Usually the beginning of the more boisterous, rain-filled season up in Cape York, January is a month of boom and bust. Days can be written off with rain and monsoonal winds from the northwest.
Other days will see a horizon full of clouds with a mirror calm surface reflecting every ripple and splash on the ocean. For offshore anglers, there is nothing like seeing clean deep blue currents, full of baitfish and flying fish skittering across the surface in large flocks.
Heading out with a bunch of spin rods and overheads in the rocket launcher, the hope is to run into speedsters such as mackerel, tuna, trevally and wahoo. Anglers have a gigantic array of tackle available to target these species including jigs, plastics, slugs, wogs, skirts, poppers, diving lures and flies.
When the monsoonal trough snakes its way across the top end, boaties learn to read the signs within the tropical lows that produce glassed off conditions. This is just fancy talk for things being calm. At times like this, those far off locations can suddenly appear like a mirage on the horizon.
Polarized sunglasses are a must when trying to differentiate reef depths, structure and current lines when conditions are glary conditions. Spotting the type and concentration of bait schools is a crucial element of bluewater fishing. Quite often what is happening on the water’s surface provides great clues as to what is unfolding underneath.
It’s worth spending the first few minutes when you arrive to fish a shoal or isolated reef patch just drifting over the chosen area. This allows you to calm down, check the current flow and direction, rig up, check the sounder and look for surface activity.
There is a huge transition as you move from inshore islands and reefs all the way out to the outer reef, the edge and then to dethatched areas in the Coral Sea. In a fishing sense, this means a variety in fish species as you transition from south to north and east to west on the Barrier Reef.
The reef structure is a genuinely large cluster of life, a singular organism that stretches a long way south of Cape York. However, in the Cape’s confines lie much of the relatively untouched, untroubled and pristine coral reefs. Stringent protection measures cannot be underestimated to sustain this environment.
By its very nature, the northern section of the reef is usually visited by those with a vested interest in protecting it. Most do the right thing and return to the water anything they don’t plan to consume. But with so few actual craft on the water, fishers can be forgiven for raising an eyebrow when another boat even shows up.
The flight from Horn Island through to Cairns is a flight I shall never grow tired of. After flying it over and over again, there is still no greater thrill than looking over creeks, reefs, rocks, beaches and islands that hold memories of previous fishing exploits. Noticing that isolated patch of reef, that tucked away lagoon, that deep structure adjacent to a little island far away from anywhere.
When the east coast of Cape York gets clear on the flats and turquoise in the bays before the monsoon begins, this is special time. Drifting over mangrove studded flats, scooping up mud crabs and watching schools of blue salmon dart off into a gutter. Now they are sure fire clues that the offshore scene is beckoning!
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