Changing tactics in the heat
  |  First Published: April 2016

It has been a summer to remember up in the tropics for a couple of reasons. We’ve had well under average rainfall to date, making it a very mild wet season. We have also experienced unprecedented weeks on end of oppressive heat and high humidity, associated with a predominantly northerly wind factor. For weeks at a time, spending time out on the water has been a searing affair. The first couple of months of 2016 barely resembled a wet season at all, and long-term locals can’t recall a period like this. There is still a month or so of potential wet season to run though, and it will be interesting to see whether the shackles can be broken.

On the fishing front, the lack of significant wet season has had an effect on our river systems. Traditionally, at this time of year decent flushes of rain rejuvenate the systems and the fishing in turn fires up. However what we’ve seen is the occasional flush activating some good fishing, followed by extended periods of hot and dry conditions which has made the fishing a lot tougher.

It hasn’t been all doom and gloom though; anglers who have adjusted their tactics have been enjoying success. With conditions so still, a lot of fish have been holding deep in the snags under the shade of the mangroves. Mangrove jack and barra in particular have been doing this, and the best catches have occurred right up the side creeks in the dense, shady mangroves. Hardbodies and soft plastics cast deep into dangerous territory have been rewarded with some hair-raising catches. In the main parts of the rivers and estuaries there have been some big nomadic queenfish wandering in on certain tides and have been partial to a big, juicy live bait sitting in their direct path as they travel. Fingermark have remained pretty much the only consistent fish in the main parts of the systems, and have been found sitting down low in the deepest of holes holding some structure.

Fishing along the beaches has seen some nice barra being caught, but not in significant numbers. Additionally, there has been the odd school of giant or golden trevally moving through but not necessarily staying for very long. The lack of bait at times certainly dried up this scene but there were still swallowtail dart, flathead and big sand whiting prepared to tough it out in the barren, shallow conditions. The beaches did however fire up nicely at the start of March following a localised low pressure system providing some much-needed rain. This flush-out from the break through the creeks was exactly what was needed to bring back the schools of bait and prawns to entice the likes of queenfish, trevally, barra, tarpon, permit and salmon. It just goes to show how drop of rain can change the landscape overnight.

Coastal wrecks and reefs have fared quite well with plenty of brassy and bludger trevally around to put a bend in the rod, as well as consistent numbers of cobia which have taken a liking to these areas. Isolated patches and wonky holes have accounted for large-mouth nannygai and big gold-spot cod.

On the reef there has been ample opportunity to travel out wide due to the hot, calm conditions but, as to be expected in these conditions, the fishing has been up and down. Moderate northerly winds have been the toughest to fish, but when it has been more settled the deeper haunts in excess of 35m have been producing red emperor, large-mouth and small-mouth nannygai, trevally, big cod and a few Spanish mackerel. Coral trout have been coming from a range of depths, including up in the shallows which you wouldn’t necessarily expect. However, catches have been inconsistent; some days have produced winter-like numbers of fish, while other days have turned up very poor numbers. The turn of the tide has had a significant impact on catch rates, and should be part of your planning process if you’re heading to the reef.

Overall, a bit of rain is needed to keep our waters viable for the coming months ahead. We humans also need some cool weather, after withering under the intense sun for months!

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