Preparing for winter fishing… maybe?
  |  First Published: July 2016


With higher than normal temperatures continuing to roll out in the tropics, at the rate we are travelling we could easily bypass the traditional cooler months and be into spring before we know it. Water temperatures in turn are also well above average, which hasn’t deterred the fishing but enhanced it if anything overall.

In the rivers and creeks the warmer water has extended the bite on some of our more prominent species such as barra, mangrove jack and golden snapper. They have slowed a bit, but not quite to the extent that they have gone into a winter slumber mode.

Smaller live baits such as prawns and sardines have been viable baits to use as well as smaller lures and soft plastics. A number of trevally, including including mid-sized GTs and goldens, have been very steadily cruising the main parts of the channels and are in the 1-1.5kg range.

Along the flats and surrounding beaches, there have been handy numbers of queenfish, GTs, goldens and a few blue salmon and they have been best targeted on the incoming tides with clean water to assist.

Bread and butter winter species are really kicking into gear including grunter, bream, whiting, sickle fish and flathead. If the days do get cooler at some point, they will become the staple catch in most of our coastal systems. However, to this point, while the water temperatures hover above average one could expect to catch a varied tally of fish at day’s end.

If the days turn dirty, windy and cold, which is probably on the cards at some point, your best fishing results will be fishing when the wind and tide are going in the same direction. Fish the opposite to this and you’ll be working extra hard to secure a decent catch.

On the reef, we started to see a run of Spanish mackerel a few weeks ago and July is prime time to target these sought after species. The cooler currents from down south are taking their time to get here this year, but once they do it will bring on the mackerel tenfold. Along with the Spanish army will be grey, spotted, doggy and school mackerel as well.

Other pelagics caught have been longtail tuna and there have been surprising pockets of yellowfin tuna inside of the reef up to 15-20kg, which is one for the books!

Looking slightly ahead, the game operators will start to explore the small black marlin grounds, which are due to fire up. Last year they turned up early at the end of May, but July is normally the start of the run for a couple of months. Numbers of small black marlin have been impressive over the last couple of years and this year we’re hoping for a similar result.

On the reef itself, the bottom fishing is really starting to hit its straps with a range of quality table fish readily available to catch. Coral trout and nannygai species, large and small are at the forefront with the likes of red emperor, spangled emperor, trevally species, cobia, reef mangrove jack, sweetlip, baldy bream (iodine bream), and a host of others travelling on their coat tails. The reef is famous for its cooler month fishing and rarely disappoints. Days leading into and just following the moons offer good tides and even the neap tides are renowned for producing hauls of nannygai on the really deep hangs out in the open.

No matter if you are along the coast or out on the reef, if you strike one of those magical, calm days, there’s no better place to be in winter. The water is crystal blue and the surrounding mountainous coastline is purely picture postcard material. With the right plan in place, you can expect to see some serious fishing too.

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