Offshore off the charts at Port Douglas
  |  First Published: June 2016

There has been a different set of circumstances this year in the tropics with the wet season producing well below par and exceptionally warm weather continuing into the start of the dry season. Day and night temperatures remained consistently high well into May and I’m thinking if this keeps up we’ll be back into summer before we know it without too much change!

So what has this meant on the fishing front? It has been good news in the river and creeks for species like barra, golden snapper and mangrove jack – fish that love the warmer water temperatures. Their life expectancy for this season has been extended considerably due to the warmer than normal conditions. Also in the mix in most of our systems is a healthy supply of mid-sized trevally along with smaller queenfish, so there has been a good mix of fish to target.

Bream and grunter are up and about for the bait fishers, and there are plenty of mud crabs around for those prepared to put in the extra work. Extending along to our beaches we have trevally, queenfish, sand whiting, flathead and a few monster barra still presenting themselves on the fringes of the break through creeks on the foreshore and out along the rocky ridges and sand bars at the front of the river entrances. Moving out a little further, inshore rubble patches and inshore reefs have recorded steady numbers of mid-sized large-mouth nannygai off the bottom with some handy mackerel and cobia working further up the water column.

Offshore, the outer reef pockets of water were still recording 28°C by late May and the southern currents with cooler water are still yet to take full effect. Despite this abnormal situation, the fishing to say the least has been very good and days with a bit of run in the tide produce handsomely across the board. The nannygai in certain deeper locations have started to school up in places where you would expect them. The good news is that the extra sized super models are now among the action with fish coming in between 7-10kg. The nannygai fishing will only get better and better from this point on.

There’s been better numbers of red emperor on the bite and the coral trout never disappoint. Catches have been steady and healthy in size mainly between the 3-4kg range. There’s been a mixed bag of other species to share the joy including some big gold spot trevally, cobia, reef mangrove jack, sweetlip and Moses perch.

At the beginning of May we saw a surge in Spanish mackerel catches on the reef. They have been sourced in numbers more out in the open waters on top of big pinnacles holding big patches of bait. Quite often they have been in the same locations as the nannygai, so the action has been thick and fast. As the cooler waters arrive anticipate the Spanish to turn up in serious numbers considering they are already here under not ideal circumstances.

Looking ahead we should start to see the southeasterly trade winds play a major part in the coming months. When the weather is calm to moderate this can be a bonus with wind and current running in the same direction to make anchoring on marks a lot easier. Pick an area on the reef you believe will hold fish and work it over. It may be a few marks within a few hundred metres of each other, but persist as it is likely one of them will fire up, particularly in the deeper water for nannygai. Motoring all over the reef in search of a bite will yield fewer fish at this time of year.

I expect the inshore systems to roll on nicely for a bit longer this time around before slowly tapering off with offshore fishing doing the opposite and taking a spike in the right direction.

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