase jacks in the rivers are to throw soft plastics around the snags or float strip baits while berleying into a snag or rock bar.
Mud crab catches are being reported more frequently now. The Annan River seems to produce more frequent catches of full bucks.
Big trevally have also been spotted terrorising baitfish around tidal pressure points in the rivers. The baitfish wash down in the tidal currents and become disorientated while getting smashed by marauding trevally. It’s a great sight watching big bow waves aggressively zigzag along the surface of the water while the trevally are feeding.
Lakefield National Park will be closed very soon if it’s not already. Go on Cook Shire’s website (www.cook.qld.gov.au) for current information. If you manage to get in there, be prepared for either a quick escape or staying an extra few days because the storms can drop some serious rain in short intervals. This may result in you sitting at your camp a little longer than expected while waiting for the road to dry out again. The saltwater stretches in LNP will provide the best fishing at the moment for mangrove jacks, estuary cod and trevally.
If you like current information while you’re visiting Cooktown’s region, or want more information about a particular place in the neighbourhood to fish, simply like my Facebook page titled ‘Stacky's Fishing Adventures’ or send me a message.Reads: 609